FEB 17 ― I refer to letter published in a news print media on 8th February, 2014 by Abdullah Ismail, Secretary-General, Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisation urging Christians to use Brahma for God instead of Allah.
I would like to respond with the hope of promote communication and great understanding among Muslims and Christians.
First of all, thanks, En. Abdullah for the suggestion but no thanks.
Concept of God
Although both Islam and Christianity believe in one God, their concepts of God differs as Abdullah rightly pointed out.
Islamic concept of God is a simple oneness while Christian concept of God is a complex oneness.
Muslims misunderstood Christian concept of God, thinking God physically gives birth to a son called Jesus. And Christians worship three gods.
Nothing is further from the truth. However, this is not the appropriate place to explain the concept of Trinity.
Instead of burning bridges, Christians and Muslims must realise that Islam and Christianity share many common attributes of God.
For example both religions believe that God is Almighty, All Loving, All Merciful, Omnipresent and so on.
Provocations and insults
Abdullah cited a situation whereby a Christian quotes a bible verse from Indonesian Bible: “Karena begitu besar kasih Allah akan dunia ini, sehingga Ia telah mengaruniakan Anak-nya yang tunggal, supaya setiap orang yang percaya kepadaNya tidak binasa, melainkan beroleh hidup yang kekal.”
Abdullah mentioned that Muslims would feel provoked and insulted upon hearing such quotation.
Understandably, this would be the case based on their understanding about Allah.
I would urge the Malaysian Muslims not to feel that way because the quotation is not meant to provoke them or to insult their God.
Rather, it is a Biblical quotation to convey sacrificial love of God (or Allah in the context of Indonesian or Malay translation)
The Indonesian Bibles contain the word Allah and are used freely in Indonesia. The Indonesian Muslims are not feeling provoked or insulted.
Similarly, the Arab Muslims in Middle East are not offended when the Arab Christians used Allah to mean God.
By the way, the Christian Arabs used the word Allah long before Islam came into existence.
So why should the Malaysian Muslims feel offended when others use the word Allah?
Why must Malaysian Muslims monopolise its use whilst the rest of the Muslim world does not have this compulsive need? Are Malaysian Muslims so unique?
Can we not celebrate our differences and diversity rather than seeking boring and regimented uniformity of views?
Brahma instead of Allah?
Abdullah urges the Christians to use Brahma instead of Allah claiming that it is closer in concept to Christian God. It reflects his ignorance of both Christian and Hindu concept of God.
Basically, Hinduism is polytheistic while Christianity is monotheistic.
Moreover, what happens if the Hindu claims that Brahma belongs to their exclusive use just like the Malaysian Muslims are claiming now?
Nevertheless, we leave it to the Bible scholars and linguistic experts to decide the most appropriate translation. The consensus among world experts is that Allah is the most appropriate translation for God since time immemorial. Its usage predates Islam.
Therefore, thanks En. Abdullah for the suggestion to Christians to use Brahma instead of Allah but no thanks.
Rights of religious minorities
The Bahasa Malaysia speaking Christians calling God Allah has nothing to do with colonial heritage or attempts to propagate the religion to Muslims. And their usage of Allah has been going on for centuries without any issues.
And now in order to continue the usage, they are branded as ‘making irresponsible demand’ (I am quoting Abdullah).
Abdullah further claims that the religious rights of minorities are well protected. The BM speaking Bumiputra Christians will surely disagree with him.
Churches are torched. Christian literatures banned. Christians are not allowed to build churches with their own money on land owned by them.
Just recently, it is reported that Bumiputra Christians in Sabah are tricked with lure of money into conversion into Islam.
The list of oppressive measures by the authorities goes on…
Abdullah also brings up the issue of confusion if Allah is used by the Christians.
If there is a problem of confusion, Christians should be more concerned since they are the minority whilst Muslims are the majority.
Every child calls his father Dad or Papa. All fathers are different. Yet no children are confused as to whom their fathers are.
Since the Christians are confident that their followers will not be confused, it is not wrong to expect that Muslims likewise not be confused.
Abdullah claims that Malaysia is one of the most tolerant countries in the world where the religious rights of minorities are well protected. In certain aspect this is true but more needs to be done.
The religious minorities are grateful for the constitutional guarantee of freedom to practice one’s religious obligation. The Allah issue is putting to test whether this constitutional guarantee will be honored.
*Nehali is an engineer who writes with the conviction that the silent majority of moderates should speak up to prevent the beloved nation of Malaysia being hijacked by the extremists.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.