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Sep 29th
Home Columns Amina Rasul Can Some Christians Use “Allah” as the Name of God?
Can Some Christians Use “Allah” as the Name of God? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Amina Rasul
Written by Amina Rasul   
Saturday, 16 January 2010 20:28


By Amina Rasul

In 2007, the Malaysian government threatened to revoke the printing permit of The Herald, a Catholic newspaper, if it continued to use the word “Allah” in its Malay language section. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had prohibited The Herald’s use “Allah” “on the grounds of national security and to avoid misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims,” according to Malaysian news. Al Jazeera reports “in multi-racial
Malaysia, the government considers religion a sensitive matter and often classifies related matters as a security issue.”

The Malaysian Deputy Minister of Internal Security, Johari Baharum, had earlier declared, “The word ‘Allah’ can only be used in the context of Islam and not any other religion . . . Only Muslims can use ‘Allah.’ It’s a Muslim word, you see. It’s from [the Arabic (language)]. We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people.”

Malaysia’s Catholic Church then filed a lawsuit against the government arguing that the ban was unconstitutional and violated freedom of religion. On December 31, 2009, Malaysia’s High Court ruled that Malaysian Christians have the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” to refer to God.


If Muslims and the ‘People of the Scripture’ are enjoined by the Holy Qur’an to come together to worship God, how can we Muslims wreak violence on our neighbors when they use the Arabic word ‘Allah’ to refer to God?—Amina Rasul

V iolence broke out, with several Catholic churches firebombed and defaced. The violence threatens to continue. I am confounded, perplexed, flummoxed. Do the people of the Book not worship the same God?

If we Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the same God (although we have differences in our worship of God), should we not accept each other’s faiths based on our love of God? Should we not love each other, neighbors that we are in this global village?

This is the message behind “A Common Word,” the letter written by Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict. (


“Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered [unto Him]. [Aal ‘Imran 3:64]”

If Muslims and the “People of the Scripture” are enjoined by the Holy Qur’an to come together to worship God, how can we Muslims wreak violence on our neighbors when they use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to God?

“In faithfulness to the Holy Qur’an, we reach out to our Christian brethren that they come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions” . . . “that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God . . . ” –Shurah Aal ‘Imran, 3:64.

According to renowned Muslim scholar Abdul Aziz Said, “In the Qur’an Al-Salam, which means peace, is one of the most beautiful names of [Allah], the Arabic word for God. Allah is also used by Christian Arabs in their prayer. It is the same God.”

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest network of Muslim organizations in that region, came out with a statement welcoming the ruling of the Malaysian High Court. ISNA stated, “The Qur’an is quite explicit that Muslims worship the same God recognized by Christians. The Qur’an commands Muslims to declare that the God they worship and the one worshiped by the followers of revealed books, including Christians, is one: ‘ . . . and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit.’ [Qur’an 29:46]”

In 2008, Farish Noor, a highly-respected Malaysian scholar and historian, wrote about the origin of the word “Allah” while in
Cairo. He said, “‘Allah’ predates the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad and goes back to the pre-Islamic era. Christians had been using the word long before there were any Muslims. It is an Arabic word and thus common to all the peoples, cultures and societies where Arabic, in all its dialects, is spoken. It is also understood by millions of Arabic speakers to mean God, and little else.”


The PCID Makes A Stand

T he Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) has condemned the recent fire-bombing and defacement of several Catholic churches over the use the word “Allah” by Christians.

The PCID has called for “calm and sobriety amid the flying recriminations and the fire fanned by those who seek to sow discord among the Muslim and Christian brethren in Malaysia,” reminding that “Muslims and Christians are both people of the book and share common traditions and beliefs, foremost of which are Love of God and Love of Neighbor.”

Muslims in
Southeast Asia must recall that over ten-million Arab Christians in the Middle East have been calling God “Allah” in their Bibles and writings for centuries now.

Let us join the call on the Malaysian government to uphold the religious freedom of Christians and to let the court ruling stand.

Let reason, love and circumspection reign.
Malaysia takes pride in being a model Muslim-majority country where different religious and ethnic communities have always co-existed peacefully. After all, its tourism ads claim that “Malaysia is truly Asia,” Violence against other faiths over the use of the word for God cannot have a place in such a society. # # #

E ditor’s Note: Ms. Amina Rasul is the Lead Convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy and Trustee of the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc.



Last Updated on Saturday, 16 January 2010 20:33

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