Religion

Pencerahan Kaitan Rapat

Artikel ini bertujuan membalas kepada artikel oleh Menara.my yang bertajuk, “Kristian Di Malaysia Bersimpati Dengan Negara Haram Israel?” [1] Saya sebenarnya berpeluang menghadiri dialog tersebut dan telah menulis sebuah artikel mengenainya. [2]

Pertama sekali, tajuk artikel Menara.my ini memberikan tanggapan bahawa semua umat Kristian di Malaysia bersimpati terhadap Israel, namun dalam perenggan pertama, penulis artikel tersebut dengan tepat melaporkan bahawa apa yang dikatakan oleh Rev Hwa Yung adalah, secara umumnya orang-orang Kristian di Malaysia sememangnya bersimpati dengan Israel, atas sebab “our two faith are so closely linked” (kedua-dua agama kami begitu berkait rapat).

Adakah penulis artikel tersebut ataupun editornya menggunakan tajuk yang bersensasi (“sensational) untuk mislead mereka yang hanya membaca tajuk artikel tanpa pedulikan isi kandungannya?

Selain itu, penulis artikel itu dengan tepat memerhati bahawa “… Rev Hwa Yung tidak pula memperincikan apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan “our two faith are so closely linked”?”. Kemungkinan besar Rev Hwa Yung tidak memperincikan apa yang dimaksudkannya, kerana topik dialog tersebut, iaitu ‘Deceitful? Distracting? Or Dedicated? Evangelicals And Current Controversies In Malaysia’, tidak pun secara langsung berkaitan dengan isu pandangan umat Kristian terhadap negara Israel.

Artikel ini akan memberikan beberapa sebab mengapakah negara Israel dan agama Yahudi berkait rapat dengan agama Kristian. Saya ingin menyatakan dengan jelas bahawa poin-poin yang akan saya bangkitkan tidak mewakili Rev Hwa Yung, tetapi merupakan pandangan saya, sebagai seorang umat Kristian. 

Pertamanya, terdapat persamaan dari segi teks suci dan nabi-nabi. Tanakh yang digunakan oleh penganut agama Yahudi di negara Israel sama dengan Perjanjian Lama (“Old Testament”) dalam Alkitab (“Bible”) agama Kristian, walaupun buku-buku dalam Tanakh dan Alkitab disusun sedikit berbeza. [3]

Nabi-nabi yang disebut dalam kedua-dua buku suci dipercayai penganut agama Kristian sebagai utusan yang dihantar oleh YHWH [4] kepada umat yang dipilihNya.

Di samping itu, umat yang dipilih YHWH dalam Perjanjian Lama merupakan umat Israel (“Israelites”). Ini jelas dilihat dalam ayat-ayat Alkitab yang berikut: [5]

a) Mazmur 105:8-10:

“8. Ia ingat untuk selama-lamanya akan perjanjian-Nya, firman yang diperintahkan-Nya kepada seribu angkatan,

9. yang diikat-Nya dengan Abraham, dan akan sumpah-Nya kepada Ishak;

10. diadakan-Nya hal itu menjadi ketetapan bagi Yakub, menjadi perjanjian kekal bagi Israel …” [6]

b) Yesaya 41:8:

Tetapi engkau, hai Israel, hamba-Ku, hai Yakub, yang telah Kupilih, keturunan Abraham, yang Kukasihi;” [7]

c) Jeremiah 31:1

“Pada waktu itu, demikianlah firman TUHAN, Aku akan menjadi Allah segala kaum keluarga Israel dan mereka akan menjadi umat-Ku.” [8]

Bukan sahaja itu malah terdapat ramalan (“prophecy”) dalam Alkitab bahawa Mesias (“Messiah”) merupakan seorang umat Israel. Mari kita mengambil contoh, Bilangan 24:17 menyatakan bahawa Mesias merupakan bintang terbit dari Yakub (“star coming out of Jacob”):

“Aku melihat dia, tetapi bukan sekarang; aku memandang dia, tetapi bukan dari dekat; bintang terbit dari Yakub, tongkat kerajaan timbul dari Israel, dan meremukkan pelipis-pelipis Moab, dan menghancurkan semua anak Set.” [9]

Mesias juga diramalkan sebagai keturunan Daud, dan ramalan ini menerima pemenuhan dalam Yesus Kristus. [10] 2 Samuel 7:12-13 menyatakan:

“12. Apabila umurmu sudah genap dan engkau telah mendapat perhentian bersama-sama dengan nenek moyangmu, maka Aku akan membangkitkan keturunanmu yang kemudian, anak kandungmu, dan Aku akan mengokohkan kerajaannya.

