بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
“I am referring to the recent controversy (May 2008) in Malaysia regarding the request by the Catholic Church, for their use of the term ‘Allah’ in their translation of the Bible and other religious tracts for their congregation (in Bahasa Malaysia) and the objection of the Malaysian Islamic Authorities. The court there has now allowed the matter to be forwarded for a judicial review in the civil court.
My question for you is: ‘Does Islam have any objection for others of different faith from using this term? If it does object, (it seem obvious for most people to interpret from the Malaysian case that imply that only Muslims can use the name Allah), why is this so? And if Islam does not object to this, how would you then explain the basis for their objection? Are they wrong? Or perhaps there are other plausible explanations to this issue which may not have been considered.
5.0 Muslim commanded to invite ‘Ahl-al-kitaab’ (People of the Scripture) i.e. Jews and Christians, to a common word.
Islam, as brought by the Last Messenger of God, Muhammad ibnu ‘Abdillah s.a.w., never deny truth of earlier prophethood; but rather, Islam even made it conditional for every Muslim to believe in past prophets and previous revelations, the Qur’an and Muhammad s.a.w. being the final ‘testament’ and prophet from God. Islam recognizes the many commonalities in the Judaic and Christian religion as having emanated from the same source and following the Abrahamic tradition. Yet, it cannot be denied that there were many deviations and innovations which have crept into their teachings today which differ very much from its earlier original traditions. Muhammad’s call, s.a.w., was to remind them towards the teaching of the patriarch commonly acknowledged by these three great religions, namely the teaching of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) a.s. who was neither a Jew nor a Christian, whose most fundamental teaching is Monotheism(referred to as “Tauheed”). This is evident even in the records possessed by them where the similarity of creed of monotheism can be discerned: “the worship of the One Absolute God, who has neither partner nor associate.”
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ a.s.is recorded to have said:
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Note, clear monotheism and total absence of even any suggestion to Trinity. Also:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
And he did not claim to be God, and even denied being co-equal to God:
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. "
(Luke: 18: 18-20)
Yet despite this being clear evident, most Christians today are preaching a form of creed which totally differs from this, namely the Trinitarian belief, doctrine – even putting Jesus a.s. who had stressed the above clear statements, and made him to be co-equal to God!!? Allah s.w.t.in the Qur’an responds:
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni! (Which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John: 20: 17-18)
لَّقَدۡ ڪَفَرَ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلَـٰثَةٍ۬ۘ وَمَا مِنۡ إِلَـٰهٍ إِلَّآ إِلَـٰهٌ۬ وَٲحِدٌ۬ۚ وَإِن لَّمۡ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنۡهُمۡ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ أَفَلَا يَتُوبُونَ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَيَسۡتَغۡفِرُونَهُ ۥۚ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬ مَّا ٱلۡمَسِيحُ ٱبۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ۬ قَدۡ خَلَتۡ مِن قَبۡلِهِ ٱلرُّسُلُ وَأُمُّهُ ۥ صِدِّيقَةٌ۬ۖ ڪَانَا يَأۡڪُلَانِ ٱلطَّعَامَۗ ٱنظُرۡ ڪَيۡفَ نُبَيِّنُ لَهُمُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ ثُمَّ ٱنظُرۡ أَنَّىٰ يُؤۡفَكُونَ قُلۡ أَتَعۡبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ مَا لَا يَمۡلِكُ لَڪُمۡ ضَرًّ۬ا وَلَا نَفۡعً۬اۚ وَٱللَّهُ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ
"They disbelieve those who say: God (Allah) is one the three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God (Allah). If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. Why turn them not to God (Allah) and seek His forgiveness? For God (Allah) is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Christ the son of Mary was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how God (Allah) doth makes His Signs clear to them; yet see in what ways that are deluded away from the truth! Say: Will ye worship, besides God (Allah), something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But God (Allah), - He it is, that heareth and knoweth all things.”
(Qur’an: al-Maa-idah: 5: 73-76)
One cannot be equal to three nor can one-third be the same as one whole. Divinity and son-ship are contradictory terms (explanation: “if you are a son you cannot be divine, because one of the meaning of being ‘divine’ is that you owe to no one your existence, whereas a son must have or need of a father to exist or be regarded as a son. Title ‘son’ or ‘children of God’ when used in scriptures is metaphorical, never understood in the literal sense by every Jew. They and Jesus a.s. should know better the use of their language”).
This doctrinal teaching (Trinity) is just like asserting the impossibility, i.e. that of God to be able to create another uncreated! Which if agreed to, would be agreeing to an obvious absurdity. Whatever is created cannot then be regarded as uncreated! Another ridiculous argument of theirs: “But Jesus is begotten, not made. The son of God would be like the father, who is God!” could be easily rebutted with “How can you claim the son to be like the father, when the father does not have a father?”
