Saturday 30 April 2011

If Allah is a God in Islam, can Christians call their God Allah?

By NH Chan

APRIL 30 — If you look up the world “Allah” in any English dictionary, you will find this definition:

Allah noun the name of God among Muslims; or Allah n. the principle Muslim name for God.

In fact all English dictionaries are definite about the meaning of the word Allah; it is the name of God in Islam. Surprisingly the dictionary does not say that it is an Arabic word. Actually it is not strange at all. As I have already explained before, this Arabic word has become an English word since the 16th century when it was spelt using the English alphabet to represent the speech sounds of the Arabic word. It is only an Arabic word if it is written in the original Arabic text as distinct from the phonetic spelling in English. If Allah is the Islamic God then, since Christians are not Muslims, could or should Christians call their God Allah?

The answer will depend on whether, as a fact, Allah in Arabic was first coined by the founder of Islam or that this Arabic word Allah had predated Islam and had been in existence as a name for “The God”? “The”, meaning “the only one of its kind”, as in “the only God” — long before Prophet Mohammed’s call, the legendary revelation of Allah in 611 AD. As a matter of fact, even before there was Jesus Christ, “Allah” meaning “the only God” was already a word in Arabic, a Semitic language spoken by the ancient Arabs who belonged to the ethnic group of peoples known as the Semites.

Historically, therefore, the Arabic word Allah was not coined by Islam’s founder at all. According to the Bible, God made Abraham, his two sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants His people. Since then monotheism — a religious belief that there is only one God — was founded. The descendants of Abraham from the line of Ishmael (the Arabs) and Isaac (the Jews) worshipped the only God named Allah in Arabic and Eloah in Hebrew. In Arabic, Allah was derived from Al-Ilah meaning Al (The) + Ilah (God). In Hebrew God was Eloah with a capital E.

Muslims worship the same God that Abraham, his two sons and their descendants had first worshipped more than 2,000 years before Islam was founded and more than 1,500 years before Jesus Christ was born.
Before Abraham there was god and there were gods without a capital G. For example: “elohim” means “gods” in Hebrew and “ilah” means “god” in Arabic. Since Abraham, after God made him and his two sons and their descendants His people, God is called Allah in Arabic and Eloah in Hebrew and they mean “The only God”.

So that the Arabs and the Jews, and after the founding of Christianity and Islam, Christians and Muslims throughout the world worship the same God that Abraham, his two sons and their descendants first worshipped in biblical times thousands of years before there were Christians and Muslims.

Allah was the Arabic name for the only God long before Islam was founded. Abraham worshipped the only God whose name even then was Allah in Arabic and Eloah in Hebrew. Before Abraham there were also those who worshipped the only God. In biblical times English was not then spoken yet, so the Deity was not called God in English. But Arabic was already a spoken language in ancient times and Allah in Arabic was worshipped by those who believed in the only God even then.

But even in ancient times there were those who worshipped other god or gods and the true God was displeased with them (see the Quran) and they were punished. The Quran acknowledged and confirmed the biblical story of Noah (Nur), Surah 71, Abraham (Ibrahim), Surah 14 where Moses was also referred to. The Quran has also confirmed that even in the days of Noah, Abraham and Moses, Allah meaning the only God had been worshipped thousands of years before Islam was founded. That being the case, it has been established beyond peradventure that there were believers who had been worshipping Allah the only God so many thousands of years before Islam was founded in 611 AD.

Therefore, it is dishonest for those narrow-minded politicians and clerics to claim that only Muslims can use the word Allah when before Islam was founded others had been worshipping Allah, meaning the only God, for thousands of years by the Arabs and the Jews. In biblical times Allah was not worshipped by Muslims because Islam had not been founded yet.

That being so, I have often wondered why some people in our government today are so obsessed with the view that only Muslims can use the word Allah. Why should human beings prevent others from worshipping God according to their faiths by decreeing that those who worship the God of Abraham, as Christians do, are not allowed to call their God Allah? God never said His name Allah is for Malay Muslims only! God is never a racist. Only the misinformed are the racists. However, Muslims elsewhere do not mind Christians calling their God by the name Allah because God can be addressed in any language. For example, why should anyone be upset if a Chinese Christian addressed the only God as their God or Allah without using any Chinese word? For that matter, should a sensible Arab Muslim or Christian be upset when an Indian Christian addressed his only God in English or in Arabic, by calling Him God or Allah instead of using Hindi or Tamil?

