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The cause and effect principle in the 'Allah' debate

In the last few days or weeks, we have seen a torrential debate around the word ‘Allah’ in the public domain. It’s still going on.

The issue is not new for it has been debated for nearly a decade, though of late, it has gained fresh momentum and intensity. Briefly stated, the Malay-Muslim community leaders have somehow developed the perception that ‘Allah’ is a holy word in Islam and is thereby to be used exclusively only by Muslims.  
Much of the semantics, the for-and-against arguments have been spelt out fairly deeply by both sides of the divide elsewhere, so it is not my intention to join the fray. But I do wish to articulate and share my thoughts and philosophy in understanding this prickly issue.
Cause A and effect B 

I use the tool of logic known as cause-and-effect, or causal effect which states simply that ‘B’ happens because of ‘A’. This tool of human reasoning rests on the fact that every action causes or leads to a reaction, or a reaction is caused by an action. In the physical world, nothing happens in isolation, but as a result of some surrounding actions or activities.  

Its principle is that the effect B is the end result of a case so its purpose is to determine what can A be to cause B. For example, an accident B happens because drunken driver A jumped a road divider and rammed into an on-coming car; or my boss fires me, B, because I did not do a good job, A. 

From this illustration and analysis, I project the very important observation that in human reasoning when the cause and effect formula is used, you have to have facts and evidence or some convincing arguments to substantiate the A cause. 

In the example of the accident, I have to seek proof or evidence that the driver was drunk to justify the causal effect link. On no account do I deviate and say for example, that the car in the accident is a Proton, and that Protons are good cars, well-liked by millions of people. All of these have no bearing to the accident, not directly anyway. 

On the same token, when I got fired I don’t say that my boss is the CEO of a huge corporation doing businesses all over the world and has just got back from a holiday in Tokyo or elsewhere. These details are irrelevant for they do not connect to effect B at all.  

This is an admirable advantage of the A-causes-B reasoning formula or principle. It leads us humans to reason things out with facts and evidence, guide us to discuss things within context and relevance, and in the process, make it easier for us to determine the right and wrong, true or false of the matter at hand. 

The reverse is also noteworthy. When we break the A-causes-B principle, we tend to become muddled, illogical, off-tangent and irrelevant. And to substantiate this last statement, I refer to myarticle, A New Year Wish for the Ketuanan Melayu Polity.

Suppression and national decay

azlanIn this article, I contended that the Ketuanan Melayu polity has led the country to the despondent and decaying state many of us citizens agree it is today. Translated into the causal effect format, these are the effect B factors. 

I opined further that this national decay has been the result of the leadership for long-suppressing the minds of the people. These in turn, are the cause A factors. 

Now I refer to a response to my article above from a person named ‘rahman’, a pseudonym surely, who has posted some comments in the reader’s column. I do not know who rahman is, though this does not matter. What does, is that as if on cue he has provided me in written form an example of muddled and irrelevant reasoning as a result of breaking the cause-and-effect formula. Permit me to explain. 

He wrote (with minimal editing on my part): “(There is) nothing wrong for the majority Malays who secure independence for this country to provide legal protection to their rights.

This is followed by: “These Malay leaders do not take away or oppress the non-Malays although their fore-fathers (sic) led the communist insurgencies to snatch the land away from the Malays and their sultans.” 

And, “All over the world locals and indigenous protect their rights from usurpation. Do you know how Canada protect (sic) the rights of its indigenous (people)? Does China allow an Indian to be President of China? Does India allow a Chinese to be Prime Minister of India?

I noticed immediately that rahman’s reaction to my analysis is out of context. To begin with, he did not address my original contention (that suppression has caused decay). Not once did he refer to the issue B (i.e. the nation’s decay) at all! He was totally off point, irrelevant!   

He could have commented, “No, suppression is not the cause of decay in this country. It has been caused by colonialism, Malay lethargy, eroded faith in Islam,” for example, and he would still be relevant and within context. But no, he instead digressed to past history, citing further: “Malay leaders had not oppressed the non-Malays although their forefathers led the communist insurgencies to snatch the land away from the Malays and their sultans.”  

He also went overboard with virtually wild claims centring on the notion that if other countries suppress their citizens, why not the Ketuanan Melayu government.

Readers would agree that rahman’s comments are similar in drift to my example of the accident with the ramble that Proton is a very popular car, and my firing with my boss having just returned from his holidays. Respectively, they might have some viability and relevance elsewhere, but certainly not in this case where they are out of context.    

In a nutshell, he resorts to the rather familiar dictum or syndrome that “right or wrong, I am right and you are wrong”, a common enough, but erratic human reasoning formula when searching for substantiation. 

From the analysis above, I make several observations pertaining to human thinking. 

Firstly, in human rationality any discussion or debate meandering away from the cause-and-effect principle would tend to get muddled and destined to fall into the bin of irrelevance.

