Anas Zubedy, via e-mail
Here we go again… Every now and then, this matter will see the light of day. This time around, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng brought it up in his Christmas message. I personally agree with his sentiment. We should all share the word Allah and make it the universal name for God. As far as the Quran is concerned, this verse explains the universality of Allah clearly.
They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, – (for no cause except that they say, “our Lord is Allah”. Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause); – for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will) – Quran 22:40
Then what is the real issue here? As I have written in my book ‘Can we use Allah’ in the Bible?, it is about trust. Below is the excerpt of the conclusion of Chapter 2 from my book that can be downloaded here
“It is clear that it is only permissible to use the term Allah to refer to God in the Bible, it is exactly what the Quran wants us to do. What an irony. I would like to thank my Christian brothers and sisters in their effort to make Allah the universal name of God and wanting the name to be the preferred reference to God in the Bible. But, you must not stop there.
You must also strive hard to ensure that not just the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia Bibles use the term Allah but all the other translations in the world regardless if they are in Japanese, English, Russian or Hindi uses the same term. Malaysian Christians can lead the world of Christianity to make Allah the universal name of God with the solid support of their Muslim brothers and sisters. Anything that can bring us closer together must be supported. A shared universal name to call our God Allah seems a most appropriate place to start.
Failing to do so will create mistrust because the correct term for God in Malay is Tuhan. The Muslims will question your consistency and sincerity. Because the real issue here is Trust. Not the technicality of the term Allah, Tuhan, Elohim, Elah, etc. This is where we need to focus. This is what we need to pay attention to.
There are three levels of trust missing. Firstly we do not trust each other. The Muslims perceive the inconsistency of Christians wanting to use the term Allah in the Malay bible and not the other translations as a plot to convert Malay Muslims to Christianity. And, the Christians perceive the Muslims rejection to the usage of the term as another strategy to block the spread of the Christian faith to Muslims in Malaysia. This feeling is deep in the Christian psyche as they find the lopsided law on conversion in Malaysia to be unfair (check what the Quran say about this at 83:1-3 and 5:8).
Secondly, we do not trust ourselves. The Muslims lack confidence of fellow Muslims and feel that just by using the term Allah, their faith towards Islam can be shaken. The Christians lack confidence that being Christ-like is enough to attract others to the faith. That when you turn the other cheek, you win.
Yet the deepest rot is the lack of trust in Allah or God or Tuhan or any other name you want to call upon Him! Both Muslims and Christians fail to trust that Allah will be with those who are true and love those who trust Him. If we do so, we have nothing to fear and nothing to grieve. Failing to trust Him, we become weak, insecure and misguided.”
So to solve this issue, we must focus on trust between Muslims and Christians. I would be very happy if Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng can be the Christian leader to get the ball rolling and strive to ensure that Allah is not only used in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible, but all the other translations around the world as well. If we extend our efforts to ensure that the Bibles in all languages use the term Allah, I have a strong conviction that Muslims will be able to see good in this effort and do not see this as a ploy of converting Malay Muslims to Christianity.
The word Allah is universal and I believe it should be universally used by all Muslims and Christians alike. When Malaysian Christians take the lead to make the word Allah universal and fight for its usage internationally, Muslims will have no reason to be suspicious; they will TRUST Christians more. And I reckon this is one way how trust between our Muslim and Christian communities can be nurtured.
Verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight – Quran 19:36