A solution to Malaysia's 'Allah' crisis

your say January 31, 2014 00:00

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Re: "'Allah' rings out in Malaysian churches despite govt saying ban must be upheld", Asean, January 27.

In this tumultuous world, you’d think people would be able to find something more intelligent to fight about than whether Malaysian Christians should be allowed to refer to their god as “Allah”. Some Muslims argue that Allah is the name of the Islamic deity alone, so Christians can’t use it. The Christians reply that they’ve been using “Allah” for hundreds of years. It’s embedded in their culture, and is enshrined in their hymns, in their prayers, and in the Malay translation of the Bible.    
Commentators have claimed that this is a political issue, not a religious one. That might be true, but both parties are missing something here. Christians and Muslims both glorify their deity as mighty, vast and incomprehensible, ruling the entire universe, infinite and transcendent, cosmic in scope, grandeur and intelligence. Would such a majestic being care what puny mortals call him? Would he be pleased to see his worshipers quarrelling over his name? To imply that would be to insult him and drag him down to our own petty level. In some religions, that would be blasphemy, and you could be stoned for it.
But the problem remains, so here’s a solution. The Christians worship Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus spoke Aramaic. The Aramaic word for “God” is “Elaha”.  I’m sure that Jesus would be pleased to see his worshipers using the same name for God that he did.
Malaysian Christians can reaffirm their Christianity by calling God “Elaha”, just as Jesus did. That name is close enough to “Allah” that Malaysian Christians will feel comfortable with it, but not so close that Malaysian Muslims will have any right to feel offended. And it’s close to “Elohim”, the Hebrew name for God that occurs in the earliest part of the Bible.
I therefore commend it to the attention of Malaysian Christians, and hope that this controversy will cease.
William Page
Samut Prakan