** This article was published in THE EDGE DAILY , May 3, 2021

1. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. But the Constitution provides for other religions which can be practised freely.

2. Since Islam is the official religion, it is incumbent upon the Malaysian Government to provide Islamic religious education in schools. The idea is to make Muslims knowledgeable of their religion. For those who wish to become Islamic scholars special Islamic schools are provided right up to university level.

3. The curriculum for the religious classes are prepared by the religious scholars. Sometimes they become overzealous and want the students to have deep knowledge of Islam as if they are all going to be religious teachers and ulama’s.

4. Besides this they stress on the compulsory rituals that Muslims must follow. To this they add many rituals which are not compulsory. Some of these may not be in conformity with Islam.

5. The stress on the Islamic way of life is minimal. Yet Muslims like to point out that Islam is not just a religion but is also a way of life. This involve the dos and don’ts, the merit and demerit, the rights and wrongs, the permitted and the forbidden. Together they shape the way of life of the Muslims. If Muslims follow the way of life of Islam they should be successful in life.

6. But as we all know Muslims are not doing well. In Malaysia all Malays are Muslims but the majority of them are poor, not successful in business, and generally in life.

7. Malays are pious. They are seen to be performing their prayers, they fast, they pay zakat (tithes) and they perform the haj. They never neglect to affirm their faith in the one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is His Prophet (messenger).

8. But beyond that what they do in life is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam. If one reads the Quran in a language one understands, (Malay or English) one cannot help but notice that many of the injunctions are not followed by most Malays.

9. Enjoined to regard each other as brothers, we see them deeply divided. They are fond of accusing each other as not being Islamic, not being Muslims even. And politically they fight each other.

10. The Quran forbids Muslims from killing, especially of fellow Muslims. But Malays do get involve in wars fought in the Arab countries.

11. The Quran stresses repeatedly that when you judge you must uphold justice. But there are Malays who disregard justice when they propose that Muslims and non-Muslims be punished differently for the same crimes. For the crime of stealing, they prescribed chopping off the hand for Malays and two-month jail for non-Muslims. Is this just?

12. A woman who has been raped must produce four witnesses or she would be accused of false accusation and punished. Yet in the case of Yusuf and Zulaikha in the Quran, the fact that the shirt of Yusuf was torn at the back was accepted as evidence that it was Zulaikha who was chasing Yusuf even though there were no witnesses.

13. The Quran stresses that you must not cheat in business, that you must be good witness and uphold the truth and be trustworthy.

14. And there are many injunctions and advise in the Quran which would make Muslims good honest people who would be successful in life.

15. If the Malays are unsuccessful in life it is because they don’t follow the injunctions of the Quran. They don’t follow because they are not taught seriously to follow all the injunctions of the Quran or even some of them. They do not follow because normally their parents should teach them. But now both father and mother are working and have little time to raise their children the way advocated by Islam.

16. Since this is no longer possible, the schools must take over the task of instilling in Muslim children the value system of Islam which influences the way of life of Muslims.

17. It is therefore important for the educational authorities to re-examine the curriculum in schools. The best time to instill values is when the children are young. So the teaching of the Islamic values must begin in the kindergarten. Throughout school life the Muslim children must be taught and examined on Islamic values and the way of life of Muslims.

18. The teachers have to be retrained and new textbooks written based on the Quran and the verified hadiths.

19. Just as the early Muslims were able to build the great Islamic civilisation, so will modern Muslims achieve their renaissance and secure Islam, the Muslims, the Muslim nations from being insulted, oppressed and unable to protect themselves as enjoined in the Quran.

20. Malaysia has a chance to reform the teachings of Islam. We should do this now as we still have the capacity. We should teach Islamic values and the Islamic way of life as found in the Quran and the verified hadiths.

21. We must not leave the interpretation of Islam to the teachers alone. Even the great scholars are mere men, and they will be bias in keeping with the version of Islam in their communities.

22. There is only one Quran. It contains the messages of Allah to Muhammad for mankind. Although there are allegories which lend to different interpretations, most of the messages are direct and clear. We cannot go wrong if we follow the clear messages. Thus we cannot misunderstand the injunction for Muslims to regard each other as brothers, nor can we fail to understand that Islam forbids killing a man, be he a Muslim or a non-Muslims.

23. Having read the Quran many times in Malay and English, I feel sure that if Muslims follow the injunctions in the Quran they would uphold peace and brotherhood, avoid wars and be just in the governance of their countries.

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