Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to ask Quality Questions

I just noticed this in my 'draft' folder where it's been sitting for more than a year.  I suppose that now's a good time as any to share it.

Its said that the quality of your questions determine the quality of your life. When I mentioned that to someone, he asked me, "What is a quality question?" Funny thing is how we think we know something, but when someone asks about it you cannot answer. This was one of those times for me.

I found this note on a friends facebook page which I think will help in answering that question. He had got it from

Re-framing questions to maximize our power:

Original question: “Who am I?”
Revised powerful question: “What do I stand-up for?”

Original question: “What are my goals?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I just BE and yet be complete?”

Original question: “What is my life purpose?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do where I maximize my life, my love, my happiness, and my burning desire to contribute?”

Original question: “How can I attract more love?”
Revised powerful question: “How much love can I give out and to whom do I want to give it to?”

Original question: “What am I getting out of this?”
Revised powerful question: “Who am I becoming from doing this?”

Original question: “Why is this happening to me?”
Revised powerful question: “How am I growing and learning from this situation?”

Original question: “Why did they hurt me?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I rise above the hurt to grow?”

Original question: “What else is there?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I be open to discover more?”

Original question: “How can I get more money?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I add more value to other’s lives?”

Original question: “How can I stay looking young and beautiful?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I share in the beauty in all things?”

Original question: “What will I do with my time?”
Revised powerful question: “What matters the most in this moment?”

Original question: “What do I want now?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do to just be and not want or need anything?”

Original question: “How can I become more secure and protect my family?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I imagine the lives of those I love as “secure” in a way where nothing can harm us?”

