By Asghar Ali Engineer
Of late I have been receiving questions about the controversy these days in Malaysia about ‘Allah’ as Malay Muslims are objecting to the use of word ‘Allah’ by Catholic Christians. The Malays feel only Malay Muslims can use the word Allah and Christians cannot. The case was fought right about the High Court and the high court of Malaysia also allowed the use of word Allah by Christians. However, the Government of Malaysia suspended the Supreme Court verdict for the time being. It is not because the Government is trying to defy the orders of Highest Court but because the controversy has become politically unmanageable due to overcharged emotions.
The Roman Catholics translate the word God in their Malay language paper Herald as Allah and hence the controversy. Of late violence has erupted and a few days ago some three churches were attacked with firebombs and one was extensively damaged. The religious extremists are determined to inflict their views on others. Malaysia, like India, is a multi-religious society and bye and large it has remained peaceful except when violence had erupted in late sixties between Malays and Chinese.
But again relations between Malays and Christians or Malays and Hindus erupt or situation becomes tense. All multi-religious societies experience inter-communal or inter-religious tensions in some or more degrees. All Malays are Muslims and constitute about sixty per cent of Malaysia’s population. In Malaysia, Malays and Muslims have become synonymous. As mostly weaker sections of society embrace Islam in the hope of equality and justice, in Malaysia too, poorer sections embraced Islam and Malays till recently were poor and backward. However, now most of them are well educated and economically better off.
The Malays who oppose the use of word Allah by Christians, argue that this will confuse ordinary Malays and in view of missionary activities of Catholic Christians, they may convert to Christianity and they want to ward off this confusion among Malays. This may have its own rationale but the problem has to be solved through dialogue and mutual understanding. But the problem is that some politicians would like to exploit such controversies to their benefit.
In fact those who object to use of word Allah by Christians are on weak grounds. As Allah is one and creator of all of us cannot be monopolized by any one religious, much less linguistic community. The word Allah in Arabic was in use before Islam appeared on the scene in Mecca. As Maulana Azad points out in his Tarjuman al-Qur’an the word Allah is derived linguistically from pre-Islamic ‘eel’ as in Jibra’il or Israf’il etc. The word is Hebrew was also iloh or ilah and by adding ‘al’ (which in English is used for ‘the’). Thus al-ilah (the God) became Allah in Arabic and was used for supreme God.
In fact Muslims should welcome if non-Muslims too use the word Allah for God or Ishwar etc. How can one object to use of Allah by others? Anyone who learns Arabic and talks about God will have to use word Allah. All Christian Arabs freely use word Allah in countries like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon etc. No one objects to use of the word Allah. At least I do not know whether any Muslim Arab ever objected to such use.
I was in Lebanon in late nineties for a Christian-Muslim dialogue and we decided to visit mosque on Friday and a church on Sunday. We Muslims offered salah (prayer) on Friday and Christians sat in one place till prayer was over and we discussed with the imam of the mosque certain inter-communal problems. Similarly we Muslims observed the service in the church on Sunday while Christians in the group participated in the service.
The priest who was delivering sermon in Arabic was using the word Allah only and had rosary (tasbih) in his hand like the Imam in the mosque. If a curtain had been drawn between us and the priest I would have felt as if Imam in the mosque was delivering khutba in the mosque. Of course there were theological differences but otherwise Arabic language made us feel one.
As I always maintain any language exists prior to any religion and not otherwise. A religion uses a language which pre-exists it. More than one religious community can use the same language and terminology of both the religions would appear very similar. In fact in Lebanon Christians have rendered yeoman service to Arabic language and it is Christians who have prepared dictionary of modern Arabic Al-Munjid which is consulted by all Arab scholars of modern Arabic.
No language can be monopoly of any one religious community. In India too many Hindus learnt Arabic and Persian which was court language and they fluently spoke Persian and even wrote poetry in Persian like Chandrabhan Brahman. There were several first rate Urdu poets who were and still are Hindus and they use words like ‘Khuda and Allah in their poetry. How can one object to that.