Secondly, when you make an incoherent or illogical statement, you might have to resort to other incoherent statements to justify the first. This is similar to lying - if you lied the first time, you might have to make many following lies to cover the first one.  

And thirdly, when you are caught in your web of lies you go for the “I am right, you are wrong” syndrome. This faulty logic might land you in a muddled state, even error.

And armed with this lesson or wisdom, I can now revert to the ‘Allah’ debate or controversy.  

‘Allah’ controversy 

This ‘Allah’ debate or controversy can be rehashed or formatted into the causal effect formula thus: The A (or cause) factor is that ‘Allah’ is the word for ‘God’. The B (or effect) factor is the whole world accepting it as true. Viz.: “Allah is the word for God, and the whole world accepts this as true.”   

But here, this word is taken by the Malay-Muslims as the name of God in Islam. So if the non-Muslims still wished to express the idea NONEof ‘god’, they are to use other terms, like for example, Lord, God, or Tuhan. And on a by-the-way basis, the inimitable Harussani Zakaria (right) has lent support to this claim by saying that if non-Muslims still insist in using ‘Allah’, then they have to convert to Islam first of all. 

So what is the truth, who is right in this case? 

To find out, I now rehash the issue in the causal effect format and in question form: “The Malay-Muslim says ‘Allah’ is the word for ‘God’ and is exclusive to Muslims. No other community or society anywhere in the world accepts this posture. Is this Malay-Muslim stand the truth, and right?” 

My answer is quite clear, considering the fact that firstly, the rest of the world, Muslim or otherwise, accept the word ‘Allah’ as synonymous to ‘God’; and secondly, it is only the Malay-Muslim polity that has taken upon itself to unilaterally declare that ‘Allah’ is a holy word to be only used by Muslims. So this claim about the exclusivity of ‘Allah’ is unsupported and unsubstantiated by other people from both within and without the country. 

Based on this observation, I say it could not be true, and possibly wrong from the angle of human rationality. The Malay-Muslim however, is resting on his perception that he is right. In other words, the “right or wrong, I am right and you are wrong” syndrome as demonstrated by rahman is showing its head in this case. 

Might is right

Having said all that, I am somewhat puzzled as to why the Malay-Muslim religious polity is so intransigent in this case; on three counts. First, Muslims comprise about two billion in total number of adherents worldwide with the Sunni sect comprising about 75 percent of the total. Either way, we are talking about some huge numbers here. 

The Malay-Muslim community is Sunni and comes to about, say 17 million in total. It is comprised of one tiny segment of Islamic adherents worldwide. Yet, it has taken upon itself to claim the word ‘Allah’ to mean ‘God’ and is to be used only by Muslims. 

azlanWhat special information, knowledge, or secret about Islam do ulamas (religious scholars) like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), who organisationally and individually may number only say, a few thousands, have that the rest of the Sunni world community do not, to make them adopt this stance? 

Did they receive any special revelations recently from goodness where recently? If so, it’s their duty to share them to all Muslims worldwide. 

Secondly, this community is known to be rather orthodox and conformist in disposition. It doesn’t allow for its adherents to deviate an inch from the teachings of Islam. Look at the way they have treated the Shiites, Ahmaddiah (or Qadyanis) even the ‘deviant’ Sunni sects of whatever name (e.g. Al-Arkam); all of them have been termed as deviants, and thus persecuted. 

But here we have one small group of orthodox Sunnis usually conformist and orthodox, suddenly jumping out of the norm and standing all alone. Are they not deviants from the point of view of the Islamic communities around the world?  If so, this could be a huge paradox.

Three, in view of the above, there could be a high probability that this group may well be described as deviants by the rest of the world. The Malay-Muslim is taking his own medicine! 
So what is the root cause of their intransigence?

On the surface of it, this could be due to another principle or syndrome of thinking known as “might is right”, where unsubstantiated arguments and postulations are made to be accepted by society through force or decree by a higher authority.

In real terms this, can be illustrated by the Bernama statement on Dec 31 saying that “Jakim today repeated its stand that the word ‘Allah’ as a holy word that belongs only to Muslims and Islam and cannot apply to non-Muslims and other religions”.   

From where does Jakim get this ‘might’ and authority? Only heaven knows. I am thinking that if only Jakim is willing to share this bit of information, then perhaps it can go a long way for this debate and controversy to end.   

In the meantime, I wish to end this analysis by inviting readers to perform a mental exercise involving the cause-and effect-formula, thus:

“The ‘might is right’ supported by ‘I am right, you are wrong’ syndromes, A is causing the Malay-Muslim religious authorities to insist that the word ‘Allah’ is to be used by Muslims only, B.” You as the reader, please state your views on whether you agree or disagree, whether it is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad. 

There is only one rule: please do not get caught in the rahman irrelevance trap. 

AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya.


  1. Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin menolak tuduhan pembangkang bahawa UMNO telah mempolitikkan isu penggunaan kalimah Allah sebaliknya pembangkang sebenarnya memulakan isu itu.