Original question: “How come I feel out of control?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do in this moment that is true to my self?”

~~~ from ~~~

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Open Letter - Additional Comments

You know that my letter got published in The Malaysian Insider.
I can only clarify points for those who don't understand me, but for those who choose to misunderstand me, I can only say that they are well entitled to their opinions as I am to mine.  However, if someone finds some fact wrong in what I wrote, then please enlighten me that I can make any correction that may be necessary.

As I have said in earlier postings, I have no personal objections on anybody using the term Allah provided they maintain the integrity of the meaning of the word.  Anyone who says that non-Muslims using the word may confuse Muslim me is surely insulting my intelligence.

I would like to thank 2 readers, bimasakti and yk001nul, for their comments (reproduced below) which I consider is helpful in explaining my letter.

Instead of condemning Shaik Dawood with the standard criticisms of who owns which word, why don't you read once again what he has actually written. Why use the lower case 'allah' in the al Kitab to refer to to non-Judeo-Christian/non-Islamic deities like baal, ishtar, ishwar? Do you really believe your typical East Malaysian reading the al Kitab can distinguish between an upper case Allah and a lower case one? – bimasakti

The writer has highlighted accordingly the Muslims' concern. That is the point of contention when Muslims object to the usage of Allah in the Malay Bible. It was never about permission, but it's always about the literal meaning. 
To understand the 'confusion' the Muslims are always talking about, try visiting other places or country where the Bible is presented in the local vernacular. You can see that the word referring to God changes from country to country, from place to place. It's 'ibshaq' in Assamese areas of India, 'atoatl' in Nahuatl-speaking provinces of Brazil, and of course, 'allah' here in Malay-speaking Malaysia. Heck, in Hebei province of China, there used to be a Bible publication calling the God as Buddha, before some pressure from Buddhist groups corrected the problem. 
For a really central important concept in Christianity to be represented in such non-uniform way across the globe, isn't it a matter of concern to all Christians? In this, our Muslim brothers obviously has the better hand; the God is uniformly referred to as Allah no matter wherever they go, and you don't see them usurping the God concept from other religions for their own use. Interestingly, I read the Arabic version of Bible, and nowhere are there such transliteration confusion as the one found in our Malay Bible. Proper nouns are properly addressed as Allah, while references to generic deities and pagan gods are addressed either as 'rabb' or 'latt' (a generic name derived from pre-Islamic Nabatean goddess Latta). Thus it was no wonder that Arabic Christians are confused on the Allah ban ruling by our authority. So, it is inherently a Malaysian problem then. (Emphasis mine)
I've no idea why the missionaries of yore chose Allah instead of the pre-existing Malay-Sanskrit over-god word 'Mahadewa' when they first published the Malay bible in the 17th century. It just didn't follow the pattern used by contemporary missionaries elsewhere in the world around that time. Many reasons can be thought of; Christianization among Muslims, colonial politics, Muslim tolerance, or maybe just bad command of Malay language. 
One thing for sure though, is that it is a move worth reconsidering for mutual peace between these two great religions. I hope that Christians and Muslims here can get over their emotions and find a common ground to settle this issue once and for all. – yk001nul

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Open Letter to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

I just sent this letter to The Sun Daily, The Star, The Malaysian Insider and The Malay Mail Online.  I'm not sure if it will get published.  However, I share it here.

Most Reverend Tan Sri Datuk Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam, PSM, PJM
(Image from Wikipedia)

Open letter
Most Reverend Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam,
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

Your Grace,
I am writing this as a concerned Malaysian Muslim on the distress caused by the “Allah” issue on the inter-faith/inter-ethnic relationships in our beloved Malaysia.

Before I begin, permit me, Your Grace, to quote from the well loved children’s book ‘Through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll.

 ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

 ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

I begin with this quote because I think that words do have meanings of their own and should not be taken out of context or used in ways that it was not intended to be used.

In writings on or about Islam in English, ‘Allah’ is often rendered as ‘God’.  Modern day Muslim scholars, however, think that Allah should not be translated as it is a Proper Name and is free of number or gender, whereas God can be general or specific (god/God), singular or plural (god/gods) and male or female (god/goddess).

Your Grace has been quoted in the media as saying, The First Article of Faith in the Catholic Creed and for all Christians is: ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth’.  Any Christian, who denies or modifies this statement of faith, incurs excommunication and would be considered a heretic. It is to be noted that for centuries the Bahasa Malaysia translation and the Arabic equivalent of the one God, is the sacred word Allah, which the Christians have been using peacefully.

As a Muslim, I fully support anyone’s use of ‘Allah’ in the context that Your Grace was quoted above, whether Christian or otherwise.  (I must qualify that this is my personal opinion and may not reflect the views of the Malaysian Islamic authorities.)

