I received this email from a well meaning Christian sister. At first read, it seemed like a reasonable request, but it soon struck me that something was wrong with this request. My comments are after the letter below.
CHRISTIAN FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA
(PERSEKUTUAN KRISTIAN MALAYSIA)
Address: 10, Jalan 11/9, Section 11, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Telephone: (03) 7957 1278, (03) 7957 146, Fax: (03) 7957 1457
30th November 2009
Dear Bishops and Heads of Churches in Malaysia,
Re: “Allah” word cases before the KL High Courts – A call to prayer
Warmest Christian greetings to you in this Advent season as we herald the coming of our Lord and Saviour and celebrate Christmas.
May we request that a season of prayer and fasting be called for in your churches as two “Allah” word cases come before the High Courts in Kuala Lumpur this month. Please disseminate to your churches our request for prayer and fasting as we mobilise all Christians for a time of prayer.
The first hearing on 2 Dec (Wed) 2009 at 2.30pm is before Judge Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin at the Appellate and Special Powers Court 3, KL High Courts Complex, Level 3, Jalan Duta. Malaysian Jill Ireland binti Lawrence Bill is challenging the Home Affairs Minister’s order to confiscate her books which has the “Allah” word
The second hearing on 14 Dec (Mon) 2009 hearing is before Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan at the Appellate and Special Powers Court, KL High Courts Complex, Level 3, Jalan Duta. The hearing is likely to be held at 2.30pm. This is a challenge to the power of the Home Affairs Minister to stop the weekly Christian publication “Herald” from using the “Allah” word.
Please pray for the following that :
• The Lord God be sovereign over these hearings;
• The presiding judges be granted wisdom to uphold the provisions of the Federal Constitution;
• The lawyers before the judges may have wisdom, strength and courage to speak the truth in grace and love;
• May evil and its human agents not prevail by disrupting these proceedings;
• May the Lord God grant us His favour by allowing the word “Allah” to be used in the Alkitab, in all Christian publications, and audio-visual recordings in all media in both Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia.
Let us together pray for a good outcome so that all of us, especially our Orang Asli, Sabah and Sarawak brothers and sisters in Christ, may continue to use our Alkitab and all our Christian materials in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia without fear or hindranceFor your information, in the 14 December hearing, the Archbishop of KL is seeking several declarations of the High Court namely :
1. the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald in the exercise of his right that other religions other than Islam may be practised in peace
2. Article 3 (1) of the Federal Constitution does not empower the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word “Allah” in the Herald
3. the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the weekly in the exercise of his right to freedom of speech and expression
4. the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald in the exercise of his freedom of religion which includes the right to manage its own religious affairs
5. the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald in the exercise of his right in respect of education of the Catholic congregation in the Christian religion
6. the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 does not authorise the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word “Allah” in the Herald
7. that the word “Allah” is not exclusive to the religion of Islam
(as reported on 28 May 2009 in http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/105343 )
May the joy of Christmas who is Jesus Christ truly abound in all our hearts this Advent season!
Together in His service,
Rt. Revd. Ng Moon Hing
Chairman and the CFM Executive Committee
[I have not been able to ascertain if this letter really exists or if it really originated from the purported sender]
The problem with this request:
- It assumes that it is God’s will that Allah be allowed to be used by Christians in Malaysia. I say ‘assume’ because no biblical reference, whether literal or by inference, is provided to put beyond doubt that what we are praying for is in accordance to God’s will. We are clearly told in scripture that we are to pray in accordance to His will, and His will always agrees with His Word (1 John 5:14 And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us.), but we have no way of knowing what the mind of God is on this matter, or, possible worse still, no one has stopped to ask God what His take on this issue is…
- It seems to me that notwithstanding what I pointed out above, CFM has concluded that it has to be God’s will to allow the use of Allah – a dangerous conclusion to make when you have no biblical foundation for it.
- It implies that Bahasa Melayu speaking Christians are unable to read the bible or worship God because of this ban. I think this is an exaggeration. What evidence is there to prove that we are in dire straits because 15,000 bibles were confiscated and the word Allah is banned?
Can we ask ourselves an important question when making petitions like this:
- If we pray, and ask for His will to be done (and it always does), and the courts rule to uphold the ban, will we Christians take it as God’s will being done and stop the complaining, retract all the lawsuits, and keep away from appealing to higher courts? I get the feeling that if the courts rule against the Archbishop (who by the way, has no biblical warrant to represent Christians), more Christians are going to throw their arms in the air and cry injustice.
