deputy minister johari on use of Allah word

December 21st, 2007 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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I'm not an expert on Islam, but since Internet is around, I googled around for the word "Allah". These are some of the interesting things I found:

1. From http://emuslim.com/WhoIsAllah.asp

First of all, it is important to note that "Allah" is the same word that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews use for God. If you pick up an Arabic Bible, you will see the word "Allah" being used where "God" is used in English. This is because "Allah" is the only word in the Arabic language equivalent to the English word "God" with a capital "G". Additionally, the word "Allah" cannot be made plural or given gender (i.e. masculine or feminine), which goes hand-in-hand with the Islamic concept of God. Because of this, and also because the Qur'an, which is the holy scripture of Muslims, was revealed in the Arabic language, some Muslims use the word "Allah" for "God", even when they are speaking other languages. This is not unique to the word "Allah", since many Muslims tend to use Arabic words when discussing Islamic issues, regardless of the language that they speak. This is because the universal teachings of Islam – even though they have been translated in every major language – have been preserved in the Arabic language.

 

It is interesting to note that the Aramaic word "El", which is the word for God in the language that Jesus spoke, is certainly more similar in sound to the word "Allah" than the English word "God". This also holds true for the various Hebrew words for God, which are "El" and "Elah", and the plural form "Elohim". The reason for these similarities is that Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic are all Semitic languages with common origins. It should also be noted that in translating the Bible into English, the Hebrew word "El" is translated variously as "God", "God" and "angel"! This imprecise language allows different translators, based on their preconceived notions, to translate the word to fit their own views. The Arabic word "Allah" presents no such difficulty or ambiguity, since it is only used for Almighty God alone. Additionally, in English, the only difference between "God", meaning a false God, and "God", meaning the One True God, is the capital "G". In the Arabic alphabet, since it does not have capital letters, the word for God (i.e. Allah) is formed by adding the equivalent to the English word "the" (Al-) to the Arabic word for "God/God" (ilah). So the Arabic word "Allah" literally it means "The God" – the "Al-" in Arabic basically serving the same function as the capital "G" in English. Due to the above mentioned facts, a more accurate translation of the word "Allah" into English might be "The One -and-Only God" or "The One True God".

More importantly, it should also be noted that the Arabic word "Allah" contains a deep religious message due to its root meaning and origin. This is because it stems from the Arabic verb ta'Allaha (or alaha), which means "to be worshipped".

 

…This brings us to a more important point: It should be clearly understood that what Islam is primarily concerned with is correcting mankind's concept of Almighty God. What we are ultimately going to be held accountable at the end of our life is not whether we prefer the word "Allah" to the word "God", but what our concept of God is. Language is only a side issue. A person can have an incorrect concept of God while using the word "Allah", and likewise a person can have a correct concept of God while using the word "God". This is because both of these words are equally capable of being misused and being improperly defined. As we've already mentioned, using the word "Allah" no more insinuates belief in the Unity of God than the use of the word "God" insinuates belief in the Trinity – or any other theological opinion. Naturally, when God sends a revelation to mankind through a prophet, He is going to send it in a language that the people who receive it can understand and relate to.

 

Some of the biggest misconceptions that many non-Muslims have about Islam have to do with the word "Allah". For various reasons, many people have come to believe that Muslims worship a different God than Christians and Jews. This is totally false, since "Allah" is simply the Arabic word for "God" – and there is only One God. Let there be no doubt – Muslims worship the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus – peace be upon them all. However, it is certainly true that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have different concepts of Almighty God. For example, Muslims – like Jews – reject the Christian beliefs of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation. This, however, doesn't mean that each of these three religions worships a different God – because, as we have already said, there is only One True God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim to be "Abrahamic Faiths", and all of them are also classified as "monotheistic". However, Islam teaches that other religions have, in one way or another, distorted and nullified a pure and proper belief in Almighty God by neglecting His true teachings and mixing them with man-made ideas

 