And as for fear that use of word Allah by Christians would confuse Malay Muslims and they may convert to Christianity is not a well grounded fear. Only those who feel their religion is followed without much conviction can entertain such fears. And for Malays their very identity and existence is based on Islam and as pointed out above, Malay and Muslims have be come identical. How can then such fear be justified?
When one Malay Muslim had converted to Islam a few years ago there was such a hue and cry and Shariah court sentenced her and she had to revert to Islam, then how can such a fear be justified that there will be mass conversion to Christianity. And in modern democratic society one cannot stop conversion through fear of law. If any one converts to other religion it is between him/her and Allah. In matters religious one is answerable only to God, not to any human being.
However, matter is really not religious but political. The majority community feels it would be reduced to minority and hence it resists any conversion to other religions. In India the Hindutva forces are enacting laws in the BJP ruled states to stop Hindus converting to other religions like Christianity or Islam but welcome if any Muslim or Christian converts to Hinduism. Thus political benefit and not conversion is the issue. In a truly democratic society what matters is democratic and fundamental rights not conversion to or from majority community religion. It should be purely an individual decision whether to convert to or from any one religion to another religion. Otherwise our democratic rights would be in great danger.
And as rightist forces and extremists make big issue out of nothing to create a scare against minority the rightwing extremists in Malaysia also have tried to create such a controversy. And as in India when the BJP raised such a controversy about Ramjanambhoomi temple, the Congress Government under Narsimha Rao allowed Babri Masjid to be demolished. The Malaysian Government too is scared and is afraid of implementing the High Court judgment for the time being.
Any multi-religious or multi-cultural democracy does not work smoothly in ideal sense. Even advanced western countries are facing problems of inter-religious tensions. In France there is often tension between African Muslims and white French. It is not so much religious but economic and political and also rightist forces are behind such eruptions.
Recently the French Government of Sarkozy which is rightist in ideology has proposed ban on burqa and if someone puts it on it proposes to impose fine of 750 Euros which is huge amount. Now it is ridiculous for an advanced democracy to dictate what one should or should not wear. The French rightist government has denounced burqa as ‘prison’ and even if it is, it is not business of government to dictate the nature of dress.
However, the socialist left is opposing such a ban though they also consider burqa quite undesirable but they do not consider it desirable to ban it. Thus after all it is not secularism which is in danger as the French Government feels and rationalizes its action with but their own political power. As religion cannot be in danger by deeds of few extremists, secularism cannot be in danger just because a few women wear burqa in France and yet we see how French government is creating scare and how it is dealing with the subject.
In many countries with multi-religious structure the right wing among religious majority community has been suppressing voice of reason successfully. The moderates are being silenced through creating mass hysteria. There is great need for civil society to play its role and support enlightened policies. Most of the moderate intellectuals have no time or interest to study the issue in depth and become victims of high pitched propaganda.
We need what we call public intellectuals who raise voice of reason and take public stand even risking their own reputation, or even career. Most of our moderate intellectuals argue why we should bother about such things and give way to such extremist forces. We should always be ready like Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre or Noam Chomsky to fearlessly criticize the powers that be in keeping with their conviction. What is the use of conviction which does not inspire you to speak out irrespective of consequences? Be it controversy about Allah or burqa or crime of Zionists or rigidity of orthodoxy. They alone can save democracy.