But what if it IS God’s will – to disallow the use of the word Allah?
Let me suggest a few reasons using some biblical principles that could suggest that it is quite possible that maybe God does want Christians to not use the word ‘Allah’, and that He is in fact allowing this difficulty to happen:
- The strong association of the word Allah to the god of Islam – yes, it may be true that the word Allah predates Islam and was a general word for deity, and that Arab countries have no issue with using it. But that’s certainly not the case in Malaysia. Malaysian Muslims claim that Allah is the name of their God.
- The bible tells us that God, the true and living God, will not share His glory with another (Isa 42:5,8 Thus saith *God, Jehovah, he that created the heavens and stretched them out, he that spread forth the earth and its productions, he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein…I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.) emphasis mine.
- I suggest that its possible that God does not want Malaysians to use the word Allah because too often in this country – it has a strong connotation of being the Muslim God, and maybe God does not want any of His children to have any confusion.
- This is not a bizarre suggestion. Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning eating food offered to idols. (1 Cor 8). He stated that while we all know that idols are nothing, some people, may have a ‘conscience’ of the idol when the see certain food. For instance, before I became a Christian, some food I used to enjoy as Hindu, was frequently cooked during Hindu festivals, and as a young Christian, whenever I saw that food, it reminded me of the idols I used to worship. Its not difficult to imagine an ex-Muslim (especially in this country) who converts to CHristianity, being uncomfortable with using the word Allah – because all his life Allah used to refer to the god of Islam. Maybe God does not want that among Christians who were muslims before…
- Its an opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ –
- Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him.
- Phil 3:10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
- The Lord Jesus, in His condescension, gave up all rights He could claim (“considered it not robbery to be called God” – phil 2), and became the meek and lowly Saviour, He was falsely accused, persecuted – and He received it all for our sakes – ultimately bearing the punishment that should have been borne by us on the cross. In the face of persecution, we Christians should follow the footsteps of the Saviour, and remain meek and lowly – not taking arms against the authorities. In doing so, we share in what the Lord Jesus went through for us.
- It presents a wonderful evangelistic opportunity
- we all know that Muslims are constitutionally protected from being evangelised directly. What better way to show Christ, by not opposing, but submitting committing ourselves to the “One who judges righteously”.
- You can read through church history, and find that more souls were drawn to Christ by the meekness and submission of Christians than by fighting and arguing.
- What a wonderful opportunity to do what only a Christian can do – deny oneself and carry the cross.
- Action speaks louder than words, and Christians can make use of the media interest to show a wonderful testimony that no one can hide.
- Our Muslims countrymen may never be able to hear the gospel, but they can surely see Christ though this – but only if we let His light shine through.
We must realize that the “secret things belong to God“, and we will not know the fullness and depths of His counsel. The suggestions I put above are exactly that – suggestions – but they are based on biblical principles and the evidence of church history, which make me believe that is entirely possible for God to have allowed these recent events to happen, and to want things to remain this way for some time to come.
My point: Don’t be too sure that it is God’s will that we be allowed to use the word ‘Allah’.
Having said that, one may ask, “so do you expect our malay speaking christians to abandon the use of the word Allah?”
Why not? Use the word Tuhan instead. Tuhan is accepted by everyone in Malaysia to be a generic term for the Divine person – God. In fact, like the word Allah, Tuhan has two syllables, so we could easily replace Allah with Tuhan in the songs and hymns we sing without having to change the way we sing it. Too easy. My assembly has done this – replacing the word Allah with Tuhan – many years ago, and we have never felt like we are unable to sing or praise God in the national language at all.
or you may ask, “you expect our malay speaking christians go on without bibles?”
Of course not. Lets not be naive. We live in the 21 century, bibles are printed using woodblock printing. I’m quite sure we can speak to the printers or bible suppliers and ask them to update the bibles to replace the word ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’, and get these bibles printed with this word. No fuss required. I don’t see any reason why publishers won’t accommodate our request (if they are well meaning christians interested in getting the Word out without hindrance) and in any case, we all know that we are at least 15,000 short of bibles… a perfectly justifiable reason to change the typeset for the printing press, and going forward, there will surely be more demand for these bibles.
So, YES, I will pray for God’s will to be done but that’s the easy part.
The hard part if accepting God’s will if it is not what we expect.
p/s: Why is CFM so kesian that they have to use a ‘yahoo’ email hosted in uk? Hmm…