Beg to Differ from Dr. Syed Tawfik Ali Al-Attas
By Mohammad Radzwill bin Abdullah
I never missed Dr. Syed Tawfik Ali Al-Attas (the Director General of Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia) writings in Mingguan Malaysia. I regard him as the most prominent Islamic Scholar in Malaysia.However his recent composition on the word of ALLAH is a little bit of track from the academic point of view. I believe most of us especially Malaysian Muslim didn’t know the history and culture of this Middle East religion and other religions that born at that place. And most of us never take Prophet Muhammad as a human being who led a community that was once widely corrupted and make it into an organised loving and critical thinking community.
There are 3 known religion nowadays that were born in Middle East; Judaism, Christian and Islam. And these 3 religions bearing some similar elements, which is been revealed in Aramaic language to the Semitic people.
And as we know the most basic thing about religion is regarding the Supreme Being a.k.a. God. And what most extraordinary about this Semitic religions is about the nameless God.
To know who ALLAH is or who is GOD, we need to study the origin and culture of Arabs and Arabic, Jews and Hebrews. This is because they are inter-related very closely.
Firstly we must agree that Arabs and Jews (Middle Eastern people) are related (from the Prophet Abraham) and their language (Arabic and Hebrews) came from the same root which is Aramaic. They bear the same resemblance, they have the same skin, they circumcised, the woman wear clad, they have call of prayer, they wash before pray, they praise people when meet and so on and so forth.
Secondly as I said above as they are the same, their language and their culture are the same. Same goes of their recognition for God. And we must know that it is not their culture (Middle Eastern people) of branding and name calling. They just interested to know what is about or what is it used for.
This shown in Ex 3:13-22 (Hebrews’ Bible); Moses is not asking “what should I call you;” rather, he is asking “who are you; what are you like; what have you done.” That is clear from God’s response. God replies that He is eternal, that He is the God of our ancestors, that He has seen our affliction and will redeem us from bondage.
Same goes to Islam, we know God (ALLAH) from his explanation of his characteristics (99 names of Asma ul Husna). God explain that he is The Gracious (noun; Arabic: Al-Rahman), The Merciful (noun; Arabic: Al-Rahim), The Living (noun; Arabic: Al-Hayyu), The Self-Subsisting, Eternal (noun; Arabic: Al-Qayyum).
The root word is a verb with an additional prefix of ‘Al-‘ to become noun. And if you realised the word ALLAH is not part and parcel of Asma ul Husna because it does not contain any characteristic in it.
Come back to Judaism’s naming of GOD before I touch on ALLAH. In Judaism, their scholars also have difficulties in explaining the name of GOD outside the Jewish communities. This is because people outside the Middle Eastern continent want to know what the name of Jewish God.
3 most words appear in Hebrew’s Bible when referring to God: –
AHYH (Alif, Ha, Ya, Ha) = I will be, I am
Elohim (Alif, Lam, Ha, Mim) = God
YHWH (Ya, Ha, Waw, Ha) = Lord
The usage is like this: –
Ohh my YHWH, Elohim the one and only = Oh my Lord, God the one and only.
Elohim means GOD (just like that), in English speaking countries they will translate to the word ‘God’, in Arabs speaking countries they will translate to the word ‘Allah’ and to Malay speaking countries, it should be ‘Sang Tuhan’.
And this resembles to Arabic words for God: –
ALLAH (Alif, Lam, Lam, Ha with a ‘sabdu’ and Alif sign on top) = The God
Rabb (Ro, Ba) = Master, Lord
The word ALLAH originally come from the alphabet ‘Alif’, ‘Lam’, ‘Alif’, ‘Lam’, ‘Ha’ (AL – ALH). Alif, Lam (AL) is a prefix for ‘The’. Example Al-Madrasah (The school) or Al-Jazeerah (The Island).
Alif, Lam, Ha (pronounce as ILAH) means GOD. So the word Alif, Lam, Alif, Lam, Ha means The God.
Evidence – Look at live telecast of Terawikh prayer from the Masjidil Haram Mekah. The English translation for ALLAH is GOD. They didn’t remain it as ALLAH but they changed it to GOD. The English translation was prepared by the Mosque itself.
The writing of ALLAH was originally written as AL ILAH then changed to ALLAH with a ‘sabdu and alif’ sign on top.
So originally the phrase of shahadah was wrote “La ILAH ha illa AL ILAH” though the pronunciation is still “La ILAH ha illa ALLAH”. Only a couple of years after the death of Muhammad they change the writing into “LA ILAH ha illa ALLAH” to accommodate non-Arabic people to easily read the BOOK (Quran).
To answer whether is ALLAH is owned by Muslim only, as whether ELOHIM owned by Judaism only. The answer is no, it is owned by the Middle Eastern people. When the religion has spread outside the Middle East continent, they have to use their own language such as GOD (for English) or Tuhan (for Malay).
And there is also a misleading statement by Dr. Syed Alwi on Jesus as God. I believe Christian has stated clearly that only LORD is the GOD. We can get it from the 1st Christian’s commandments: –
‘Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
On the issue of Trinity, none of us can explain it very well including the Vatican people.
The 2nd misstatement by Dr. Syed is on the phrase “There is no ALLAH but ALLAH”, there is no such phrase, as the correct phrase should be “No ILAH except ALLAH”. The English translation is “No God except The God”, for Malay language we can translate into “Tiada Tuhan melainkan Si Tuhan” or “Tiada Tuhan melainkan Sang Tuhan” or just “Tiada Tuhan melainkan Tuhan”.
To answer whether is there any Proper Noun for GOD in Semitic religions?
The answer is no. The Semitic religions named God as The God.
To answer who have been using the word ALLAH besides Islam?
The answer is everyone who speaks Arabic regardless his/her religion. Sikh also uses the word ALLAH in his scriptures.
To answer whether the word Syurga and Neraka is originally from Islam or Arabs?
The answer is no. Syurga and Neraka originally from Sanskrit word; Svargah and Narakah that is found in Hindu Scripture. Quran use the word Jannah and Jahannam.
To answer whether the Malaysian Christians should used the world ALLAH, BAITULLAH and SOLAT?
The answer is no. Even the Malaysian Muslim should use proper Malay Language that is Tuhan, Rumah Tuhan and sembahyang.
Since Islam or Christian came from Middle East. We must learn the Middle East language and culture. We must know how to differentiate between Muhammad’s Moral Teaching and the Middle East culture. Not everything that sounds Arabs is Islam.
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