Friday, January 25, 2013


Just came back from ISDEV lecture series on Islam for a 27 persons delegation from Agder University and Bergen University College, Norway. This is  an annual event of the ISDEV and the Norway universities for the last six years.

In the Q&A session of this lecture series, the lecturer from Norway raised his disagreement with the prohibition of the use of the term Allah by non-Muslims in Malaysia. His disagreement is based on three reasons. Firstly, the term Allah has been used by the Christians in Egypt for a long time, even before the time of Rasulullah SAW. Secondly, Rasulullah SAW himself did not prohibit the usage of the term Allah, hence it is against the sunnah of Rasulullah SAW if the Malaysian Muslims prohibit it. Thirdly, the non-Muslims in East Malaysia have been using the term Allah without any problem.

I assisted Shereeza, the ISDEV speaker, to answer the disagreement of the Norway lecturer based on also three arguments. Firstly, the non-Muslims in Egypt have been using the term Allah in term of merely linguistic , not in term of the conceptual meaning of God that is based on religious epistemological and philosophical underpinnings. Secondly, in understanding the sunnah of Rasulullah SAW, one has to equip himself with tools of knowledge, especially usul-fiqh, that enables him to understand what is obligatory (wajib), prohibited (haram), encouraged  (sunat), discouraged (makruh), and optional (harus) in relations to the deeds of Rasulullah SAW. No direct prohibition does not necessarily mean it is allowable; it could also mean optional. Thirdly, one has to also master the knowledge of maslahah, to use the rules of Islam at the right place and time for the maximum benefit of the ummah. The prohibition of the use of the term Allah in Malaysia should be seen from the perspective of the maslahah, for the sake of the unity of the Malaysian multi-religious society.

Earlier before the lecture, I have alerted Shereeza that the issue of the use of the term Allah by non-Muslims should be viewed from two levels. The first is from the level of Islamic dogmas, and the second is from the level of the prevailing socio-economic and politics in Malaysia. Since all Malaysians are supposed to respect each other's belief and dogmas, the non-Muslims therefore should leave the Muslims alone with their dogmas, as the Muslims never disturbed the dogmas of other religions. The sensitivity of all religions should also be taken into account, especially within the present Malaysian socio-economic and political atmosphere that witnesses the increase of social and political liquidity, entailing with an increase of the socio-economic and political demands by the non-Muslims, some of which have been felt by Muslims as being going overboard. This has to be carefully handled by the authority so as to avoid any disastrous events to happen in this relatively peaceful country. Definitely it has to have a strong government to do this, not a too comprising government that interested merely in political votes.

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