Al Kitab issue: passing ignorance off as fact
As much as I would like to restrain myself from commenting more on the issue of the use of ‘Allah’ among Christians and the Malay-language Bible Al Kitab, I cannot help it whenever ignorance presents itself in the limelight and speaks as if one all-knowledgeable.
Much of the controversy surrounding the Christian usage of ‘Allah’ and Al Kitab is due to the ignorance of a large group of people, and the fact that nothing has been done by those in power to enlighten this group.
This ignorance sadly can be seen projected on television and the newspapers as well on-line news portals. What provoked me to break from the chain of restraint was the following comment by one Fathima Idris in response to the letter by Phillip See that appeared on Malaysiakini recently.
Fathima Idris in her letter confidently commented:
"To me it is about the use/misuse of the Malay language. Even the reference to the Malay Bible as Al Kitab confounds me. In Bahasa Malaysia the Bible is referred to as Kitab Injil. Why Al Kitab? It seems to mirror Al Quran. And the Bahasa Malaysia word for God is Tuhan".
A few years ago while trying to explain the Christian Bible to a friend, I was interrupted even before I got anywhere. I was explaining about the Torah, the first five books in the Bible.
The person interrupting, a colleague, commented that the Torah is the book given to the Jews. This colleague was commenting based on the teachings of his religion. Like Fathima, he thought that Christians and Jews had a whole book sent down to each of them through a prophet. They, Fathima and my colleague never thought that other religions may have different revelation theories.
As for Fathima's information, let me enlighten her that Injil (gospel) as the Christians know it refers to the four books talking about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Bible on the other hand is a collection of books beginning from the Torah right until Revelations. The Bible is one big book that was compiled over a thousand years.
The word Bible is from the Latin word ‘biblia’. That is why you will find the Bible referred to as The Bible, meaning it is THE book. This is because Christians, as I have been told and informed through readings, see the Bible as the greatest book in the world. So it is ‘The Book’ to them.
The Arabic equivalent would therefore be Al Kitab. Now, as we can see, it is not the intention of anybody in the Christian faith to mirror others. If indeed they are accused of mirroring another faith, then the faith in question should be Judaism.
This is because both Jews and Christians read the Bible. The Jewish Bible is known as the Tanakh. Tanakh is short for Torah, Neviim and Khetuvim. However the Tanakh does not include the New Testament, which also includes the Gospel. Some books like the Psalms of David (known by some peoples as Mazmur or Zabur) are included in Khetuvim. The books of many other prophets are included in Neviim.
As for the word Tuhan, please note that Allah means the one and only God. This is who Christians worship. In fact I have never seen, read or heard Christians saying that there are three Allahs, nor have I ever seen the word Allah written beneath a statue of Jesus. Attend any Malay-language Christian worship and you will never hear Christians saying Allah is Jesus.
It is heartening to note that Christian clergyman as part of their training also learn about other religions. And they are taught these not by those from the Christian faith, but by those professing these other religions. This helps in their understanding of other religions.
The so-called pastor in the United States who burned a copy of a holy book on the other hand belonged to a small church of which the training of its priests are not recognised by many other churches.
How welcoming it would be if this practice of learning about other faiths from those professing these faiths is practised by every clergymen in our country regardless of their religion.
In fact, those who wish to comment on other faiths on Malaysiakini too could learn a thing or two by doing the same.
I know this is true because I have done the same.