People of the other Abrahamic religions also call their God Allah, which is the same God for the Muslims. There is only one God for all. There are no three Gods. There are no separate Gods for Jews, Christians and Muslims. And all the three -- the Jews, Christians and Muslims -- believe in the God of Abraham. So how can only Muslims be allowed use of the word 'Allah' while all others are banned from using this word?
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
The mainstream newspapers keep talking about the perhimpunan haram that the Anti-ISA Movement (AIM, or GMI in Malay), BERSIH and HINDRAF are organising or have organised. Now, we must understand that the mainstream newspapers are either government-owned or ruling party-owned. Those that may be privately-owned or are not affiliated to the ruling party still have to exercise some form of self-censorship to ensure that their annual licences get renewed when it is up for review.
Many independent-minded newspapers have found their licences not renewed come year-end because they did not understand the difference between the term 'independent' and 'independent-minded'. You may be independent as long as you are not independent-minded, just like Malaysia allows freedom of speech although it does not allow freedom AFTER speech. You are free to speak. You are not free after you speak. So you can be independent as long as you are not independent-minded and as long as you follow to the letter and to the spirit what the government wants you to do. If you understand this then life will be a bowl of cherries. If not.....well, you know what if not.
The word 'haram' (meaning 'forbidden') is always used after the word 'perhimpunan' (meaning 'gathering' or 'assembly'). This is to psych you into believing that you are doing something wrong by gathering or assembling. Under Malaysia's Police Act, you are required to apply for a police permit at least 14 days before any gathering/assembly. Normally, the police will reject your application on grounds of 'national security'. You can of course appeal to the Minister, but if the police has ruled your planned gathering/assembly as a threat to the peace, stability and security of this nation, then very seldom would the Minister overrule this police decision.
There are times, and this is quite often, when the police would reject your application on the eleventh hour, say on the day of the gathering/assembly itself. So this gives you very little time to appeal to the Minister who is also the Prime Minister -- and who is out of the country almost every two weeks so you can hardly catch him in the office to be able to appeal the police decision. Then there are times when the police will approve your application and then withdraw the approval on the day of the gathering/assembly even as you begin to assemble and the crowd begins to build up. This was what happened in Batu Burok, Kuala Terengganu, recently and that was why the crowd did not disperse. They had been told that the police had granted the permit for the assembly and they were not aware that the police had withdrawn the permit barely a few hours before the event.
The word 'haram' is very effective because Malays are constantly bombarded with the words 'haram' (forbidden) and 'halal' (kosher) from the day they are born. Malays grow up questioning everything 'haram' and 'halal' because they have been indoctrinated and conditioned to do so. This is within the Malay psyche and culture.
Interest is haram, so you must borrow money from an 'Islamic' bank, not from a 'kafir' (infidel) bank. Okay, the Islamic bank charges you a fixed 'profit' rate of, say, 10% per annum. Interest may actually be lower than that, so your borrowing cost from a 'kafir' bank can actually be lower than that from an 'Islamic' bank. But the 'kafir' bank charges you interest, which is haram, while an 'Islamic' bank charges you 'profit'. So this is not haram even though it may be higher.
Can you see how the choice of a word determines whether you get to go to heaven or hell even though the act may be the same? Killing for the sake of profit ensures you hell while killing for the sake of religion ensures you heaven. Committing suicide because of desperation ensures you hell while committing suicide because of religion ensures you heaven. You need to play with words to ensure that you get rewarded with heaven and to ensure you avoid getting sent to hell. Unfortunately, swine that is slaughtered the proper Islamic way is still haram in spite of the method used in killing the animal complies to the Islamic shariah.
So, the choice of a word is extremely important and therefore using the word 'haram' after the word 'perhimpunan' gives Malays the feeling that anyone who indulges in any gathering or assembly of more than four people, and in the same process does not have a police permit, is committing a very serious crime. Okay, you may say that the government is pulling the wool over the eyes of the Malays and are taking them for suckers by calling gatherings or rallies 'perhimpunan haram'. Well, if the government can also pull the wool over God's eyes and take Him for a sucker by replacing the word 'interest' with the word 'profit' and then call the entire usury system 'Bank Islam', then I suppose bluffing the Malays is small potatoes by comparison.
Another word that has been declared haram is the word 'Allah'. It is of course not made haram for Muslims. Only non-Muslims may not use that word. But this is only in Malaysia. It makes one wonder whether Malaysia has filed a copyright for the exclusive use of the word just like how Harley Davidson has patented the sound of their exhaust. That's right, Harley Davidson has sole use of the sound that is emitted from the exhaust pipes of its motorcycles and the Japanese, Germans, Italians, etc., may not build motorcycles that produce the same sound as the Harley Davidson motorcycle. That is like Britney Spears patenting the sound of her fart. Can you imagine no one being allowed to release a fart that sounds like hers?
