`Allah` is exclusive to Islam: Malaysia`s former Fatwa chief
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
December 29, 2012
Religious tension is rising in Malaysia over the Christian community`s use of the Arabic word `Allah` for its own god.
KUALA LUMPUR — Non-Muslims should drop their demand to use “Allah” for their gods as the Arabic word is fundamental to Islamic belief and, therefore, exclusive to Muslims, a former senior religious official was quoted as saying.
Dr Ismail Ibrahim, the former chairman of the National Fatwa Council, Malaysia`s top Islamic body, was weighing in on the latest debate over the Arabic word for “god”, in a row between the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia and its secular ally, the Democratic Action Party.
The issue appears to be a hot-button topic in the run-up to the coming general election.
“Enough is enough, enough with all the other policies, including the ones enshrined in the Constitution that has been claimed for equality, to be granted equal rights.
“Therefore the right to recognise the concept of the divinity in this religion, don`t grab, challenge and manipulate so. The name `Allah` is still something basic and fundamental to Islam.
“The name `Allah`, from a philosophical point, its definition and concept is not equal with the name Tuhan, God, Lord and so on in the usage of other religions,” Dr Ismail was quoted as saying by local newspaper Sinar Harian in its front-page report yesterday.
Dr Ismail added that those who insisted “Allah” be allowed for use in Malay bibles should desist due to linguistic and cultural differences.
He gave the example that Arabs could swear by the word “Wallahi” hundreds of times in their daily conversation. But Dr Ismail noted that the oath cannot be compared to what Muslim Malaysians understood by the term in the local language and that this difference between an ordinary oath and the Syariah term was explained in the Quran.
“The same, therefore, with the use of the name `Allah` that is being attempted to be compared with other languages, especially Arabic, even though this comparison should be understood from a linguistic and cultural angle between Malay and Arabic,” Dr Ismail said.
He urged the parties to not look for petty reasons to justify the usage of “Allah” for the Christian god.
Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia`s 28.3-million population, with many in East Malaysia using the Malay language and the word “Allah” to refer to their God.
In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.
But the legal tussle over the use of the word “Allah” is unresolved.
The Catholic Church is still barred from publishing the word in its newspaper, despite winning a High Court decision on Dec 31, 2009.
© 2012. MediaCorp Press Ltd.
Mixed reactions to `Allah` court ruling
New Sunday Times
January 03, 2010
Muslims protest against a court decision that allows a Catholic newspaper to use the word `Allah` to describe the Christian God in its Malay language editions. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP
KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat member of parliament Zulkifli Nordin wants the National Fatwa Council to decide on the use of the word “Allah” to prevent divergent groups from making decisions without taking into account the impact on Islam.
“After the fatwa is made, all states must immediately gazette the fatwa,” he wrote in his blog.
The Kulim Bandar Baru MP said the High Court`s decision three days ago to allow a Catholic church to use the word “Allah” in its weekly publication, Herald, was confusing.
“I wonder why the court did not refer this matter to the National Fatwa Council or Islamic authorities. “
Zulkifli said the use of the word “Allah” by Christians would confuse its followers.
“Look at Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and other religions. The name of their god remains the same.
“But why do the Christians want to change the name?”
Selangor opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, who is saddened by the judgment, said the word “Allah” was exclusive to Muslims.
However, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said that “Allah” was not only for Muslims but also for the entire universe.
“Words like `Allah is only for Muslims` limit the greatness of Allah to Muslims only and acknowledge other gods for other religions.”
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the High Court decision must be governed by strict conditions.
He said whatever justifications offered for the approval would not defuse the anger of Muslims.
“This is because `God` in other religions is translated as `Tuhan` in Bahasa Malaysia or Arabic, not `Allah`. `Allah` specifically refers to God in Islam.
“If they understand that, they would use the word `Tuhan`, instead.”
“I accept that the term `Allah` had been used in Sabah and Sarawak before the two states joined Malaysia, but it is difficult to stop them from doing so now.
“In the peninsula, we have not heard of such practice.”
Dr Mahathir feared the term “Allah” might be used in such a way that could inflame the anger of Muslims if they were to use it on banners or write something that might not reflect Islam.
Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the party would leave it to the Home Ministry to deal with matters concerning the High Court ruling.
