Now, who are the Arab wannabes?

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God in Bahasa is ……..?

By now, we would have been well and truly conversant with the legal, etymological or historical use of the ‘Allah’ word in the Catholic news letter, the Herald, and the Malay language Bible (al Kitab).

And let’s not forget the political element as well as the Allah word also serves those with an agenda, a political agenda.

It had been the Catholic Herald’s insistence on using Allah as the Bahasa (Malay language) equivalent of God in the al Kitab which had started the name-calling (wakakaka) brouhaha three years ago.

Now, just a wee review of the various aspects of the name-calling (wakakaka) tussle:

Legally, High Court Judge Lau Bee Lan had ruled as unconstitutional the Malaysian government’s ban of the use of Allah as the Bahasa equivalent of the word God in the Catholic Herald.

I believe the government (then with Syed Hamid as the Home Minister) had indicated it would appeal. I am not sure where that appeal currently stands?

On the etymological front, a number of academicians including Muslims have traced its usage to pre Islamic era, and explained that both Arab Muslims and Christians refer to their respective gods as Allah. Of course we shouldn’t challenge the finding of their highly qualified clarifications, but nonetheless I have something to comment on the etymological aspect of the Allah word shortly.

Historically, it has been agreed that Dutch Christian missionaries sometime in the 16th Century translated the Bible into the Indonesian language by using the word Allah for God.

Why those Dutch missionaries did so has not been questioned nor discussed much but that they had used Allah has been deemed by the Catholic Herald as a precedent which must continue to be accepted even today. I’ll also come to this soon.

Politically, of the two Malay-Muslim parties, UMNO said-says ‘no’, PAS said ‘it’s alright’ but something new has just cropped up, where PAS has now changed its mind about the word Allah as the equivalent of God in the Malay language version of the Bible.

Yes, PAS has just said ‘no’ as well (to add to UMNO’s ‘nay’), showing its lamentable character in the same way as had been indicated by its recently disintegrated ‘promise’ wakakaka that non-Muslims won’t be affected by Islamic laws (and/or municipality rules based on Islamic moral values).

PAS’ lack of reliability in its belakang pusing (volte face) from its promise has been a classic case of the Malay idiom cakap ta’serupa bikin. No mate, you can’t trust any politician, even and especially those from a religious party, be it Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucianist, Taoist, Bahāʾīs or Ayah Pin-ish, etc, wakakaka.

But let’s leave out this troubling though not unexpected side of PAS vis-à-vis non-Muslims in this post, where we can then discuss the topic in a future post.

This post is about the use of the word Allah as the Bahasa (Malay language) equivalent of God in the Bible.


And I’ll be frank that I will undoubtedly hurt many of my Christian friends as I did 3 years ago when this topic first flared up. While I believe on principle there ought not to be a monopolistic use of any word or words, I can understand the Muslim community’s worries about the Church’s obdurate intention to use this word, especially more so when I know it’s obligatory, nay, a sacred duty of the Church and Christians to be ‘missionary’ (evangelistic).

Yes, I’m afraid on a personal basis, kaytee isn’t all that supportive of the Church’s insistence on using the Allah word to represent/indicate/describe their Christian God in the Malay language.

Perhaps let me declare my religious affiliations so that you can be clear where I am coming from (or going to, wakakaka).

I was born to very staunch Buddhist parents. My late dad and his mum were devoted Theravada Buddhists whilst my late mum was Mahayana Buddhist, not that they knew the difference between those schools of Buddhism. Once I attempted to explain to my mum (when she was alive) about the schools’ doctrinal differences but I gave up when I saw the annoyed look on her face, wakakaka.

Both my granddads were non-practising Taoists-Confucianists, which may explain why I’m an atheist, wakakaka. Anyway, I am neither Christian nor Muslim.


Okay, let’s consider the etymological angle of the Allah word first. Yes, I’m confident of the accuracy of those who have traced the Allah word and its usage to pre Islamic era, and who have also explained that both Arab Muslims and Christians refer to their respective gods as Allah.

Yup, I, you, we have all heard the several arguments that Allah is an Arabic word meaning god and not necessarily that of the God of Islam only … yadda yadda yadda … and therefore Christians have every right to employ this Allah word because of the word’s genericalness.

Notwithstanding its etymological certification, let me tell you what I think of the pro arguments.

