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PERDANA DISCOURSE SERIES 19 - “ISLAM AND ISLAMISATION”

“MUSLIMS NEED TO RETURN TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE QURAN”: TUN DR. MAHATHIR MOHAMAD

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad shared his views on the role of Islam within the nation at the 19th Perdana Discourse Series on “Islam and Islamisation” held at the Perdana Leadership Foundation on 6th May 2015.  Tun was of the view that the problems besetting the Muslim world are due in large part to Muslims themselves who have departed from the true teachings of the Quran and rely instead on interpretations of the Holy Book. 

“If you look at the Islamic world today, if you look at the Muslims, if you look at their countries, you will conclude that Islam is really a terrible religion. It is not successful, Muslims are not successful, and the behaviour of Muslims today in many parts of the world simply indicates that Islam does not implant good values among the followers of the religion…(This) has happened because the Islam that we believe in is what we are taught by our teachers, by the interpreters of Islam in our society, by the books and the Kitabs that we read. We seem to actually reject the Quran which contains all the messages of Allah to the Prophet Muhammad, to humanity. That is what the Quran is all about. It is the mother of all Kitabs. It should be our reference if we are lost,” he said.

A panel discussion was held following the keynote speech which discussed the points raised in the keynote. Panellists were Professor Dr Hashim Kamali, Founding CEO of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS); Professor Ibrahim Mohamed Zain, Dean of the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Human Sciences of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Mr. Mohd Nazim Ganti Shaari, Lecturer of Law of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), and social-activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir,  with Dr. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, Principal Fellow, IKIM cum Director, Institute’s Centre for Science and Environment Studies of IKIM as the moderator.

In his welcome address, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Perdana Leadership Foundation, remarked, “How we manage current religious sentiments will determine how successful we are in attaining our noble national objectives of becoming a developed nation by the year 2020 and in correcting mistaken perceptions towards Islam. As a Muslim, I would also like to see Malaysia contributing to a healthier image of Islam, one that is closer to our roots as a religion of mercy, knowledge, tolerance, enlightenment, and justice.”

Members of the 250-plus audience consisted of students, academics, NGO representatives and members of the public. 

Excerpted from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Keynote Address 

 “Islamic Scholars and Gurus are Human and Can Make Mistakes”“Islam is a great religion. It is the religion that converted the Jahiliah, the ignorant Arabs into the founders of the greatest civilisation of the history of mankind. A civilisation that spread from China to Spain, and the West. It was a great civilisation, far superior to the civilisation of Europe at that time. Indeed, Europe was living in the Dark Ages when Islam was already very far advanced as mentioned by Tan Sri (Azman Hashim) just now. All the great scientists and the great mathematicians were from the Muslim world. 

I am afraid that when we talk about the past, the greatness of Islam, we are actually admitting the lack of greatness today. It was glorious before therefore it is not glorious now. And why is it not glorious now? I believe that in the past, people follow more closely the teachings of the Quran without having interpreters. Interpretations sometimes conflict with each other and have resulted in Muslims being divided into different sects. We now have the Sunni, Syiah, the Wahabbi, the Alawis and the like…Because of following interpreters rather than referring to the Quran, we have broken into many different sects and we are fighting each other, despite the fact that Islam does not advocate factional fighting. Indeed, Islam forbids killing and Islam declares that all Muslims are brothers and sisters. 

Now, we are fond of telling people that Islam is a way of life, Ad-Deen, because Islam governs everything that you do while you are alive. A way of life, not a way of death. If you read the Quran in a language that you understand, you will find guidance there for everything that you do.

In the Quran there are two different verses. One is very clear and specific; the other is in the form of allegory which you may interpret differently according to what you understand from the story. For the verse that is direct and clear, anyone can understand it. But you have to read it in a language that you can understand. I completed reading (khatam) the Quran in Arabic when I was about 13 years old. But I knew nothing about it. What I knew was what my guru told me and my guru is human. Some of the things he told me were right but there were many others which were not right, now that I know about Islam. 

But that is the Islam that we practised. Not the Islam of the Quran, but the Islam of our teachers. And our teachers are human. Even if they are great scholars, they are still human and they can make mistakes. The interpretation of one (scholar) is different from the other. There are many teachers and scholars, and their interpretations on Islam differ so much that some regard others as not Muslim and hence, can be killed. That’s the result of following interpretations and not going back to the Quran.”   

PANELLISTS’ VIEWS

PROFESSOR MOHAMMAD HASHIM KAMALI - Founding CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies

“I think that the misunderstanding of Islam is not so much in terms of ideas and principle. It is that Islam is not being practised the way that it is taught…There was recently a learning exchange between two prominent scholars of Islam and the question was, what is the governing principle of Islam? What animates Islam most? One was saying that it is the idea of justice because Islam was an uprising in the name of justice, and in the Quran, it takes so much prominence - 53 verses on justice, and more than 300 on injustice. But Fazlur Rahman (the other prominent scholar) thought that this is not the governing principle. The governing principle of Islam is Rahman (compassion). The Surahs of the Quran begin with this phrase, Bismillahirrahmanirrahim and Allah SWT call himself Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim. He has 99 names but he chooses to call himself Ar-Rahman. Compassion is not an empty word but I think that when we see the ugly reality in front of us, what is happening is the opposite of compassion. The atrocities that are taking place defies the very essence of Islam.”