They may try to insist that trinity is still monotheism even though this obviously is contradiction in terms; antithetical, rationally an impossibility and gross absurdity. It would be impossible for any thinking person to agree to this, unless they totally ignore their God-given faculty to reason. Some even ‘shot themselves in the foot’ when they try to argue, “that in matters of faith one should not use reasoning!” (Without them even realizing that this statement is itself an attempt at reasoning – therefore self-contradictory). To conveniently evade the issue by categorizing this as a “divine mystery,” do not remove the charge that it is still a self-evident absurdity.
Another pertinent point is that the above teaching of Christ a.s. clearly is a denial of Trinity, because Jesus a.s. in fact is reasserting a common creed of Abraham a.s. and of Moses a.s. which he Jesus a.s. himself too, and every Jew at the time, held. If Christians today purport that Trinity is the most important teaching in Christianity, then in the above, Christ clearly had contradicted them. If they are sincere to check their own history, they will not deny that Trinitarian concepts was never taught by Jesus a.s. but this was amongst the several innovation and interpretation introduced and adopted at a much later period, (in the fourth century after Christ), formalised in the Fourth Lateran Council and the Council of Florence. There is no direct and unequivocal statement in the Bible that can be presented to prove that Jesus a.s ever claimed to be God nor that he taught this Trinitarian concept, whereas there are numerous evidence of his upholding the pure absolute monotheistic faith of only One God.
Many amongst them may not realise how far they have deviated from the basic creed of Monotheism, when they uphold Trinity, and for anyone else to raise this issue now is not being hostile towards them, but rather to help in bringing them back upon the straight path (Siraatal-mustaqim). Thus in the Qur’an Muslims are commanded to invite them:
قُلۡ يَـٰٓأَهۡلَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ تَعَالَوۡاْ إِلَىٰ ڪَلِمَةٍ۬ سَوَآءِۭ بَيۡنَنَا وَبَيۡنَكُمۡ أَلَّا نَعۡبُدَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ وَلَا نُشۡرِكَ بِهِۦ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعۡضُنَا بَعۡضًا أَرۡبَابً۬ا مِّن دُونِ ٱللَّهِۚ
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God (Allah), and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God (Allah).
(Qur’an: Aal ‘Imran 3:64)
5.1 What is the Name of God?
Now we are about to come to the issue which has direct relation to your question. 'Can people of other faith use “Allah” as the name of God?'
In most languages, reference to the divine being, usually would use common noun e.g. god, tuhan, deity, Supreme Being, etc. which is not a name, not a proper noun. Prefixing it with capital letter to differentiate it from that which uses small letter, does not remove the fact that “god” or “God“, “tuhan” or “Tuhan”, these are still common nouns. Although convention are used to regarding those common noun when prefixed with a capital letter to be a name, or the using of a definite article "the", from “a thing” to “the thing”, it is still not naming the thing. Why? It ‘still begs the question’ because one can still rightly continue to ask: “What is the Name of God?”
When the Muslim refers to god in the Arabic there are two terms: “ilah” which is a common noun, and “Allah” a proper noun. A common noun can be transformed into plural or with implication to gender (“ilah” to “aa-li-ha”, just like “god” to “gods”; or like “god” to “goddess” as in “ilah” to become “ilaa-hat”) but the same cannot be made to the proper noun “Allah”. This name “Allah” is also referred to as ‘ism-al-Jalaa-lah’ – the “Glorious or Sublime Name” (the unique name) for God as the Unique Being without partner nor associate, the only Being Who alone is Divine with all the Attributes of Beauty, Glory and Perfection which none can fully comprehend and ascribe except He, Himself. There is no equivalent of this proper noun in other non-Semitic language. Thus the statement “Laa-ilaa-ha-il-laAllah” when literally translated totally into English may sound gibberish: “There is no god except God” which may not be totally accurate, because the English term “God” is actually still not a name. Thus, Muslims at time simply retain the Arabic proper noun – “There is no god except Allah”. Unfortunately, by using the Arabic name, some non-Muslims misunderstood this as to them it is as though Islam is advocating another tribal god – perhaps an Arab god, or god of the Muslims only. Whereas “Allah” refers to God of all creation who has no equal nor partners, the God which every Prophets, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be unto them all), came to teach mankind concerning His absolute Oneness unto Whom all and every creation owe their servitude and allegiance to.
The Arabs already knew this name, but because they deviated from the monotheistic teachings of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (may peace be upon both of them), names of pagan deities and idols from tribal Bedouins of the area were also adopted and worshipped, before Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. came. Instead of “Allah” being the only God, it became only the principle God amidst the many other gods of idolatry. (Similarly, a parallel history of deviation into idolatry also happened to some amongst the Bani Isra’il (the Jews or ‘children of Isra’il’). Thus they became what are referred to in the Qur’an, as “mush-rikeen” (which means “those who set up partners to God”).
