This article is about my personal views on the issue of the use of the word "Allah" in the Bible.
Brief Intro -
This topic is a political hot debate going on in Malaysia. Yes, it is a political issue. Not just a religious one. I will touch on the socio-political aspects, as well as my personal views on the topic. I will stay out of Malaysian politics per se.
For a background to the case, here are three links on the issue.
Muslims, Christians, the Word Allah and the Bible
Clearing the confusion on the use of Allah in Bahasa Bibles
Even the Prophet did not claim exclusivity to the name, Allah
Point of view from some Malaysian Muslims -
At the heart of the issue to some Malaysian Muslims is the fear that the term "Allah" in the Bible may confuse marginal Muslims. The fear is that they may be influenced into embracing Christianity, breaking up families and the Muslim society. A lesser issue among these Muslims is that the word "Allah" should be exclusively used by Muslims.
My view -
In my opinion, this fear held by some Muslims is unwarranted.
Point 1 - With or without the use of the word "Allah" in the Bible, there will be conversions out of Islam into Christianity, or for that matter, simply out of Islam. The word "Allah" in the Bible will have no or little effect. If Muslims were to bar Christians or any other groups from using the term "Allah", it would be seen regressive for Islam because:
- Muslims are seen to be so ill-confident of themselves that a simple word change in the Bible is able to shake Muslims.
- Muslims are closed-minded and never knew that the term "Allah" has been used in scriptures other than Quran, Hadith or other Islamic writings in the past.
Point 2 - Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, mainly due to its high reproduction rate among Muslims. Indonesia alone has a 248 over million population, 86% of which are Muslims. Growth rate is 1% annually, which means that the Muslim population growth rate is 2 million newborn Muslims every year. (Yeah, that's why Chan Chun Sing peed in his pants).
The above is just Indonesia alone. In Europe, migrant Muslims are reproducing at a faster rate than the native heartlanders. Due to Islamophobia and ignorance, some of these Euro heartlanders have turned xenoophobic and called on their respective govts to address the change of demographics in their countries.
In places like UK and US, ever since 911 attacks, more non-Muslims have taken the trouble to find out about Islam - and many even converted after they have made their studies.
So in spite of all the growth and interest about Islam around the world, it is an irony that some Muslims in Malaysia are so cooped up in their shell, believing that Islam can be eroded just because of a "new word" introduced into the Bible.
Point 3 - For all the fear and cries that this would confuse marginal Muslims to convert to Christianity, it has historically always been that the number of Christians converting to Islam is far many more times than the reverse. Again, so what's all this fear about marginal Muslims crossing over to Christianity?
The biggest group of converts to Islam incidentally comes from the Christians. This brings up a very interesting point which I would like to discuss next, which is, why is it so?
Why so easy for Christians to convert to Islam -
I would like to point out that the following is my opinion based on my observation over the years and decades of meeting up with Muslim converts and studying their conversion stories.
I would have to say that the biggest influencing factor that Islam is able to attract converts from Christianity is the Bible itself. Ironic as it may sound, but that is what many Christians who converted to Islam will tell you.
Here are some interesting points to note, which many Christians who converted to Islam will tell you:
1. There really is nothing in the Bible that teaches Trinity as it is believed by Christians today - let alone the fact that Jesus himself never taught anyone that.
2. All the teachings and practices Jesus preached conform to what Muslims practise today. That includes dietary habits, circumcision, prayer, fasting and even worship of One God with no partners.
3. There is nothing in the Bible that quotes Jesus that any Muslim will find that is out of Islam. In fact, all the teachings he preached (with the exception of consumption of wine, which is only made haram during Muhammad's time), are perfectly Islamic. The only other exception is that Jesus put a stop to divorce.
4. All the teachings of Jesus are in line with the prophets of the past, ie to worship One God with no partner, and to upkeep the laws taught by past prophets. Again, this is seen to be very Islamic.
5. There is nothing in Jesus' words claiming godhood or divinity.
6. Christianity as it is practised today is the work of St Paul. Remove Paul's letters from the Bible, leaving it with only the Old Testament and the four gospels, and what would you have? Islam.
