Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No speakee Arabee

There are two ways the word god is applied. There is god with a small ‘g’ and God with a capital ‘G’. God with a small ‘g’ is rab in Arabic and tuhan in Malay. But God with a capital ‘G’ is Allah or ‘The God’. So it is not possible to switch Allah with Tuhan because Allah means ‘The One and Only God’ while tuhan or rab means any god.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

In all honesty, I really no longer want to talk about the Allah word issue. It has become so ridiculous it turns my stomach. Nevertheless, after reading The Malaysian Insider piece by Debra Chong (which you can read below) I just can’t help but jump into the fray. Actually, what Debra wrote was already brought to my attention two years ago when the issue first became ‘hot’. I too read that circular from the government addressed to the church groups and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

Yes, that’s right, the non-Muslims are not only forbidden from using the Allah word. There are many other words that the non-Muslims are also banned from using. Basically, these words are all Arabic words that do not exist in the Malay language or Bahasa Malaysia and which the Malays too have ‘borrowed’. There is no Malay equivalent for these words. The Malays too use the Arabic version so how can you forbid others from using these words when there are no alternatives in Malay?

If you speak to linguists they will tell you that there are very few original Malay words. Some say there are only four original Malay words and that everything else has been borrowed from Arabic, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Dutch, English and whatnot (I am not an expert in languages so I really can’t verify this).

For example, what is the word for soldier? Is it askar or soldadu? And is bucket timba or cebok? And is the word for shoe sepatu or kasut? None of these words are original Malay and all are borrowed. The Malay language has ‘stolen’ many words (if not almost all) from other languages and now they want to ban others from also using these borrowed words.

Anyway, let us explore what the authorities have ruled concerning certain ‘Islamic’ words, which are actually Arabic rather than Islamic because these words already existed long before Islam during the time when the Arabs were still pagans. In fact, many of the Arabs before the time of Prophet Muhammad were Jews and Christians (plus pagans of course), long before they even heard of Islam. And they were already using these words before Islam claimed exclusivity for these words.

There are two ways the word god is applied. There is god with a small ‘g’ and God with a capital ‘G’. God with a small ‘g’ is rab in Arabic and tuhan in Malay. But God with a capital ‘G’ is Allah or ‘The God’. So it is not possible to switch Allah with Tuhan because Allah means ‘The One and Only God’ while tuhan or rab means any god.

Alhamdulillah hirabil alamin”, says the Quran, which can be translated to ‘All praises to The God, the god (or lord) of the (entire) world (alam)’. The God is illah (capital ‘G’) and god (or lord) of the world is rab (small ‘g’).

Al means ‘the’ and illah means 'god'. So ‘The God’ translates to Allah or Al illah, the god of all mankind, The God of the Jews, Christians, Muslims and of every human being. The Jews and Christians, just like the Muslims, believe in The God, god with a capital G and not any god with a small ‘g’.

Jews, Christians and Muslims ‘share’ the same god, The God. That means The God of all is Allah, not tuhan, just any god. And this appears to be something that Malays do not understand or accept. If The God (Al illah) created all of us and if every human being is supposed to accept and believe in this One and Only God, then the Jews and Christians too pray to Allah and not to another God.

Arabic is almost like Latin. Latin is very precise in its meaning and that is why in law they still use Latin terms. Mala fide, bona fide, locus standi, etc., are more precise than the English language and explains the issue better than the English language can. The same goes for Arabic.

Let us look at some of the rulings as highlighted in the piece below to demonstrate what I mean.

Ibadah can never be amalan, as what the government says. Ibadah is targeted at God while amalan can be anything. My amalan after office is to go to the pub for a few beers before I go home. Can I say that this is my ibadah even though some people are very religious about their ‘happy hours’? And my amalan is to always wear my seat belt when driving. Is this an ibadah?

Iman can never be percaya. Iman is your faith in God and the teachings of the religion while percaya can be anything. I percaya that Najib is somehow involved in the Altantuya murder. Can this be translated as iman?

