20 Apr 2021

DBP: “Tuhan” for monotheistic religion, “tuhan” for polytheistic faiths

THE Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) today defended its decision to make a distinction between the words “Tuhan” and “tuhan”, saying it was also practiced by English language dictionaries.

“English language dictionaries such as Oxford Dictionary of English, Collins English Dictionary and Wikipedia make the same distinction.

“For example, Oxford Dictionary of English Second Edition (2003) uses the word “God” to refer to the Almighty of monotheistic religions.

“For the polytheistic religions, they use the word “god”,” its director general Datuk Abang Salehuddin Abg Shokeran said, in a statement to FocusM.

Three days ago, Kavyan Writers’s Group told FocusM that DBP had made a distinction on the use of the word “Tuhan” among Muslims and non-Muslims.

The group’s founder SB Uthaya Sankar said that DBP has reserved the word “Tuhan” for Muslims, while “tuhan” is used for non-Muslims.

He cited that while there was only a single entry for ‘Tuhan” in Kamus Pelajar (1988), Kamus Dewan (2005) and Kamus Dewan Perdana (2020) made the distinction.

It says: “Tuhan” seem to refer exclusively to Allah, whereas “tuhan” refers to “something worshipped by people whose religion or belief is not based on the One God” (“sesuatu yang dipuja oleh golongan manusia yang agama atau kepercayaan mereka tidak berasaskan kepercayaan kepada Tuhan Yang Esa”).

Uthaya said the distinction was clearly reflected in the anthology of short stories, Meredah Kabus (2021), published by DBP recently.

When contacted yesterday, Salehuddin said he would probe the matter, adding no one came up with such ruling before.

Touching on the matter, Salehuddin said that the decision was made based on DBP’s guideline; Pedoman Umum Bahasa Melayu (1975), where capital letters were used to refer to religious matters, holy books, God’s name and its pronouns.

“But dictionaries are about compiling vocabularies of a specific language and we record it based on its actual usage.

“So, ‘Tuhan’ is recorded in our dictionary to refer to Allah, which is correct based on the usage while the word ‘tuhan’ is a general term used to refer to deities, who have their own specific names.

“I hope my clarification will alleviate any confusion or misunderstanding on the matter,” Salehuddin remarked.

(Published in Focus Malaysia on 20 April 2021)