When the New Straits Times published the report, which is now presented on the following pages, it was the first of its nature in exposing the beliefs of the pro-Qur'an group in any newspaper or publication in the country. Prior to this and even till today reports about the group have been misleading and prejudiced. There were, however, numerous articles on the Qur'an written by various writers published in various publications but none like this on the pro-Qur'an group.
New Straits Times
19 RAMADAN 1408/6 MEI 1988
Pro-Quran group at
centre of controversy
The pro-Quran group claims that the Quran and only the Quran should be the source of all Islamic laws. They maintain that everything is stated clearly in the Holy Book and completely reject all the extra-Quranic legacy of the Prophet. They also refuse to recognise the four schools of thought in Sunni Islam, the Syariah system and the role and influence of the Malaysian ulamak.
ROSE ISMAIL discusses this controversy. She cites a historian who says the ulamak should not react hysterically but, instead, engage in intellectual discussion with the group and persuade them that there is more to the Quran than meets the eye.
THEY call themselves the pro-Quran group. They claim, quite openly, that the Quran and only the Quran, should be the source of all Islamic laws.
Everything, they say, is stated clearly in the Holy Book There are no hidden meanings in the Quran, no information in it that is incomplete.
“Quran is complete, detailed and perfect. There is no necessity to seek out other sources to help explain the word of God," says one member of the group.
Because of their complete rejection of the extra-Quranic legacy of the Prophet, the pro-Quran group also refuses to recognise the four schools of thought in Sunni lslam, the Syariah system and the role and influence of the Malaysian ulamak.
Such views, indeed, are radical. Groups rejecting the Hadith have surfaced in other countries in the past but in Malaysia where Islamic practices are almost never questioned and religious matters are left entirely in the hands of the ulamak, the existence of "anti-Hadith elements" is causing a stir in conservative religious circles.
The anxieties of the ulamak are real. The claims made by the pro-Quran group have considerable appeal to the young and Western-educated. Their arguments sound rational and logical. It is believed that a number of non-Muslims are also attracted to the pro-Quran approach to Islam.
"I think their (the pro-Quran) approach is sensible because for years I never understood what I was saying in my prayers. My religious teachers never bothered to teach me," says a pro-Quran sympathiser.
But many more Muslims feel that the pro-Quran message is being spread by pseudo-intellectuals and youngsters who have no idea what the religion is all about. They say the pro-Quran approach is "picking up translated verses here and there and piecing them together to justify certain arguments".
“Quran contains a vast plethora of knowledge and information. Anyone can read anything and everything into it. We should study it properly before jumping to conclusions," says an ulamak.
Without the Hadith and Sunna to explain and expand on the Quran, many Muslims are convinced that Islam would not be the living force that it is today.
"How would we know how to pray if not for the Hadith?" some Muslims ask when told about the pro-Quran group's total rejection of the Hadith. "Without the Hadith, we wouldn't know how to perform the zakat or the Haj," others insist.
But pro-Quran members have answers to all these questions in the Quran, of course. They each have up to five or six translations of the Quran which they check and double-check when they discuss verses with each other.
To make their study of the Quran easier, they have purchased expensive computer hardware to compare eight or more different translations of the Quran at the same time.
When they were criticised for using Rashad Khalifa's controversial translation of the Quran more often than others, they purposely avoided it and used others to show how comfortable they were with all translations of the Quran.
There appears to be no leader in the pro-Quran group. They emphatically deny that Encik Kassim Ahmad, former PSRM president and writer of the now banned book "Hadith: A Re-evaluation" is their unofficial spokesman.
Unlike Encik Kassim who declares that hadiths that do not contradict the Quran are acceptable, the pro-Quran group say they reject all hadiths. To accept the Hadith as a source of law is to admit to flagrant idolworshipping which is an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God, they say.
But members of the group confess that it was not easy in the beginning to discard the Hadith and just look to the Quran. One member says he was "very frightened, at first" but he persevered.
Another member says he was with the Tabliq movement for five years, sleeping in mosques, wearing long robes and sharing meals dished out in large trays with other members of the movement when he suddenly realised the foolishness of it all.
Another member, after reading Dr Maurice Bucaille's books, realised he had to read the Quran himself. But when he began studying it and the Hadith, he found that many hadiths contradicted statements in the Quran. "I found a lot of the Hadith ridiculous. Some of the teachings were childish. I told myself this is not Islam, this is not my religion," he says.
That was 10 years ago. His family has ostracised him completely. He says he and his wife practise different religions. Yet, doggedly, he has studied the Quran in all different translations and has kept a solemn promise to God that he would read the Quran everyday in Arabic until he dies.
"I don't understand it but a promise is a promise. I only hope God will guide me," he says.
It is believed that pro-Quran members run into the hundreds and that many live in Kuala Lumpur and in the south. Many are Western educated, professionals with independent minds, avid readers and thinkers.
As Encik Kassim Ahmad says: "These people have had the benefit of an education which trained them to think rationally."
The pro-Quran members do not sport beards or wear long robes or turbans. If anything, their dressing is yuppie.
Despite this and their non-partisan stand in politics, they are viewed as a threat. They have been labelled "orientalists," "Bahais" and "antiHadith". A number of them have received summons from State Religious Affairs Departments and two were recently banished from the State for "deviationist teachings".
The pro-Quran members are aware of the risks they face. Some of them have made statutory declarations that they belong to no sect or school of thought and that they renounce all Syariah laws from sources other than the Quran.
In rejecting the religious methodology that was painstakingly created by Muslims after the death of the Prophet, the pro-Quran group has also restructured prayer and fasting according to what they believe is expected of them in the Quran.
Many of them no longer pray in Arabic. Instead, they "talk" to God in Bahasa Malaysia or English. To communicate with God, they say, one has to understand what one is saying. "Many of us have completed several readings of the Quran but do we understand it?" asks one member.
To support this new method of praying, they recite the following verse:
"Ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say." (Sura 4:43)
Fasting, for pro-Quran members, begins at dawn and not earlier as practised by the rest of the Muslim community. They break their fast long after Maghrib because of the following verse:
"And seek what God hath ordained for you and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears." (Sura 2:187)
They do not pray at the mosque because of the verse:
"And there are those who put up mosque by way of mischief and infidelity to disunite the Believers and in preparation for one who warred against God and His Apostle aforetime, they will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good; but God both declare that they are certainly liars. Never stand thou forth therein." (Sura 9:107-108)
Pro-Quran members do not utter the Kalimah Shahadah in prayer because in Sura: 4:150, it states that: "Those who deny God and His apostles, and those who wish to separate God from his apostles saying: 'We believe in some but reject others': and those who wish to take a course midway, they are in truth equally unbelievers; and we have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment."
In Sura 4:79: 'Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee, is from God; But whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own soul), and we have sent thee as an Apostle to instruct mankind and enough is God for a witness."
This, they say, is a clear enough message stating that Muslims need not bear witness that Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God. God knows this and that is sufficient.
Prayer should not be a ritual, says one of them. "God wants us to use our brains, to apply common sense to all things around us. Some of the verses that religious teachers have encouraged us to read are simply not suitable for prayer."
Says another member, 'We must choose different verses for different situations. On days when we feel oppressed, we recite verses seeking help, protection and guidance from God."
To Part Two