13. Dialah yang akan mendirikan rumah bagi nama-Ku dan Aku akan mengokohkan takhta kerajaannya untuk selama-lamanya.” [11]

Tambahan pula, Mesias dikatakan akan dilahirkan di Betlehem. Mikha 5:2:

“Tetapi engkau, hai Betlehem Efrata, hai yang terkecil di antara kaum-kaum Yehuda, dari padamu akan bangkit bagi-Ku seorang yang akan memerintah Israel, yang permulaannya sudah sejak purbakala, sejak dahulu kala.” [12]

Matius 2:1-6 [13] dan Yohanes 7:40-43 [14] dengan jelas mengindikasikan bahawa Yesus memenuhi ramalan ini.

Lanjutan daripada itu, Alkitab menceritakan bahawa YHWH masih ada rancangan untuk Israel. Dalam buku Roma, bab 11, ayat 1 dan 2, firman YHWH berkata,

“1. Maka aku bertanya: Adakah Allah mungkin telah menolak umat-Nya? Sekali-kali tidak! Karena aku sendiripun orang Israel, dari keturunan Abraham, dari suku Benyamin.

2. Allah tidak menolak umat-Nya yang dipilih-Nya …” [15]

Dalam bab yang sama, ayat 25 hingga 29 memberitahu kita bahawa,

“25. Sebab, saudara-saudara, supaya kamu jangan menganggap dirimu pandai, aku mau agar kamu mengetahui rahasia ini: Sebagian dari Israel telah menjadi tegar sampai jumlah yang penuh dari bangsa-bangsa lain telah masuk.

26. Dengan jalan demikian seluruh Israel akan diselamatkan, seperti ada tertulis: “Dari Sion akan datang Penebus, Ia akan menyingkirkan segala kefasikan dari pada Yakub.

27. Dan inilah perjanjian-Ku dengan mereka, apabila Aku menghapuskan dosa mereka.”

28. Mengenai Injil mereka adalah seteru Allah oleh karena kamu, tetapi mengenai pilihan mereka adalah kekasih Allah oleh karena nenek moyang.

29. Sebab Allah tidak menyesali kasih karunia dan panggilan-Nya.” [15]

Adalah diharapkan dengan artikel ini bahawa mereka yang bukan beragama Kristian dapat lebih memahami hubungan unik di antara negara Israel, agama Yahudi, dan agama Kristian. Walapun terbuktinya sebuah kaitan yang rapat, kita perlu mengingati kenyataan Rev Hwa Yung yang kebanyakan “orang-orang Kristian di Malaysia bukanlah Kristian Zionis.” Secara amnya, mereka hanya bersimpati dengan Israel kerana kaitan rapat yang telah diperincikan di atas.

[1] https://www.menara.my/kristian-di-malaysia-bersimpati-dengan-negara-haram-israel/

[2] https://rebuttedopinions.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/post-dialogue-reflections/

[3] https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/YHWH

[4] https://www.hsutx.edu/hsubb/learningobjects/overviewoftheoldtestament/attachments/Canons_of_the_Old_Testament.pdf)

[5] Lihat juga ayat-ayat seperti Ulangan 7:6-8 Ulangan 14:2, 2 Samuel 7:23-24, 1 Raja-raja 10:9
1 Tawarikh 17:20-21, Mazmur 135:4, dan Yesaya 44:21

[6] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=19&c=5

[7] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=23&c=41

[8] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=24&c=31

[9] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=4&c=24

[10] Lihat Matius 1:1, Lukas 1:32-33, dan Wahyu  22:16

[11] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=10&c=7

[12] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=mikha&c=5

[13] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=matius&c=2

[14] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=yohanes&c=7

[15] http://www.sabda.org/sabdaweb/bible/chapter/?b=Roma&c=11

Post-Dialogue Reflections

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a dialogue yesterday, entitled “Deceitful? Distracting? Or Dedicated? Evangelicals & Current Controversies”, which was organised by Kairos Dialogue Network (KDN) and the STM Centre for Religion and Society. [1]

First off, I have to say that I was greatly encouraged by the number of muslims who attended the dialogue, especially since the event was held on Wesley Methodist KL’s grounds, albeit in a multipurpose hall. There were also attendees from IKRAM (Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia), ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia), and the CFM (Christian Federation of Malaysia).

Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung started off his presentation by briefly mentioning a few issues which have recently arisen, namely, accusations against YB Hannah Yeoh’s biography [2], the planned Jerusalem Jubilee event [3], the CEO of CENTHRA (Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy)
calling for evangelicalism to be outlawed in Malaysia [4], and YB Nik Abduh’s statement that Christians have infiltrated a major political party in the country to carry out their Christianisation agenda [5].

Dr Hwa Yung went on to say that such issues are based on a confusion of terms, a misrepresentation of who evangelicals are, and religion being highly politicised. He then explained the difference between evangelicals, evangelicalism, and evangelism, based on an article written by local Christian theologian, Dr Ng Kam Weng. [6]

The fact that the CEO of a think tank conflated such terms [7] are highly illustrative of why interfaith/interreligious dialogues are necessary! If the CEO of a think tank could make such a mistake, what more us ordinary folks?

Dr Mazlee, later in the dialogue, gave an example of Christians praying for the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and how Muslims may be alarmed because they fail to understand what a Christian means when he/she says that. Understanding each other can most definitely, allay unnecessary fears and conflicts.

During his allotted time, Dr Mazlee Malik raised a good point, suggesting that one of the ways forward is by dialoguing, but more specifically, by engaging more mainline islamic groups such as ABIM, PERKIM (Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia), and MACMA (Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association). Or even figures like the Mufti of the Federal Territories and/or the Mufti of Perlis, both of whom represent the more mainstream Islam.

On top of Dr Mazlee’s suggestions, I would like to put forth certain propositions for the consideration of any party concerned in this matter.

Firstly, civil societies like Kairos Dialogue Network should go even further than what Dr Mazlee suggested, by engaging with groups like ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) which are perceived as more hard-line.

Its president, Dr Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, has been under the spotlight in recent years due to a few controversial statements he has made [8] [9]. It would be good for him to be able to present his views on interfaith matters, free of any misrepresentation, and to be allowed defend them under scrutiny (either through the questions of fellow panellists or by way of questions from the audience).

Inviting speakers of differing views would also make the dialogues more productive. As much as I respect Dr Mazlee and his willingness to participate in these dialogues, his moderate views might result in the dialogues being an echo chamber or information cocoon of some sort.

Perhaps these dialogues could also be streamed live on platforms such as Facebook and/or Youtube. Although yesterday’s dialogue was recorded, a live stream would allow the entire discussion to be shared on social media, hence raising awareness about the existence of such events. People who could not attend the dialogue due to a plethora of reasons would be able to have access to the content of what was discussed, in the event there is a livestream.

Besides that, the moderator, Rev Dr Sivin Kit mentioned before the start of the Q&A sessions that the organisers are aware of suggestions that the dialogues should be conducted in the national language and be held elsewhere. It is my sincere hope that the organisers can implement these recommendations in the future. Having these dialogues in the national language would allow the information discussed to be heard and .understood by a greater majority of Malaysians.

Furthermore, if muslim groups are open to this idea, future dialogues could/should be held on mosque grounds (not necessarily at the area where prayers are conducted if that would be inappropriate). Understandably, not all Muslims are comfortable entering church grounds. Thus, having it on mosque grounds would it much easier for Muslims to participate in these dialogues.

It cannot be stressed how important interfaith dialogues are, especially in our multireligious society. Efforts by organisations such as KDN should be applauded. Ordinary Malaysians should make time to attend these events as it would allow them to have their misconceptions corrected, and to allow them to ask any pressing questions they may have been dealing with.

