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Scholar: Don’t restrict “Allah”

PETALING JAYA, 17 Feb 2009: Use of the word “Allah” among Catholic churches should not be restricted unreasonably, said leading Islamic scholar Prof Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali today.


Hashim Kamali
“In Islam, there is one God for all humanity. Therefore, one should not monopolise or personalise ‘Allah’ as belonging to only one sector of humanity,” he said.

He said that restraint should only be applied in accordance with the principle of sadd al-dhara’i (blocking the means to an evil development) in Islamic jurisprudence.

“For example, marriage is a lawful institution. But if a man is going to use marriage as a means of abuse or corruption, then he should be blocked from accessing this lawful institution,” said Kamali.

He said this logic extended to the use of the word “Allah” by the Catholic church.

“If there is no abuse of the word, then there should be no restraint on its usage,” he said.

Kamali was chairing the public lecture Christian evangelicalism: A modern political religion and its implications for Muslims, organised by the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Kamali is IAIS’s founding chairperson and chief executive officer.

The talk was given by Dr Karim Douglas Crow, IAIS’s principal research fellow.

Christian evangelicalism

According to Crow, overseas evangelical groups claim that 3.1% of Malaysia’s Christian population are evangelical.

He said the same sources put Christian Malaysians at 8.6% of the total population.

“But just as Muslims do not like to be generalised, we must remember that we cannot judge all Christians based on our impressions of this strand of evangelicalism,” he said.


Karim Douglas Crow
He added that Muslims should engage in the real world and be alive to nuances, instead of relying on caricatures or stereotypes of other communities.

Crow said modern “pre-millenial, dispensationalist evangelicalism” — a particular strand of Christian fundamentalism — also espouses what he termed “Christian Zionism”.

This strand of fundamentalism upholds an uncritical defence of Israel using selective interpretations of the Bible.

“These evangelicals have, in a way, hijacked Christianity to their own ends,” he said.

Crow traced the modern development this strand of Christian theology to the Chilean Jesuit priest, Manuel de Lacunza, in 18th century CE. Lacunza’s writings then influenced the Protestant movement of the Plymouth Brethren in the British Isles.

Crow said this went on to influence the Bible college movement in North America, and post-Cold War politicisation of the movement followed.

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4 Responses to “Scholar: Don’t restrict “Allah””

  1. abubaker says:

    Believers must no longer believe that God is a God only of some race or creed, for God is the God of all life, of everything that lives.

  2. Balboa says:

    I’m an atheist and I watch this nonsense go on with much amusement.

    Can we step back for bit and ask why christian missionaries are using the word ALLAH (in Malaysia and Indonesia) – and stop beating around the bush?

    It’s to make their arguments/message more palatable to the Muslims/Malays. Period. They’re trying to win converts – Malays/Bumis.

    Now, in a free/totally secular society, that wouldn’t be a problem, there’s freedom to embrace or renounce your religion.

    I once had a staff who had brought over a “friend”, who was a Christian priest over lunch. This “friend” started talking to the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, preaching, essentially – trying to win them over and invited them over to church.

    When I found out, I fired the guy and restrained myself from physically throwing him out of the window.

  3. Bob K says:

    Looks like there’s equal intolerance by atheists as well as religious people :) On a more serious note, there is the consideration of cultural contextualisation that plays an important role in any form of communications – secular or religious.

    Back to Crow’s comments on Evangelicals, I appreciate the fact that he does take the trouble to differentiate the different strands of Evangelicalism. I self-identify as an Evangelical but the issues that he highlights are the exact same issues that many of us Christians (Evangelicals or otherwise) are struggling against.

    Crow may also have not had the time to highlight this, but the uncritical influence of consumerism plays a big part in the ideologies that sometimes replaces creeds and beliefs in some segments of faith communities.

  4. Sivin Kit says:

    This particular video “Onward Christian Zionist” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYWlB64upSc) would support why I felt and commented that the title “Christian Zionism – A modern political religion : Its impact on evangelicalism and its implications for Muslims” would be academically a more apt tile for Dr Crow’s excellent lecture. I understand the limits of presentation and the need for shorthand and the requirement for a broad sweep within the short time frame.

    An important point raised by Dr Crow at the end of his lecture was the need for nuance in understanding the other. Thus, I would see that there are those whom I would prefer to call “Christian Zionist” have hijacked the term “Evangelical”, or in my humble opinion most mass media unfortunately have made them synonymous.

    Many who would be happy using the term “Evangelical” to refer to themselves would not subscribe to the views of Christian Zionists as highlighted in the video and Dr Crow’s presentation.

    For the record, I think Dr Crow and I would be on the same page on this. And he did mention it in personal conversation and within the lecture.

    So forgive me for being a little picky on the title of the lecture :-) . This is because there are many in Malaysia who are associated with the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship and refer to themselves as Evangelicals who are not Christian Zionist.

    This piece here titled “Defining Evangelicalism” (http://www.wheaton.edu/isae/defining_evangelicalism.html) would give a broader overview of what the term means.

    This link “What is an Evangelical?” (http://www.eauk.org/about/what_is.cfm) gives a good summary of what most who call themselves “Evangelical” really believe.


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