Monday, August 1, 2011

Guidelines in using the word “Allah”

By Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin

Translation by Umm Jaabir (

I would like to suggest hereby few issues that should be looked into carefully regarding the usage of the word “Allah” by the non-Muslims.

As mentioned in my previous article (2007) entitled “The Difference between Saying ‘Allah’ and Protecting Our `Aqeedah”, this issue is more of a local issue involving public harmony, while it does not involve any specific prohibition from the authoritative evidences of Islam i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Therefore I hope that this statement will be read along with the aforementioned article.

The Arab Christians and non-believers of Makkah used the term “Allah” to refer to God. Evidences from the Qur’an and the Sunnah support this. However, in the Malaysian context, this issue is rather new and unique. Therefore, it incites reservations and uncertainties, especially in various issues and questions that arise due to this incident, one of which is what is the genuine intent behind such demand?

For the Muslims, the education [and understanding] of `Aqeedah has never been adequately emphasized. Too much emphasis is placed on Fiqh that we forgot about the fundamentals of our belief, which is `Aqeedah. Consequently, though many Muslims perform their obligatory prayers, many also easily believe in khurafat, bomoh, tahyul (superstition, black magic, witch-craft, etc) and others.

If our `Aqeedah is clear and firm, without doubt issues such as this one, Christianization effort, and influences from other religions would not be able to interfere with [or threaten] our `Aqeedah and mind. On the contrary, this issue should make us realize the importance of emphasizing and purifying our `Aqeedah and knowing the boundaries of iman (belief) and kufr (disbelief).

In order to avoid confusion and unhealthy conflicts within our country and the multi-racial and religion society, I would like to put forth few suggestions as guidelines for the government to look into:

1. The name “Allah” should not be used, except to refer to the true Almighty God. Therefore, no group is allowed to call any other gods that people claim to be god or a third/middle person/intermediary to God by the name “Allah”. Examples include calling an idol, a stone, an object or other human as “Allah”. If this happen, it is rightful for the Muslims to denounce it. The disbelievers of Makkah who called the true God as Allah and committed shirk (associate others with Allah) against Him, never once called their idols “Allah”. On the other hand, these idols were called by al-Latta, al-`Uzza, Manaat, and others.

2. For people to call the true God as Allah is indeed appropriate as this also proves that Islam is correct when it teaches us to call God as “Allah”. Therefore, it is acceptable; moreover it should be encouraged for everyone to say “Allah is the Creator of this universe”, “Allah sends down rain”, “Allah instructs us to do good” and others regardless of their religion. These are truly words of truth. It is incorrect for the Muslims to deny these facts when mentioned by non-Muslims. In fact, the Qur’an says:
“And if you asked them, “Who sends down rain from the sky and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness?” they would surely say “Allah.” Say, “Praise to Allah”; but most of them do not reason.” [Al-Ankaboot, 29:63]

3. If they [the non-Muslims] admit that Allah is the true God, and consequently they call Him as such in their rituals, then a Muslim shall not interfere with the rituals of other religions. While Islam vehemently opposes their acts of Shirk (associating Allah with others), the freedom of performing rituals is the right of every religion.

4. The non-Muslims shall not use the name “Allah” to spread words that vilify Islam, such as making fun of Allah in their media to the Muslims, or making fun of the name “Allah” in writing, drawing, making films or anything of that nature, as often happens in the West.

5. The non-Muslims shall not introduce confusion or obscurity in the teachings of Islam by abusing or misusing the name “Allah”. Such provocative action shall be dealt with sternly. Islam holds onto a general principle of humanity that no party shall exploit or introduce confusion to the teachings of others. As such, the Muslims shall not do so to the teachings of other religion.

6. To say the name “Allah” in communications between Muslims and non-Muslims in a respectful manner and to honor Allah like when a non-Muslim say to a Muslim, “may Allah bless you” or “may Allah grant you rizq” are allowed. Rather, it should be practiced as such. In one occasion when the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wasallam and the Quraysh of Makkah entered into a treaty, both used the name “Allah” as mentioned in a hadith in Sahih Muslim:

It has been narrated on the authority of Anas that the Quraysh made peace with the Prophet (may peace be upon him). Among them was Suhail bin `Amr. The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said to ‘Ali: Write “In the name of Allah, most Gracious and most Merciful.” Suhail said: As for “Bismillah,” we do not know what is meant by “Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim” (In the name of Allah the Most Gracious and Most Merciful). But write what we understand, i.e. Bi ismika Allahumma (In thy name, O Allah).

These are few of my suggestions that can be used as guidelines with regard to this very issue, so that the Malaysians will stay calm and not get involved with protest demonstrations due to it. On the contrary, every party should respect the sensitivity of others.

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