[1] http://bit.ly/2sY8Hxr

[2] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/3574/

[3] https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/06/246100/home-minister-bans-jerusalem-jubilee-gathering-malaysia; see also Christ Church bishop Jason Selvaraj’s criticism of the planned event ( https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/06/246008/christian-leader-questions-insensitive-jerusalem-jubilee-celebration)

[4] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5196/

[5] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5405/

[6] http://www.krisispraxis.com/archives/2017/06/evangelical-essentials-correcting-ill-informed-muslim-activists-and-fitnah-against-christians

[7] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5196/; see also Joshua Woo Sze Zeng’s article addressing the history of evangelicalism (http://m.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/three-things-about-evangelicalism-malaysians-should-know-joshua-woo-sze-zen/)

[8] http://m.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-work-paper-isma-claims-multiple-global-conspiracies-to-wipe-out-malays/

[9] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2014/01/13/isma-islam-under-threat/

*This article was featured in Free Malaysia Today

Penal Code Pun Boleh!

This article is in response to the recent protest outside a church in Taman Medan, Selangor

The Inspector General of Police’s brother (who was present at the protest), was quoted as saying that “the residents [of Taman Medan] just panicked after seeing the cross. They were uncomfortable and sensitive.”

“Some of them complained that the first thing they saw when they opened their windows was the cross.”

As a result of their “uncomfortableness”, a group of about 50 people decided to protest in front of the church, demanding that its leaders “remove the cross symbol on the outside of its shop lot premises”

It was then reported that the cross was taken down by church leaders a few hours after the protest

The ever impartial Inspector General of Police remarked that the protest was not seditious as “it did not touch on Christianity but only on the location of the church”

Is the whole issue truly on the location of the church as claimed by the IGP, or was it about the cross “affixed to the house of worship”?

It is widely reported that the protest was to get the church to remove the cross which was allegedly “challenging Islam” as well as “could sway the faith of the youth”

Clearly the issue is not about the location of the church, but about the presence of the cross. So, is the IGP trying to justify the unjustifiable? Or was he misinformed of the purpose of the entire protest?

The entire incident can easily be construed to fall under the ambit of Section 3(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948. The particular provision defines a seditious tendency as a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia

Any reasonable person would be able to come to the conclusion that the entire protest AT LEAST had the tendency (a very low standard) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between the Muslims and the Christians

However, one need not rely on the Sedition Act as the Penal Code, specifically section 298A(1) makes it an offence if an action

(a) causes/attempts to cause/is likely to cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or

(b) prejudices/attempts to prejudice/is likely to prejudice the maintenance of harmony or unity

on grounds of religion

It is hard to see how our present facts does not satisfy the wordings of the above section. Similar to the Sedition Act, “likely to cause” and “likely to prejudice” imposes a very low standard to be satisfied

So dear IGP, you need not trouble yourself and even consider the controversial Sedition Act. You have the Penal Code at your disposal!

Whether or not the protesters should be charged in a court of law, is a task for the Attorney General. Whether it actually amounts to an offence, is for the Judiciary to decide. Considering the public interest in this case, it at least warrants an investigation on the part of the police force

*This article appeared in The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online and Free Malaysia Today

Bibles and Selangor

Many of us would like to express our gratitude to Selangor MB, Azmin Ali for orchestrating the return of the Malay and Iban language bibles which were seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) in January 2014

Under the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution (which contains the legislative lists), religion is under the purview of the state

As per Frank Murphy (former US Supreme Court judge), “religious freedom is too sacred a right to be restricted or prohibited in any degree without convincing proof that a legitimate interest of the state is in grave danger”

Although religious issues are under the scope of the state, it is trite law that state enactments cannot contradict the Federal Constitution which is the ultimate law of the land.

