Tuesday, January 07, 2014

"Allah" in Malay in the Psalm of David, late 1600s: Let us end this controversy

Let us put an end to this "Allah" controversy
Instead of running amok all over town over the word, why not Malay-Muslims begin by simply analyzing the meaning of the word in its entirety and then figure out how human beings are taught
A REPUBLIC OF VIRTUE
Azly Rahman
The nation has been talking about the insistence by the Christians to use the word "Allah" in the Bahasa Melayu Bible. I have contributed to the discussions by writing my latest piece published in Malaysiakini and posted  others elsewhere in cyberspace. Many responses were generated in all of these, showing how important, if not exciting, the topic is. I read most of the comments closely.
I liked the responses and learned a great deal from the diverse perspective to a topic/controversy I consider quite mundane amidst other pressing issues of social realism and what it takes for culture to be enriched. One commentator had insisted that I write on the origin of the word "Allah" and predicted that my study will yield what is already proved in the Quran and the Hadiths that the term is ordained and exclusive to the Muslims, as it is summarized. This view is no different than the insistence pushed forward by a Malaysian religious authority, JAKIM. 

 

I respect this request and will think about spending time to (still) dwell on this already over-treated issue of genealogy and etymology.

 

I wonder where I should start - with etymology, philology, or linguistic philosophy as lens? 
Should I start by analyzing the pre-Muhammadan origin of it in the early Babylonian use of "Allah" which corresponds to the god "Bel", or the Hebrew use of "Elohim". Or the Aramaic use of "elohi", or the pagan Arab god "al-Lat' or the relationship between the sister moon-god, or even "Allah" as commonly used even before Muhammad was born (as we know Muhammad's father is Abd-allah? Abdullah/Abdillah or the servant of Allah' to signify the widely used term and not exclusive as how the Muslims, especially the MALAY-MUSLIMS would like it to be used, patented, and even claimed territoriality?
Islam is a religion of knowledge ... and Muslims must be open to those perspectives excavated; there is something called research, even in the origin of the word "god" as it is said in the Islamic scripture:
"Read in the name of thy Lord who created thee ... created thee from a clot ... and taught thee with a pen/kalam ... " which does not mean ...  "Just follow blindly in the name of Ignorance that is passed down to thee ... from your ancestors .... passed down from those hunger for power/knowledge ... and taught thee to accept everything as truth as decree shoved down your throat forcefully ..."
Instead of running amok all over town over the word, why not Malay-Muslims begin by simply analyzing the meaning of the word in its entirety and then figure out how human beings are taught by the "kalam" and to think of wherein lie the Form and Appearance in the doctrine of the "kalam." This would probably have nobody running around for a year, at least, studying something simple yet profound.
I don't know. Let us be fair to our two-pound universe sitting on our shoulders and refrain from calling for jihad for everything one disagrees with.
Christians in Malaysia should be allowed to use the word "Allah" however they please as they see religiously meaningful. I have argued for this in my previous column here and we should move forward to discussing more pressing issues of, say, the preparation for a regime change so that Malaysians can thenafter begin charting frontiers for a more intellectual approach to inter-religious dialogue. As it is now, there is no demonstration of knowledge of the cross-breeding, hybridity, and universal agreement even on the use of to denote and connote the self in relation to much larger Self. 

 What do you think? How do you think we should proceed --- towards a peaceful resolution?





 VISUAL ABOVE: A page from an 1896 New Testament in the Malay Language (published in Amsterdam) 

VISUAL BELOW
ALLAH in the Psalm of David
Malay Language
late 1600s
"ALLAH" used in the late 1600s
From the Psalms of David
Collection: British Library
 

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are pressing bread-butter issues surrounding the costs of living in M'sia. This is used to distract the masses?

Roti Sunshine said...

Thank you Dr Azly for this piece of research. I hope every Malaysians will look at this case objectively.

Najib can come out of this situation like a towering stateman or a bickering politician.

Religious controversies don't look good on a nation. It is better to put an end to this episode and use our energies for something more worthwhile like making Visit Malaysia 2014 a success.

And to you sir, a towering Muslim coming out to bat in a difficult situation for what is factually true for Christians, I salute you. You are truly special and Malaysia needs more people like you.

Ellese A said...

Why are you so afraid to remark. Take a high standing moral stand but dare not defend. A really dishonest and disingenuous writer you are.

Changster said...

It has all to do with religious and racial chauvinism and nothing to do with Truth, Knowledge and Spirituality. UMNO started this "Allah" business in the 1980s as part of its campaign to burnish its "Islamic" credentials to further its materialistic goals. This is a political party that promotes racism, mediocrity and victim complex while lining the pockets of its cronies in the most un-Islamic ways. Unfortunately, there are people ignorant, hateful and angry enough to buy this, while others are opportunistic and manipulative enough to use Allah's name in vain for hellish purposes. Unless top Pakatan leaders, including Nik Aziz, Anwar and Nurul speak out for Truth, Knowledge and sanity, the rabble rousers will continue to use "Allah" to twist a knife into Malaysia's social fabric.

a_hisham76 said...

It is a fact that the term " Allah " have been used by Jews and Christian before the coming of Islam. In fact the earliest form of scriptures that is the Hindu the Rig Veda, the term 'Allah ' could be found there. The issue here is the term have been used in different context and maybe the good Dr. Azly Rahman can do an in depth study on this matter. Especially when the Malay version of the Bible is a direct translation from the English version of the Bible and not from the Arabic version of the Bible....:) The application of the church is for the usage for the term God to Allah instead of the Malay terms Tuhan. Thus if it is permitted, other religions be it Buddhist or Sikh or Hindu, has the right of
the usage as a common term. Eg. an entrance to a Hindu temple or Buddhist temple have the right to post a sign " Rumah Allah "...:)

Anonymous said...