    Beliau berkata, kerajaan sangat memahami keadaan yang berlaku sekarang kerana telah melalui tempoh panjang mentadbir negara.

    1. "Kalau kita membaca kenyataan pemimpin pembangkang, sebenarnya merekalah yang mempolitikkan, ini bukan isu politik sebaliknya isu berkaitan umat Islam yang ada kaitan dengan akidah.

    2. "Sudah tentu reaksi timbul di kalangan masyarakat Islam, cuma kita hendak pastikan tidak timbul buruk sangka dan membangkitkan perasaan tidak baik antara agama.

      "Kerajaan harus berhati-hati dan ini juga adalah pendirian parti," katanya.

    3. Muhyiddin menegaskan, UMNO sejak dulu menjadikan usaha membela agama, bangsa dan negara sebagai asas perjuangan sehingga membolehkan rakyat negara ini hidup dengan aman.

    4. "Isu kalimah Allah dekat dengan akidah umat Islam dan ini tidak ada kompromi, kalau ada kenyataan daripada pemimpin parti, ini menunjukkan kita prihatin dalam isu tersebut dan bukannya kita mahu mendapatkan keuntungan politik," katanya.

    5. Sedangkan, Muhyiddin berkata, di kalangan pemimpin pembangkang sendiri timbul pelbagai pendapat apabila Presiden Pas, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dan Mursyidul Am, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat mengeluarkan kenyataan yang berbeza mengenai isu tersebut.

      Begitu juga, kata beliau, dengan kenyataan pemimpin Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) yang membenarkan penggunaan kalimah tersebut bagi orang bukan Islam.

    6. "Walaupun hal ini diputuskan di mahkamah, ia tidak akan menyelesaikan apa yang menjadi pegangan umat Islam selama ini.

      "Sebenarnya bila melihat keadaan sebegini, parti pembangkang lebih kepada mendapatkan keuntungan politik dengan tidak mengambil kira sensitiviti umat Islam, itu bezanya dengan pemimpin UMNO," katanya.

    7. Pembangkang sebenarnya tidak perlu mengambil kesempatan untuk memanaskan isu ini, boleh selesai dengan cara berbincag.

  2. KUALA LUMPUR, 3 Dis – Gabungan Pertubuhan Bukan Kerajaan (NGO) Malaysia mendesak agar Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim agar memperjelaskan kepada rakyat berkenaan pendirian Pakatan Pembangkang berhubung isu kalimah Allah yang dibangkitkan oleh Setiausaha Agung DAP, Lim Guan Eng dalam perutusan sempena hari krismas baru-baru ini.

    1. Presidennya, Ustaz Mohd Radzi Daud berkata, sehingga ke hari ini tidak ada sebarang kenyataan rasmi yang dibuat oleh beliau berhubung isu tersebut, memandangkan sebelum ini Datuk Seri Anwar membuat kenyataan mahu membincangkan semula isu kalimah Allah bersama kepimpinan di dalam Pakatan Pembangkang.

    2. “Kita sebagai rakyat mahu tahu, apa ketetapan yang diambil oleh kepimpinan Pakatan Pembangkang berhubung isu ini. Sebelum ini, jelas bahawa beliau dan beberapa kepimpinan Pakatan Pembangkang, termasuk sebahagian besar kepimpinan Pas, bersetuju bahawa kalimah Allah boleh diguna pakai oleh golongan Kristian di negara ini di dalam kitab versi Melayu mereka.

    3. “Namun apabila Lim Guan Eng membangkitkan semula isu ini , maka Anwar kata mahu kaji balik. Kini sudah lebih seminggu, namun tidak ada sebarang kenyataan rasmi dari beliau. Jadi kita desak, agar beliau dan kepimpinan Pakatan Pembangkang nyatakan pendirian, supaya rakyat tahu apa pendirian kepimpinan Pakatan dalam isu ini,” tegas beliau kepada UMNO-Online di sini hari ini.

    4. Beliau turut mengingatkan kepimpinan Pakatan Pembangkang, terutama golongan Melayu dan Islam agar tidak mempolitikkan isu kalimah Allah ini untuk meraih undi dari golongan tertentu.

    5. Hanya kerana kepentingan politik, sanggup buat apa sahaja.

  3. The government should be careful in handling this case.

  4. Please note this is certainly not a political issues but related to religious matters that has to do with faith.

  5. Irrespective of the decision made in the court, it would not solve what is at stake for these Muslims.

  6. The people must be careful of leaders who are trying to politicize the word of Allah only to gain more votes during the election.

  7. We as people want to know, what decision has been taken by the leadership of the opposition coalition on this issue.

  8. selama ini tak timbul isu ini, kenapa kini ia ditimbukan?

    1. Sebab mau PRU sudah, jadi pembangkang akan guna isu apa sahaja untuk menarik undi rakyat.


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