When, Why And How Christians Use The Word ‘Allah’

The issue of Christians using the word “Allah” has become a flashpoint among Malaysians and has been highlighted in many media stories. As Christians, how are we supposed to respond?

Presently, BLC Council thinks it best to firstly provide everyone with a clearer understanding of the issue at hand and its implications to Malaysian Christians. To do that, we are reproducing the statement provided by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) on 16 May 2013. (See below or download PDF here)

Next, Pastor Augustin will be addressing some of the concerns on this issue this coming Sunday, 12 Jan 2014, as part of his sermon. He will also host an open dialogue session with anyone who may be interested to discuss this further after the service. Please do make time to stay back for the discussion together. We will provide pens and paper for you to write down questions if that is more comfortable for you – or you could email Pastor Augustin with your question beforehand at revaugustin[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Finally, the Council would like to exhort everyone to do the following as part of our response to this issue: 1.Pray 2.Act in Christ’s Love 3.Stay informed

Let’s continue to do our part as Malaysians.

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Graphic by The Malaysian Insider (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/for-confused-and-ignorant-christians-an-allah-fact-sheet)

Introduction and Background

The objective of this document is to explain briefly to those Christians who do not understand when, why and how Churches in Malaysia use the word ‘Allah. It is also for Christians who are confused about how to respond, when confronted by the ignorance of non-Muslims about the Christian use of the word ‘Allah’.

There are many (misleading) statements by non-Christians who claim that we should not use the word, because it is an exclusive Muslim term for the God of Islam and can be used only by Muslims. This is a situation peculiar to Malaysia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, Arabic-speaking Christians use the word ‘Allah’.

Christians themselves are sometimes ignorant, because unless we pray in Bahasa Malaysia, we pray to ‘God’ in our own language. In English services, for example, nowhere do we use the word ‘Allah’.

However, more than 60% of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is ‘Allah’. The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca.

Historical Usage and Meaning

  1. The word ‘Allah’ was a term used for the supreme God in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam. The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam ed., H. A. R. Gibb & J. H. Kramer and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, both affirm and support this contention.
  2. Historically, Malay-speaking Christians in South-East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The proof is as follows:
    • The Kitab salat as-sawai or Christian catechisms in Malay written in 1514 and published around 1545,
    • The printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay by A.C. Ruyl in 1629,
    • Malay-Latin Dictionary was printed in Rome in 1631 (The Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinum and Latinum – Malaicum)
    • The translation of Genesis by D. Brouwerius (1662),
    • M. Leijdecker’s translation (1733),
    • H.C. Klinkert’s translation (1879),
    • W.A. Bode’s translation (1938), and
    • The complete Malay Bible of 1731-1733 containing the word ‘Allah’ for God.
  3. Therefore, from the very beginning, the word ‘Allah’ has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship of those Christians who speak Bahasa Malaysia. But for centuries, there has been no opposition or uproar about their use of ‘Allah’.

Language

Objections to the use of the word ‘Allah’ comes mostly from political discourse, or those who argue that the translation and usage of the word is a recent decision. This is not true for the following reasons:

  1. In Semitic languages, the word ‘Allah’ has been widely used in the Middle East dating back to the 5th century BC and up to the time of the expansion of Islam and the spread of the Arabic language in the 7th century AD.
  2. The translation of the Al-Kitab is not from the English translation but based on the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible. In the Hebrew language, the word ‘God’ has the same root form as the Arabic language. So, when the word ‘God’ was first translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the translators merely followed the Arabic Christian usage and retained the word ‘Allah’.
  3. As stated earlier, the word ‘Allah’ pre-dates Islam. It is not a creation of the Muslims and its existence does not begin in the Al-Quran.

Should Christians Substitute the word ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’?

This is not possible for the following reasons :

  1. In the Malay language, ‘Allah’ means ‘God’ and Tuhan means ‘Lord’. As is obvious when we read the Bible, both God and Lord are used in the Bible, and both have different connotations. Therefore ‘Allah’ cannot be substituted by ‘Tuhan’.
  2. The word Tuhan has been applied to Jesus Christ and read as Tuhan Yesus. If Christians are to substitute the word ‘Allah’ for Tuhan, it will render many Biblical references to God and Jesus incoherent because:
    • The meaning of ‘Allah’ and Tuhan are different.
    • This is obvious in just one example. In Isaiah chapter 41 and verse 13; also 43:3 and 51:15. “For I am the LORD, your GOD…” is translated as “Akulah TUHAN, ALLAH kamu…”. (ALKITAB: Berita Baik. 2001. 2nd edition. Published by the Bible Society of Malaysia).
    • It creates an absurd situation if Christians have to translate the biblical phrase ‘Lord God’ as Tuhan Tuhan. The repeated words Tuhan Tuhan indicates plural in Bahasa Malaysia, and creates the impression that Christians believe in many Gods, which is unacceptable.
    • Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians will not be able to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ and teach the doctrine of the Trinity as these two foundational words are essential to maintain and communicate these truths.

