Sunday, October 13, 2013

THE ALLAH CONTROVERSY in MALAYSIA, REVISITED

THE ALLAH CONTROVERSY, again?: a must-read essay for priests, politicians, professors, peasants, punk rockers ...

‘Allah’ a journey, not controversy

By Azly Rahman

FROM THE BOOK THE ALLAH CONTROVERSY AND OTHER ESSAYS ON MALAYSIAN HYPERMODERNITY by Azly Rahman, (Kuala Lumpur: SIRD/GERAKBUDAYA, April 2013)



Only in Malaysia is the world perhaps witnessing a raging debate on who has the patent to the word ‘Allah’; simply translated as ‘the/that god.’ It seems to be a seasonal debate to get the political parties to wrestle over the linguistic or semiotic of the word; one that connotes and denotes ‘the Force of Divinity’ that Man has attempted to understand, revere, love, and fear yet can never comprehend.
This is simply because we are in a matrix of truth and representation, and in a prison-house of language unable to see what the Ultimate Reality looks like.

What’s in a name? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. And even more so this Shakespearean “a rose is a rose” type of problematique seems relevant in a world of political manipulations such as in Malaysia when race and religion are the twin determinants of political evolution.

The debate on the origin of the word ‘Allah’ is obviously interesting as a topic of dissertation or as an inquiry theme in fields such as bio-semantics, bio-semiotics, linguistic philosophy, philology, or the study of the transcultural flow of language as yours truly embarked upon on the origin of the words ‘Cyberjaya’ and ‘Putrajaya’ in a dissertation submitted to Columbia University, a few years back.
To ascertain the origin of the word ‘Allah’ might also yield those studying it to also explore the origin of the concept of ‘god’, ‘religion’, ‘scriptures’, and even the notion of soteriology in the study of religion; a human enterprise that began with the agriculture society and what the sociologist Karl Wittfogel would term as the ‘hydraulic societies’.

The attempt to name ‘god’ and to call it by ‘special nouns’ have been a human cognitive exercise since Man has been trying to figure our what causes his crop to do well or to be damaged or destroyed, the night to go dark and the sun to illuminate, or the fate of his or her clan as the tribe moves from one planting area to another after slashing and burning crops.

The search for ‘god’, perhaps noted as early as the discovery of cave paintings in Southern France moving on to the conceptualisation of the Divine and Ultimate Reality, to the birth of Zorastrianism, to Judaism, to Christianity, and to Islam (in the Fertile Crescent) and in the non-monotheistic conception of it in cultural philosophies such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism (in the Indus valley).

These are ways that Man has tried to name the un-namable, explain the unexplainable, and conceive the unconceivable.

I am not sure if there have been controversies or people killing each other over who has the right to the name of this or that god. The Romans and the Greeks have gods in common playing different roles, but I have not come across crisis and conflict in such naming of gods in these two civilisations.

No need for controversy

At this point in human evolution, in this age of reconciliation of the post-Mayan calendar, Malaysians (especially Christians and Muslims) need to be less childish in the fight over patenting and branding ‘god’. It is a name conceived differently anyway, as different as how each soul conceives the Divine.
Whether one calls god Allah, The Lord, Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu, Bhagwan, Waheguru, Yahweh, or Hashem or not call it anything at all but refer to it in mere silence and reverie, the ultimate aim is to ‘connect’, and hence the Latin term ‘religio’ which loosely means ‘to connect’. Herein lies the limits of language insofar as the naming of ‘god’ is concerned.

There is no reason to be locked into controversy but all the reason should be to engage in exploring human creativity in trying to understand Absolute or Ultimate Reality.

Because we are social beings plunged into a world of materialism and our existence always in dialectical opposition with world of Appearance and Reality, if we take the Platonic Theory of Forms as a framework of analysis, and because we are always engaging in a world of realism first and foremost, our focus needs to be on how to live a life examined as societies of human beings always empathic to the lives of others less fortunate and to dwell on similarities rather than differences.
We ought to focus on making sure fellow men and women are accorded the basics of life – food, shelter, clothing – and how these will contribute to the cultivation of dignity, rights, and responsibility.

