You are on page 1of 4


Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas on Usage of word "ALLAH"On

December 13, 2009, during the Worldview of Islam Seminar organized by
the Assembly of Muslim Intellectuals or Himpunan Keilmuan Muda (HAKIM),
there was a question being posted to Professor Al-Attas regarding the
polemical usage of the word "Allah" by the non-Muslims.

Below is the transcript of his brief-but-yet- concise enlightening remarks. As a word of caution,
though, one must not only rely on this brief transcript alone to understand the whole spectrum of
Prof. Al-Attas' view about this theological matter.

Further thorough elucidation of his thought can be found in numerous works of this great
Muslim scholar of this age, such as Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, Islam and
Secularism, Islam dalam Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu and A Commentary on Hujjat al-
Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri.

Prof. Wan Mohd Nor and Prof. Al-Attas during the special lecture in the
seminar last year.

Question: The using of kalimah “Allah” by other people in this country

Answers by Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas:

Well I have been talking about this long time ago. I remember about this in
ISTAC, when we first established ourselves (late 80’s and early 90’s), I think
the Arcbishop of Penang was asking this question. And I have answered
And then we had a meeting with the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and about
all the representatives of Christianity, including the ministers, we had a
meeting at ISTAC.

And I said, “Why you want to use the word ‘Allah’ for yourself?”

They said “we going to pray in Bahasa Malaysia”

That’s the way they put it. So my answers to them, “Why you have to
change praying into Bahasa Malaysia. You have been praying in English all
the time. Why suddenly change into Bahasa Malaysia?”

Ok, so they said they want to change so that it more patriotic. Then in that
case I’m saying that “why don’t you use Tuhan while praying in Bahasa
Malaysia? Because you are talking about God isn’t it?…God is not just a
name…”Allah” is a name of this Being whom you called God… and in fact a
Being whom even higher than what you called to be God”

And then I said, “ …and “Allah” is not from Bahasa Malaysia. It is not a
national language. It belongs to the language of Muslim all over the
world. Therefore your argument using this for the word “Allah” does not fit
into your idea of God. Because “Allah” does not have a son, It is not one of
three (Trinity), that is why out of respect to Allah we can’t allow you to use

But when we Muslim, when we write in English we say God, or when we talk
to people we say God but we mean “Allah”…but they cannot say when they
speak about God it means “Allah” as they don’t mean it.

So in this particular respect, we have to be clear about this, not was-was

(hesitate).. .whomever responsible in our governing, they have to be clear
about this and to explain to others.

We agree you want to use God, then use Tuhan as we also use that…but we
understand in the Malay language that Tuhan is not a translation of
Allah..that is why we say “tiada Tuhan melainkan Allah” not “tiada Tuhan
melainkan Tuhan”. We don’t say “there is not God but God” least the
ulama’ among the Muslim Malays, we understand what is the meaning of
that (word “Allah”).

So “Allah” cannot be translated as no language has translated Allah.

The Arabs themselves they only use that after Islam..although the word
existed (before)..the Christians Arab they also did not use Allah (in
theological, epistemological and ontological sense in the same manner as
the Muslim)..if they say that it is just a language..they talking about
language..because they say “Allah” like the Muslim when they (melatah)…

So it appears they want to do that in order to confuse the Muslim into

thinking that all the same..that is why I say one of the problems about
religion is the nature of God..about who Allah is..that is why in Arkanul
Iman (The Pillars of Faith), the first thing is “amana billah”.

“Who is this Allah?” and that need to be explain at higher institution in a

proper way…

So we have answer the question. It is not proper to allow them using this,
since they asking us and there is no point bringing this to court since this is
not a matter of court to decide it whether they have the freedom to use it or
not. It is up to the Muslims.

But then if they used it and said “in Indonesia they have use it, why can’t
we?”…but it is because of the Muslims..if Muslims don’t care they will go on
and use it..and in Indonesia they are using not only that, other things they
even call it “choir” as “selawat”. Choir is not a “selawat”, as “selawat” is for’s not singing hymn..

And they also talk Indonesia they are also confuse..Muslims. .that
is why this thing happen. Sometimes the language when you come across
English words like “Prophet of Doom” in Indonesia they said “Nabi celaka”.
How can there be “Nabi celaka”? What is meant by the “Prophet of Doom”
is…even the word Prophet in English does not mean “Nabi” only…it means
“yang meramalkan malapetaka”..that what it means…so the “Prophet of
Doom” means “yang meramalkan malapetaka”, not “Nabi celaka”.

They (the Muslims in Indonesia) seem not to bother about this. What we can
say is that ultimately well they say “God is not Allah”...well if you want to
use the word God, we are saying we also use the word God, we refer to
Allah as we know and we are not saying that your God ultimately will not
refer to Allah. You can’t run away from Allah. You can only escape Him and
so in the Qur’an (surah An-Naas) says: “Qul aAAoothu birabbi annas, Maliki
annas, Ilahi annas”. He (Allah) is saying “ I am the real Ilah (God) of naas
(mankind)”, although mankind (non-Muslim) does not interpret it that way.

What will happen when we use Allah for God in the English Bible..?
Jesus said: “Allah is greater than I” (John 14:28),
Jesus said the most important commandment is “‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our Allah, the Lord
is one. Love the Lord your Allah with all your …heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30)
“I am Allah, and there is no other; I am Allah, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9),
‘One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to
Allah.’ (Luke 6:12),
“Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by Allah to you by miracles, wonders and signs,
which Allah did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22),
“I am the LORD your Allah, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You
shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:6-7),
Jesus prayed to Allah:
‘Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “Allah, if it is
possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39),
‘Jesus prayed to Allah for himself and said, “…Now this is eternal life; that they may know
you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent…” ‘ (John 17:3).
Now I wonder what was the actual teachings of Jesus Christ according to the HOLY