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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Arabic Term Allah

A recent article on Fox News states that Malaysia has restored the "Allah ban for Christians. Basically, what this means is that Christians are not allowed to use the term Allah to refer to God in their publications. Apparently it is thought by the government that the casual use of Allah by both religions could confuse Muslims or make them angry. I suppose that some of the controversy also relates to Christian missions groups that seek to introduce Muslims to Christianity.

The banning of this term is based out of linguistic ignorance. Some Christians in the U.S. and other Western countries are also reluctant to ever use the term Allah to refer to the God of the Bible. However, both Muslims and Christians that speak Arabic use the term Allah to refer to God. In Arabic, Allah is just the default word for God, like Elah in Aramaic and El of Elohim in Hebrew. In the time that the Hebrew Bible was being written, Elohim was a term also used by the Canaanites to refer to their Gods, with El being a name reserved for the head of their pantheon.

I think that the Malaysian government officials, most of whom are probably Muslims, need to study Arabic further before they ban the usage of an Arabic loanword in their country. It makes sense that Allah would be the most common term used for God in Malay because as far as I am aware, a majority of Malaysians were polytheists before Islam came to them. The article states that Allah was an Arabic loanword being used before the coming of Islam to the area. I am not sure whether Islam or Christianity came to Malaysia first, but the point is that now most Malaysians are most familiar and comfortable with the term Allah.

It doesn't make sense to legislate what terms people are allowed to use to address the God that they reverence. I hope to see this piece of legislation overturned in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Greetings! Just dropping in for the first time and am eager to comment on one of your latest posts.

You made an interesting comment about the Malaysian Government possibly being afraid of the Christian missionaries for fear they are introducing Christianity to the Muslims.

It is strange to me because usually, Muslims aren't concerned about being "introduced" to Christianity, because most Muslims already know Christianity, and understand what it teaches and what it is about.

Typically, this is a very "western" idea; more specifically, western Christians believing that Muslims have never heard of Jesus, the trinity and Christianity...

I read an interesting article in National Geographic about the Christians in the Middle East. One the men interviewed, a Christian, said something along the lines concerning Western Christians not understanding how long Christians have been in the Middle East and how the Muslims in the Middle East know about Christianity, and have had lots of time to know more. Islam its self, grew up along side Early Christians, and we know how well the Islamic history has been recorded. Islam grew from Christianity, as explained in the Quran. It was the next step, or a clarification of sorts.

I could keep rambling, but I guess that is why I should have a blog, huh? : ) Thank you for the opportunity to post here. _Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Oops.. I suppose it wasn't one of your latest. Let me rephrase that... One of the posts that interested me :) __ Stephanie