This past week a few topics were high on my list for blog entries. Aside, of course, from the horrendous catastrophe in Haiti, one seemed more apropos of this blog and that is the question of who can use the word “Allah” in Malaysia.
As for Haiti, I have posted previously a link to the ISNA’s fund raising efforts for relief there. I encourage you to use that link or any other that you trust to deliver the aid where it is most needed. Constant news stories of the mounting numbers of dead and wounded are further exacerbated by the stories of those survivors who must now face disease, hunger, lack of sanitary facilities, clean drinking water and more. Our help is needed! Allah (swt) enjoins upon us the task of taking care of fellow human beings, now is the time to act.
Returning to the question of the word “Allah” in Malaysia, this would be laughable if it weren’t actually tragic. It simply points out the complete lack of education of Muslims around the world. To put it bluntly, the clergy, the Ulama of Malaysia have done a terribly dismal job of educating Muslims there. If that were not the case then this question would never have come up.
The simple fact is that “Allah” (الله) is an Arabic word meaning “the God”. The word was part of the Arabic language long before the Prophet Muhammad (saw) received the revelation of the Qur’an. Arabic speaking people of all faiths used that word. Today in Palestine and elsewhere you can find Bibles in the Arabic language that use the word Allah throughout the text. The idea that this is exclusive to Muslims and Islam is simply absurd.
When the Qur’an is interpreted into the different languages of the places where it has spread the word “Allah” in the arabic is often left alone, perhaps innocently, and out of respect, but often times for the purpose of differentiating this name of God from all others. Bibles, when translated into indigenous languages from the Greek or Hebrew take the word for God in that language. For instance in German it would be Gott or in French Dieu.
But when all is said and done, just because Allah is the word that Muslims around the world use for God (الله) this is so does not give us exclusive rights to this word. Especially in non-Arabic speaking countries.
Further, this is an example of the division that is set up to preserve some kind of power elite. The reality is that three faiths sprang from the descendants of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) and each of them worship the same God. The word for that God differs from language to language and in Arabic the word is Allah (الله). The fact that Arabic is not the native language of Malaysia does not make this untrue.