Secular Perspective, Volume XIII, No.1, January 16-31, 2010
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai. email@example.com
Source: Copyright © 2010 TwoCircles.net
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/can-allah-be-monopolised-by-any-community?/d/2388
I agree with the spirit of what Mike and Irtaza are saying. However, let me point out that Quran does reject certain gods of other religions by name, specifically Laat, Manaat and Uzzah (53:19-28). Irtaza mentioned these gods but then quickly moved on to Mohammad as another god of the contemporary Muslims. In my understanding, it is the spirit of what your concept of Allah is. Allah and other 98 attributes represent universal attributes which are represented in limited proportions within each of us Humans but are present in unlimited manner in Allah/God/Bhagwan/Creator. Most Muslims have a very limiting concept of Allah. Many think of Allah as the words and characters written in Arabic script (hence their presence in the Masajid). Many more think of Allah as some being very remote, sitting up in the heaven and waiting for you to ask for something from him and he will respond in reciprocal intensity of your prayers. To me, Allah is all present, all around us, and within me. Allah is the source of all power, all creation and all spirit. Allah has given me some amount of all his powers, Rooh (spirit) and attributes including the power to create (Khaliq). Allah has its own plans for the world and humanity and all living beings and non-living things. My main job is to find my place in that plan of His and fulfill it to the best of my abilities and that is what I will be asked on the Judgment Day. First did I find what my purpose and place in the plan of Allah was and Second, did I fulfill it to the best of my abilities. The rest is all distraction and Mullahs are the best dis-tractors of them all. Farrukh Shah KhanGeneral Secretary,Northern California Islamic Council
Who Owns Allah?
God created all languages. It does not make any difference to God if someone call Him "God" or "Allah" or "Bhagaban". Sadly, many Muslims belive that Allah is the unique name of our Creator and many non-Muslims believe that Allah is the Muslim God!
According to the Quran, God Almighty belongs the Most beautiful names. God creates all the languages - and we can derive His beautiful names from any of these languages. There is no restriction in the Quran, what so ever, in this matter. However, the Quran only condemns the distortion of God's name by associating idol or idols besides Him. These are the important teachings of the Quran.
According to the Quran, God Almighty creates all languages, not just Arabic - "Among His proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variation in your languages and your colors. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable." (Quran 30:22)
We can derive His Most beautiful names from any languages, Arabic or non-Arabic, as understood from this - "To God belongs the most beautiful names; call upon Him therewith, and disregard those who distort His name. They will be requited for their sins." (Quran 7:180)
Some of God's beautiful English names can be derived from this English translation of the Quran - "He is the One God; there is no other god besides Him. The King, the Most Sacred, the Peace, the Most Faithful, the Supreme, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the Most Dignified. God be glorified; far above having partners. He is the One God; the Creator, the Initiator, the Designer. To Him belong the most beautiful names. Glorifying Him is everything in the heavens and the earth. He isthe Almighty, Most Wise." (Quran 59:23-24)
The Islamic scholars are hypnotized by devil (in Arabic Satan). They invent all sorts of ridiculous issues (hadith, tafsir,,fatwas, etc,) and successfully diverts millions of Muslims from the very important Quranic issues to unimportant unQuranic issues !!!! One of such issue is their ridiculas invention of not using the name of "God" but "Allah" for the Supreme Being in the English translation !!! According to them, "Allah" is genderless but "God" has gender!!!!
If you check the traditional English translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali or M. Pickthall, you will observe this weired phenomenon. Like many Muslims, they were influenced by so-called hadith or fatwa - they did not translate the Arabic word "Allah" as "God" in anywhere in their translations !!!! But, the interesting thing is that, God Almighty forced them to use His English name "God" in their English translations of the Quran despite their wrong judgment !!!! Please check out their English translations of Sura Nas (Quran 114:2-3) -"...The King of Mankind, The God of Mankind,..." ! The Arabic word "Elaha" is one of the beautiful names of God. Yusuf Ali and Pickhall did not have any other choice but to translate the Arabic word "Elaha" as God !!!!
Abdullah Yusuf Ali translated the verse 66:8 this way - "Our Lord ! perfect our Light for us, and grant us Forgiveness: for Thou hast power over all things." The English meaning for the Arabic word "Rabb" is Lord. But, he did not have any problem using the English word "Lord" for "Rabb" even though the female gender for Lord is Lady !!!! I am wondering where is the rational !!! ???
The most important Quranic issue is not to distort God's beautiful name by associating idol/idols beside God. Sadly, the Islamic scholars completely overlook this important point !!!!!
