Volume. XXIV, No. 52
Sunday, 27 June 2010


Should Christians Use the word Allah?


Introduction

Should Christians use the word ‘Allah’ for their God?Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this question. The answer to this seemingly controversial question can either be \'yes\' or no\' depending on how one uses the term. For, the potential subject of discussion involves more with \'semantics\' than of \'theology\'. Theologically speaking, if \'Allah\' simply means to refer to the god Muslims worship, clearly Christians should not use the term ‘Allah’ to invoke to the God of the Bible. The Bible is crystal clear that there is only One God and He is Jehovah (Deut 6:4)—there is none other. However, if we determine to explore whether Christians should use the word “Allah” for their God or whether the word ‘Allah’ is equivalent to ‘Yahweh,\' or ‘the LORD,’ then we must look into semantic and etymological background of the word, ‘Allah’ before we can derive at better understanding of this subject.
 
Semantics
The word \'Allah\' was not invented by Muslims. Allah is a standard Arabic word for God. The term Allāh is derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- "the" and ilāh "deity, god". Therefore, the word‘Al-lāh’ means "the [sole] deity, God". Cognates of the name "Allāh" exists in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. The corresponding Aramaic form is אֱלָהָא Ĕlāhā in Biblical Aramaic and Alâhâ or Ālōho in Syriac. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allah
 
Etymology
Unfortunately, the word ‘Allah’ has been misused by Arabian pagans who have used this word to refer to their pagan gods even before the rise of Islam. To the Pre-Islamic Arabians in Mecca, Allah was not considered as the sole divinity; however ‘Allah’ was considered by Meccans as the ‘creator of the world’ and the ‘giver of rain’. (L. Gardet, "Allah", Encyclopedia of Islam). The Meccans also believed that ‘Allah’ was associated with companions, whom pre-Islamic Arabs considered as subordinate deities and regarded him was the principal, though not the only, deity of Mecca. Therefore, the name, ‘Allah’ is an ancient one which predates the religion of Islam. In fact the name Allah occurs in two South Arabic inscriptions, one a Minaean found at al-\'Ula and the other a Sabaean….in the Lihyanite inscriptions of the fifth century B.C. The name also occurs as Hallah in the Safa inscriptionsfive centuries before Islam and also in a pre-Islamic Christian Arabic inscription found in umm-al-Jimal, Syria, and ascribed to the sixth century. In fact, the name of Muhammad\'s father was \'Abd-Allah’ or \'Abdullah’ which means, the servant of ‘Allah’ or ‘servant of the God’. (Adapted from: History Of The Arabs, Philip K. Hitti, 1937, p 96-101).
 
It is clear that this word ‘Allah’ has already been used or misused by Arabian pagans prior to the rise of Islam in the 6th century. This perfectly \'good\' word has since been \'borrowed\' by the Muslims over the centuries who would claim that ‘Allah’ refer to the same God that Abraham worshipped although the Islamic theology clearly suggests otherwise. In other words, both the Arabian pagans (ie. prior to the rise of Islam) and the Muslims in the past and today simply hijacked a perfectly \'good\' standard word in the Arabic language and have distorted its meaning with their bad theology. 
 
Is ‘Allah’ a Proper Name of a Deity?
Since the name “Allah" is a standard Arabic word for God, it is not a proper name for a deity, but a descriptor that means literally, ‘the god’. All pagan cultures have these generic terms that refer to their ‘top god’ as ‘the god’. To every pagan culture, there is a belief in a Supreme god, who they believe to be ‘the god’ above all other gods. To the Egyptians, that ‘god” is the ‘Sun god.’ To the Chinese, that ‘god’ is ‘Huang Tian Shang Ti,’ which was also a generic descriptor of the Supreme heavenly being, but not a proper name of any particular Chinese god, which was later incorporated by the translators of the Chinese Bible in the late 19th century. Similarly, the word ‘Allah’ is a descriptor of such Supreme Being, a word that is used to describe ‘what’ people believe, not ‘who’ they believe. Therefore, in comparison to God of the Bible, the word ‘Allah’ itself originally means no more than the Hebrew word ‘elohim’ (God) or Greek ‘theos’ (God) which are not proper names of the one True God of the Bible. ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ or ‘YHWH’ is the only revealed proper name for the "Elohim" (God) of the Old Testament. When Moses said to Israelites, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD,” (Deut 6:4) he was both reminding them of who (ie. proper name) they worshipped and what (ie. descriptor) they worshipped. The LORD (Jehovah) is ‘who’ they worshiped and God (Elohim) is ‘what’ they worshipped.
 
