The ‘Kalimah Allah’ issue is something which is a matter of choice rather than unavoidable. It had been something that should not happened right from the start. Now, before it becomes something ugly, too huge of a fire to manage and regrettable for too many Malaysians, an individual is making the appeal for the whole matter to be avoided.
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An appeal to the Christian community, drop ‘Allah’
BS Poh • Jan 25, 13 10:39PG
This is an appeal to the Christian community in Malaysia to drop the use of “Allah” in the Alkitab. Before you become defensive and/or offensive please read through my reasons.
The first reason is a biblical one. Christians are called upon to live in peace with all men (Rom. 12:18; 1 Tim. 2:2; Titus 3:2).
The unabated provocations against the minority Christians in this country call for restraint and calm on our part.
We are to repay no one evil for evil. We are not to avenge ourselves. We are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21). We have already won the legal battle for the use of ‘Allah’.
The law courts have declared that we have the right to use the word. No language is the prerogative of any ethnic group.
A language may not be compared to a borrowed car, in which the rights belong to the owner. Rather, a language is public domain.
The Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish have as much right to use the English language as the English people.
The late Steve Jobs had the right to call his computer the Apple. Malaysians have the right to develop and speak Manglish.
It is one thing to hold to religious convictions, it is another to uphold the rule of law.
The onus is upon the law-makers and the law-makers-to-be to prove that they are capable of rising above themselves to uphold the rule of law. Otherwise, why should they be made law-makers?
The second reason is a linguistic one. In Arabic, ‘Allaah’ is derived from the common noun ‘ilaah’ in a similar way that ‘God’ is derived from ‘god’ in English.
In the Malay language, however, ‘Allah’ is adopted from Arabic while the corresponding generic word ‘ilah’ has not been similarly adopted.
In the Malaysian context, ‘Allah’ is the personal name of the god of Islam. The generic word for ‘god’ is ‘tuhan’, and not ‘ilah’.
The early Christian missionaries to South-East Asia translated ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ only because they wanted to retain the word ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Lord’.
Almighty in various terms
I have proposed that we use ‘Tuhan’ for ‘God’ (Hebrew, ‘Elohim'; Greek, ‘Theos’), and ‘Yamtuan’ for ‘Lord’ (Hebrew, ‘YHWH'; Greek, ‘Kurios’).
The word ‘Yamtuan’ is of Minangkabau origin and has been absorbed into the Malay language. It carries the meaning of ‘Yang Dipertuan’ or ‘Baginda’, i.e. ‘the highest Lord’ or ‘his Majesty’ in English.
‘Yamtuan’ is a dual-syllable word which would not be confused with ‘Tuhan’ when they are used together.
Using ‘Tuan’, meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘Sir’ will cause confusion when used with ‘Tuhan’ as the two words sound similar when spoken.
Furthermore, ‘Yamtuan’ rhymes with ‘Tuhan’, which makes for easy amendment of existing Malay hymns.
Consider this Sunday School song in Indonesian (sung to the tune of ‘Clamentine’):
Yesus Kristus, Anak Allah,
Mati bangkit semula;
Yesus Kristus Juruselamat,
Puji Tuhan, puji Tuhan,
Kami tetap puji Dia;
Tak peduli apa jua,
Tantangan dan derita.
Translated into Malay using the terms suggested, we have:
Yesus Kristus, Anak Tuhan,
Mati bangkit semula;
Yesus Kristus Penyelamat,
Puji Yamtuan, puji Yamtuan,
Kami tetap puji Dia;
Tidak kira apa jua,
Cabaran dan derita.
The translation is a breeze, at the same time that it removes the association with the god of Islam in the minds of both Christians and Muslims.
Theology behind God’s name
The third reason for not using ‘Allah’ is a theological one. Since ‘Allah’ in the Malay language is the personal name of the god of Islam, it is theologically unwise for Christians to use it in reference to the trinitarian God of the Bible.
Furthermore, the Old Testament had been translated from Hebrew into Greek, known as the Septuagint, long before Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary.
Jesus Christ and the apostles placed their imprimatur on the Septuagint by using it, as can be seen from their constant quotation from it in the New Testament.
The Septuagint translates ‘Elohim’ as ‘Theos’ (English, ‘God’), and ‘YHWH’ (Yahweh or Jehovah) as ‘Kurios’ (English, ‘LORD’).
The New Testament was written in Greek, in which God is referred to as ‘Theos’, just as in the Septuagint, while Jesus Christ is addressed by the title of ‘Kurios’.
The Septuagint and the New Testament thus set for us the pattern of translating ‘Elohim’ and ‘YHWH’, as well as the pattern for how Jesus Christ is to be addressed.
Quoting the theologian, John Owen, “an apostolic example has the force of a divine institution”.
This pattern has been followed in the translation of the Bible into English and various languages, but is not followed in the Alkitab.
The suggestion to use ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Elohim’ (‘God’), ‘YAMTUAN’ for ‘YHWH’ (‘LORD’), and ‘Yamtuan’ (‘Lord’) to address Jesus Christ is consonant with apostolic example.