“We need to respect the High Court`s ruling. If not handled properly, this issue could affect the peace in our country.
“We must leave it to those with the capacity such as the Home Ministry to appeal against the High Court`s decision through the legal process.”
He did not dismiss the possibility of the issue being discussed at the next Umno supreme council meeting later this month.
Wanita Umno chief Senator Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the movement would champion and ensure that the place and position of Islam was not tarnished.
“If need be, we will apply to meet the King.”
Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said overzealous views and opinions expressed by various bodies and people could be detrimental to the harmony of the country.
The Muslim Lawyers` Association expressed disappointment over the court decision as the word “Allah” should not be allowed to be used indiscriminately by non-Muslims.
Its deputy president, Muhamad Burok, said the word did not mean what non-Muslims understood it to be.
© 2010 New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad
The use of the word `Allah` may be used by other religions for their own agenda...
Bernama Daily Malaysian News
January 03, 2010
The use of the word `Allah` may be used by other religions for their own agenda and confuse the Muslims said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Zahid who is also Umno vice president said the decision by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to allow Herald-The Catholic weekly, to use the word `Allah` in their publication, had offended Muslims.
“The issue should not be turned into polemic because Malaysia is a country that comprise a multi-racial population with freedom of religion. We must avoid any sensitivity raised through a platform of law,” he told reporters after giving out aid to school children in Bagan Datoh here today.
He added that Muslims in the country observe a very high respect for other religions and do not want others to interfere in matters pertaining to Islam.
Zahid said National Fatwa Council had clearly stated that `Allah` was exclusively for Islam because `Tuhan` (GOD) was a general reference.
“All this while there has been no known writing in other religions that use the word `Allah`. Why is it that only now `Herald-The Catholic Weekly` are so interested in using the word `Allah`.
“Even in the Federal Constitution it is stated that Islam is the official religion but other religions can be observed but cannot preach their religion to those who are Muslims,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister`s Department Senator Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom said all the relevant bodies, especially Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) should exercise caution and wisdom is handling the issue.
“We know there are some waiting for a positive situation to turn negative so that there will be confusion. So, if the issue is not tackled with care, the situation may get out of hand,” he said.
The Penang Umno also appealed to the Rulers Council to interfere in the high court ruling, as a way of settling the issue.
State Umno Liaison Information Chief Senator Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir said the state Umno hoped the Rulers Council can hold a special meeting to discuss the matter and find a solution to settle the issue.
© 2010 Bernama - Malaysian National News Agency
Allah is my God. Who is yours?
Endy M. Bayuni
The Jakarta Post
March 13, 2009
Muslims protests a Roman Catholic newspaper using `Allah` to describe God.
What is the correct translation of the Islamic expression la ilaaha illallaah, a verse Muslims around the world recite over and over again every single day in their prayers, instilling in themselves the concept of tauhid, or the one-ness of God?
In English and I suspect in most other major languages, the verse translates to “There is no god but God”. But the widely accepted Indonesian (and Malay) translation, for some reasons, becomes Tiada tuhan selain Allah (There is no god but Allah).
What`s the difference? It`s apparently much more than semantics as it goes deep into the understanding of tauhid among Muslims, or in the case of Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia, into their misunderstanding of the concept.
“There is no god but God” means that there is only one God. We all pray before the same Deity, but we pray differently. This is particularly true with the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, all followers of the Abrahamic scriptures.
“There is no god but Allah”, on the other hand, could mean that there are many gods, and that they come in different names and shapes, but only Allah is the only right one. We pray before different deities, but Allah is the most supreme of all.
The real message of tauhid is apparently lost in the Indonesian and Malaysian translation.
This seems to be at the heart of the ongoing debate in Malaysia over the use of the word Allah. The Malaysian government, backed by the Supreme Court, recently ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah. Allah is exclusively Islamic, as if the word had been patented or copyrighted.
Other religions, when referring to their god, must use another word. But they`d better watch it because in Islam, Allah has 99 other names.
A Catholic publication in Malaysia has recently been banned because it used the word Allah. This is in spite of the fact that, for decades, many Christian Bibles in Malay and Indonesian have freely used the word Allah, who in Christianity also has different names, including the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, but which are all still one and the same.
