Speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Fifth International Quran Seminar, 1995.


Uphold The Truth


The Quran is a holy book, which forms the faith and guidance of the Muslims. There is not even the slightest doubt about this. In fact it is believed with the utmost of confidence.

If there is any doubt among Muslims in our belief of the Quran, no matter how small, then our position as a faithful Muslim will be adversely affected. This is because believing in the holy book is one of the Tenets of the Faith and this requires absolute faith.
  This scripture is infallible, a guide for the righteous. Quran 2. 2.

Belief in the Quran is not confined to just the belief that all its contents are the words of God, but one must be willing to practice all the teachings contained in its revelations. This covers the application of the contents in the affairs of individuals and society, referred to as spiritual obligations and social obligations.

We are confident that the guidelines mentioned in the Quran ensure a prosperous and peaceful life in this world and the Hereafter. In this context, the Prophet had also reminded us that if we uphold and follow closely the teachings of the Quran then our life will not go astray at any point in time.
  Shall I seek other than God as a source of Law, when He revealed this scripture fully detailed? Therefore you shall not harbor any doubt. Quran 6.114.

We all believe in the Quran and do not want to deliberately breach its teachings. As such, all Muslims should prosper and live in peace, free of humiliation, suppression and torture by any party. But the fact is that Muslims do not live happily and in peace. Actually, over one billion Muslims are under suppression and are suffering, are being made fools of, and are used by those with particular interests. Is this due to the Muslims' faith in the Quran or is it because the Muslims do not truly uphold the teachings of the Quran?

Human beings have weaknesses. And the Muslims are no exception. There are those who believe in the teachings of the Quran and yet do not practice these teachings. They know what they are required to do, and yet they do not do it. Hence, they do not achieve the prosperity in life as promised.
  Why do they not study the Quran carefully? If it were from other than God, they would have found many contradictions therein. Quran 4.82.

But the failure of the Muslims to achieve prosperity is not solely due to the unwillingness to practice the teachings of Islam. Most of their failures were caused by their lack of understanding of the real teachings of the Quran and this led to their practices being wrong as well. Therefore, they could not enjoy a prosperous and respectable life.

Why is there this misunderstanding? The reason is that even though some people are fluent in the Arabic language and are able to read it, the meanings and messages contained in the verses of the Quran cannot be so easily understood by self-reading. Therefore, Muslims who wish to understand the contents of the Quran are forced to depend on the interpretations of the teachings of the Quran made by recognized interpreters.
  The prophet Muhammad was commanded to say: 'This Quran is my proof. It encompasses the present and the past. Indeed most of them fail to recognize the truth, this why they turn away'. Quran 21.24.

In the effort to explain the contents of the Quran as understood by the interpreters, they have to use their own words and add to the verses of the Quran to explain the relevant meanings and messages. Certainly for Muslims who do not understand the Arabic language, they can only read the translation in Arabic or in their own language.

Hence, it is not the contents of the Quran, which they receive as the teachings of the Quran but rather the translation made by the interpreters and translators.

If the understanding of the interpreters or translators is wrong, then the understanding of those who follow them is also wrong. If it is accurate, then those who follow them will get the accurate messages from the verses of the Quran. But we know that there are differences among interpreters.
  ...You shall follow what is sent down from your Lord, and do not follow any idols (other teachings) besides Him... Quran 7.2-3.

Sometimes, these differences are not obvious and do not change much of the messages in the Quran. But there are times when these differences are so glaring that the Muslims who follow the interpreters are split into contradicting sects. The Islamic religion which was conveyed to the Prophet is only one but there are various groups claiming to be Muslims whose practices and beliefs differ, and they even reject the practices of others who claim to be Muslims. Therefore, apart from the Sunni and shyah groups with their respective sects there are also the Alawait and Druze and others.
  The prophet Muhammad said: 'I simply follow what is revealed to me...' Quran 6.50.

The differences among these groups are so glaring to the extent that there is a possibility that certain groups are not Islamic. They all refer to the same Quran but the interpretation of the teachings of the Quran differs, and therefore, their understanding and beliefs are no more one and the same. It is also highly possible that there are interpreters who are wrong and whose teachings deviate. In the history of Islam up to the present day, this normally occurs. And just recently this happens before our own eyes.

When Muslims accept and follow the wrongly interpreted teachings of the Quran with the belief that these are the true teachings of the Quran, certainly they will not achieve happiness in life. More than that, they may fail and suffer. The present sad state of affairs affecting the Muslims now is possibly due to their belief in the wrongly interpreted teachings of the Quran. We must remember this all the time.
  Those who divide their religion into sects do not belong with you. Their judgement rests with God and He will inform them of everything they did. Quran 6.159.

When we dispute the teachings of Islam, we must remember that our conflict is not with the Quran or the verses in it, which are never wrong and never change. What we are disputing or debating are the interpretations by interpreters who, no matter how knowledgeable they may be, are still ordinary human beings with weaknesses known to all mortals.
  Do not be with those who divided their religion into sects, each party satisfied with what they have. Quran 30.32.

What a loss it would be for Muslims if we are to hold firmly and defend at all costs not the teachings of the Quran, but rather the opinions of ordinary human beings, which are certainly not on par with the revelations.

Is it not possible that the backwardness of Muslims is caused by wrongly interpreted teachings of the Quran? What is certain is that the backwardness is not caused by the teachings of the Quran, which teaches and guides the Muslims. If we accept this, then we cannot be wrong if we are to review and reject certain interpretations.
  If your Lord will, he can make all the people on earth believe. Would you force the people to believe..... He deliberately blocks out those who defy common sense. Quran 10. 99-100.