Consequences of Banning the Word “Allah”

  1. Being denied the use of the word ‘Allah’ disregards the constitutional right of Malaysian citizens to freedom of religion under the Federal Constitution. Article 11 of the Federal Constitution safeguards the right of each Malaysian to profess and practice one’s religion of choice. Article 11(3) expressly provides that every religious group has the right to manage their own religious affairs.
  2. In 2011, the High Court handed down a judgement allowing the Catholic Church to use the word ‘Allah’. The government (of all Malaysians, including Christians) is appealing the judgement and it is pending.
  3. There have been other infringements on the right to use words imperative in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible. See the directive of 5 Dec 1986 from the Ministry of Home Affairs stating that, in addition to ‘Allah’, the words: Al-Kitab, Firman, Rasul, Iman, Ibadah, Injil, Wahyu, Nabi, Syukur, Solat and doa are not to be used in the Al-Kitab. In addition, making such prohibitions through fatwa render them only relevant to Muslims as the Shari’a does not apply to non-Muslims.
  4. Prohibiting the use of the word ‘Allah’ and these other terms is unjust. Bumiputera Christians should be given the respect and freedom to call God in the only language they have in common. This is important to their religious and cultural identity.
  5. If Churches in Malaysia agree to stop using the word ‘Allah’, it means that the right to edit the Scripture of a major world religion has been given over to a secular government. This would be a shameful and an unprecedented development for any religion and government.

Conclusion

Some Muslims have claimed repeatedly that Christians in Malaysia refuse to stop using the word ‘Allah’ because they want to confuse and convert Muslims, thereby posing a threat to national security. The claim is groundless as there has been no evidence offered of any threat to security. These remain unfounded accusations.

On the contrary, such an assertion is made in ignorance of the fact that when Christians use the Al-Kitab, it is simply for Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians. Malaysian Churches have never suggested changing the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to ‘Allah’ and ‘Tuhan’ respectively, in the other languages of the Bible.

The content above was prepared by the Christian Federation Of Malaysia, 16 May 2013 in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.

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As Bangsar Lutheran Church, how then should we respond to all this?

1) Pray – Prayer reminds us that we are not alone in being the solution to the challenges that grip our country, but that we also have access to the one who transcends those challenges. Prayer thus aligns us with God’s heart, purposes and blessings – with prayer, there is hope beyond the headlines. Prayer, at its best, is an offering of one’s self to be used by God as a part of the answer.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14  

2) Act in Christ’s Love – It is not going to be easy, but as Christians we must remember that we are called to be Light and Salt to the world – serving as ambassadors for Christ. It is important that we maintain our dignity and honor in following Christ, even as we deal with such a contentious and emotional subject. While we must stand firm on matters of right and wrong, of justice and injustice – we must not forget to follow Christ’s example and His call to “love our enemies and pray for them.”

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

3) Stay informed – refer to the following sites for more guidance, updates and resources:

Association Of Churches In Sarawak – Official Statement on “Allah” Usage

ASSOCIATION OF CHURCHES IN SARAWAK
Christian Ecumenical Worship Centre, Kuching

The Bumiputera Church will continue to use the word “Allah” as it is the fundamental to all aspects of our profession and practice of our Christian faith.

As we have heard from the public forum today, and has been stated numerous times to the media by church leaders from both East and Peninsula Malaysia, the word “Allah” has been used or spoken by the native communities of Sarawak and Sabah for generations. “Allah” has been used long before the formation of Malaysia and is part of our native language.  It is used in all aspects of Christian faith and practice by Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian and other native speaking including in services, prayers praise, liturgy, worship and religious education.  As such, it is reasonable to expect that the word also be use in our Christian publications and multi-media resources.

It thus makes no sense that only Christians in Sarawak and Sabah may use “Allah”.  Christians from Sarawak and Sabah move across the country from East to West to live and work and carry with them their Alkitab and other Christian materials in the Bahasa Malaysia language.  Even non-native from West Malaysia own and read the Alkitab as Bahasa Malaysia is our national language.

It also makes no sense for the Court of Appeal’s recent judgement to be interpreted as being applicable only to The Herald.  While The Herald may have been the case brought before the court, it is our view that the judges have overstepped their boundaries in determining that using the word “Allah” was not “intergral to the Christian” faith.  In deciding thus, the judges have arrogated to themselves a right that does not belong to any human court of law-the right to determine religion.  It is the fundamental right of every religion to determine its expression and practice of its own faith.

As such, the “Allah” controversy is about unreasonable government policies and laws that infringe on the right of non-muslim Malaysians to practice their religion of choice.  In the face of such unreasonableness we cannot and should not remain silent.