As Muslims, we think that it is unfortunate that we have to go into details on such seemingly minor issues, but so many falsehoods have been heaped upon our religion, that we feel that it is our duty to try to break down the barriers of falsehood. This isn't always easy, since there is a lot of anti-Islamic literature in existence, which tries to make Islam look like something strange and foreign to Westerners. There are some people out there, who are obviously not on the side of truth, that want to get people to believe that "Allah" is just some Arabian "God", and that Islam is completely "other" – meaning that it has no common roots with the other Abrahamic religions (i.e. Christianity and Judaism). To say that Muslims worship a different "God" because they say "Allah" is just as illogical as saying that French people worship another God because they use the word "Dieu", that Spanish-speaking people worship a different God because they say "Dios" or that the Hebrews worshipped a different God because they sometimes call Him "Yahweh". Certainly, reasoning like this is quite ridiculous! It should also be mentioned, that claiming that any one language uses the only correct word for God is tantamount to denying the universality of God's message to mankind, which was to all nations, tribes and people through various prophets who spoke different languages."

2. From http://understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=69&sscatid=8

Question:

What is the derivation of the word "Allah"? Some scholars say it derives from al+ illah ("the God"), but many Muslim Ulema and translators of the Qur'an (such as Maulana Muhammad Ali) disagree with this, and say that "Allah" is whole in itself, as a proper name for the Supreme Creator. But is there any philological relationship between Allah and other Semitic terms for "God" such as Eloah (Hebrew) and Alaha (Aramaic/Syriac)?

Thank you.

Peace and blessings of Allah be with you.

Answer:

Although a lot has been said about the philology of the word 'Allah', however, in my opinion, the former of the two opinions noted by you seems to be closer to the correct one. A detailed discussion compiling the opinions of various scholars of the Arabic language regarding the origin of the word can be seen in "Lisaan al-Arab" under the word "Aaliha" (a-l-h). In my opinion, 'Allah' is an Arabic word meaning 'the God'. According to the general principle of making proper nouns from common nouns in the Arabic language, the word "ilah" (common noun) has been converted to "al-ilah", which became "Allah" due to the turgidity and the slight difficulty of pronouncing the word "al-ilah".

The Qur'an, because its prime and first addressees were the Arabs, used the word "Allah" for the Supreme Being, as that had traditionally been the word used for the Supreme Being in that language. The same had been the case in the older scriptures. Those scriptures, like the Qur'an, used the particular words for the Supreme Being, which were already in vogue in those languages, to refer to the Supreme Being.

However, there have been scholars of the Arabic language who ascribe to the opinion that "Allah" is the actual name of the Supreme Being. It is indeed important to analyze the evidence that they have provided to support their opinion. Nevertheless, I feel that to give God a name is a requirement of us, humans. God, being the absolute being is in no need for a name.

3. From http://www.islam-info.ch/en/Who_is_Allah.htm

In the technical vocabulary of linguistics, the word Allâh is Jâmid, that is, it is not derived from any other word. In the pronunciation of Allâh, the letter ‘L’ is stressed. The word Allâh is not a construction of al-ilâh as some people think, but a different and an independent word. The first two letters Al in the word Allâh are an integral, inseparable part of the word. They do not denote the definite article Al of Arabic, which is equivalent to the English ‘the’. In Arabic, the prefix Al is added before the noun to emphasize the word in the sense of 'most' or 'all', for example al-Rahmân – the Most Gracious. Sîbwaih, the great grammarian, and Khalîl, the great linguistic, say, “Since Al in the beginning of the word Allâh is inseparable from it, so it is a simple substantive, not derived from any other word.”

If Al in All̢h were an additional prefix, the common exclamation y̢ All̢h, (O All̢h!), would not be permitted according to the rules of Arabic grammar, as the form y̢ al-il̢h or y̢ al-Rahm̢n are not permissible in Arabic. Moreover, this supposition would mean that there were different gods Р̢lihah (plural of il̢h), one of which became gradually known as al-il̢h and was then contracted into All̢h. This supposition is not correct. All̢h has always been the name of the Eternal Being (Hughes: Dictionary of Islam), nor has the word All̢h ever been applied to anyone else but the Divine Being. The pagan Arabs had numerous il̢hs or gods, but none of them was ever called All̢h.

