Everybody’s right to use religious terms
Laiq Ahmed Atif, president Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta
In recent days, a Malaysian court permitted Roman Catholics to use the word Allah as translation for God.
Many Malaysian Muslims are outraged at this decision, claiming that Allah is a religious word that only Muslims can use. Since the court ruling, many comments based on hatred and intolerance and a large number of threats against Christians have been posted widely and, finally, such threats took the shape of physical violence and three churches were attacked and set on fire.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which believes and acts on the true teachings of Islam and promotes peace, love, tolerance and mutual respect towards all mankind, strongly rejects and condemns this violence towards the Malaysian Christian Community. The very idea that Allah or any other religious term should be reserved only for Muslims is absurd.
The Ahmadiyya Community also strongly supports the court’s decision to grant Christians the right to use the word Allah to refer to God.
There are verses in the Holy Quran in which people identified by the Holy Quran as being Jews and Christians used this word to refer to God prior to the advent of Islam.
The concept of reserving the religious terminology as a patent of someone is totally based on illogic. In the very beginning of the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty says: “All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds” (Holy Quran: 1:2). As Allah is the Lord of all the worlds then the word Allah is also for all the worlds and for all the people. Every human being has the right to say Allah.
The words Allah, God, Il-Mulej, Bhagwan and Alla, as we say in Maltese, are to describe the Creator and Lord of all the creatures. The Holy Quran states: “Say, ‘call upon Allah or call upon Rahman (the Gracious); by which ever name you call Him, His are the most beautiful names” (17:111).
It further elaborates and expresses the need of building bridges that unite us, not walls that separate us, and says: “Say, ‘O people of the Book! Come to a word, equal between us and you” (3:65).
How beautiful the idea to share the good values and work for the common good is! We invite you to those values that are common between you and us; in those let us cooperate and collaborate with one another. This is the vastness of Islamic teachings and there is no meanness of sight here, nor straitened (false) hearts. The bounties of God are there, open for all to benefit from. There is no idea that Allah or any religious term is reserved for Muslims only, but the idea of common good and sharing such values is absolutely clear here.
Regarding force and violent actions against Christians after the court’s ruling, these are also completely against Islamic teachings. How can Islam permit such actions against the freedom of a man when it made absolutely clear that: “There should be no compulsion in religion” (2:257)?
Addressing the Holy Founder of Islam, God clearly warns him of entertaining any idea of force in an attempt to reform society. Allah says: “Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; thou hast no authority to compel them” (88:22-23).
The Ahmadiyya Community believes in absolute freedom of faith and condemns any sort of force in religion because swords can only win territories but not hearts, force can only bend heads but not minds.
Force against religious freedom of people can only create disruption, but the words of respect and love can give all sorts of peace to the world. The time requires from us to live by “Love for all – hatred for none”.
The Times: Monday, 1st February 2010