 

PROFESSOR IBRAHIM MOHAMED ZAIN - Dean Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Human Sciences, IIUM“ 

The greatest breakthrough in achievement brought by the Quran was the hierarchy of the values - how values can be realised in such a way independent of the realisation of other values. I give you just one example. If somebody wanted me to be obedient (because the Quran always tell us to be obedient to authority) but there is injustice, I would not need to obey. Thus, justice as a value ranks higher than obedience - we have the right to resist if there is oppression. So the Quran laid down the hierarchy of values. In the issue of rape, as Tun Mahathir rightly pointed out, it is a mistake to lump rape together with zina. The definition of zina is two consenting adults. Obviously in rape, there is no consent so the procedure of proving or disproving rape should not require four witnesses. That would be a mockery of the whole system. As Tun pointed out, the most important thing is the quality of justice. Islam is about realising justice in the lives of Muslims and the rest of humanity. Whatever leads to this, as our scholars would say, would be Islam. Whatever would be counter to this shouldn’t be considered as Islam.”

DATIN PADUKA MARINA MAHATHIR - Social Activist

“Prof Hashim mentioned that one of the things that the Quran said is that a Muslim should be the person from whom others are saved; which means that Muslims should never be a threat and danger to others. Surely the people nearest to us should be safest. Therefore, why should wives be afraid of their husbands and why should children be afraid of their parents? Is this Islamic? And yet we hear very little condemnation of this…I believe that violence against women and children epitomizes the state of health of any society. The more violent it is, the worse it is. If many people regard violence towards women as normal, then violence will soon be regarded as a right. People beating up their mothers are not considered aberrations. Yet we call this an Islamic society. How is it possible? If someone expresses an opinion, especially if they are female, they are faced with threats of beatings, rape, and even death…As the Quran says, we have to act on our faith. If we do not believe that it is right to kill another Muslim, why it is that we say nothing when there are threats by Muslims against other Muslims?”

MR. MOHD NAZIM GANTI SHAARI - Lecturer of Law, UiTM

“For a Muslim Malaysian, the Syariah may be your highest legal authority. But for other people, Muslim or non-Muslim, the Federal Constitution is their highest legal authority. How do you reconcile these two (systems)? This is what is called “Legal Pluralism”. This pluralism is because the British changed our laws such that Islamic law only applies to family matters. But there is one question that we need to ask: before the British came to Malaya, were the Malay Sultans practicing 100% Islamic laws? The answer is no. Along with Islamic interpretations of the law, they were also elements of Malay adat, Hindu customs, and even perhaps Buddhist traditions. So, there was no absolute Islamic legal order even during those days. Was there an intention to create an Islamic State before the British came? The answer is also no…Most of the arguments on Islam today centres on Article 3 of the Federal Constitution. But Article 3 is not so special that you can disregard the other provisions of the Constitution. Article 3 also does not mention any intention to create an Islamic state.” 

DATIN PADUKA MARINA MAHATHIRSocial Activist“Prof Hashim mentioned that one of the things that the Quran said is that a Muslim should be the person from whom others are saved; which means that Muslims should never be a threat and danger to others. Surely the people nearest to us should be safest. Therefore, why should wives be afraid of their husbands and why should children be afraid of their parents? Is this Islamic? And yet we hear very little condemnation of this…I believe that violence against women and children epitomizes the state of health of any society. The more violent it is, the worse it is. If many people regard violence towards women as normal, then violence will soon be regarded as a right. People beating up their mothers are not considered aberrations. Yet we call this an Islamic society. How is it possible? If someone expresses an opinion, especially if they are female, they are faced with threats of beatings, rape, and even death…As the Quran says, we have to act on our faith. If we do not believe that it is right to kill another Muslim, why it is that we say nothing when there are threats by Muslims against other Muslims?”MR. MOHD NAZIM GANTI SHAARILecturer of Law, UiTM“For a Muslim Malaysian, the Syariah may be your highest legal authority. But for other people, Muslim or non-Muslim, the Federal Constitution is their highest legal authority. How do you reconcile these two (systems)? This is what is called “Legal Pluralism”. This pluralism is because the British changed our laws such that Islamic law only applies to family matters. But there is one question that we need to ask: before the British came to Malaya, were the Malay Sultans practicing 100% Islamic laws? The answer is no. Along with Islamic interpretations of the law, they were also elements of Malay adat, Hindu customs, and even perhaps Buddhist traditions. So, there was no absolute Islamic legal order even during those days. Was there an intention to create an Islamic State before the British came? The answer is also no…Most of the arguments on Islam today centres on Article 3 of the Federal Constitution. But Article 3 is not so special that you can disregard the other provisions of the Constitution. Article 3 also does not mention any intention to create an Islamic state.”

 

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