Prima facie, the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988 is constitutional as it is made as per Article 11(4) Federal Constitution which allows for laws to be made to control or restrict the propogation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam

Under section 9(1)(a) of the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988,

a person commits an offence if he in any published writing uses any of the words listed in Part I of the Schedule, or any of its derivatives or variations, to express or describe any fact, belief, idea, concept, act, activity, matter, or thing of or pertaining to any non-Islamic religion

At first glance it appears as though as the Malay and Iban bibles breached s. 9(1)(a) by virtue of containing “Allah.” However, there shouldn’t be an offence under the enactment for the following reasons

Firstly, there is no proof of propogation because the bibles were taken from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)’s premises. At most, JAIS can say they acted under suspicion, but whether their suspicion is reasonable is a different story

Then BSM president, Lee Min Choon, pointed out that all its Malay bibles were imprinted with a picture of the cross and the words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ on the cover and noted that the Home Ministry regularly inspects its bible shipment imports .

This is a huge sacrifice on the part of BSM to abide by the law in order to ensure that its customers may have access to Malay bibles

As to why the bibles are in our national language, “more than 60 per cent of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is “Allah.”

“The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca” (Christian Federation of Malaysia)

Regarding why the Bibles are in Selangor and not in Sabah and Sarawak, it is important to note that BSM is the one that imports, prints and distributes Malay bibles to Sarawak and Sabah (as per Nic Ng, BSM’s executive council member). Perhaps the bibles were in storage awaiting importation?

Even if some of the bibles were not to be imported, it shouldn’t be an issue that the bibles are in Selangor because there are Malay speaking Christians in peninsula Malaysia (e.g. sabahans and sarawakians who come over looking for jobs)

If Malay language bibles aren’t allowed in Selangor, it would most definitely infringe on the right of the Malay speaking Christians to freely practice their religion (enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution)

In June, after much investigation and deliberation, the Attorney-General (AG) accurately concluded that JAIS erred in seizing the bibles and ordered for the case to be closed.

US Politician, Mike Quigley once wisely said that the “protection of religious freedom means considering the faiths and beliefs of everyone involved.”

In future, JAIS and other religious enforcement agencies should not be so overzealous, especially when dealing with holy books of other religions. Perhaps a more thorough investigation (which would have made the raid unnecessary) could have prevented this dark dent in our history

Even if the roles were reversed and Qur’ans were superfluously seized, right thinking Malaysians would stand up and speak out against the blatant infringement of the freedom of religion!

*This awesome article featured in The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Malaysia Chronicle, and The Malay Mail Online

The Use Of “Allah”

The whole “Allah” issue has somewhat been a thorn in our flesh. Just recently, Selangor MB, Azmin Ali exclaimed that the siezed Bibles belongs to the Christians and should thus be returned to them.

Abu Bakar Yahya (Selangor Perkasa chief) then expressed his concern that Azmin’s action of returning the Bibles with the word “Allah” in them would “…threaten the future of Malay Muslim youth. This means Islam is under threat”

Despite the fact that the Christian Federation of Malaysia wrote an article explaining when, why, and how the word “Allah” is used in the Al-Kitabs, there is still a general lack of understanding amongst Malaysians.

Let me now clarify that I’m not a religious scholar or even remotely trained in the field of comparative religions. I am just a Malaysian who is trying to be objective about the use of the word “Allah” by Christians

Let us consider the following propositions:

Proposition 1: “Allah” is an arabic word

Many academics hold the view that the word “Allah” is derived from the arabic words “al” (the) and “ilah” (god/deity).

“Allah is formed by joining the definite article al meaning ‘the’ with Ilah (God). Literally, Allah means ‘The God’.” [Huston Smith, The World’s Religions, p.222]

“Etymologically, Allah is probably a contraction of the Arabic al-ilahh, “the God,” although the Aramaic Alaha has also been proposed. The origin of the name can be traced to the earliest Semitic writings in which the word for god was Il or El, the latter bring in the Old Testament synonym for Yahweh. Known to Arabs even in pre-Islamic times, Allah is standard Arabic for God and is used by Arab Christians as well as Muslims.” [Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia (Vol. 1; p. 250)]

Renowned Iranian-American scholar of religious studies, Reza Aslan also supports this proposition

[d] (k) r ‘l’-’lh bn’mt Mnfw w-Tlh’ bn Mr’ l-Qys w-Srgw bn S’dw w-Strw w-Syl [.] thw.