The right of native Bumiputras to profess and practice their faith in their own language is safeguarded by the Federal Constitution.  When Sarawak and Sabah agreed to join in the formation of Malaysia in 1963, they did so as sovereign states and with conditions attached; these being known as the Sarawak 18-point and Sabah-20-point Agreements a kind of covenant to which Malaya was a party.

It was not coincidence, it was intentional that the first point in both these agreements concerns the freedom  of religion, Sarawak and Sabah consented to form the greater Malaysian nation with Islam as the religion of the Federation on the express condition that there will be complete freedom of religion without hindrance placed on other religions.  According to these agreements, Sarawak and Sabah were not to have any official religion.

We thus view with grave concern the Court of Appeal judgement on The Herald which has re-interpreted Article 3 of the Federal Constitution to mean that non-Muslim religions may only be practiced in peace and harmony subject to Islam.  We do not believe this was ever the original meaning of Article 3, which simply states that other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

We need more that just a display of and ad hoc benevolence by the Malaysian Government.  We need  a tangible commitment from the authorities to respect and uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed.  By the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the nation.

We thus ask the Government to recognise and affirm:

  1. that the word “Allah” is an integral part of, and inherent to the practice of the Christian faith by Bahasa Malaysia-speaking and other native speaking churches in Sarawak and Sabah and Christians in and from these two States;
  2. that the Churches expect that guarantee of religious freedom enshrined in the Federal Constitution when Sarawak and Sabah joined Malaya to form the Malaysian nation will be full respected and honoured; and
  3. that the 10-point Agreement by the Federal Cabinet in April 2011 on the printing, importation and distribution on the Alkitab in which the word “Allah” is an intergral part of the Bahasa Malaysia Holy Scriptures and also on the practice of the Christian faith in Bahasa Malaysia-speaking churches based on the Alkitab, will be fully honoured.

Two thirds of Christians in Malaysia are the 1.6 million Bumiputra Christians of Sarawak and Sabah who use the Bahasa  Malaysia language of worship in addition to their native languages.  The rights of these Bumiputra Christians must be respected and upheld.

Any attempt to forbid the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims would be most regrettable and wholly unacceptable as it is a flagrant disregard and betrayal of the Malaysia Agreements which guarantees the inalienable rights of non-Muslims in Sarawak and Sabah to complete religious freedom.

With greatest respect, we asked that these rights be given its rightful place and that religious bigotry, racism and extremism should not be allowed to show its ugly head.  Mutual respect and acceptance of each other community of faith should be the order of the day in a plural society like Malaysia.

We are most heartered by YAB Pehin Sri Chief Minister of Sarawak public stand that Allah is non-issue in Sarawak.  We are also most encouraged to know that many members of Council Negeri  had expressed their dismay and deep disappointment over how the Allah issue was handled.

Malaysia was formed and built upon trust and mutual respect of all that made the rich diversity of Malaysia.  Let us build upon that foundation and defend it from any who would want to rob it away from us.

God bless Malaysia!

Signed,

Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok
Chairman, Association of Churches in Sarawak
Dated on:  Wednesday 13th November 2013  Kuching, Sarawak

CFM Statement to Court of Appeals Ruling On “Allah” Usage

CHRISTIAN FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA
(PERSEKUTUAN KRISTIAN MALAYSIA)
Address: 26 Jalan Universiti, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Tel / Fax : + 60 3 7957 1457
Email: cfmsia@yahoo.co.uk

CFM MEDIA STATEMENT

14 October 2013

COURTS CONTINUE TO IGNORE RIGHTS OF CHRISTIAN MINORITY

The Christian community in Malaysia is gravely dismayed and very disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the power of the Minister to ban the use of the word Allah in the Herald publication.

In a wide-ranging decision, all Christian publications in Bahasa Malaysia the name the court has totally ignored the position of our East Malaysian Bumiputra and Orang Asli Christians, who constitute 60% of the church in Malaysia and who are Bahasa Malaysia-speaking.

the welfare of an individual or group must and applying this principle to freedom of religion, this decision is yet another erosion and infringement of the constitutional protection to the freedom of religious communities to profess and practise their faith and to manage their own affairs.

In what would appear to be a re-reading and re-interpretation of Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, it would now appear that a minority religion can only be practised and professed in Malaysia to the extent of adherents of the majority religion.

The Bahasa Malaysia-speaking churches have been using the word Allah both before and after the independence of Malaya and the formation of Malaysia. The use of the word Allah by the Malaysian churches had not been an issue all these years.

However, the various authorities in this country by making an issue of it and by what would appear to be selective action or inaction have only encouraged and fuelled further misunderstandings, mistrusts and brokenness between the Muslim and Christian communities. This will only further undermine the unity of Malaysians.