In the AlKitab, God is translated as Allah.(e.g.: Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. / Kejadian 1:1  Pada mulanya Allah menciptakan langit dan bumi.)  This, I think, is the God/Allah that Your Grace refers to.

However the AlKitab also translates god and gods as allah, albeit with a lower-case ‘a’. (e.g.: Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods...  / Ulangan 32:17 meraka mempersembahkan korban kepada roh-roh jahat yang bukan Allah, kepada allah yang tidak mereka kenal, allah baru...)

To the best of my knowledge, there is no allah (with a lower-case ‘a’) in the Malay Language.  Even in Arabic, god is i’lah.  The Malay word for god is dewa, with the plural form written as dewa-dewa.  God is also Tuhan.

Interestingly though 'Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites' in 1 Kings 11:5 is translated as 'dewa kejijikan' while 'Milcom the god of the children of Ammon' in 1 Kings 11:33 is 'allah'.
Goddess is translated as dewi.  (e.g. 1 Kings 11:5 … Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians… / 1 Raja-Raja 11:5  … Asytoret, dewi orang Sidon… )

In Malay, Allah is always the proper name, while Tuhan is the general term used for God.  The Translators of the AlKitab have chosen to reverse the order, so that Tuhan is the proper name and Allah is the general form.  (e.g.  Deuteronomy 6:4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! / Ulangan 6:4  Dengarlah, hai orang Israel: TUHAN itu Allah kita, TUHAN itu esa!  Also in: Mark 12:29 ...Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. / Markus 12:29 ...Dengarlah, hai orang Israel, Tuhan Allah kita, Tuhan itu esa.)

Your Grace, I cannot claim to know the intentions of the Translators of the AlKitab.  I can only assume that they were persons well versed in the Malay Language who choose to follow Humpty Dumpty.  I find this misleading, deceitful and dishonest, and as a Muslim I feel extremely hurt and insulted.

Your Grace, in the interest of truth and harmony, may I suggest that Your Grace appoints a person or persons to undertake an honest and accurate translation of the Bible in the Malay Language.  Deo volente, we will have an early closure to this issue.

May the Almighty bless and guide us in all our endeavours.

I am, Yours respectfully,

Shaik Dawood

Note:     Bible quotes in English from New King James Version, quotes in Malay from AlKitab (Lembaga AlKitab Indonesia)

Friday, October 18, 2013

The 'ALLAH' Issue, Will there be a resolution any time soon?

'Palace of Justice'
Putrajaya, Malaysia
(from Google Images)
The Court has decided and now the court of public opinion is in full swing.  While some agree that it is about 'preventing confusion' and 'preserving harmony' many others are asking, "what happened to freedom of religion?"  I have shared my opinion earlier here, here and here.

In Islamic writings in English, 'Allah' is often rendered as 'God'.  However, some scholars maintain that the word should not be translated as 'Allah' is unique, while God can be general or specific (god/God), male or female (god/goddess), singular or plural (god/gods).  Moreover 'God' has different connotations to different people based on that individual's conception of God.

The Sikhs use 'Allah' to describe God as do the Qadianis. (In Malaysia, as in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, the Qadianis are not considered Muslims.) Those of the Baha'i Faith probably also do the same.  (The founder's name is Baha'u'llah.)

Now let us look at the Christian use of the word.

In the English Bible, there is not only the word 'God', but there are also 'god', 'gods' and 'goddess'.  God may be translated as Allah, but how do you translate the other three?

In the AlKitab [the Indonesian Bible] God is Allah [upper case first letter for both]. (e.g.: Genesis 1:1 / Kejadian 1:1), god is allah [lower case first letter for both] (e.g.: 1 John 4:8 /1 Yohanes 4:8) gods is also allah [the 's' plural form to be understood from the context] (e.g.: Deuteronomy 32:17 / Ulangan 32:17 ... demons that were no gods, to gods they had never know, to new gods...  ...roh-roh jahat yang bukan Allah, kepada allah yang tidak mereka kenal, allah baru...), but goddess is dewi [here a Malay word is used instead of an Arabic one] (e.g.: 1 Kings 11:5 / 1 Raja-Raja 11:5).

Interestingly though 'Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites' in 1 Kings 11:5 is 'dewa kejijikan' while further down in 1 Kings 11:33 'Milcom the god of the children of Ammon' is 'allah'.

In Malay, God [upper case 'G'] is Tuhan, while god, gods and goddess can be rendered as dewa, dewa-dewa and dewi respectively. Even in Arabic, god [lower case 'g'] is i'lah not Allah.

So if the Church insists on using Allah to include god and gods (as used in AlKitab), it could be seen as act of provocation (i.e. purposely using words out of context with possible intent to offend/insult) and not about freedom of religion.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bucky Quotes

R. Buckminster Fuller
(image from )
With all that is happening around us everyday these days, I'd like to share the following Bucky quote for us to reflect on.  I copied it from the book "A Fuller View" by L. Steven Sieden.

What can a little man effect toward such realizations in the face of the formidable power of great corporations, great states, and all their know-how, guns, monies, armies, tools and information?

The individual can take initiatives without anybody's permission. Only individuals can think, and can look for the principals manifest in their experiences that others may be overlooking because they are too preoccupied with how to please some boss or with how to earn money, how to take care of today's bills. Only the individual disregards his fears and commits himself exclusively to reforming the human environment by developing tools that deal more effectively and economically with evolutionary challenges.

Humans can participate - consciously and completely - in fundamental ways, to changes that are more favorable to human life.  It became evident that the individual was the only one that could deliberately find the time to think in a cosmically adequate manner.
Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario