There was a funny petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Kerala unit of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha protesting that the oath taken in the name of Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ was in violation of the constitution which says that oath can be taken only in the name of God or solemnly affirmed. The petition claimed that by taking the oath in the name of Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ the elected Muslim members were violating the constitutional article.
Responding to the petition the Supreme Court bench remarked, Ã¢â‚¬Å“By filing such petition you are also seeking publicity”. Needless to write the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the oaths in the name of Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. The same unit had earlier filed a petition in the Kerala High Court which when rejected was then filed in the Supreme Court. But these groups cannot be held responsible alone. The Muslims also have a share in the controversy. Thanks to a neo-Muslim thought emerging that only Allah is the proper name of Almighty we had this coming.
In the most vitriolic anti-Islamic sites we find as bizarre arguments as Muslims do not worship God but worship an Arabian moon-god! Similarly we heard the US General Boykin infamously recounting his conversation with a Muslim Ã¢â‚¬Å“My God was bigger than hisÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I knew that my God was real and his was an idol”. Franklin Graham, a famous evangelist close to the US administration asserts that Muslims and Christians worship different gods. Often in India itself I have heard, though not at all demeaning, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Pray to your god, Allah”.
All of this shows a complete misunderstanding of what the Muslims worship. But Muslims share the blame. There is a neo-Muslim thought that has emerged in recent years stressing that only Allah is the proper name of Almighty, not God, not Khuda, not anything else. Their logic is that when we say God it could be a god, or he-god, or she-god and so on and so forth. But Allah is a unique word for the Almighty and Quranic and hence only that should be used.
The most visible impact of it is the change of the common and may be centuries old greeting Khuda Hafiz with Allah Hafiz. When I was a kid IÃ‚Â heard various very religious people using words like ‘Khuda’ and ‘Parvardigar’Ã‚Â quite liberally. Also these words were used a lot in literature and poetry. Surprisingly, these words are not even Arabic. The usage of these words has reduced a lot nowadays.
This trend, in my view, is void of a deeper understanding of the play of languages and creates boundaries between people instead of demolishing them for greater understanding. One argument given by the proponents is that even the Christians who have lived in Middle East since always call the Almighty Allah. This is a very valid argument for Allah to be a perfectly valid name for the Almighty, but what about those who have lived out of the Middle East and are not Muslim.
The word Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is an Arabic word for God (which the proponents of ‘Allah only’ contest) and its variations are present inÃ‚Â languages similar to Arabic. That is the reason we find the variations of the word like ‘Eloha’ in Bible itself. The Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) was originally in Hebrew and Aramaic and both originated in the Middle East. In my view, the right approach should be to understand the nature of the Entity whom we worship. We need to go beyond our fixation on words to understand more to increase understanding between various communities.
The Quran in one of the shortest and most concise and beautiful chapters Ã¢â‚¬ËœAl-IkhlasÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ saysÃ‚Â
Say: He is God, the One and Only! God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.
Similar descriptions could be found in Vedas, Bible and other major, miniÃ‚Â and many micro religions throughout the world.
In a brilliant paper written on this subject by an Islamic scholar, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, One God Many Names, he tore apart this fixation by some on a particular name for the Supreme Being. In this paper he touches on the names of God in various cultures, traditions and religions across the globe and in the context of IndiaÃ‚Â he writes
The Sanskrit Vedas of ancient India contain a notable vocabulary for the Supreme Being: Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Creator” (DhÃƒÂ¢tr), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Lord of the creatures” (PrjÃƒÂ¢pati), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Maker of all things” (Vishvakarman), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Regulator of things” (VidhÃƒÂ¢tr), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Manifest One” (Dhartr), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Protector” (TrÃƒÂ¢tr), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Guide” (Netr), Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Giver of forms” (Tvashtr), and Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Animator” or Ã¢â‚¬Å“Reviver” (Savitr). One of his names was simply Ã¢â‚¬Å“Who” (Ka), signifying the one who is ultimately unfathomable and beyond finite description. In later times, Ka was frequently used to designate the Supreme Being.
That all said Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ evokes a personal attachment in the subconscious of a Muslim. The oft-repeated phrases like InshaAllah (If God Wills), MashaAllah (WhateverÃ‚Â God Wishes), Alhamdulillah (Praise to God) use Ã¢â‚¬ËœAllahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. In personal invocations we should definitely use words that bring us closer to the Almighty.
But when we interact with other peopleÃ‚Â we should use a language that others can relate with and which breaks boundaries. I really believe that when we talk in English we should use the word God and when we interact with Hindus we should useÃ‚Â appropriate words like ‘Ishwar‘ and so on. Some may criticize that I am promoting my desires instead of what is ‘Islamic’ but then I have heard as strong Islamic scholars as Hamza Yusuf stressing on this fact. We have to move beyond this useless fixation on a particular word that confuses people. I remember when I was a kid there was a Maulana in my area who had a jeep. On his jeep he had painted in huge fonts Ã¢â‚¬ËœIshwar Ek HaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. I think that Maulana was more pragmatic than many youths today.
On the other side,Ã‚Â this does not at all exonerate those who say ‘My God is bigger than those of Muslims’ or those who say ‘Allah is a personal god of Muslims’. The very first verse of the Quran says it all: Praise is to God, Who is Lord of the Universe.