For example, the Quranic Testimony (in Arabic Shahadah) in brief is "La ilaha illa Allah". This testimony is taught by God Almighty in the Quran. Prophet Muhammad preached and followed this testimony (7:172-173; 3:18; 47:19; 20:14; 10:90; 37:35-36). One such verse states - "When they are told, "La Elaha Ellah Allah", they turned arrogant. They said, "Shall we leave our gods for the sake of a crazy poet?" (Quran 37:35-36) Sadly, millions of Muslims revert to idolatry after the death of the prophet, added Muhammad's name in the Quranic Testimony and practice this corrupt shahadah daily basis !!!!! According to the Quran this is call idol worship (39:45; 3:18; 37:35).
The places of worship (masjid) belong to God Almighty. We learn from the Quran - "The places of worship belong to God; do not call on anyone else beside God." (Quran 72:18). Despite this Quranic fact, the Muslim scholars added the name of Muhammad in their Adhan and ignored the Quran (72:18;3:18;2:285). Today's Muslims display the prophet's name next to God's name on the masjid wall, in their houses and in their automobiles !!!! The idol worshiping of Muhammad is deeply rooted in the lives of today's Muslims. Satan used the bait of loving Muhammad and successfully trapped millions of Muslims into idol worshipers of Muhammad beside Allah !!!!!
Our salat prayers must be devoted to God Alone (72:20; 20:14;13:36;6:162). One such verse states - "Say, "My Contact prayers, my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted absolutely to God Alone, the Lord of the universe." (Quran 6:162) Abu Lahab, Abu Jahl, and the idolaters of Quraish used to observe salat prayers (8:33-35) and worship Laat, Uzzah and Manaat beside God (53:19-28). Today's Muslims replace Laat, Uzzah and Manaat with the prophet Muhammad's name and devote part of their worships by saluting and salwating the prophet beside Allah !!! Additionally, they added the name of prophet Abraham in their salat prayers !!!!.
Today's Muslims consider Muhammad as the source of the religion (prophetic sunnah) beside the Quran, which according to the Quran is idol worship (6:114; 9:31; 12:40; 18:26,109,110;41:6). One such verse states - "You do not worship beside Him (God) exceptinnovations that you have made up, you and your parents. God has never authorized such idols. All ruling belongs to God, and He has ruled that you shall not worship except Him. This is the perfect religion, but most people do not know." (Quran 12:40)
Many ignorant Muslims claim that Muhammad possesses power of intercession (in Arabic Shafaaet) despite the Quranic fact that only God possesses all power of intercession (2:48,123,254;6:70,94;7:53;10:3,18,49;13:16;39:44,45;43:86;74:48;82:17-19). One such verse states - "Say, "all intercession belongs to God." To Him belongs all sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you will be returned." (Quran 39:44)
According to the Quran, prophet Muhammad was human being like us (18:110), who committed errors like normal human being (4:79; 9:117; 33:37; 40:66; 41:6; 42:52; 47:19; 48:2; 66:1; 80:1-10; 93:7). One such verse states - "He (God) found you (Muhammad) astray, and guided you." (Quran 93:7). Despite these Quranic facts, ignorant Muslims believe that Muhammad was created from Light of Allah and was infallible like Allah !!!!!
The Arabic speaking Christians use the the Arabic word "Allah" and not "God" - and they believe in Jesus as "son of God" or in Arabic "Ibn' Allah" !!!! According to the Quran (7:180), they obviously distort the name Allah by associating prophet Jesus with Allah.
Can we then reject the Arabic name "Allah" simply because they associate Jesus as "son of Allah" (in Arabic: Isa Ibn' Allah) !!!!!???? Absolutely not !
In the Quran (Quran 59:23-24, 114:2-3), God Almighty suggests us that one of His beautiful names is "The King." (in Arabic Malek). Can we deny God's suggestion for "The King" for one of His beautiful names simply because the female gender for the King is the Queen !!!??? Absolutely not !
