Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Allah And Not Tuhan?

19 April, 2011
By NH Chan
Credits: nerdrazor Source:

Credits: nerdrazor Source:

Q: Why do Christians use the word ‘Allah’ in their Malay language Bible and not ‘Tuhan’?

A: It is because Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God as the God of Abraham.

Before we all get confused, it is necessary to point out at the outset that the word which is spelt ‘Allah’ is an English word because it is written in English. The word which bears the same spelling in the National Language is a copy of that word which was first spelt in English in the sixteenth century. The English word ‘Allah’ is the phonetic spelling of the Arabic word for God.

We all know that the Malay word for god is ‘tuhan’. We also know that the God of the Muslims is Allah which is actually what this word sounds like in Arabic. Since most of us do not read or write Arabic, we tend to take the phonetic spelling of the Arabic word for God as used in English dictionaries. However, from the point of view of Christians, Christians worship the same God as Muslims do. The God of Christians and the God of Muslims is the same God as the God of Abraham. So if you are a Christian, the choice of using the word ‘Allah’ in their Malay language Bible is obvious since Christians also worship Allah which is the Malay language equivalent, since Malay uses the same English phonetic spelling - of the God of Muslims. In this country to be Malay is to be a Muslim.

Christians will not use the word ‘God’ in their Malay language Bible because God is an English word and therefore it is an inappropriate word if it is used in a Malay language Bible. In a Malay language Bible only Malay words should be used. But tuhan, although it is a Malay word for god, is not an appropriate word to use in the context and sense of the Bible. Christians who use Malay in their Bible will never use tuhan for their God because tuhan is other people’s god; it is not the God intended in the Bible. Just as Malay Muslims will never use tuhan for their God even though it is a Malay word for god because their God as well as the Christians’ God is the same God that Abraham (Ibrahim) worshipped - no one really knows exactly when Abraham lived - a traditional view is 1750 to 1500 BC.

Main Prayer Hall at the Cow Street Mosque, Beijing. Credits: kevinschoenmakers Source:

Main Prayer Hall at the Cow Street Mosque, Beijing. Credits: kevinschoenmakers Source:

Here is an example why tuhan is unsuitable to Muslims and Christians. Taoism is common among the Chinese - not all Chinese because there are also Chinese Christians and Chinese Muslims - indeed there are more Chinese Muslims in China then the entire population of Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia combined. In China a Chinese Bible is written in Mandarin and ‘Allah’ is written in Chinese phonetic characters to represent the sound of the Arabic word. A Taoist worships many gods both in heaven and in hell - I always think it is because the Chinese people want to play it safe, because either way they have appeased the deities. I don’t think any Christian or Muslim who uses Malay would worship tuhan even if you say tuhan is a Malay word for god! This is because they only worship their own God who was the God of Abraham (Ibrahim).

In the English Bible the name for God in Christianity is spelt with a capital G to mean the only God.

‘Allah’ is Arabic for God. Monotheism is the belief that there is only one god. In today’s world, the reality is only Jews, Christians and Muslims worship only one god who was the God of Abraham.

The Muslim God is spelt in any English dictionary as ‘Allah’ since the sixteenth century and it means ‘the name of God among Muslims’. In Malaysia it is also spelt exactly the same way as the English spelling when the National Language came into being after Merdeka. Both languages use Roman letters in their alphabet.


Allah is Arabic for The God - for al-Ilah, i.e. al (the) Ilah (God): see Collins English Dictionary which gives the etymology of the Arabic word for God:

[C16: from Arabic, from al the + Ilah god; compare Hebrew eloah]

If you do not already know, Arabic is the language of the Arabs which is one of a branch of the Semitic race. Aramaic pertains to the northern Semitic languages, the biblical name for ancient Syria. And Hebrew is a person belonging to the Semitic race descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Jewish is their language: The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

Also in the same Dictionary of English Etymology you will find:

Semite Hebrew, Arab, Assyrian or Aramaean, regarded as a descendent of Shem (Gen. X): see The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

Collins English Dictionary:

Semite or Shemite n. 1. a member of the group of Caucasoid peoples who speak a semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs as well as the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Phoenicians.

Semitic or Shemitic n. 1. A branch or subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages that includes Arabic, Hebrew, Araimaic, Amharic, and such ancient languages as Akkadian and Phoenician.

Shem n. Old Testament. The eldest of Noah"s three sons (Genesis 10:21).

See Also:

NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge, is a gavel of justice that has no hesitation in pounding on Federal Court judges with wooden desks for heads. Retired from the Judiciary to become the People’s Judge. Wrote the explosive "Judging The Judges", now in its 2nd edition as "How To Judge The Judges". Once famously hinted at a possible "case match" between lawyer and judge by remarking that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (see Ayer Molek Rubber Company Berhad & Ors v Insas Berhad & Anor [1995] 3 CLJ 359). We need more people like NH Chan. That is why you should buy PASOC and his book.


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