In light of these findings, we may conclude that Islam has no proper name for their god, but merely transformed, by universal use, the generic term ‘Allah’ into a ‘proper name’. When Mohammed proclaimed his creed: \'There is no God but Allah,\' he was basically saying, “There is no God but ‘the God’”. He was not giving the god he worshipped a ‘name’ nor was he given one. Although today, Muslims use "Allah" as a proper name, it was never used this way originally. The word ‘Allah’ occurs already in pre-Mohammedan times, both in inscriptions and in compound personal names like ‘Abdullah,’ as already mentioned shows this Arabic word has been ‘hijacked’. In a sense, the word ‘Allah,’ is equivalent to ‘elohim’ (Hebrew) and ‘ho theos’ (Greek) but not ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ because ‘Allah’ is technically never a proper name of the Muslim God, it is only a descriptor of ‘what’ (the god) they claim to worship not ‘who’ (a name) they worship. However Muslims will claim that ‘Allah’ is the ‘name’ of their God that corresponds to Jehovah or the God who Abraham worshipped—so be it. No religious group should monopolize a generic name of any language by twisting its usage and meaning. Having said that the word ‘Allah’ is equivalent to ‘elohim’ and ‘ho theos,’ this does not suggest they are directly corresponded. It certainly doesn’t prove ‘Allah’ is the same as the God of the Bible. It also does not prove that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The word ‘Allah’ is equivalent to ‘elohim’ and ‘ho theos’ only in a generic sense in the context used as a descriptor.
 
Advantages and Disadvantages 
Christians (ie. Malaysian, Indonesian and Arab Christians) have adopted the word ‘Allah’ to refer to the God of the Bible with the introduction of the translation of the Bible in their vernacular tongues in the early 20th century. There are advantages and disadvantages of using this word. One of the advantages is that non-Christians who speak Arabic, Indonesian or Malaysian would immediate relate to what we would try to convey when we share the gospel to them with regard to some aspects of theology (ie. theology proper). They would know that we are referring to the \'Sole Deity or God\' or ‘Supreme Being of the Universe,’ ‘the Creator’ and ‘Judge and Rewarder’ of All Mankind (ie. these are some of the basic theological concepts they would probably already have in mind). However, the disadvantages are that they might think that Islam and Christianity are compatible religions and that Muslims and Christians both worship the same God. The worst scenario is that they might even assume that there is no need for them to convert to Christianity or be \'born again\' since they might falsely assume that they also worship the same \'God\' as Christians.   
 
In Conclusion:
Should Christians Use the Word ‘Allah’?There is no need to discourage Christians from using a genetic word for God. Having said that if Christians are to use the word Allah, they need to be prepared to inform and explain to non-Christians as they witness to them when the word ‘Allah’ is used and educate new converts of the correct understanding of the word \'Allah,\' within its proper semantic and etymological usage. At the end of the day, we could also ask ourselves another question: "Should we use the word \'gay\' to describe someone who is ‘carefree,’ ‘happy,’ or ‘bright and showy’"? Most Christians and cultural conservatives have abandoned the use of this word because Homosexuals/Lesbians have hijacked, distorted and corrupted a perfectly \'good\' English word since the 1950s. Similarly, when comes to the word \'Allah,\' I believe Christians could decide to do one of the two things. We could allow other religions to further \'distort\' and \'corrupt\' this good word that Christians in the future would never use this word again to refer to the God of the Bible; yet be prepared that the ‘new word’ that Christians adopt may soon also be subjected to corruption by the pagans in the future. Or, Christians can reclaim this perfectly \'good\' word by informing non-Christians who we are trying to reach and educating God\'s people what the word \'Allah\' truly means for the advancement of God’s kingdom and for the edification of the saints. To God be the Glory!
Ps Weng
*******
24th Anniversary Greetings
"On this special day, we cannot but give thanks and praises to the Lord, who is rich in His mercy, and with His great love He has loved
Hope church over the years till now. Hope church has been striving to be the pillars and foundation of the truth of God by His grace, and her foundation is none other than Christ Himself. Many have come and sown the seeds of the truth of God, and many also have watered. However, it is God who has given her growth and health. We thank the Lord for Pastor Weng and the Session for their dedication and commitment to the Lord’s ministry. Many individuals from various committees and ministry groups have worked hard behind the scenes only for the glory of God. The faith and love of Hope church have been well known to others, and truly she has been an encouragement to many. All the Hopefuls are in our heart and prayers every day and every night. We pray that the Lord will continue to bless all of you according to His might. We also pray that the Lord will grant His wisdom and knowledge to each and every one of you, and that you will walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing and be fruitful in every good work. May the Lord strengthen all of you with all His might so that you will rejoice in the Lord with all patience! Thank the Lord for the Hopefuls on this blessed day. We trust that the Lord will give Hope church many more of happy years and decades till Jesus comes again. May the Lord alone be praised in our midst on this blessed day! Congratulations to you all from London!
With love and prayers, Pastor and Sis Myung Ki (London)
 