Even before the advent of Muhammad, the idol worshipers attributed sons and daughters to Allah (6:100, 16:57, 17:40, 37:149,153;43:16; 52:39; 53:21). One such verse states - "Yet, they set up besides Allah idols from among the jinns, though He is the One who created them. They even attribute to Him (Allah) sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims." (Quran 6:100). So, can we reject the Arabic word "Allah" simply because the Meccan idol worshipers associated sons and daughters with Allah and distort or pollute His name !!!!??? Not at all !
We can find the use of "Allah" not "God" in the Arabic Bible. We can find the use of "Ishwar" not "God" in the Hindi Bible. An Arabian Christian use the word "Allah" not "God" when he/she calls God. An American Christian who speaks English use the word "God" for Allah. Sadly, the traditional English translators of the Quran are influenced by hadith or fatwas and used the Arabic word "Allah" instead of English word "God" in their English translations, which only give the false impression to the English speaking people that "Allah" is an Arabic God or a Muslim God !
Using the word ":Allah", "Khoda", "God", "Bhagoban" - it all depends on the circumstances. For example, it is logical to use "Allah" or "Khoda" in the Bangla translation of the Quran for Bangla speaking people. It is logical to use "Bhagoban" in the Hindi translation of the Quran for the Hindi speaking people, and "God" in the English translation of the Quran for the English speaking people.
What is the logic that one has to call ones Creator with a foreign language like Arabic !!!??? In a lot of non-Arabic speaking countries Muslims are forced as children to read the Quran in Arabic and still as adults read the Quran in Arabic, but they do not understand a single word of what they read. What good is it to read the Quran in Arabic like a parrot without understanding its meanings or like a donkey carrying valuable books !? - "The example of those who were given the Torah, then failed to uphold it, is like the donkey carrying great works of literature. Miserable indeed is the example of people who rejected God's revelations. God does not guide the wicked people." (Quran 62:5)
Last but not least, this is one of the many reminders of the Quran - "God is the One who created you. He is the One who provides for you. He is the One who puts you to death. He is the One who resurrects you. Can any of your idols do any of these things ? Be He glorified. He is much too exalted to have any partners." (Quran 30:40)
Thank you and may God guide me,
[33:62] God's Sunnah is unchangeable
[39:23] The Quran is the best Hadith
--- On Mon, 1/11/10, Mike Ghouse <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Mike Ghouse <email@example.com>Subject: MuslimAgenda :: Who Owns AllahTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgDate: Monday, January 11, 2010, 10:42 PM
Who Owns God?
WHO OWNS GOD?
To the People of Malaysia
The Malaysian Government may consider setting up a commission to figure out who owns Allah. From what I know, no one owns the word "Allah" nor does any one own "Allah". I can have one of the seven billionth (# of people) piece of God without asking permission from any one. And each part would be fulsome seven billion. You are welcome to steal my piece, I still would have it; owning one piece is like owning whole of the God.Same formula applies to the other names of God be it Yahweh, Krishna, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Wahe Guru, God or any other name one can imagine to call on the creator. God probably would be embarrassed if he figures out that we believe him to have limited linguistic comprehension, and that he only understands Hebrew, Sanskrit, Pali, Avesta, Aramaic, Latin or Arabic. Quite! Let him know not.Perhaps, one single event led to the other and the whole cosmos came into being. Whether it is evolution, creation or big bang, the fact of the matter is we exist. Thus the concept of oneness of creation, oneness of the humanity and oneness of the people translates into Oneness of God, One all loving God. Our Atheist friends don't have to call that thing God, just call it the causer of evolution, creation or the big bang; or don't call any thing, he has no problems with it and I know I don't.I hope you find the answer in various ways of praising your version of the lord; your lord, my version and every one's lord; the same causer and sustainer of the creation. Whatever way works for you is good, why should it matter how you worship? Your devotion to the creator is your own, it won't interfere with my life and it should not worry us a bit.God has not signed a secret deal with you to tell me that your way is the right way, you quote the Qur'aan, I will quote the