Despite this very negative development, the Christian Federation of Malaysia reminds all churches in Malaysia to always look to God and to pray for wisdom and guidance for all involved as to the next steps that they should take.

We welcome the fact that the decision of the Court of Appeal does not appear to cover the use of the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, the Alkitab.

We expect our Honourable Prime Minister and the Cabinet to continue to honour the 10-point solution with respect to the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, the Alkitab. We shall, therefore, continue to use the word Allah in our worship, liturgy, prayers and educational materials of the church.

As Malaysian Christians we are committed to our beloved nation and our love for Malaysia remains steadfast and we continue to respond with love and not in hatred as we face this on-going trial and tribulation.

Yours sincerely,
Rev. Dr. Eu Hong Seng,
Chairman and the Executive Committee,
The Christian Federation of Malaysia

致马来西亚的教会: 基督徒何时、为何、如何使用“阿拉”(Allah)一词

 Graphic by The Malaysian Insider (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/for-confused-and-ignorant-christians-an-allah-fact-sheet)

前言与背景

此文件的目的是向基督徒解清楚来西的教会何何、如何使用“阿”Allah)一文件也将明,当非穆斯林基督徒使用“阿拉”之事不了解,基督徒如何回

多(误误性)言表明基督徒不使用“阿拉”,因那是用于称呼伊斯的神的回教,只有穆斯林可以使用。种特殊的情况只生在来西,其他国家的穆斯林圈子里阿拉伯的基督徒都是使用“阿拉”的。

基督徒本身往往对这件事也一知半解,我若非用祷告,一般都是以各自的日常用向神祷告;比如在英的主日崇拜中,我都不会使用“阿拉”一

然而有60%以上的来西基督徒只谙马,而自从1731年起来文将“神”译为“阿拉”了。在沙巴、砂拉越和来西,以日常的土著基督徒都会使用“阿拉”一;此外,六甲的峇峇娘惹也都使用该词

史性的用法与意

  1. “阿拉”用以称呼众神之上的至高神,在伊斯教的启示之前就已如此。H.A.R. 吉布和J. H.克雷默所著的《明伊斯教百科全》与L.埃斯波西托所著 的《牛津当代伊斯教世界百科全》都申明并支持了点。
  2. 史上在亚说马的基督徒都是以“阿拉”称呼神的。据如下所示:
    • 写于1514年,出版于1545年的来文《基督徒祷告文》或《基督教教义义答》;
    • A. C.1629年翻的印刷版来文《太福音》;
    • 1631年在罗马印刷的《来文拉丁文双语词典》(The Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinum and Latinum-Malaicum);
    • D.沃利斯(1662)翻的《》;
    • M.德克(1733)的本;
    • H.C.克林克特(1879)的本;
    • W.A.波德(1938)的本以及
    • 1731年至1733完整的来文圣尽都含有用以称呼神的“阿拉”一
  3. 由此可,早在很久以前,说马的基督徒就已在礼拜、祷告和敬拜使用“阿拉”了。然而他们这几个世以来使用“阿拉”并未引起任何反抗或争

语言
多数对于基督徒使用“阿拉”的抗议都出自于政治演讲,甚至有些人还争论说该词的翻译与使用是近来的决定。其实这是不正确的,因为:

  1. 追溯到公元前5世纪,闪米特语中的“阿拉”一词已经在中东地区广泛使用了,这甚至还更早于公元7世纪伊斯兰教的扩展和阿拉伯语的传播。
  2. 翻译马来文圣经并不是基于英文的译本,而是基于希伯来语和希腊语的圣经文本。在希伯来语中,“神”的词根与阿拉伯语相似。于是,当译者将“神”译成马来文时时时是随着阿拉伯基督徒的用法而保留了“阿拉”一词。
  3. 如前文所述,“阿拉”更早于伊斯兰教,该词并不是穆斯林所造,也并非起于可兰经。

基督徒是否应应以“主”(Tuhan)代替“阿拉”(Allah)?
这是不可能的,因为:

  1. 在马来文中,“阿拉”的意思是“神”,而“Tuhan”的意思是“主”。当我们读圣经时可明显地发发圣经中的“神”和“主”有不同的含义,于是不能以“主”(Tuhan)代替“阿拉”。
  2. “主”一般都用于称呼耶稣基督,并且也称为主耶稣。如果基督徒以“主”代替“阿拉”,这将误致圣经中许多有关神和耶稣的说法变得不清晰,因为:
    • “阿拉”和“主”的意思并不一样。
    • 以下的例子就足以说明了。在以赛亚书41 章13 节、43 章3 节以及51 章15 节,“因为我是主你的神……”译成了“Akulah TUHAN, ALLAH kamu…”(《ALKITAB:Berita Baik》第二版,马来西亚圣经公会2001年出版)
    • 如果基督徒将“主神”译成“Tuhan Tuhan”就会造成一种奇怪的发象。重叠的词语“Tuhan Tuhan”在马来文中表示复数,这将让人以为基督徒信奉许多的神,而这是无法接受的。
    • 说马来语的基督徒将无法申明耶稣基督的神性并教误有关三位一体的教义,因为在传传该真理时“阿拉”和“主”这两个词都是必不可缺的。