The task of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was to restore the correct understanding of this name as used by them, in line with the Abrahamic monotheist creed, which essentially the name “Allah” would already infer, only One God. Thus the kalimah (creedal statement) of this Deen of Islam: “Laa-ilaaha ..... Firstly, is to negate the false (there is no god [that which truly is divine]...); and then only followed by “.....il-laAllaah”, to affirming and attest (.... except “Allah”) as the only One True God. When the unbelievers then sought further clarification from the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as to who is “Allah”? This short chapter (only four verses) was revealed which elaborates succinctly with the answer:
قُلۡ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّمَدُ لَمۡ يَلِدۡ وَلَمۡ يُولَدۡ وَلَمۡ يَكُن لَّهُ ۥ ڪُفُوًا أَحَدُۢ
Say: He is Allah, the Absolute One; Allah is He, the Eternal and absolute (Who depends on no one, whereas all depends on Him); He begets not, neither was He begotten; and there is none comparable Him.”
(Qur’an: al-Ikhlas: 112: 1-4)
So, because the term, or name “Allah” has been clearly defined to refer to God in the sense of the only Divine being, Who is Absolute in His being One, Unique, without partners or equal, absolutely transcendent, different from those erroneous imaginings of attributes which people tend to attribute to Him because there is no comparison nor likeness to Allah - so Muslims prefer to use this name whenever they refer to God, the true Divine Essence. Others who are not from our tradition may have other names for their so called 'god, goddess or gods', but because these ‘gods or deities’ are not acknowledged by Muslims as the divine, the Islamic term for it is “al-ma’-bud” meaning “the object or that which is being worshipped.” It is interesting that it does not use term “al-ilaah” (which has the meaning of “the divine” or "the god". Note: To assume "Allah" to have been derived from "al-ilaah" is therefore erroneous) when referring to these objects worshipped by others precisely because these objects/ ascribed partners/graven images, are not to be regarded as having any share in the Divinity, which belongs only to the unseen God of the universe, where:
لَّا تُدۡرِڪُهُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرُ وَهُوَ يُدۡرِكُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرَۖ وَهُوَ ٱللَّطِيفُ ٱلۡخَبِيرُ
“No vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all vision; for He (alone) is the Unfathomable [latif], all-aware.”
(Qur’an: An’ am: 6: 103).
This distinction concerning objects of worship is asserted in a short chapter:
قُلۡ يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلۡڪَـٰفِرُونَ لَآ أَعۡبُدُ مَا تَعۡبُدُونَ وَلَآ أَنتُمۡ عَـٰبِدُونَ مَآ أَعۡبُدُ وَلَآ أَنَا۟ عَابِدٌ۬ مَّا عَبَدتُّمۡ وَلَآ أَنتُمۡ عَـٰبِدُونَ مَآ أَعۡبُدُ لَكُمۡ دِينُكُمۡ وَلِىَ دِينِ
Say: O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine.
(Qur’an: al-Kaafirun: 109: 1-6)
This would imply that, though we may claim to agree that there is One Divine (God), the God of everyone, but what or who each one is worshipping to, may not be that Being Who alone is the divine. God (the only true Divine) is to be worshipped by all, but unfortunately not all which is being worshipped, is therefore Divine (God). It is not that Islam asserts that we have a different God, but that there is none deserving to be worshipped, except the One Absolute God. Islam’s teachings, in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah s.a.w., have retained this proper name, amongst the other beautiful and perfect names of God termed “al-asma-Allah-al-Husna”. So any who wish to acknowledge same and wish to use it, we would not object. In fact this is the common word which we are commanded to invite the People of the Book (Scripture) to. But as we consistently emphasise, we do not want people to merely imitate or follow something without knowledge. If they agree to the name, the concept behind the name, and will not misuse or misapply this (because we cannot use God’s names disrespectfully, for to do so is blasphemy), then we pray that Allah will guide them all towards the path of truth. There is a saying: “Aw-wa-lu al-deen - ma’-ri-fa-tullaah” meaning: “The beginning of true religion is in knowing God.” To know someone begins, by knowing his true name. Many others may have forgotten or lost the knowledge of His names, but to the Last Messenger s.a.w., His Glorious Names becomes fully manifest again. And most important is, to know Allah (glorious and exalted is He), is foremost to acknowledge that “there is no other god but Allah.” In fact Allah promises as well as warns us all:
فَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِٱلطَّـٰغُوتِ وَيُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِٱلۡعُرۡوَةِ ٱلۡوُثۡقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَاۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ٱللَّهُ وَلِىُّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ يُخۡرِجُهُم مِّنَ ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ إِلَى ٱلنُّورِۖ وَٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوٓاْ أَوۡلِيَآؤُهُمُ ٱلطَّـٰغُوتُ يُخۡرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ ٱلنُّورِ إِلَى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِۗ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ أَصۡحَـٰبُ ٱلنَّارِۖ هُمۡ فِيہَا خَـٰلِدُونَ
“Whoever rejects Evil (false gods) and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness, He will lead them forth into light.
Of those who reject faith, their patrons are the Evil Ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (for ever)”.
(Qur’an: al-Baqarah: 2: 256-257)
So, to one of your question, specifically you posed: “Can people of other faith use “Allah” as the name of God?” The answer, "subject to the above qualification, it will be in the affirmative, 'Yes!' Marhaba! (You are most welcome!)”
TO BE CONTINUED ......................................
(6.0 Historical resistance of Christians in acknowledging the Name “Allah”)