The apparent scribblings above is actually a pre-Islamic archaeological inscription (dated ca. 512AD) found in Zabad (60km south-east of Aleppo) that shows the word al-ilah was already used by Christians then

Operating on the assumption that “Allah” was derived from “al” and “ilah,” the only apparent requirement to the use of the Arabic word would be monotheism. As we all know, words must be used according to its meaning, and in the proper context

A huge misconception is that Christians believe and worship three gods, hence their usage of the “Allah” word is erroneous. That could not be further from the truth!

The doctrine of the Trinity refers to ONE God who exists as THREE distinct persons. The fact that Christians believe in and worship only ONE God would render their usage of the word “Allah” according to its meaning and in the proper context

If “Allah” is truly an Arabic word, it’s definition would be based on its meaning and not what the Qur’an says in Surah Al-Ikhlas (112th Sura of the Qur’an) or what other sources say are the prerequisite to the use of the word

Many scholars have also brought forward the idea that the use of “Allah” predates Islam

The word ‘Allah’ was a term used for the supreme God in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam. (The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam ed., H.A.R. Gibb & J.H.Kramer and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito)

“The name Allah is also evident in archaeological and literary remains of pre Islamic Arabia” (Dr Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret , New York:OUP, 1956, p. 31)

“Allah is found . . . in Arabic inscriptions prior to Islam” ( Encyclopedia Britannica, I:643)

The translation of the Al-Kitab is not from the English translation but based on the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible. In the Hebrew language, the word ‘God’ has the same root form as the Arabic language. So, when the word ‘God’ was first translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the translators merely followed the Arabic Christian usage and retained the word ‘Allah’

Historically, Malay-speaking Christians in South-East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The proofs are as follows:

• The Kitab salat as-sawai or Christian catechisms in Malay written in 1514 and published around 1545,

• The printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay by A.C. Ruyl in 1629,

image

• Malay-Latin Dictionary was printed in Rome in 1631 (The Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinum and Latinum – Malaicum)

• The translation of Genesis by D. Brouwerius (1662),

• M. Leijdecker’s translation (1733),

• H.C. Klinkert’s translation (1879),

• W.A. Bode’s translation (1938), and

• The complete Malay Bible of 1731-1733 containing the word ‘Allah’ for God.

image

There is also a book from the 19th century titled “Porkara Terakhir” (The Final Matter). It is a book of prayers for Catholics in native Malay. A text in the book goes, “Ia, Maha Penebus ku, tiap kali beita sudah buat dosa, sudahlah beita mengalau angkau deri hati ku, sambel choba membunoh Allah sabuleh nha…” It is a day-to-day language of the ancient or olden Malay Language; sentences like that do not exist in the Indonesian language

Furthermore, there is a Catholic prayer book titled “Worship Daily”, published in 1890, which also used ancient Malay. An example of a text in the book is “Sapuloh Penhurohan Allah”, which is the 10 Pillars of Biblical Commandments (Ten Commandments). Note how both of those books use the word “Allah” to mean God

Not many of us are aware by this but even the Sikh holy book mentions “Allah” quite a number of times. Surprisingly we don’t hear the likes of Perkasa and ISMA creating a ruckus over this fact.

Proposition 2: “Allah” is not an Arabic word

“Allah … is a proper name applied to the Being Who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes of perfection, a proper name denoting the true god … the al being inseparable from it, not derived…” (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon)

If Allah is not an arabic word, is it only exclusive to muslims considering their worldwide usage? In January 2013, PAS’ Syura Council decreed that “Allah” is a specific and holy word used to refer to the Muslims’ god

However, former Perlis mufti, Dato’ Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said that Islam allows for followers of other faiths to call their gods “Allah” if they are referring to the Supreme Being

Swiss-Muslim theologian Dr Tariq Ramadan is also of the opinion that “Allah” is not exclusive to the Muslims

According to Francis Edwards Peters , “The Qur’ān insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews (29:46)

If indeed no one but the muslims are allowed to use “Allah,” wouldn’t Saudi Arabia (where Islam came from) and Indonesia (the country with the largest population of muslims in the world) have said/did something about it a long time ago?

Instead, what we see is that the usage of “Allah” is tolerated and is not even a point of contention in those countries (unlike here in Malaysia)

Now let’s look at some frequently asked questions

FAQ 1: Why must the Christians use BM?

