THE NAME ALLAH
The recent turn of events in Malaysia where the Christian Churches are fire-bombed is unfortunate. It could have been avoided, however, if the Christian community did not insist in using the word Allah as the Arabic translation for the word God wherever this term is used in the Bible.
Everyone knows that Muslims are very particular regarding the use of the word Allah, as, it connotes a special meaning which is only for the Creator of the universe, the God of Abraham. Any attempt therefore to associate a meaning which may compromise the one accepted by those who follow the Holy Qur'an will be met with opposition, which may sometimes be unfortunately harsh.
The name Allah conveys a particular concept to the minds of human beings. According to the Qur'anic definition, when this Name is used, it conveys a concept of a Being Who is not part of creation, and there is nothing like Him. He says about Himself the following:
Allah is He, than whom there is no other god, Who knows all things: the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme; Glory be to Allah (Who is on High); above the partners they attribute to Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver and the Bestower of Forms; to Him belong the most Beautiful Names. (59:22-24)
There is nothing like Him. (42:11)
Nothing can be compared with Him. (112:3)
It is because this term for "God" conveys a unique meaning that Muslims object when it is used to convey any other. What could have been used instead is the Arabic term "Ilaah" which means deity or god.
In many other religions there are words used to convey something of the meaning of the term Allah. For example, in the Bible the terms Jehovah (the self-existing one, the Eternal) and Elohim, (the Eternal One with his attributes) convey such a meaning.
In Hinduism, the term Brahman is used to mean unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. He is superior to any manifestation and there is none like him.
It will not be correct if these terms are used to refer to a being different from what is commonly accepted to be the universally accepted one of the concept which is conveyed to one's mind whenever such a term referring to God is used.
Some scholars take refuge in justifying the use of the word Allah to mean God because, as they say, it was so used in pre-Islamic times. But such an argument may not necessarily be correct, as when Islam came, many of the misconceptions about God, etc. were clarified in the Holy Qur'an. This was climaxed when Allah revealed the following verse:
This day I have perfected for you your religion, and completed My favours on you. (5:3)
As part of the clarification of the concept of Allah in the minds of the believers, Allah informs them of the following:
No vision can grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all visions; He is above all comprehension, yet, He is acquainted with all things. (6:103)
Some people argue that the Bible supports the term Allah to mean the One True God; the God of Abraham. They use as support for taking such a position the following verses:
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. (Deut. 6:4)
Jesus said; my Father, all things are possible for you. (Mk.14:32-35)
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Gen.1:1)
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Ex.20:3)
But when we summarise the Biblical concept of God, we see that it means, in some places the One True God, the God of Abraham; and in other places manifestations as creatures. For example, we find in the Bible such a manifestation in the following verse:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn.1:1)
The Arabic translation of this verse as can be found in the Bible in Arabic is as follows:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with Allah and the Word was Allah.
Here we see that the Word, in addition to being a separate entity, is used to mean god, although later on in the same book, the Word became flesh. (Jn.1:14). This is an indication that the Word (God) became a finite being, and is not the original One True God, i.e. the God of Abraham.
Another verse which conveys a similar meaning of God, different from the one referring to the God of Abraham is: I and the Father are one. (Jn.10:30)
The references to the concept of God in Christianity are different to what is conceived to be the Supreme Creator (Allah) in Islam. So when the word god which means any other than the One True God is to be translated in the Arabic language, the best word to convey the required meaning is Ilaah (deity).
The typical meaning of the word God in the New Testament is that it is the projection of a "triune being" each being distinct but not separate. They are God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.
While it may appear to be so; or while it may be projected to be so; the truth is that the Biblical record shows that each being is distinct and separate. This is found in the Bible in Mt.3:15-17. Here it show that while Jesus was in the water, the voice of the Father was heard in the heaven; and the Spirit was descending in the form of a dove.
In addition to these differences of the concept of God in Christianity and the concept of Allah in Islam, the Christian Creed further separates the connotation of the term from what is acceptable in Islam. The Creed is as follows:
We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten, that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things on earth, who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered, and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and cometh to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit. But those who may say that there was one when he was not, or contend that the son of God is a different substance or essence, or created, or morally alterable or mutable—these doth the Catholic Church anathematise.
The Qur'an refutes such a belief about the Creator of the Universe, and calls it blasphemous. It says:
They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity, for there is no god but One God. If they do not desist from their word of blasphemy, verily, a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them……. Christ the son of Mary was no more than a Messenger. Many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They both had to eat their daily food. (5:73-75)
No matter how careful the Church will want to be regarding the projection of the correct meaning of the term Allah in the Arabic translation of the Bible, it will not be possible to use this term to mean the Biblical god.
Perhaps the solution to this problem can be to use the word Ilaah meaning god, rather than the word Allah.
It is unfortunate that Muslims are using a violent way to have this matter resolved. Perhaps, a more refined and effective way is to have dialogue and a conclusion based on a common understanding acceptable to both sides.