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Announcements
*Kitchen Rosters: Team Leader: Sis Suzane Lim. Next Lord’s Day: Team Leader: Bro Cong Pham.
*RPGs & Duty rosters are available on the literature table. Please take a copy.
*Session thanks Sis Purdee Yeo & Hope Choir; Sis Sally Teng, Youth & Junior Instrumental Ensembles for their hard work & contribution for the Anniversary Thanksgiving.
*Blessed 24th Anniversary to Hope BPC, and may the Lord richly prosper your ministry in the days ahead (from Rev Jack Sin - Maranatha BPC, S’pore)
*Anniversary greetings from Sis Serene Wong (S’pore)
 
Looking Ahead
*Vacation Bible School, 12-16 July.
*ACM & Session Election, Sat 28 Aug.
 
Praise & Thanksgiving
1. Journey mercies: Elder Kim Hiang Koh (Syd); Bro Phil & Sis Iris Surman (Adl); Bro Joseph & Sis Ethel Seow; Sisters Cindy Chan, Shu Jun, Sarah Lo (S’pore) & Swee Yee Chia (Adl);& others who have travelled.
2. Elder Kim Hiang Koh’s ministry at Hope BPC.
3. Participants (Choir, musicians & Ensembles) & Lunch Caterers for our Thanksgiving last Lord’s Day.
4. Church activities - over the past week.
5. God’s provision of a keyboard for Sunday School & another for use outside church (camps, Bible Study groups, picnics).
6. Job for Sis Marion Chan in Miyazaki, Japan.
7. Daily mercies, protection & guidance.
 
Prayer Items
1. Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Dr SH Tow; Rev & Mrs James White; Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Colin Creaser, Makoto Kobayashi (JPN), Elton Law, Jonathan Liao, Len & Richard Pearson, Moses Tan (S’pore), & Fred Volvricht; Mr Swee Liang Ng; Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Auntie Oei; Sisters Lynette Booth, Mabella Booth, Annie D’Mello & her mother (Mumbai), Lydia Fan, Myung Ki (UK), Choon Fong Lee (KL); Fiona & Lehia Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson; Susan Veradi, Irena Kurek-Braden; & others in affliction.
2. God’s guidance & help for Bro Richard Tee (Melb) & Sis Mag Yu (S’pore).
3. Healing & health - Bro Winston Selvanayagam
4. Cambodia Missions - Rev Stephen Choi & Ministry (Phnom Penh & Kandal Province)
5. Laos Missions - Bro Surish & ministry (Vientiane).
6. Bro Richie & Sis Myra Hornung - Missions work (Mindanao)
7. iSketch&Tell Studio - Pr H S Lim & his ministry in S’pore/Malaysia/Indonesia (June) & Adelaide (July).
8. IBPFM (USA) - Board, missionaries & funds.
9. Ps & Sis Ki & ministry in New Life BPC (Lond).
10. Ps & Sis Weng - ministry in Hope BPC.
11. Hopefuls in S’pore; In Kuching: Teo family.
12. Journey mercies: Bro Yick Ho Lam & Sis Shannen Seow (S’pore); & all others who are travelling.
13. ACM & 6th Session Election on Sat, 28 August.
14. Job - Sisters Xandrea Cai, Judy Li, Corinne Teng & Mag Yu (S’pore).
15. Final stage of Pregnancy - Mrs Sonya Rand (London) - safe delivery. EDC: 9 July.
16. Good health in pregnancy - Sis Demelza Ting. 
17. Candidates for Session 2010-2013: for God’s wisdom & guidance; For good testimony.
18. VBS - for Pr Hai Seng Lim, organizers, helpers & children.
19. School & Uni students sitting for their exams - for strength and stamina.
 
 

 

 

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