We have fought for our right to use ‘Allah’ on socio-politico-historical grounds, viz;
The use of ‘Allah’ for ‘God’ among Christians in Arabic countries preceded the advent of Islam;
The Bible has been translated into Malay for over 300 years in which ‘Allah’ is used;
The indigenous Christians in the states of Sabah and Sarawak have been using ‘Allah’ long before the two states joined Malaysia in 1963; and,
It is the constitutional right of non-Muslim Malaysians to use ‘Allah’ since the freedom of religion, speech and association is guaranteed, and the use of any language, including Malay, is not the sole prerogative of any ethnic group.
We have won the legal battle for the right to use ‘Allah’, although there have been attempts made to hinder us from using it freely.
This problem has dragged on for a good thirty years! The question is, do we have to insist on exercising our right to use ‘Allah’? “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify (1 Cor. 10:23).”
The recent hoo-hah over the use of ‘Allah’ has revealed that a sizable number of Muslims in the country are distressed over its use by the Christians.
Plea for the extra mile
Can we not go the extra mile to show forth Christian love by not using ‘Allah’? After all, there are the biblical-theological-linguistic reasons for not using ‘Allah’ which must now be weighed up.
It is not for others to force us to drop the use of ‘Allah’. It is for us to choose not to use it out of the conviction of the rightness of not using it.
The liberty of conscience is a precious truth. God alone is Lord over the human conscience.
We are all looking forward to a better Malaysia, in which there are definite attempts made to abolish discrimination based on colour, class and creed.
The cry for “liberty, equality, and fraternity” resonates in every heart. At the base of that ideal is the truth of the liberty of conscience.
Brethren, will you give this appeal – to drop the use of ‘Allah’ – your consideration?
The past month, the issue came into very ugly light when Chinese Chauvinist DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng raised the matter in his Christmas message. He very well understood the extend of the sensivities and in his consciousness, provoked the majority with the matter.
Lim needed to project to DAP’s ‘political market’ that the Chinese Chauvinist party is still relevant. Provoking into racial and religious ultra-sensitivities had always been DAP’s modus operandi, ever since the first general elections they participated in 1969.
As radicals, they sowed hatred amongst the minority Chinese against the majority Malays, focused on the urban Chinese majority areas.
Today, DAP kept the sensitive issue continued burning in their ‘Politics of Hatred’ strategy to demonise the majority-backed Federal Government, law enforcement agencies and authorities and indirectly attack the sanity of Islam, the definition of the Malays and the authority of HRH Malay Rulers as Heads of Islam.
If actions are taken against them in any form, then they do the ‘majority oppressing minority’ cry and demonize the majority-backed Federal Government and all the works. This warrants them to;
1. Fire up the series of mass and street demonstration and do their own ‘Malaysian Spring’
2. Get the international community, especially the West, to be on their side and put pressure against the majority-backed Federal Government (which include arm-twisting international diplomacy and worse still, military intervention)
If nothing is done, they would provoke an inch deeper. They would throw in worse insults and provocations.
DAP planned for the ‘uncontrollable forest fire’. They thrive in chaos. Now that the Chinese especially amongst the urbanites gave them a strong support (translated in the 12GE), they are confident that the majority-backed Federal Government via its agencies and authorities would not take decisive action against them.
On top of that, now that the Federal Government would not allow the Police to do another ‘Operasi Lalang’ (as they did in October 1987) even if the law still permits them to do it, they would not have anything else to stop them from starting the ‘bush fire’. Coincidentally, ‘Operasi Lalang’ was named as such because the Police wanted to prevent ‘bush fires’ by stopping the ‘fire starters’ and arrested all of them using the Internal Security Act.
It is wise to avoid forest fires. They say people in glass houses should not throw peebles. Many believe the combination of current technology and information disseminating efficiency, the tendency of manipulation and even deception in an ‘over-heated’ political climate and ultra-senstivity state of mind and emotion, ‘bush fire’ easily would be fanned into ‘forest fire’.
This tanah air is a land of plenty. The Non Malays, naturalized as citizens of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu in the year when the nation-hood was formed and ‘Merdeka’ was achieved, even though many of them did not pass the two conditions set under Article 12 of the Persektuan Tanah Melayu Treaty inked on 21 Jan 1948 as replacement to Malayan Union.
These 1 million Non Malays are free to go into their own ventures and amass assets and properties, they placed themselves comfortably. They are also free to practice their religion and erect their own places of worship, as long as it doesn’t intervene into the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation of Malaya and prosetilyse the Malays into Christianity or any religion of the Non Muslims.
All that are at the good will of the Malays through leadership under Chief Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and his ability to convince HRH Malay Rulers to accept the ‘Stateless Persons’.
All of these should not be breached what were agreed and the spirit all of these agreements were achieved. It should not also be at the expense of all these agreements which settled various socio-politco-economic system that propelled the nation this far. even though the society has evolved into a more sophisticated once.
It is much easier to bring down a house made from a pack of cards compared to erecting it.