This being the proper name of the Supreme Being has therefore no parallel or equivalent in any other language of the world. The English word ‘god’ is applied to any religious object of worship. Most probably it is related to ‘good’ and origins from heathen mythologies. Jehovah, which is the Aramaic or Hebrew expression Ya Howâ, literally means most closely ‘O! That’ or ‘O! Thou’ used to address a Deity, the emphasis is on Huwa which is to emphasize an Existence, therefore it can hardly be a proper name. The Hindus give their senior deity the name of Par-Mâtma (the Super Soul), Par-Barham (the Super and the Great), Par-Mishwar (the Great King or Owner), The Parsis give their supreme God the name of Yazdan and Hermes. In the Sikh religion, their great Deity is called Satt which means the Truth. The use of Jehova in the New Testament by the Witnesses of Jehova is a new invention. In the original Greek version and older versions of the New Testament this name was never used and Jesus never employed the name "Jehova". Although most Christians are unaware of it, the Aramaic speaking Jesus also used the word Allâh (or ‘Allaha’). Christians speaking the Semitic languages still use it. In the Greek and Latin writings this was then rendered to theos or deos, the generic words for ‘god’ in these languages. These words are derived from Dyeus, the name of a heathen god. The French ‘dieu’ or the English ‘deity’ are also etymologically based on that word.

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allah

The term Allāh is most likely derived from a contraction of the Arabic article al- and ʾilāh "deity, god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God" ( ho theos monos), L. Gardet states.[2] Another theory traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alāhā.[2]. Cognates of the name "Allāh" exist in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. [4] The corresponding Aramaic form is אֱלָהָא ˀĔlāhā in Biblical Aramaic and ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ˀAlâhâ or ˀĀlōho in Syriac. [9].

According to Gerhard Böwering, the contraction of al- and ʾilāh in forming the term Allāh (“the deity” in the masculine form) parallels the contraction of al- and ʾilāha in forming the term al-Lāt (“the deity” in the feminine form). [10]

Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God". [4] The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for 'God' than 'Allah'.[6] Arab Christians for example use terms Allāh al-ab (الله الآب) meaning God the father, Allāh al-ibn (الله الابن) mean God the son, and Allāh al-ruh al ghodus (الله الروح القدس) meaning God the Holy Spirit (See God in Christianity for the Christian concept of God).

Deputy Minister Johari says the word is from Arabic language, so I suppose all those who speak Arabic can use it. Religion is a sensitive issue, so I hope this issue is not misinterpreted and offend those people of Arabic descent who may not be Muslims. Again, I'm not an expert, so my apologies if there's any mistake here.

Johari: Only Muslims can use 'Allah'
http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/76302
Soon Li Tsin | Dec 21, 07 5:31pm

The word 'Allah' can only be used in the context of Islam and not any other religion, said the Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum.

Asked why a new condition will be imposed on Catholic weekly newspaper Herald when its annual publishing permit is next renewed, the deputy minister said this is to prevent confusion. 

"Only Muslims can use 'Allah'. It's a Muslim word, you see. It's from (the Arabic (language). We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people," he said when contacted today.

"We cannot allow this use of 'Allah' in non-Muslim publications, nobody except Muslims. The word 'Allah' is published by the Catholics. It's not right."

The Herald, the organ of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, had been facing problems in renewing its publishing permit allegedly because of the word 'Allah' was used in referring to 'God' in its Bahasa Malaysia section. 

The ministry has also allegedly told the publisher to remove the entire Bahasa Malaysia section or the permit will not be renewed when it expires in two weeks.

The Herald, which is published in four languages – English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil – has a circulation of 12,000.

Johari noted that other publications, such as Buddhist magazines, do not use the word 'Allah' when referring to God.

"The Herald can use other words but not 'Allah'. That will confuse people," he claimed.

Basis of decision

He said the decision was made based on a report submitted by the publications department of the ministry.

"Previously no one knew (about this). I made the decision based on a report submitted to me that was prepared by an officer," he explained.

However, when asked why the Herald is being told to remove its Bahasa Malaysia section – rather than use of the word 'Allah' – Johari was unable to comment.

"I'm not sure about it, I have to check again. As far as I know they used the word 'Allah' and we cannot allow that," he reiterated.

He further pointed out that the word 'Allah' cannot be printed on t-shirts or other garments and those who have done so have been warned by his ministry.

The use of 'Allah' outside of Islam has stirred controversy in Malaysia previously. Four years ago, the Bible in the Iban language was banned because it translated the word 'God' as Allah Taala, which resembles Islam's name for God. 

The ban was, however, lifted after protests from the Christian community.

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1 comment

  1. solomon says:

    only the paranoid looks at everything with exclusive rights.
    the loving caring human bieng shares all word and love.