Vedas, Bible, Torah, Avesta and other books or my native friend may quote his/her traditions. None of us is wrong, each one has his or her own version and all versions produce the same result; acknowledging something higher, immortal than us and that we have be humble, and humility eats up arrogance and brings conflictlessness among the people. That is what the kingdom of heaven is all about or may be more per you, and that is fine with me.The phrases like No God, One God, Many Gods, One family or Vasudeva Kutumbukum is all about peaceful co-existence of diverse people as one family. If we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.Since I am a human like you and happen to believe in one of the 250 versions of God, let me share my version of that creator with you and I invite you to share your version right here in the comments section. Remember we create God in our own image, so there are at least 7 billion versions of the same God, and he (she or it) loves every which way we bow to him, acknowledge it and respect her.My version is Islamic, still the same God.The symbols in this article are the name of God, "Allah" in Arabic, as a Muslim I won't lock the unlockable God in words or in picture; it is not a being and is certainly not containable. No one's version is complete to the other, but given our limitations we create him in our own image, a deeper image en-carved in our imagination that is inexplicable and invisible like the pain in the neck.The Qur'aan starts with this verse:Translation by Mohammad Asad1:2 All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds,Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameena????????? ????? ????? ????????????? (1:2)In this instance, the term "worlds" denotes all categories of existence both in the physical and the spiritual sense. The Arabic expression rabb - rendered by me as ',`Sustainer" - embraces a wide complex of meanings not easily expressed by a single term in another language. It comprises the ideas of having a just claim to the possession of anything and, consequently, authority over it, as well as of rearing, sustaining and fostering anything from its inception to its final completion. Thus, the head of a family is called rabb ad-dar ("master of the house") because he has authority over it and is responsible for its maintenance; similarly, his wife is called rabbat ad-dar ("mistress of the house"). Preceded by the definite article al, the designation rabb is applied, in the Qur'an, exclusively to God as the sole fosterer and sustainer of all creation - objective as well as conceptual - and therefore the ultimate source of all authority.(By Mohammad Asad, Quran Ref: 1:2 )
Here is how the last chapter begins :114:1 SAY: "I seek refuge with the Sustainer of men,:[Allah:seek refuge with Him] [Allah's attributes:Cherishe r and Sustainer] [Mankind]Qul aAAoothu birabbi alnnasi???? ??????? ??????? ???????? (114:1)The most important aspect of quoting both the first and last chapters of Qur'aan has a purpose in it. Both verses do not address Muslims exclusively, in turn they address the whole cosmos and the human beings.Allah is addressing all of us in the book; he made sure that he did not address one people to exclude the other. He may have been motivated by the fear that some other God may take away the unclaimed people, so he was smart enough to include everyone from the beginning to the end. I am sure he used the same strategy in all his books, be it the Vedas, Bible, Torah or any book or just through the oral traditions that our brothers and sisters in native and earth based traditions follow.God belongs to all, we don't need to own him (her or it), let him remain the creator and owner of our lives and let us call him whichever way we can.The Neocons Muslims (Equal and opposite counterparts of Neocons in all faiths) need to be happy that the Christians and Sikhs want to keep "Allah" as one of the names of God. Indeed, the Arab Christians also call the creator Allah. Perhaps it is the same word Ilahi Jesus used to use in Aramaic.Allah is God's name in Arabic. Allah, the creator and sustainer has no problems if we call him Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, Buddha, God, Ishwar, Mahavir, Wahe Guru or Allah. Let's not limit the capabilities of God to a language and a religion. He is the creator and sustainer of all worlds.As a Muslim I welcome everyone to call God with his name in Arabic – "Allah" with equal devotion and honor. Quietly and peacefully this would be the response of over 99% of Muslims in the world. It is time for us to appeal the majority of Muslims in Malaysia to help those few lost brothers.Mike Ghousewww.MikeGhouse.netwww.FoundationforPl uralism.comwww.WorldMuslimCong ress.comMikeGhouse@Gmail.comDallas, Texas. USA