禁用“阿拉”的后果

  1. 禁止使用“阿拉”将有违违邦宪法所规定的宗教自由权利。违邦宪法第11条文保障每个马来西亚公民都有权信奉与实践其宗教信仰,第11条文第3款也明确地规定了所有宗教团体皆有权权理自身的宗教事务。
  2. 在2011年,高等法院已经判决允许天主教教会使用“阿拉”。马来西亚政府却对于该判决提出上诉,其结果还待定未决。
  3. 马来文圣经中还有其他重要的词语也涉及类似的侵权情况。内政部在1986年12月5 日所下达的指令表示,除了“阿拉”之外还有其他不可在圣经中使用的词语,包括:Al-Kitab、Firman、Rasul、Iman、Ibadah、Injil、Wahyu、Nabi、Syukur、Solat 和 Doa。然而通过伊斯兰教令所下达的禁令就只牵涉到穆斯林而已,因为伊斯兰教法并不套用于非穆斯林。
  4. 禁止使用“阿拉”与上述其他词语是不公平的。土著基督徒应该被尊敬并可自由以他们唯一的日常用语来称呼神,这对于他们的信仰与文化身份而言是很重要的。
  5. 如果马来西亚的教会同意停止使用“阿拉”,这就表示我们把编编世界一大宗教的经文的权力交给了一个世俗的政府。这对任何宗教与政府来说都是可耻而不可行的。

结结
有些穆斯林不断表示说,马来西亚的基督徒拒绝停止使用“阿拉”是为了混淆穆斯林并让他们改信基督教,这就威胁了国家安全。该该指控是毫无根据的,因为并无证据证明马来西亚基督徒使用“阿拉”将对国家安全造成任何威胁,可见那是一该没有依据的控告。

相反地,该该言论是基于不了解事实的情况下所说的;其实基督徒使用马来文圣经单单是为了那些说马来语的基督徒,而且马来西亚的教会也不曾想过把其他语言的圣经里的“神”和“主”分别别成“Allah”和“Tuhan”。

2013年5月16日
马来西亚基督教违合会编
(Christian Federation of Malaysia)

Persekutuan Kristian Malaysia: Bila, Mengapa Dan Bagaimana Kristian Menggunakan Kata ‘Allah’

Graphic by The Malaysian Insider (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/for-confused-and-ignorant-christians-an-allah-fact-sheet)

Pengenalan dan Latarbelakang

Tujuan dokumen ini adalah untuk menjelaskan secara ringkas kepada orang-orang Kristian yang tidak faham bila, kenapa dan bagaimana Gereja-gereja di Malaysia menggunakan kata “Allah”. Ia juga untuk orang Kristian yang keliru tentang bagaimana harus bertindak apabila berhadapan dengan orang bukan Islam yang jahil tentang penggunaan kata “Allah” dalam agama Kristian.

Terdapat banyak (tidak tepat) kenyataan bukan Kristian yang mendakwa bahawa kita tidak boleh menggunakan kata “Allah” kerana ia adalah istilah eksklusif untuk agama Islam yang merujuk kepada Tuhan Islam dan hanya boleh digunakan oleh orang Islam. Ia merupakan masalah pelik di Malaysia kerana di negara-negara Islam yang lain, di negara Arab penganut Kristian berbahasa Arab menggunakan kata “Allah”.

Umat Kristian sendiri kadang-kadang jahil kecuali jika kita berdoa dalam Bahasa Malaysia, kita berdoa kepada “Allah” dalam bahasa kita sendiri. Sebagai contoh, dalam Bahasa Inggeris, kita tidak menggunakan kata “Allah”.

Walau bagaimanapun, lebih 60 peratus daripada Kristian di Malaysia hanya bercakap dalam Bahasa Malaysia, dan perkataan yang digunakan untuk Tuhan di dalam kitab Bahasa Malaysia (Al-Kitab) sejak terjemahan pada tahun 1731, adalah “Allah”. Kata ini digunakan oleh Bumiputera Kristian yang menggunakan Bahasa Malaysia sebagai bahasa pengantara mereka terutama di Sabah, Sarawak, Semenanjung Malaysia, dan masyarakat Baba di Melaka

