JAN 5 — The loser or winner of the battle royale on the usage of the word “Allah” is of the least interest to us. We would elect to be on the margins of this senseless and fruitless crossfire of unabated parochial sentiments and emotions.
Conscious or unconsciously, but unfortunate nonetheless, the damage has been considerable, threatening the very fibre of our peaceful co-existence. It has surfaced the dark side within us and has venomously challenged our qualities of trustworthiness and mutual respect.
Muslim secularists from within political parties are now seizing the role as custodians of Islam (see front page Mingguan Malaysia, Jan 3, 2010 ) and, juxtaposed with religious zealots from within “religious” parties as well as Muslim NGOs, they form a lethal concoction of religious intolerance in their “jihad” to “mempertahankan kalimah Allah” (uphold the name of the Lord).
More tragically, the collateral damage has been immense, maybe even irreversible. The lay and innocent Muslims are left utterly confused over the issues involved. Worst still, now emotionally hyped by the Muslim zealots and fuelled by a jaundiced and “irreligious” media, it will only make them increasingly suspicious and hostile of their fellow Christians. Yet another occasion to blame others for this perceived intrusion and onslaught upon their creed.
We are cognisant of the various interpretations of the authentic texts, historical and cultural context of the usage of the word Allah. It would be imperative to nonetheless make mention of the jurisdiction of two of the most outstanding contemporary scholars in the Muslim world, namely Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Sheikh Dr. Wahbah Az- Zuhaili — who recently visited Malaysia — concerning this issue.
Without any hesitation they concurred unequivocally that the usage of the word Allah has never been the monopoly of the Islamic creed. It is a terminology shared with the adherents of the Abrahamic faith. Islam identifies itself with the People of the Book as the “Abrahamic family” within the Semitic Tradition (Hanifiyyah), the tradition of Abraham who is recognised as the father of the three Semitic religions.
And the Quran has in no uncertain terms documented that the community during the advent of the final prophet, Muhammad (may peace be upon him) had similarly used the word.
“If you ask them, who it is that created the heavens and the earth, they will certainly say, ‘Allah’. Say: ‘Praise be to Allah’. But most of them understand not.” (Luqman, Chapter 31; Verse 25)
In short, from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence, it is a non-issue.
Thus one wonders why the Muslim-Malays are kicking up such a fuss. This is quite obviously another reflection of the “siege mentality” of the “Malay-Muslim governance” which has, since Independence, played on the fears of the Malay-Muslim populace easily riled by such non-issues due to their “hypersensitive and touchy Malay gene”.
We would hasten to add that it is politically incorrect and outrageously insensitive for “The Herald” proponents to force the issue to the courts. But that is the intrinsic problem, the myopia of our Catholic friends, their intentions and modus operandi now becoming increasingly suspicious and questionable.
In their blind enthusiasm to preach the word of Allah, our Catholic friends have lost sight of the bigger picture and design of Allah, which has always been founded on the language of love, knowledge and infinite wisdom. Instead, they chose to opt for man-made laws as the arbiter, a profane legal solution to their holy crusade.
It begs the question that if Allah is really another name for the Lord or God as devoutly believed by the Catholics, then should it not be officially promulgated by the highest of their religious hierarchy, namely the Pope in the Vatican. This is after all not a new issue.
The Dutch Roman Catholic bishop Tiny Muskens was reported to have urged the faithful of all religions to call God “Allah” in order to foster mutual understanding.
Was it any wonder that the majority of Catholics reacted angrily to his “blasphemous” proposal. Whilst other Christian denominations would choose to believe that Allah is a pagan moon-god which Muhammad (may peace be upon him) chose to be his only God ! The irony missed is we are relying on man-made laws to determine a spiritual matter. So the outcome is arbitrary because man-made laws do not determine religious doctrine.
This further brings to question the intention of the proponents of the “The Herald” in forcing this issue to the courts. After all, it’s not the words you use but the message you bring. Or is this tied to an overt or covert purpose?
If this is so, then it’d be a sheer humiliation to the Lord. He is fast becoming a chameleon that can change His colour according to the prevalent ambience. I don’t think the Lord would accept such inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
Be fair to Him in spreading His word of love, if you truly believe in Him.
The language of hate, emotions and legalities should be promptly replaced by the language of love, knowledge and wisdom. Inter-faith scholarship between all religions should uphold the greater good, namely of enhancing fellowship, trust, mutual understanding and respect.
Religious zealots have no place whatsoever in the harmonious resolutions of our inter-faith issues and should be isolated and dealt with seriously – not made heroes on the front pages of our mainstream media.
Good political governance should facilitate a healthy, intelligent and academic inter-faith discourse, and not instead become party to the conflict and further entrench the deep seated suspicions among the faithful
* Ustaz Maszlee Malik, Durham, UK and Datuk Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin, Petaling Jaya, Selangor are readers of The Malaysian Insider