And we should also not feel obstructed by suggestions that the door of effort has been shut and that we cannot review the interpretations and contents of the teachings of the Quran anymore.

Adherence to the belief that the door to fresh efforts is closed can possibly lead to the upholding of these wrongly interpreted teachings of the Quran and place them at par with God's revelations. This can lead us to believe that the interpretations are faultless and unchangeable.

The wrongly interpreted teachings of the Quran have spread widely in the Muslim world for centuries. Among the incorrect interpretations is that education and knowledge are only related to religion. The more specific and deeper the religious knowledge is, the better it is for a Muslim. It is believed it can bring many rewards and guarantee a place in heaven in the Hereafter.

No one can deny that religious knowledge is important and good for a Muslim individual. No one will dispute that a learned person in matters pertaining to religion and who performs his obligations is one who upholds his religion strongly.

For Muslims, a person who concentrates all his time on religion in terms of knowledge and practice is considered good and noble and must be followed without question.
  God cites an example of a man with partners who contradict one another, and a man who relies on one consistent source; are they the same? Praise be to God; the majority do not know. Quran 39.29.

Those who learn and specialize in religion believe that what they do actually fulfils their religious requirements. Since almost all the interpreters, religious teachers and Muslim missionaries are those who major and specialize in religion, their emphasis would certainly be in the field of religion.

Other fields are not considered important and they normally will not urge the Muslims to seek knowledge or jobs in other fields. At times they offer opinions that Muslims who excel or are educated in other areas will not get any reward in the Here after. These people are not considered strong Muslims.
  Have you noted those who claim that they believe in what was revealed to you... and then apply the laws of the idols (other than God's law).... , You see the hypocrites snubbing you completely. Quran 4.60-61.

With the spread of these kinds of views, the majority of the Muslims are not so keen in seeking knowledge, which is not specifically related to the Islamic religion. If today there are Muslims who are backward in various aspects of knowledge and efficiency to the extent that they cannot preserve their dignity, protect Muslims from being attacked, subjugated and victimized, cannot exploit the abundant resources blessed by God to their countries; and if Muslims today do things not permitted by Islam, and even leave the religion, it is because they are frustrated with their weaknesses and feel humiliated.
  Among them are illiterates who do not know the scripture except through heresay and conjecture. Quran 2.78.

The fact that the Quran not only stresses knowledge in the teachings of Islam, but also hundreds of other matters related to life and the prosperity of the Muslims, is not given due attention by many interpreters and scholars. Actually, they have selected only a small portion of the teachings of the Quran.

Though we are required in the Quran to look at God's creations such as the sky and earth, cloud and rain, fertile soil, hills and animals, we interpret these verses only as proof of God's supremacy. If we look at all these deeply, that is, if we conduct research on them, we will not only be more impressed with God's creations, but will gain a lot of knowledge, which can help our life. Definitely, agriculture will be more developed and the acute starvation in Muslim countries can be avoided.
  God guides to the truth. Is one who guides to the truth worthy of being followed or the one who need the guidance himself? What is wrong with you? How do you make your judgement? The majority follows only conjecture, and conjecture is no substitute for the truth. Quran 10.35-36.

Similarly, we are required to provide horses and swords to defend the Muslims. If we really accept the teachings of the Quran, certainly we can learn various things, which will enable us to invent and produce all kinds of modern self-defense equipment to save the Muslims from misfortunes such as being experienced in Bosnia, NagornoKarabakh, Chechnya and other countries.

These are only two of the teachings of the Quran, which we do not take seriously. There are hundreds of other teachings, which can make us successful without adversely affecting our position in the Here after, a point to which we also do not give serious attention.

When Muslims become backward and are suppressed in this world, there are those who claim this is what Islam wants, that is Muslims will suffer in this world while waiting for happiness in the Hereafter. So, just accept and endure the sufferings, misery and humiliation in this world. This is temporary. The Hereafter us eternal and Muslims, therefore, will live happily ever after.
  Those who were followed will disown their followers; they will suffer retribution, and all help will be severed. . Quran 2.166.

As long as this understanding is accepted and disseminated, Muslims will not do anything to improve their life and Islam in this world. They will accept that their backwardness is happiness, as it reminds them of their better position in the Hereafter.

If Muslims are suppressed, subjugated and divorced from Islam it is all right. Just wait because we are promised the heaven in the Hereafter. They do not feel at all awkward with their prayers that they be given happiness in this world and the Hereafter. This is only lip service.
  You (Muhammad) cannot guide those you love. God is the only one who guides whomever He wills, for He is fully aware those who deserve the guidance. Quran 28.56

All this is possible because we misunderstand the religion and we select the teachings of the Quran by concentrating on a few verses only. Even though we do not acknowledge the fact that we reject or look down upon the bigger portion of the teachings, the truth is that this is what is happening. That is why Muslims do not experience happiness while in this world. Whether we will get happiness in the Here after is also uncertain.
  The messenger will say 'My Lord, my people have deserted this Quran' Quran 25.30.

The rewards in the Hereafter are not due to what we do for ourselves, which is spiritual obligation, but also for what we do to society, which comes under social obligation. If we truly believe in the teachings of the Quran, then we should fulfil our spiritual and social obligations. God willing Muslims will be happy and their dignity, as well as the dignity of their religion will be redeemed.

Verses shown throughout the text are not part of the speech but have been quoted to highlight some relevant messages from the Quran.