In any religion,it is between oneself and god.In Malaysia it institionlised religion and is a sad thing.A person is free from believing any religion of his/her choice.In Malaysia it is forced religion.Worst of all people are told what to do in religion.Even worst is that in the name of god, they are so corrupted, abuse of power and racism.And yet they say they are beleivers of a religion.Isn;t is diagusting ?

Colonel Mustard said...

I have a question. In the 1600s Malay was written in the Arabic script. Is this a translation.

Anonymous said...

But our judges in d appeal case relied on Internet and concluded that Allah is not integral in Christian belief. I think these judges are now a laughing stock for the world!

Anonymous said...

Here is another point to take note:

1. In Bible it stated God created Adam and Eve. In the Bible too, there are Mosses, Abrahams and other prophets.
2. In the Quran it stated that Allah created Adam and Eve too. The Quran also mentioned about Mosses, Abrahams and other prophets.

Since both religions have same understanding, arent Allah the same God as the one mention in the Bible?

Anonymous said...

Heaven is reserved for UMNO faithfuls. The rest of us are condemned to hell. What is next? You can break the law as long as you support the government and behave like a clown.

This whole Allah affair has a lot to do with politics and is being used as a convenient diversion from the reality that Najib has mismanaged the economy. The results of his economic policies are seen in the rise of the cost of living. Many pro-UMNO bloggers have asked him to resign from office.–Din Merican

leroyng said...

What about Munshi Abdullah? He also translated portion of bible in Malay using Jawi. Any research on this. Thanks.

leroyng said...

What about Munshi Abdullah? He had also translated portions of bible into Malay using Jawi and used ALLAH too. Any research on this. Thanks

Anonymous said...

It is SAD to know that a Muslim can be propagated so easily thus the insecurity and fear.

Anonymous said...

As a West Malaysian Christian I do not use the word Allah when praying because I pray in English. The East Malaysians however have used the word Allah to refer to God even before Malaysia was formed. they have been doing this for 100s of years. Who are we to say that they are wrong? Leave them alone. They worship in BM and Iban etc (languages which use Allah). The Malay pullout of the Herald is for them. What stupid comments some people are makeing that the Christians 'suddenly' want to use the word Allah.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Azly:

It is more than evident that people from many parts of the world are surprised at Malaysian Malays' claim that Allah is only to be used by Malay Muslims. This claim as you have pointed out often does not arise out of lack of knowledge that Allah is in use by Christians and other faiths in many even Islamic countries. It is not even because of the lack of knowledge of earlier, pre-Islam use of the word. So why this unique claim only here in Malaysia? I can suggest a few things:

a. In some non-Malay speaking countries, Christians have ceded exclusive use of Allah to the Muslims, who could be Malay- or Arabic-speaking. Malaysian Malays want the same agreement and may even wonder why Malaysian Christians don't roll over and say duozo.

b. Some Christians may have actually tried to use the common name Allah to persuade Malays to turn over to Christianity. But to be fair, Malaysian Islamic authorities have not said this. But from the fact that they claim confusion, a Muslim may indeed be confused if he is not well-read about the world around him. But let me say this. Woe to the Christian who attempts to convert a Muslim by such deception.

c. The common feeling is that UMNO knows it will become irrelevant to the Malays if it is not seen as the champion of Malay-Muslim causes. So it must invent bogeys such as this to tell the Malays that they are under siege and and UMNO is there to save them. Having said that we have never heard even one Malay testify that when he heard about the Christian Allah, he became confused. Indeed, I feel Christians and Malays do not discuss religion. So UMNO, which once was headed by a a leader with an unbelievably high inferiority complex planted some imaginary threat into their minds and caused them to have inferiority complex as well.

d. But we cannot understand why the judiciary can be persuaded by claims of confusion without evidence. A trial is always based on the Law and on facts. On which of these can they say Allah is not integral to Christianity? And even if it is not integral the right of choice should still have to remain with the Christians. They don't have to use Allah but they can use it anytime. Like I can easily say, and everyone would agree that overeating at Ramadan Buffets is not integral to Islam. But if you agree it does not mean that Muslims must not have Ramadan Buffets. It is not integral so you are not forced to have Ramadan Buffet to be termed a Muslim but you have the freedom to have as many Ramadan buffets as your wisdom or pocket directs. Anyway who said Allah must be integral to Christians for Christians to use it? And who says Allah is not integral to Christians who use Malay?

So, what is clear is that it benefits UMNO to keep Muslims convinced that they are confused. But such is the way UMNO has led the Malays. Give them something to worry about so they will continue to vote for UMNO. UMNO is actually out of touch with the orang ramai. In fact if Malays do not vote for them next GE Utusan would just print "Apa lagi Melayu mahu?" rather than to address real issues.

Moreover, with regard to the 18- or 20-point Agreements or the 10-point solution, they are just contracts. If the Center betrays the other parties, the other cannot go to court to plead that there are such agreements. You would have to move to claim from the Center such rights that should have been enshrined in our Constitution or other Enactments.

And who were the YB's who voted on the unconstitutional bills which are causing these problems in the first place?

Kaypohchee

khairul Nizam said...

Sorry, but have doubt that the visual page is correct and original.
Rumi word for Bahasa Melayu only exist in early 20th Century
Ref : http://www.reocities.com/cobra_ayaq/articles/kajian/bab2.htm

Thanks

Hari Hari said...

a_hisham76.
Did they??

Anonymous said...

AR,Thank you so much for this information. May God bless you.

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