In Malaysia, this means people of all religious faith ensuring that caste and class in society is gradually, but surely abolished and that the rich will not become richer by any means manipulative and necessary.

A wide-awake society that includes the ideological warring factions called the Muslims and Christians fighting over the word ‘Allah’ ought to be aware of what will continue to divide and conquer them, so that their praxis or the act of translating theory/perspective to practice for the common good is not clouded or even debilitated.

It would be necessary to allow any religion to use the word ‘Allah’ I would venture to say, if the word means everything good and brings them to do ultimate good. Muslims and Christians alike may perhaps need to do a philological and linguistic-genealogical research of the word ‘Allah’ or even the history of the word ‘god’ itself in order to be more enlightened of the issues and attendant claims or ownership.

Surprised they may be in discovering that we were once inhabitants of the Tower of Babel trying to figure out what word to use to name the nameless, and what shape to create to represent the Formless.
Until we Muslims and Christians come to this dialogical crossroad, the road to political manipulation in Malaysia is always paved with linguistic distortion in service of crypto-crony-capitalistic intentions

7 comments:

cherasusie said...

it must be clear that the minorities never started most of controversies in malaysia

troubles started with authorities headed by majority malays who were buoyed and emboldened by the overwhelming political power over others.

they totally disregard the constitution agreed during those independent days and in fact reneged on the agreement that country be runned on a multi ethnic, multi cultural ways and on a fair basis

for example, they claimed the chinese schools which have been in existence for umpteen years the cause of disunity, without proper studies and want to close them down and when the chinese were up in arm against this policy, they were branded anti nation, anti malays...etc

today we have this allah issue, which most people see as non-issue including reasonable malays but yet this unjust judgement were passed by muslim judges, please advise whether the non muslim malaysian should continue swallow the bitter pills or to fight back.

to me there is no way out until conscientious moderate Malays, as yourself, prevail politically.

Anonymous said...

With due respect, Allah does not equate god; foremostly, Allah is a SPECIAL name which does not denote gender whereas god imply a male characteristic coupled with goddess for female deity.

Unlike Islam which is pure monotheistic, Christianity practices paganism! Simply because they worship others than Allah; association of any imperfect creation to the magnificent creator is indignant.

Muslim worship the absolute whom is neither a male nor female; has no beginning and ending or ever-existing and creator of the universe. Christians worship a creation whom need to eat, sleep and relieve himself. Logically speaking, shouldn't mankind worship the All-Powerful and Superior Allah and NOT his messengers.

By the way, the word for god in arabic is I-L-A-H, with single "L"; NOT Allah!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are brainwashed and just repeated what you are programmed. Sad.

bumi-non-malay said...

Might as well Throw Out the Rukun Negara Belief in God and replace it Belief in God that UMNO Creates and Dictates how you belief...... + time to Revert back to English Medium of Educataion as too many Malay-English words used can Confuse many UMNO Malays......and Lets start Agenda 2020....Migrate to Sabah- Sarawak......
http://bumi-non-malay-malaysia.blogspot.com.au/

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 11:24

U mean god with a small letter g right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the second comment. Furthermore, this has become a controversy since the name Allah has been long accepted as the name associated to Muslims religion. By allowing Christian to name the pagan they worship as Allah might cause big misunderstanding, especially to children. Parents are worried that this might cause confusion to their child and made these children think that these two religions are the same since the God's name are the same. This will threat the faith; IMAN that parents instil in their children. this threat is what we really need to avoid.

Anonymous said...

Allah is His Beautiful name, the One and the Eternal. Allah is not a translation of god or gods, as being believed by Pagans, Arabs and even Muslim . Refer and read surah Al akhlas and seek your understanding of metaphysics.

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