The move to ban the use of Allah in Malaysia is apparently founded upon fears among Muslim leaders that it is being used to proselytize, to convert Muslims. This fear is grossly unfounded since conversion from Islam is not permitted under the country`s law anyway (though conversion into Islam is).
With the recent ban, Bibles in Malaysia will likely have to be revised with all references to Allah edited out. For Christians in Malaysia, this is a minor irritation that they can easily comply with. Christianity will not suffer as a result of the ban.
The biggest losers are Muslims in Malaysia, and Indonesia too if the Indonesian Ulema Council issues its own similar fatwa, as it usually does.
Muslims in this part of the world will continue to live with their own mistaken notion of tauhid. This latest claim of Allah`s exclusivity only perpetuates that ignorance.
This is not the first incident in this part of the world where Muslims have exclusively claimed matters of faith, going against the grain of Islam, which preaches inclusion.
Some years ago, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) came out with a fatwa that said Muslims must not respond to the greeting assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) when expressed by non-Muslims. The MUI claimed that the expression is holy, sacred and specifically Islamic, and therefore could only be uttered by Muslims.
Although non-binding, many Muslims in Indonesia have heeded the fatwa.
At a recent neighborhood gathering where I live, the chief of the neighboring community, a Christian, opened his remarks with assalamualaikum in respect of the majority Muslim audience. Few people in the room responded. It was not a chorus that one would have heard if a Muslim had said it.
Strangely, many in the MUI and other religious leaders who have lived and studied in the Middle East should know better that non-Muslims in that part of the world freely use the word Allah and expressions like assalamualaikum and insya Allah (God willing) in their daily conversations. There are no objections made by Muslims there.
Indonesia`s mostly secular founding fathers had a much better understanding of tauhid than today`s contemporary Islamic leaders when they made “Believe in One God”, monotheism, the first of the five principles in the state ideology, Pancasila.
Religious leaders in Indonesia and Malaysia should be held responsible for keeping Muslims in perpetual ignorance, knowingly or not, for generations. The first thing they have to do now is to go to the basics of tauhid and get the translation right to put the followers back on the right path.
© 2009 The Jakarta Post
Patching in `Allah` to Replace `God`
August 24, 2007
It was bound to happen — and it seems fitting that a cleric named Tiny would think of it.
Roman Catholic Bishop Tiny Muskens of the Netherlands has decided that the way to ease Muslim-Everybody Else tensions is to start using “Allah” instead of “God.” Noting that God does not care what we call him, Muskens thought, why not yield a little to Muslim ways?
Or would that be “submit” — the literal meaning of “Islam”?
“Allah is a very beautiful word for God,” Muskens said on Dutch television a few days ago. “Shouldn`t we all say that from now on we will name God Allah?”
Muskens pointed out that in Indonesia, the world`s most populous Muslim country where he spent eight years, priests use the word “Allah” in Catholic Mass.
For the sake of peace, prosperity and clarity in the shire, let the record reflect that Muslims did not ask for this, though some in the Netherlands embraced the idea as a conciliatory gesture and in the U.S., some Muslims greeted the suggestion with enthusiasm.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told FoxNews.com that calling God “Allah” wouldn`t require a theological leap for Christians. “It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God,” Hooper said. It`s not hard to understand why Muskens would tilt toward compromise. The Netherlands, which is now home to 1 million Muslims, hasn`t been quite the peace `n` love axis of the multicultural world, despite clouds of Silver Blue cannabis wafting from the city`s famously mellow coffee houses.
Between the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, guilty of making a documentary film critical of Islam, death threats against fellow documentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the recent Muslim attack of the head of a Dutch group for “ex-Muslims,” one could begin to think of invoking Allah as a savvy survival technique.
Besides, as Muskens pointed out, Allah is a lovely sounding word. Thus, in the spirit of Christian charity and Western tolerance, I`ve been trying it out with mixed results.
The Doxology of my Protestant childhood is problematic with the two-syllable Allah instead of the monosyllabic God, but not impossible: Praise Allah, from whom all blessings flow. Praise him, all creatures here below. Not perfect, but workable.
America`s familiar childhood blessing is downright euphonious: Allah is great, Allah is good, let us thank him for our food. But the Apostle`s Creed is a mess: I believe in Allah the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son ... . Oops.