Wahyu is what you receive from God. Revelation or revelasi can be anything. It was revealed to me that the Cabinet knew about the PKFZ scandal and actually approved the project. Can I say that I received a wahyu, which gives the impression that God revealed this secret to me, whereas it was from some ‘deep throat’ in the government?

And so on and so forth. Aiyah, fed up nak cakaplah. I think I had better stop here before I say something I will regret.


When ‘Allah’ was not the only word banned

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

Allah is not the only word banned by the Home Ministry from use by non-Muslims.

The Malaysian Insider recently obtained a copy of two letters sent out in 1986 by the ministry through its publishing division and addressed to the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM).

It lays down a laundry list of words the federal government claimed — and still claims — are sensitive to Muslims who make up the biggest group in multi-religious Malaysia.

The first letter was dated April 1, 1986 and was undersigned by one Tengku Ali Tengku Chik on behalf of the secretary-general of the home ministry, better known by its initials in Bahasa Malaysia, KDN (Kementerian Dalam Negeri).

Tengku Ali wrote: “I am instructed to inform that this Ministry is concerned with the use of Islamic phrases in the translated Bible (Bahasa Malaysia) in which use of those words could confuse followers of the two religions. For example, ‘Tuhan’ is translated as ‘Allah’ in which the term has been used in the religion of Islam and have always been mentioned in the religion of Christianity as ‘God’ or ‘Tuhan’ only.

“Therefore, the Ministry requests your cooperation to refrain from using those words considered sensitive. As a guide, a copy of Appendix A is attached with suggested phrases for your use when translating into Bahasa Malaysia. Other terms, if any, will be told later,” he added.

“For your information, recently the Ministry had similarly chided a publication in Sabah, that is ‘Catholic Sabah’ to stop from using those confusing words when making translations,” he highlighted.

The appendix listed 16 words that were considered “sensitive to Muslims” and came out with their replacement without apparently consulting the CCM beforehand. They are:

* “Al-Kitab” to be replaced with “Baibel (Bible)”.

* “Allah” to be replaced with “Tuhan (God)”.

* “Firman” to be replaced with “Berkata (Say)”.

* “Rasul” to be replaced with “Utusan (Massanger – sic)”.

* “Syariat” to be replaced with “Ajaran”.

* “Iman” to be replaced with “Percaya (believe)”.

* “Kaabah” with no suggested replacement.

* “Ibadah” to be replaced with “Amalan (worship)”.

* “Injil” to be replaced with “Baibel/ Bible”

* “Wahyu” to be replaced with “Revelasi”.

* “Nabi” to be replaced with “Propet”.

* “Syukur” to be replaced with “Terima kasih”.

* “Zikir” to be replaced with “Mengingatkan/ Menyebut”.

* “Solat” to be replaced with “Sembahyang”.

* “Doa” to be replaced with “Memohon”.

The ministry’s instructions do not stop there. In a separate column, it also notes the whys behind the ban.

“Maksud Al-Kitab ialah Al-Quran. Oleh itu istilah nama ini tidak boleh digunakan (The meaning of Al-Kitab is Al-Quran. Therefore the term cannot be used.)

“Firman ialah kata-kata mulia khusus bagi Allah sahaja (Firman is a specific noble word for Allah only).

“Rasul ialah nama panggilan kepada Utusan Allah yang disebut dalan Quran. Nama Jesus Kristas tidak disebut di dalam Al-Quran (Rasul is a name for Allah’s Messenger as mentioned in the Quran. The name Jesus Christ is not mentioned in the Quran).

“Syariat dikhaskan kepada Ugama Allah sahaja (Syariat is specially for the religion of Allah only).

“Injil yang sah sudah tidak ada masa ini (A legitimate Injil no longer exists).

The ministry noted there were no replacement words for “wahyu” and stated that only the word “revelasi” could be used.