First and foremost, BM is the national language. On top of that, more than 60 per cent of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is ‘Allah’.

The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca.

Nowehere in English, Tamil or Mandarin church services would you hear the word “Allah” being mentioned

FAQ 2: Why don’t Christians use “Tuhan” as the BM translation for “God”?

The current position in the Al-Kitab is that “Tuhan” is used as the BM translation for “Lord” while “Allah” is used for “God.” In Isaiah chapter 41 and verse 13; also 43:3 and 51:15. “For I am the LORD, your GOD…” is translated as “Akulah TUHAN, ALLAH kamu…”. (ALKITAB : Berita Baik. 2001. 2nd edition. Published by the Bible Society of Malaysia).

It creates an absurd situation if Christians have to translate the biblical phrase ‘Lord God’ as Tuhan Tuhan. The repeated words Tuhan Tuhan indicates plurality in Bahasa Malaysia, and creates the false impression that Christians believe in many gods, which is fundamentally incorrect theologically

FAQ 3: Why doesn’t the Vatican or Christians in the West use “Allah”?

The answer is pretty simple. If “Allah” is an arabic word for “God”, the Vatican and the Christians in the West wouldn’t need to use it because they have other word(s) in their language(s) to mean “God”

A basic analogy would be the word “makan” which is the BM word for “eat.” How come we never ask why the Vatican or Westerners don’t use the word “makan”? That’s because it’s common sense that in whatever language they speak, there would be a word/words that mean “eat,” hence there is no need for the word “makan”

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI used “Al-Rab” when giving a blessing in Arabic. Many Malaysians then got the idea that instead of using “Allah,” why not follow the Pope and use “Al-Rab”?

First of all, Al-Rab is arabic for “The Lord” and NOT “The God.” Therefore, even if the Christians in Malaysia were to use “Al-Rab,” it would only be replacing the word “Tuhan” and not the word “Allah” in the Al-Kitab

Besides that, the literal meaning of the word “Rab” is Sustainer , Master and/or “Nourisher” which bears more resemblance with the English word “Lord” than “God”

FAQ 4: Why not use “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” instead?

The answer is similar to that of FAQ 1. Jehovah is a Latinisation of the Hebrew יְהֹוָה , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH). YHWH is in ancient Hebrew which has no vowels, thus its pronunciation is not agreed on.

However, most academics agree that “Yahweh” is the most accepted way to say it. In some English language Bibles, YHWH is written in all capital letters as “LORD,” as in Jewish tradition

Jehovah and Yahweh are in English. The issue is, how do we convert the original Hebrew word to BM in order that it may be used in the Al-Kitab? And even IF that’s possible, how do you change hundreds of years of using “Allah” to this new word?

Sources:
Christian Federation of Malaysia’s article
Project Dialogue’s interview of Father Andrew 
The Micah Mandate
Bible Believers
PLIM Report
Sikhi Wiki
The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Some Christian denominations claim that the New Testament (NT) salvation, baptism of water, and baptism of the Holy Spirit (HS) are concurrent acts, while others believe the acts are separate

Concurrent = happen at the same time, simultaneous. Acts 2:38 is often mentioned to support the claim that salvation, water baptism, and Spirit reception is a single act with three different aspects to it

Acts 2:38
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How can this verse be used to indicate that salvation, water baptism, and the baptism of the HS are concurrent acts? This verse can be read two ways.

Firstly, when you repent and be baptized, you will receive the HS (supports concurrence). Secondly, after you repent and be baptized, you will receive the HS (contradicts concurrence).

So this verse does NOT clearly indicate that salvation, water baptism, and baptism of the Holy Spirit are concurrent acts.