Contrary to Hooper`s one-God claim, Christians and Muslims don`t really worship the same God. Although both religions are monotheistic — and if there`s just one God, there`s just one God — Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God and Muslims think otherwise.
That`s not a small doctrinal difference. In fact, at the risk of exhausting the obvious, Christianity doesn`t exist without, um, Christ. Of course we could rewrite the Apostle`s Creed to include Muhammad: “I believe in Allah the Father Almighty ... and in Muhammad, his favorite prophet ... “
The possibilities are infinite, really. Alternatively, we could pretend to be sane and suggest that everybody go to his or her own house of worship, pray to his or her own version of the Creator, and otherwise get a grip.
Changing Western language, symbols and making other accommodations to ease relations between old Europe and new isn`t only a conciliatory gesture or even mere appeasement. It is submission by other name.
Language may be a manmade limitation, as Janaan Hashim said, speaking for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, which endorses Muskens` idea. But language is not meaningless. The words we use to define and express ourselves are the fundaments of cultural and social identity. John Stuart Mill put it this way: “Language is the light of the mind.”
Muskens, who retires in a few weeks, conceded that his idea likely wouldn`t catch on right away. We might need another 100 years or so, but he predicted that, eventually, Allah will be the word.
Given that European Muslims are procreating at three times the rate of non-Muslims — and given the “logarithmic rate” of growth of jihadist ideology in the U.S., according to a new report by the New York Police Department`s Intelligence Division — it may be sooner than that.
Peace be upon us.
Kathleen Parker may be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2007 Scripps Howard Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
My God Is Your God
By John Kearney
The New York Times
January 28, 2004
Sunday is one of the most important holidays in Islam: Id al-Adha, the feast celebrating Abraham`s faith and willingness to sacrifice his son to God. It would also be a good occasion for the American news media to dispense with Allah and commit themselves to God.
Here`s what I mean: Abraham, the ur-monotheist, represents the shared history, and shared God, of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Many Christians and Jews are aware of this common past, but seem to have a tough time internalizing it. Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a deputy under secretary of defense, made headlines last year suggesting that Allah is not “a real God” and that Muslims worship an idol. Last month in Israel, Pat Robertson said that today`s world conflicts concern “whether Hubal, the moon god of Mecca known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah, God of the Bible, is supreme.”
Never mind that Hubal was actually a pre-Islamic pagan god that Muhammad rejected. Mr. Robertson`s comments, like those of General Boykin, illuminate a widespread misconception -- one that the news media has inadvertently helped to promote. So here`s a suggestion: when journalists write about Muslims, or translate from Arabic, Urdu, Farsi or other languages, they should translate “Allah” as “God,” too. A minor point? Perhaps not.
Last August the Washington Post Web site posed this question to readers: “Do you think that Muslims, Christians and Jews all pray to the same God?” One Muslim respondent wrote yes, each of the three major monotheistic faiths “pray to the God of Abraham.”
Christian respondents, however, were equivocal or hostile to the notion. “Jews pray to Yahweh,” one Virginia woman wrote. “As a Christian, I pray to the same God.” But she insisted that “Muslims pray to Allah. Allah is not the God of Abraham.” This woman might be surprised that Christian Arabs use “Allah” for God, as do Arabic-speaking Jews. In Aramaic, the language of Jesus, God is “Allaha,” just a syllable away from Allah.
Still, who can blame her? Earlier that month, NPR reported Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza City intoning, “there is no God but Allah.” Last week, The Los Angeles Times mentioned mourners for a slain Baghdad professor reciting, “there is no God but Allah” at the university campus. In September, The New York Times reported an assassinated Palestinian uttering, “there is no God but Allah” before he died.
“There is no god but God” is the first of Islam`s five pillars. It is Muhammad`s refutation of polytheism. Yet to today`s non-Muslims, the locution “there is no God but Allah” reads as an affront, a declaration that inflammatory Allah trumps the Biblical God. This journalistic rendition distorts the meaning of the Muslim confession of faith.
Of course, there are distinctions to be made between religions, which the press shouldn`t shy away from. But there is no need to augment these differences artificially, especially at the cost of an accurate understanding of the origins of the Abrahamic faiths.
© 2004 New York Times Company