Sejarah Makna dan Penggunaan 

  1. Kata “Allah” adalah istilah yang digunakan bagi Tuhan yang tertinggi di antara tuhan-tuhan, sebelum wahyu Islam. The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. H.A.R. Gibb & J. H. Kramer dan The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, menyokong dan mengesahkan pernyataan ini.
  2. Dari segi sejarah, penganut Kristian berbahasa Melayu di Asia Tenggara telah menggunakan “Allah” untuk merujuk kepada Tuhan. Buktinya adalah seperti berikut:
    • Wujudnya Kitab salat as sawai atau Katekismus Kristian di dalam Bahasa Melayu telah ditulis pada tahun 1514 dan diterbitkan sekitar 1545,
    • Telah ada versi cetakan Injil Matius di dalam Bahasa Melayu oleh A.C. Ruyl pada tahun 1629, 2
    • Kamus Melayu-Latin telah dicetak di Roma pada tahun 1631 (Dictionarium The Malaicum-Latinum dan Latinum — Malaicum)
    • Terjemahan Kitab Kejadian oleh D. Brouwerius (1662),
    • Terjemahan M. Leijdecker (1733),
    • Terjemahan H.C. Klinkert (1879),
    • Terjemahan W.A. Bode (1938), dan
    • Pada tahun 1731-1733, telah wujud Al-Kitab Bahasa Melayu lengkap mengandungi kata “Allah” iaitu terjemahan untuk “God”.
  3. Oleh itu, sejak awal lagi, kata “Allah” telah digunakan dalam liturgi, doa-doa dan ibadat orang-orang Kristian yang bertutur dalam Bahasa Malaysia. Tetapi selama berabad-abad itu, tidak ada bantahan atau kegemparan mengenai penggunaan kata “Allah”.

Bahasa 

Bantahan terhadap penggunaan kata “Allah” kebanyakannya berpunca dari wacana politik, atau di kalangan mereka yang membantah dengan tuduhan bahawa penterjemahan dan penggunaan kata “Allah” baru sahaja berlaku. Ini tidak benar kerana sebab-sebab berikut:

  1. Dalam bahasa-bahasa Semitik, kata “Allah” telah digunakan secara meluas di Timur Tengah sejak abad ke-5 SM, sehingga masa perkembangan Islam dan penyebaran Bahasa Arab pada abad ke-7 M.
  2. Penterjemahan Al-Kitab bukan menterjemah dari Bahasa Inggeris tetapi berdasarkan teks-teks dari Al-Kitab Ibrani dan teks Yunani. Dalam Bahasa Ibrani, kata “Allah” mempunyai bentuk akar yang sama seperti Bahasa Arab. Jadi, apabila kata “Allah” pertama kali diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Malaysia, para penterjemah sebenarnya mengikut penggunaan Bahasa Arab Kristian dan mengekalkan perkataan “Allah”.
  3. Seperti yang dinyatakan sebelum ini, kata “Allah” digunakan sebelum kedatangan Islam. Ia bukan ciptaan umat Islam dan kewujudannya tidak bermula di dalam Al-Quran.

Haruskah Kristian Menggantikan kata “Allah” dengan “Tuhan”? 

Ini tidak mungkin atas sebab-sebab berikut:

  1. Dalam Bahasa Melayu, “Allah” bermakna “Tuhan” dan “Tuhan” bermaksud “Lord”. Ini jelas apabila kita membaca Al-Kitab, “Allah” dan “Tuhan” digunakan di dalam Al-Kitab, dan kedua-duanya mempunyai konotasi yang berbeza. Oleh itu “Allah” tidak boleh digantikan dengan “Tuhan”.
  2. Kata Tuhan telah digunakan untuk Yesus Kristus iaitu Tuhan Yesus. Sekiranya Kristian menggantikan kata “Allah” untuk Tuhan, ia menimbulkan banyak kekeliruan dan tidak keruan yang merujuk kepada Tuhan dan Yesus kerana:
    • Makna “Allah” dan Tuhan adalah berbeza. Ini sangat jelas melalui satu contoh sahaja. Di dalam Yesaya, Bab 41 dan Ayat 13; 43:3 dan 51:51. “For I am the LORD, your GOD…” diterjemahkan sebagai “Akulah Tuhan, Allah kamu…”(ALKITAB: Berita Baik. 2001. Edisi Kedua. Terbitan The Bible Society of Malaysia).
    • Ia akan mewujudkan situasi tidak masuk akal jika orang Kristian perlu menterjemahkan frasa alkitabiah “Lord God” sebagai Tuhan Tuhan. Pengulangan kata Tuhan Tuhan menunjukkan jamak di dalam Bahasa Malaysia, ia seolah-olah memperlihatkan bahawa agama Kristian percaya akan banyak tuhan, ini adalah sesuatu yang tidak boleh diterima.
    • Umat Kristian berbahasa Malaysia tidak akan dapat mengesahkan ketuhanan Yesus Kristus dan mengajar doktrin Tritunggal kerana dua perkataan ini adalah kata-kata asas dan penting untuk mengekalkan serta menyampaikan kebenaran ini.