The etymology of the Arabic and Hebrew languages for God

The Semites or Shemites are an ethnic group of peoples who speak a Semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs as well as the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Phoenicians. Of these peoples who came from the same national or cultural background only the Arabs and the Jews still exist today.

Of the Semitic or Shemitic languages that include Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Amharic, and such ancient languages as Arkadian and Phoenician, only Arabic and Hebrew are still spoken.

In the Semitic languages, God is “Allah” in Arabic, “Eloah” in Hebrew and “Elah” in Aramaic — these words, signifying God, are being pronounced according to their phonetic spelling in English as most, if not all, of us do not speak or write any of the aforesaid Semitic languages. Why do the mentioned languages sound so much alike? They sound similar because the Arabs and the Jews belong to the same ethnic group of peoples called Semites who shared and speak the same genus of Semitic languages. By the same token the Chinese people even though they speak different dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, etc their language is written in Chinese characters which an educated Chinese can read irrespective of his spoken dialect. Similarly a scholar of any of the ancient Semitic language could decipher and read another language of the same Semitic genus.

To find out when Allah became the name of God to his people, we have to go back in time to ancient biblical history. We start with Shem who was the eldest of Noah’s three sons: see Genesis 10:21 in the Old Testament. The descendants of Shem were the Shemites or Semites, hence the name of this ethnic group of peoples. The ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Phoenicians, including the Jews and Arabs were regarded as descendants of Shem: see The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

The phases of God: from making Abraham and his descendants His people to being worshipped throughout the world from the teachings of Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed

According to the Old Testament of the Bible, Abraham was the first of the patriarchs and the founder of the Hebrew people (Genesis 11-25). Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar who was Sarah’s maidservant, was the ancestor of 12 Arabian tribes (Genesis 21: 8-21; 25: 12-18). Isaac was the younger son of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17: 21-27).

In “How to Judge the Judges” I wrote, pages xxix, xxx:

Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew people. According to the Old Testament, Abram (later Abraham) at God’s call abandoned civilisation, his father’s household and his people to wander in the desert as a nomad. His wife Sarai (later Sarah) had borne him no children. So Sarai took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. Hagar soon conceived with Abram’s child. But Sarai mistreated Hagar and heavy with child she ran away. According to the Old Testament, the angel of God found Hagar and told her to return to Abram and added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” God also told Hagar that she shall name her son Ishmael for God has heard of her misery at the hands of Sarai. Ishmael means God hears. So Hagar bore Abram a son and he gave him the name of Ishmael. According to the Old Testament, Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. When Abram was 99 years old, God said to Abram that no longer will he be called Abram (it means exalted father); your name will be Abraham (it means father of many) for you will be the father of many nations — he will be fruitful and kings will come from him. In return, Abraham and his descendants will worship the God of Abraham who will be the God of his descendants for generations to come and the Covenant (agreement) they are to keep were; Every male among him shall be circumcised. For the generations to come every male who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in the household or bought with money from a foreigner — those who are not their offspring. Those who are not circumcised will be cut off from his people. As for Sarai, her name will be Sarah and she will be blessed and she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her. A son will be born of her. His name will be called Isaac. Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

As for Ishmael, God said he had heard Abraham: “I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”

And so on that very day, so the story goes in the Old Testament, Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household, and circumcised them. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was 13. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him by Sarah, and he was circumcised.

And at page xxxi:

So now we know that the Arabs and the Jews were descended from Ishmael and Isaac whose father was Abraham (Ibrahim); and the God of them is the same God. And God has marked them as His people by circumcision.

Those events took place some two millennia before Jesus Christ was born, and before Prophet Mohammed founded Islam some 600 years after the birth of Jesus Christ.

After Abraham, with the advent of Christianity and Islam the worship of the only God extended to worshipping Him throughout the world. Monotheism, the religion of worshipping only One God, has become a world religion.

I ask, because I am unable to understand, why our government is trying so hard to separate the inseparable, that is, the people who believe in worshipping the same God to demean another of the same faith by decreeing that Christians are not allowed to call their God Allah and desecrating their Bible just because Christians call Allah their God. But the Quran had accepted Jesus Christ as being sent by God (Allah) to deliver the teachings of Allah (God). —

* NH Chan is a retired Court of Appeal judge.

1 comment:

  1. If you need, you can get all details of Chinese Christians who are against other Christians in this country.They use the law and legalism.Details via email.