The curt tone adopted in the letter appeared to suggest a superiority complex towards the practitioners of religions other than Islam, in particular, Christians who are considered by Muslims elsewhere in the world as fellow Children of the Book with a shared history.

The home ministry letter also claimed that the “Injil” no longer exists because the Muslim understanding of it is limited to the Old Testament; for Christians, the focus of their religion is in the teachings of Jesus Christ which forms the New Testament

The apparent arrogance was summed up in the afterword to the appendix, which ironically is sub-headlined “Panduan Umum” or general guide.

“Bible ditulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris (dan Bahasa Latin Romawi). Bahasa rasmi Agama Kristian ialah Bahasa Inggeris (dan Bahasa Latin Romawi). Jadi ‘Bible’ hendaklah ditulis dan disebarkan dalam Bahasa Inggeris (atau Latin). Jangan gunakan sedikitpun Bahasa Arab dalam Bible kerana Bahasa Arab adalah bahasa rasmi Agama Islam. Menggunakan Bahasa Arab dalam ‘Bible’ boleh mengelirukan dan mempengaruhi orang Islam kepada Agama Kristian. [Bible is written in the English language (and in Roman Latin). The official language for the Christian religion is English (or Roman Latin). So ‘Bible’ must be written and disseminated in English (or Latin). Do not use even a little bit of Arabic in the Bible because Arabic is the official language of the religion of Islam. Using Arabic in the Bible can confuse and influence Muslims to Christian religion.]”

In that brief paragraph, the home ministry also explained the real reason why words of an Arabic origin are “exclusive” to Islam.

It also appeared to have seen fit to decide, on behalf of both Muslims and Christians, how they should each practice their respective religions although the Federal Constitution states the Malay monarchs hold sway over Islamic practices in their own states.

The Federal Constitution also states Malaysians who are not Muslim are free to practise their own faith, which most would sensibly understand that their religions are not subject to Islamic interpretations.

Eight months later, the ministry sent out another letter, this time addressed to Christian publications.

This time, it was undersigned by one Hassan Jantan on behalf of the ministry’s secretary-general. A copy of the letter was also forwarded to the police Special Branch director at Bukit Aman.

Dated December 5, 1986, the letter refers to a “confusion” that has happened within the community over the use of “Islamic words” used in the Bahasa Malaysia edition of Christian publications.

The letter then states the federal government had decided to allow Christian publications to use 12 words — from the original list of 18 banned words — on the condition that the books or pamphlets to be distributed or sold carry the word “For Christians” on the front cover.

The 12 Arabic-origin words allowed for use are: “Al-Kitab, Firman, Rasul, Syariat, Iman, Ibadah, Injil, Wahyu, Nabi, Syukur, Zikir, Doa”.

The ministry remained unconverted on four other words: “Kaabah”, “Batitullah”, “Solat” and “Allah”.

This time, the ministry did not give a point-by-point explanation on why certain words could now be used.

Instead, the letter said the federal government had relaxed its stand “only to preserve public peace and avoid misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians”.

At the same time, it reminded the Christian publications that the state Islamic councils had the power to decide on all Islamic affairs in their respective states, which is redundant because that fact is already laid down in the Federal Constitution and the Christian publications had no tried to impose their views or rules of their beliefs on anyone who was not a Christian, let alone a Muslim.

The ongoing dispute pitting Muslims and Christians has been raging these past 20 years behind closed doors without the public being any wiser until the churches, seeing no other avenue to have their case heard by a neutral panel was forced to take it up with the court.

It has been reported that the National Fatwa Council, which oversees the practice of Islam throughout the country but has no authority over the practice of other religions, had suddenly in 1982 declared certain words, including “Allah” as exclusive to the religion of Islam.

But “Allah” is the only word the Christian churches are seeking to use. They have not laid any claims on “Baitullah”, “solat”, or “Kaabah”, church officials say.

They argued that then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet issued an order which has effectively curtailed the freedom of non-Muslims in the practice of their religions.

courtesy of

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