The above are a summary of what many Christians who converted to Islam will tell you. I know. I am one of them. And I have met many others like myself.
Here is one of the articles again, which I linked earlier. - Clearing the confusion on the use of Allah in Bahasa Bibles
Many Muslims and even some Christians have misunderstood the use of “Allah” in Bahasa Bibles. To clarify some of the confusion:
The BM Bible or the Alkitab is not translated from the English Bible but from the original languages, i.e. Hebrew and Greek.
The Hebrew word for God is El or Elohim (similar root as Ilah in Arabic) and YHWH or Yahweh for LORD. The Greek words are Theo for God and Kurios for Lord.
Biblical translators all over the world have used the local language terms for Elohim and Yahweh e.g. God and LORD in English; Dios and Senor in Spanish, Shangti and Zhu in Chinese
For 15 centuries, Arabic Bibles have used Allah for God and Rab for Lord (predate Islam)
The first Malay translation of the Bible was made in 1612, and Allah was used for God and Tuhan for Lord in this and all the subsequent translations till today.
Malay-speaking (and Iban) Christians have used the term Allah for more than 100 years in Malaya and the Borneo states in worship, prayers and reading their holy scriptures.
Twenty million Christians in Indonesia have used Allah for years without any misunderstanding or objection.
English Bibles nor Bibles of other languages obviously do not use the Bahasa terms.
Forbidding the use of the term “Allah” by Christians not only infringes their rights to practise their faith but also leads to confusion. For example, is the “Tuhan” in Negara-Ku and Rukun Negara not the “Muslim God” or can Christians sing the Selangor Anthem where “Allah” is used?
Theological meanings between Christianity and Islam will always be different whether the term used is “Allah” or “Tuhan” or “God”.
Note the above. In an attempt to justify why the Bible should be allowed to use the term "Allah" for God, it reinforces what many converts from Christianity to Islam have been telling their Christian friends upon conversion. That is, the God the Muslim convert worships, is the very same God the Christians have disobeyed, associating Him with a son and a holy spirit.
Christians and many born Muslims will say that they do not see Allah in the Bible. But many Christians who convert to Islam will say that in the Bible, they see Jesus and the earlier prophets have always been teaching true followers to worship Allah.
Allah has been mentioned in the Bible, even if that word is not used in many Bible versions. It was mentioned in the Bible by Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon - and Jesus. And they all preach the same message, which is, "Thou shalt have no false gods before Me". Incidentally, the Quran's message is - "No gods but Allah".
What no Allah in the Bible are these Malaysian Muslims talking about?
It can be seen that from the above discussed, it is small wonder it is so much easier to convert Christians than any other group into Islam. It is the teachings from the Bible itself that has led many Christians to convert into Islam.
Concluding words -
I have always thought that Sg politics is a circus. But deep inside me, I also believe that Msian politics is a bigger circus. The current "Allah" issue in Malaysia is getting out of hand. I don't wish to comment on what's going on in Malaysia.
I feel that Malaysia (and other countries as well), should allow the term "Allah" be used in Bibles. Firstly, it is in line with a freedom of expression, which would make Muslims be seen to be very accommodating.
Secondly and more importantly is that the message to Christians that Jesus and the earlier prophets taught, is that only Allah alone has to be worshipped.
The problem is that many Muslims never really cared to read the Bible. If they were to study it carefully, they would realise that in the Bible, Jesus truly taught his followers to worship Allah and Allah alone. It was St Paul who taught otherwise.
That being the case, what is wrong with using the term "Allah" in the Bible? Won't that be allowing Christians to preach Islam in their own Bible? After all, have not many Christians come to Islam through the Bible? Having the word "Allah" in the Bible only makes it easier for many more Christians to realise that Jesus truly taught them to worship Allah and only Allah alone. No son, no holy spirit, no anyone or anything else.
Isn't that Laa ilaha ill Allah?
Update - Allah was mentioned in the Bible 1900 years ago, so let's stop bickering