Kesan-kesan Larangan Kata “Allah”

  1. Dinafikan untuk menggunakan kata “Allah” adalah melanggar hak perlembagaan kebebasan beragama rakyat Malaysia di bawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Perkara 11 Perlembagaan Persekutuan melindungi hak setiap rakyat Malaysia untuk menganut agama dan amalan pilihan masing-masing. Perkara 11 (3) jelas memperuntukkan bahawa setiap kumpulan agama mempunyai hak untuk mengurus hal ehwal agama mereka sendiri.
  2. Pada tahun 2011, Mahkamah Tinggi memberikan penghakiman yang membenarkan Gereja Katolik menggunakan perkataan “Allah”. Kerajaan (semua rakyat Malaysia, termasuk Kristian) membawanya ke Mahkamah Rayuan dan ia masih belum selesai.
  3. Selain itu, terdapat juga pelanggaran hak menggunakan kata-kata penting dalam Al-Kitab Bahasa Malaysia. Lihat arahan 5 Disember 1986 daripada Kementerian Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri menyatakan bahawa, sebagai tambahan kepada “Allah”, kata-kata Al-Kitab, Firman, Rasul, Iman, Ibadah, Injil, Wahyu, Nabi, Syukur, Solat dan doa adalah tidak boleh digunakan dalam Al-Kitab. Di samping itu, membuat larangan melalui fatwa hanyalah relevan dengan umat Islam sahaja dan tidak terpakai kepada bukan Islam.
  4. Melarang penggunaan kata “Allah” dan istilah-istilah lain adalah tidak adil. Kristian Bumiputera perlu diberi penghormatan dan kebebasan untuk memanggil Tuhan dalam satu-satunya bahasa yang mereka. Ini adalah penting bagi identiti agama dan budaya mereka.
  5. Jika gereja-gereja di Malaysia bersetuju untuk berhenti menggunakan kata “Allah”, bermakna hak untuk mengedit Kitab Suci agama utama dunia telah diberikan kepada sebuah kerajaan sekular. Ini akan menjadi satu perkara memalukan dan kejadian yang belum pernah berlaku pada mana-mana agama dan kerajaan.

Kesimpulan 

Sesetengah umat Islam mendakwa berulang kali bahawa orang Kristian di Malaysia enggan berhenti menggunakan kata “Allah” kerana mahu mengelirukan umat Islam dan memurtadkan penganut Islam, sekali gus menimbulkan ancaman kepada keselamatan negara. Tuntutan itu adalah tidak berasas kerana tiada bukti penggunaan kata ini membawa ancaman keselamatan negara. Tuduhan ini kekal sebagai tidak berasas.

Sebaliknya, keadaan sebegitu dibuat kerana jahil dengan hakikat bahawa apabila orang Kristian menggunakan Al-Kitab, ia adalah khusus untuk umat Kristian berbahasa Malaysia. Gereja-gereja di Malaysia tidak pernah mencadangkan untuk mengubah kata “Allah” dan “Lord” kepada “Allah” dan “Tuhan”, begitu juga bahasa-bahasa lain dalam Al-Kitab

16 Mei 2013
DISEDIAKAN OLEH PERSEKUTUAN KRISTIAN MALAYSIA
(The Christian Federation of Malaysia)

Christian Federation of Malaysia: When, Why And How Christians Use The Word ‘Allah’

Graphic by The Malaysian Insider (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/for-confused-and-ignorant-christians-an-allah-fact-sheet)

Introduction and Background

The objective of this document is to explain briefly to those Christians who do not understand when, why and how Churches in Malaysia use the word ‘Allah. It is also for Christians who are confused about how to respond, when confronted by the ignorance of non-Muslims about the Christian use of the word ‘Allah’.

There are many (misleading) statements by non-Christians who claim that we should not use the word, because it is an exclusive Muslim term for the God of Islam and can be used only by Muslims. This is a situation peculiar to Malaysia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, Arabic-speaking Christians use the word ‘Allah’.

Christians themselves are sometimes ignorant, because unless we pray in Bahasa Malaysia, we pray to ‘God’ in our own language. In English services, for example, nowhere do we use the word ‘Allah’.

However, more than 60% of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is ‘Allah’. The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca.