Allah is in fact the Arabic word for 'God'. It is said that the term is most likely derived from a condensation of the Arabic article 'al' (the) and 'ilah' (deity or god). So Allah would mean 'the (or 'sole') God' (the one and only God, so to speak). There is another theory that traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alaha, and Aramaic was the language that Jesus Christ used.
No doubt, while the term is commonly used by Muslims as a reference to God, it is also used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to 'God'. Therefore, Arabs of the Jewish and Christian faiths also refer to God as 'Allah'.
During pre-Islamic times, the pagan Arabs also referred to their creator-god or their supreme deity (number one God) as Allah. So the word 'Allah' is not quite an Islamic word for God. It was also a pre-Islamic word for God, although the Arabs then believed in 360 different Gods. Allah, in pre-Islamic times, was not the sole divinity. He had associates and companions plus sons and daughters. There was also a kind of kinship between Allah and the jinn. But Allah was the boss of all Gods to the Arabs then.
So, gatherings and rallies are haram. Now, the use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims is also haram. Gatherings and rallies are of course not haram according to Prophet Muhammad's Islam. It is only haram according to Hadhari's Islam. And the use of the word 'Allah' is not haram according to the Prophet's Islam. It is only haram according to Hadhari's Islam.
Islam, in fact, requires that you congregate and do things in a group or as a community. You are encouraged to pray in a group or community, better than doing it alone. You are encouraged to eat in a group or community, better than doing it alone. You are encouraged to travel in a group or community, better than doing it alone. And you are encouraged to gather in a group or community; you certainly cannot gather alone or else it will not be called gathering. In fact, mosques are places where you gather to discuss matters that concern the community. You of course also pray in these mosques, but that is done for only a few minutes, five times a day. In between that, the balance 23 hours of the 24 hours, you gather at the mosques to discuss important matters.
It is mandatory for Muslims to become involved in matters that concern the community. You cannot just suddenly appear at the mosque to pray and then disappear immediately after that until the next prayer time. That would make you a very bad Muslim. You must participate in whatever discussions and meetings that are held and which seek to improve the lot of the community and society. Islam is a religion of the community. The community comes first. And you do things as a community, for the sake of the entire community, so that the community progresses and improves.
Gatherings or rallies, therefore, is very much an Islamic thing. And mosques were designed to enable these gatherings or rallies to take place. The lunchtime Friday prayers, which Muslims believe to be compulsory, are gatherings. The annual pilgrimage to Mekah are also gatherings, which Muslims believe you must perform at least once in your lifetime. Gatherings are not haram. Gatherings are wajib (mandatory). And you gather not only to pray but to discuss, debate, brainstorm, deliberate, analyse, propose, reflect, dissect, argue, reconcile, table, and to do whatever it takes to sort out the ills of the community and find solutions for its betterment.
So, perhimpunan haram, as what the Malaysian government declares them to be, are not haram. They are very much Islamic and required by Islam. And I challenge any 'member of the cloth', those bearded people in robes and white skull caps, to prove me wrong. Tell me that the Arabs during the days of Prophet Muhammad did not gather to discuss matters concerning their community. Tell me that the Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad did not discuss, debate, brainstorm, deliberate, analyse, propose, reflect, dissect, argue, reconcile, table, etc., in these gatherings so that they could find solutions to problems affecting their community. Tell me that the Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad did not find solutions and come out with resolutions when they discuss, debate, brainstorm, deliberate, analyse, propose, reflect, dissect, argue, reconcile, table, etc., at these gatherings, which they then confronted their leaders with. If gatherings (perhimpunan) are haram (forbidden), then the Arabs during the time of the Prophet Muhammad were a very immoral community and why the hell are we being told to follow the ummah (community) of Prophet Muhammad?
And the same goes for the use of the word 'Allah'. Was not 'Allah' the word that pre-Islamic, pagan Arabs used in reference to God? And is not that same word used today by Jew and Christian Arabs in reference to God? Furthermore, does not Islam teach us that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all followers of Abraham and that we all believe in the same God, the one and only God called Allah? And is that not why Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all referred to as the Abrahamic faiths?
Yes, we all share the same God. So why can't we all share the same name for this God? In fact, Abraham, Moses and Jesus are all mentioned in the Quran. And the Quran tells us that Islam is not a new religion but the religion of Abraham. And people of the other Abrahamic religions also call their God Allah, which is the same God for the Muslims. There is only one God for all. There are no three Gods. There are no separate Gods for Jews, Christians and Muslims. And all the three -- the Jews, Christians and Muslims -- believe in the God of Abraham. So how can only Muslims be allowed use of the word 'Allah' while all others are banned from using this word?