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Thursday, 16 May 2013
When, why and how Christians use the word ‘Allah’ – The Christian Federation of Malaysia
MAY 16 – Introduction and Background. The objective of this document is to explain briefly to those Christians who do not understand when, why and how Churches in Malaysia use the word ‘Allah’. It is also for Christians who are confused about how to respond, when confronted by the ignorance of non-Muslims about the Christian use of the word ‘Allah’.
There are many (misleading) statements by non-Christians who claim that we should not use the word, because it is an exclusive Muslim term for the God of Islam and can be used only by Muslims. This is a situation peculiar to Malaysia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, Arabic-speaking Christians use the word ‘Allah’.
The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca.
Historical Usage and Meaning
1. The word ‘Allah’ was a term used for the supreme God in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam…
2. Historically, Malay-speaking Christians in South-East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to God…..
3. Therefore, from the very beginning, the word ‘Allah’ has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship of those Christians who speak Bahasa Malaysia.
But for centuries, there has been no opposition or uproar about their use of ‘Allah’.
Objections to the use of the word ‘Allah’ comes mostly from political discourse, or those who argue that the translation and usage of the word is a recent decision. This is not true…
Should Christians Substitute the word ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’?
This is not possible for the following reasons :
1. In the Malay language, ‘Allah’ means ‘God’ and Tuhan means ‘Lord’. As is obvious when we read the Bible, both God and Lord are used in the Bible, and both have different connotations. Therefore ‘Allah’ cannot be substituted by ‘Tuhan’.
2. The word Tuhan has been applied to Jesus Christ and read as Tuhan Yesus. If Christians are to substitute the word ‘Allah’ for Tuhan, it will render many Biblical references to God and Jesus incoherent…
Consequences of Banning the Word “Allah”
1. Being denied the use of the word ‘Allah’ disregards the constitutional right of Malaysian citizens to freedom of religion under the Federal Constitution..
2. In 2011, the High Court handed down a judgement allowing the Catholic Church to use the word ‘Allah’. The government (of all Malaysians, including Christians) is appealing the judgement and it is pending.
3. There have been other infringements on the right to use words imperative in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible.
4. Prohibiting the use of the word ‘Allah’ and these other terms is unjust. Bumiputera Christians should be given the respect and freedom to call God in the only language they have in common.
Some Muslims have claimed repeatedly that Christians in Malaysia refuse to stop using the word ‘Allah’ because they want to confuse and convert Muslims, thereby posing a threat to national security. The claim is groundless as there has been no evidence offered of any threat to security. These remain unfounded accusations. On the contrary, such an assertion is made in ignorance of the fact that when Christians use the Al-Kitab, it is simply for Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians. Malaysian Churches have never suggested changing the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to ‘Allah’ and ‘Tuhan’ respectively, in the other languages of the Bible.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.