Historical Usage and Meaning

  1. The word ‘Allah’ was a term used for the supreme God in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam. The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam ed., H. A. R. Gibb & J. H. Kramer and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, both affirm and support this contention.
  2. Historically, Malay-speaking Christians in South-East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The proof is as follows:
    • The Kitab salat as-sawai or Christian catechisms in Malay written in 1514 and published around 1545,
    • The printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay by A.C. Ruyl in 1629,
    • Malay-Latin Dictionary was printed in Rome in 1631 (The Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinum and Latinum – Malaicum)
    • The translation of Genesis by D. Brouwerius (1662),
    • M. Leijdecker’s translation (1733),
    • H.C. Klinkert’s translation (1879),
    • W.A. Bode’s translation (1938), and
    • The complete Malay Bible of 1731-1733 containing the word ‘Allah’ for God.
  3. Therefore, from the very beginning, the word ‘Allah’ has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship of those Christians who speak Bahasa Malaysia. But for centuries, there has been no opposition or uproar about their use of ‘Allah’.

Language

Objections to the use of the word ‘Allah’ comes mostly from political discourse, or those who argue that the translation and usage of the word is a recent decision. This is not true for the following reasons:

  1. In Semitic languages, the word ‘Allah’ has been widely used in the Middle East dating back to the 5th century BC and up to the time of the expansion of Islam and the spread of the Arabic language in the 7th century AD.
  2. The translation of the Al-Kitab is not from the English translation but based on the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible. In the Hebrew language, the word ‘God’ has the same root form as the Arabic language. So, when the word ‘God’ was first translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the translators merely followed the Arabic Christian usage and retained the word ‘Allah’.
  3. As stated earlier, the word ‘Allah’ pre-dates Islam. It is not a creation of the Muslims and its existence does not begin in the Al-Quran.

Should Christians Substitute the word ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’?

This is not possible for the following reasons :

  1. In the Malay language, ‘Allah’ means ‘God’ and Tuhan means ‘Lord’. As is obvious when we read the Bible, both God and Lord are used in the Bible, and both have different connotations. Therefore ‘Allah’ cannot be substituted by ‘Tuhan’.
  2. The word Tuhan has been applied to Jesus Christ and read as Tuhan Yesus. If Christians are to substitute the word ‘Allah’ for Tuhan, it will render many Biblical references to God and Jesus incoherent because:
    • The meaning of ‘Allah’ and Tuhan are different.
    • This is obvious in just one example. In Isaiah chapter 41 and verse 13; also 43:3 and 51:15. “For I am the LORD, your GOD…” is translated as “Akulah TUHAN, ALLAH kamu…”. (ALKITAB: Berita Baik. 2001. 2nd edition. Published by the Bible Society of Malaysia).
    • It creates an absurd situation if Christians have to translate the biblical phrase ‘Lord God’ as Tuhan Tuhan. The repeated words Tuhan Tuhan indicates plural in Bahasa Malaysia, and creates the impression that Christians believe in many Gods, which is unacceptable.
    • Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians will not be able to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ and teach the doctrine of the Trinity as these two foundational words are essential to maintain and communicate these truths.

Consequences of Banning the Word “Allah”

  1. Being denied the use of the word ‘Allah’ disregards the constitutional right of Malaysian citizens to freedom of religion under the Federal Constitution. Article 11 of the Federal Constitution safeguards the right of each Malaysian to profess and practice one’s religion of choice. Article 11(3) expressly provides that every religious group has the right to manage their own religious affairs.
  2. In 2011, the High Court handed down a judgement allowing the Catholic Church to use the word ‘Allah’. The government (of all Malaysians, including Christians) is appealing the judgement and it is pending.
  3. There have been other infringements on the right to use words imperative in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible. See the directive of 5 Dec 1986 from the Ministry of Home Affairs stating that, in addition to ‘Allah’, the words: Al-Kitab, Firman, Rasul, Iman, Ibadah, Injil, Wahyu, Nabi, Syukur, Solat and doa are not to be used in the Al-Kitab. In addition, making such prohibitions through fatwa render them only relevant to Muslims as the Shari’a does not apply to non-Muslims.
  4. Prohibiting the use of the word ‘Allah’ and these other terms is unjust. Bumiputera Christians should be given the respect and freedom to call God in the only language they have in common. This is important to their religious and cultural identity.
  5. If Churches in Malaysia agree to stop using the word ‘Allah’, it means that the right to edit the Scripture of a major world religion has been given over to a secular government. This would be a shameful and an unprecedented development for any religion and government.

Conclusion

Some Muslims have claimed repeatedly that Christians in Malaysia refuse to stop using the word ‘Allah’ because they want to confuse and convert Muslims, thereby posing a threat to national security. The claim is groundless as there has been no evidence offered of any threat to security. These remain unfounded accusations.

On the contrary, such an assertion is made in ignorance of the fact that when Christians use the Al-Kitab, it is simply for Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians. Malaysian Churches have never suggested changing the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to ‘Allah’ and ‘Tuhan’ respectively, in the other languages of the Bible.

16 May 2013
PREPARED BY THE CHRISTIAN FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA
(Persekutuan Kristian Malaysia)