First of all, my caustic remarks wakakaka do not apply to all, but only those who feel my sarcasm, wakakaka.

I am not surprised by the hypocrisy of some of those who advocate this argument, that because Allah is a generic Arabic word for god (not necessarily that of Islam,) the Church and Christians in Malaysia have the right to use it as the Bahasa translation of God.

They are/were hypocritical because:

(a) these very ‘some’ people have been those who have been at laughing (as well as sneering) at the orthodox Malay Muslims (or if you like, Muslim Malays) for wanting to be Arabs or to be Arab-ized rather than just being Muslims, from and in the way they dress in Middle-Eastern desert garb instead of our Malaysian tropical baju or sarung kebaya, etc, or resort to Arabic words when Malay equivalents are available, etc etc.

* Incidentally I’m also one who laughs at Arab wannabes, wakakaka.

Now, aren’t these Christians and their supporters, in arguing for the use of the generic Arabic word Allah as the Bahasa equivalent of God, themselves also Arab wannabes?

(b) hey man, aren’t we talking about a Bahasa word for God? Why then invoke an Arabic word?

If they don’t like the word Tuhan because the Church argued that in some instances, the word Tuhan (God) does not convey the required meaning in a biblical passage, why not a Hebrew word then, when after all, Judaism and Christianity share the same God, rather than the one Muslims believe in (yes, this is debatable too)?

Just as an aside, I wonder what’s the Bahasa word for Father in the Malay language al Kitab? Would it be ‘Ab or Ayah? Please let me know!

Look, there are so many names for the Hebrew-Christian God, such as YVWH (Yahweh or, Jehovah), Elohim, Adonai, as well as the following (with their English meanings):

Adonai-Jehovah – The Lord our Sovereign

El-Elyon — The Lord Most High

El-Olam – The Everlasting God

El-Shaddai – The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People

Jehovah-Elohim – The Eternal Creator

Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord our Provider

Jehovah-Nissi – The Lord our Banner

Jehovah-Ropheka – The Lord our Healer

Jehovah-Shalom – The Lord our Peace

Jehovah-Tsidkenu – The Lord our Righteousness

Jehovah-Mekaddishkem – The Lord our Sanctifier

Jehovah-Sabaoth – The Lord of Hosts

Jehovah-Shammah – The Lord is Present

Jehovah-Rohi – The Lord our Shepherd

Jehovah-Hoseenu – The Lord our Maker

Jehovah-Eloheenu – The Lord our God

And many many more exists.

God’s names – Kabbala

Will this range of Godly names in Hebrew satisfy the Church’s requirement that in some instances, the word Tuhan does not adequately convey the required meaning in a biblical passage?

C’mon, tell me why the Church must use the Arabic word for God and not the Hebrew equivalent? [Just leave the historical angle aside for a while as I’ll be coming to it soon].

Let’s see what the Tanakh (Jewish bible) says in Genesis 1:1?

“In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth …”.

Now, tell me, doesn’t that indicate to us, in fact indisputably, what is God’s name? So why won’t the Church use Elohim?

Just as a double check, let’s look at the English Bible [King James Version] of the same passage, where it confirms that “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth … “

Thus, on top of Tuhan for God, we have the Hebraic Elohim for God, that is, if the Church doesn’t like the word Tuhan. And as I have shown above, there are many more alternatives for God or God’s names.

In Hebrew (not Aramaic), some have argued that the word Elohim is plural, but as per the Tanakh it is considered as a singular noun and indeed uses the verb for such. It is meant to signal the single God of Israel, but you know what, it is actually ideal for the Christian concept of God as a Trinity, Three yet One.

Velly gnam gnam one lah!

Let us now turn our attention on the man who started it all, Father Lawrence Andrew of the Catholic Church and the editor of the Catholic Herald.

Given the experts’ etymological and historical clarifications on the Allah word, I am in no doubt that Father Lawrence Andrew is on strong legal grounds to use it … and indeed we know that the court has supported his stand.

But I have always believed that religion is about faith and morality and not legality or for that matter, political approval. Thus I find it unfortunate that the Father Andrew and the Catholic Herald had taken the issue to the courts. Surely on a matter of religious faith and knowledge, there are numerous other names of God it could have use beside Allah. I view its arguments for the use of Allah as seemingly based on obduracy and legality rather than any plausible unavoidable reason.