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Al-Fatihah

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can the Word "Allah" be Translated?

Much has been debated on the issue of the Catholic newspaper, Herald using the word “Allah” as a translation for the word “God” in their weekly publication (Malay version). The government had banned the newspaper from using the word “Allah” in their weekly publication but the newspaper had filed a civil suit against the government.
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Among the arguments by the newspaper/its Editor to support their usage of the word “Allah” in their weekly publication is: -
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(a) the newspaper has been using the word “Allah” as a translation for God for centuries in Malaysia;
(b) Munshi Abdullah, the father of modern Malay literature translated the bible into Malay in 1852 and he also translated “God” as “Allah”.
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There a lot of people who gave their opinion with mostly find it nothing wrong for the newspaper to use the word “Allah” as a translation for the word “God”. This is because they claimed that the word “Allah” is an Arabic translation for the word “God”. I feel sorry for these people for their ignorance in this subject matter.
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The fact that Islam was revealed through Prophet Muhammad, who was an Arab and Al-Qur’an was revealed in Arabic transcript does not at all mean that Islam is only for the Arab people. As such, there are terms in Islam which does not belong to Arab people but it belongs to Islam such as “Allah” and “Al-Qur’an”. There is no translation for these 2 words in any other language. That is why when you see the translation for azan (calling for prayer) in television, “Allahu Akbar” is translated as “Allah Maha Besar” (Allah the Greatest) and not “Tuhan Maha Besar” (God is the Greatest).
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As a simple comparison, the Prime Minister of Malaysia is Abdullah. While the phrase “Prime Minister” may be translated into any other language, the name “Abdullah” should remain as it is. It should not be translated as “Hamba Allah” (the servant of Allah). So, the same thing goes to the word “God” and “Allah”. “Allah” is the God for Muslims. While you can translate the word “God”, you can’t translate the word “Allah”.
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“Allah” is a PROPER NOUN and PROPER NOUN should not be translated into any other language. It is special. Do we call “George Bush” as “George Semak” in Malaysia? Would you understand if I say that I watched a film entitled “Pelabuhan Mutiara”? People will ask me, what movie is that? I will say, it is “Pearl Harbour”. So, a PROPER NOUN should remain as it is and should not be translated into any other language.
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By the way, for the benefit of those who are ignorance of the Arabic word for “God” (since I said earlier, it is not “Allah”), the correct word is “Rabb”.
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My question to the publisher of Herald and its Editor, Lawrence Andrew – Since the publication is in Malay, why do not you use the word “Tuhan” which is the direct translation for the word “God”? Unless you have other hidden motive, you will agree with me that you should use the word “Tuhan” and not “Allah”.
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Read also a posting by Calvin Ngan entitled “God, Allah, Tuhan and The Catholic Weekly’s Herald Print”. He presented good points except on the translation of the word God” in Arabic. Click here http://www.misterhobbes.net/god-allah-tuhan-and-the-catholic-weeklys-the-herald-print/
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And after reading Calvin Ngan, you will be ashamed to read Marina Mahathir who, despite her ignorance, has confidently and ignorantly said that “Allah” is the Arabic translation for the word “God”. She said this in response to the following comment by Buyung Adil in her blog http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-i-grew-up-reading-quran.html : -
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Hi Kak Marina, what is your opinion on whether we should allow our east malaysian christian friends to use their bible in the malay language? Do you think it's dangerous that they continue using words that are also found in the Quran?
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And this is her reply: -
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Buyung Adil, two separate things there. I agree that Allah is the Arab word for God and that it is mostly Muslims who use it. In Malay, the word is Tuhan, just as in French, the word is 'Dieu'.
However, I don't think it is dangerous to have similar words given that firstly, both Holy Books came from the same cultural origin. And secondly and most importantly, I believe Muslims do know which is which and should not get confused based on a few familiar words. If Muslims do not know that the first Surah is Al-Fatihah, then I don't know really....
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What!!! It is not dangerous to have similar words? What does she mean by "mostly Muslims who use it???!!! What!!! The Bible and Al-Qur’an came from the same cultural origin? What does she mean by that “same cultural origin”? We all know that (perhaps Marina does not know) Bible is not the divine revelation from Allah. Allah revealed Injil and not Bible. Unfortunately, there many people out there who believe in what Marina has to say or what she has said.

2 comments:

Afuw said...

Assalamu'alaikum,

I spoke to my Christian Arab friend from Alexandria, Egypt some time ago about this issue and she said that her church services are conducted in Arabic, since they're all Arabs. According to her, her Arabic Old Testament uses 'Allah' for God and the Arabic New Testament uses 'Rabb' for God or Jesus. To her, it's very simple. She said, "we're Arabs and we'll use whatever Arabic word we like."

I think it is wrong that the government had decreed that 'Allah' can only be used by Muslims, because Jewish and Christian Arabs use the word Allah as well. However, for non-Arabic speaking Christians, particularly in Malaysia, I don't see why they must translate the word God as Allah in the Malay language Herald. Since they're using the Malay language, why not use Tuhan? Don't tell me the East Malaysians don't know what Tuhan is? Also, if they say Malays shouldn't use the word Allah either since they speak Malay, it is a different thing altogether because the Qur'an's language is Arabic and all Muslims regardless of race must read the Qur'an in Arabic. The Arabic Bible, on the other hand, is just another version of the Bible, like the Chinese Bible or the Hindi Bible, or the English Bible. The original language of the Bible, apparently, is Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic. So why not use the Hebrew term for God? In the Torah, the term for God is written as the tetragrammaton represented in Roman letters as YHWH or yahweh but is always said aloud as adonai or HaShem.

Afuw

arah said...

Salam.

The word Allah does not belong only to the Muslim. There are many Christians and Jews who believe the story of Adam, Abraham, Moses and all the prophets of Islam except Muhammad ( peace be upon him). All these prophets teaches a common fundamental believe.

" There is no god except Allah"

It is very sad that the Malaysian Government are preventing non Muslim to used the word Allah.

Malaysian Government disobey many teaching of Islam including the following:

"And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in [a way] that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender" (Al-`Ankaboot: 46).

God Almighty says: " Say: O People of the Scripture. Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partners unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah…" (Aal-`Imran: 64).

It is the responsibility of all Muslim to convey the teaching of Islam but we neglected.

So let be positive and work hard to spread Islam to all mankind.

May Allah help us.

Wassalam