Acts 8:13
13 Simon (the Sorcerer) himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Phillip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw

My Point (MP): Acts 8:13 tells us that Simon the sorcerer was baptised. Was it of water or of the HS? Or both, as some claim it’s concurrent? The verse on its own doesn’t tell us much

Acts 8:18-19
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money
19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

MP: It is now clear that Simon’s baptism was of water because he wanted the baptism of the HS. So Simon believed, underwent water baptism but had not received the baptism of the HS

How then can salvation, water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit be concurrent? Of course one verse isnt sufficient evidence to refute the concurrence claim. Let us now look at Acts 10:44-48

Acts 10:44-48
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message
45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out
46 For they heard them speaking in tongues (or other languages) and praising God. Then Peter said,
47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have”
48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days

MP: Here we see that after Peter spoke to the crowd at Cornelius’ house [made up of his relatives and close friends (Acts 10:24)], they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

Did they believe? Most likely. Were they baptised of water? No, according to Acts 10:47-48. Here we see again that salvation, baptism of water, and baptism of the HS are not concurrent and/or in that specific order.

If Peter were to disallow the gentiles at Cornelius’ house to be baptised of water, they would only be saved, and be baptised of the HS. Thus, it is perfectly possible to have received salvation, undergo the baptism of the Holy Spirit yet not be baptized of water

Acts 19:1-6
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples
2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when (or after) you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
5 On hearing this, they were baptized into (or in) the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues (or other languages) and prophesied

MP: The disciples at Ephesus believed and received John’s baptism (i.e. water baptism) but have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Again we see the incoherence of the concurrence claim with Scriptures

Conclusion
The verses above show us that salvation, water baptism, and baptism of the Holy Spirit are different acts. Therefore, the concurrence claim is greatly flawed.

Similarly in today’s context, the baptism of the HS does not come automatically with salvation. It can come by the laying of the apostles’ hands (Acts 8:18, Acts 19:6), by hearing the message (Acts 10:44) or any way God wants because His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and He’s capable of doing anything!

The Bible and Its Translations

There is a grave misconception amongst non-christians that the Bible is no longer accurate as its meaning has been lost due to translation

First of all, let us understand why the Bible is translated. The Old Testament (OT) was originally in Aramic and Hebrew while the New Testament (NT) was in Koine (common) Greek.

How many of us are able to read in those languages? That is exactly why the Bible needs to be translated! It is basically so that people all over the world may be able to read the Bible in their native language

For example, in Malaysia, we have the bible in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Tamil, and in the Iban language (a.k.a Bup Kudus). Without a Bible in a language understood by the reader, one may not be able to practice & profess his religion properly

After you have understood that, you may be wondering why then are there so many English translations? Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone used the same first ever English translation?

The explanation is quite simple. Over the years, certain English words like “jangling”, “subtil”, “privily”, and “holpen” are no longer used and need to be replaced by words of the same meaning that are understood by the reader

Although there are various versions of the English Bible, the different translations always use the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and texts as their textual basis.

For the NT, the New International Version (NIV) relied on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament while for the OT, the NIV looked into the Biblia Hebraica Masoretic Hebrew Text, Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, Aramaic Targums, Juxta Hebraica of Jerome

Meanwhile, the New Living Translation (NLT) used the Greek New Testament (UBS 4th revised edition) and Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition in translating the NT, as well as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, with some Septuagint influence for the OT

If you are still unconvinced as to the accuracy and consistency of the Bible after translation, let us look into the popular verse of John 3:16 in different translations

1. New International Version
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. New Living Translation
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

3. English Standard Version
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

4. Holman Christian Standard Bible
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

5. NET Bible
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

6. Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his Son, The Only One, so that everyone who trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life.

7. GOD’S WORD® Translation
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life

8. World English Bible
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

So is the Bible inaccurate due to translation? Absolutely not! Although the Bible has been translated into many languages, the translation is done without altering the meaning of the original word used. No one who translates the Bible dares to change anything because of what is said in the Word of God

Proverbs 30:6
6 Do not add to his (God’s) words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar

Deuteronomy 4:2
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you

Revelation 22:18-19
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll
19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll

In actual fact, the Bible is very much like the Al-Quran in the sense that has been translated into various languages. Everyone knows that the Al-Quran is originally in Arabic but did you know that English and Bahasa Malaysia translations exist?

On top of that, the different sources (e.g. Sahih International, Muhsin Khan, Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Dr. Ghali) have come up with transliteration of the Al-Quran. What is all this for if not for the convenience of the readers? 

Similar to the Bible, I believe no scholar/organisation in charge of translating would dare to alter the meaning of the original word for fear of divine repercussions

*Featured at The Malay Mail Online