Al-Azhar Facing Misconceptions
«Papers of Al-Azhar Conference to Counter Extremism and Terrorism»
Held in Cairo on 11-12th of Safar 1436 A.H (Corresponding to 3rd – 4th of December, 2014)
Prof. Ahmed At-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh Al-Azhar
Chairman of Muslim Council of Elders
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful
All praise is due to God. May God’s Peace and Blessings be upon His Prophet Muhammad, and upon his Family and Companions.
The first part of the research papers of «Al-Azhar World Conference to Counter Extremism and Terrorism” has been issued in two editions. The first edition appeared in 2015, and the second one in 2016. It had been scheduled that the second part of the conference research papers would have been issued almost a year ago, especially that the copies of the first part sold well in a short time.
I think that the time is still appropriate for the issuance of the remaining part of the conference research papers, since thearea is still being shaked by incidents of terrorism, murder, bombing and destruction, and our region is still deeply indulged, up to its ears, in some absurd and inhumane arguments and disputes. Consequently, our region has been suffering a heavy toll of lives, money, blood and damage that I think it had never paid before in its history, far and recent.
One day, history will record that the Arabs and Muslims in the century of urbanization and human rights have not been worthy of inheriting the values of their religion whose name derives from the meaning of «peace», and whose Prophet is sent to be a mercy for the worlds. It will also be recorded that they have not stood once to get a grip on the Ever-Wise Qur’an that they recite day and night and that says, “Do not quarrel with one another, or you may be disheartened and your vigor goes away; and endure patiently; surely God is with the steadfast”. On the contrary, they are so quarrelsome and argumentative that they wage wars against one another because of sects and sectarianism.
Unlike their ancestors, Muslims today do not view Islam as a source of unity, strength, dignity and invincibility. Rather, a stubborn, ignorant group of them have made it the cause of blind sedition and doomy confusing distress that are so bewildering that wise people, not to mention laymen and common people, deem them totally obscure.
Look at the civilization of Iraq and how the Iraqis destroyed it with their own hands. Have another look and see how the Iraqi blood is shed with the hands of the people of one and the same religion, and the same nation! Had this Arab blood been shed with foreign hands, such an ordeal would have been allieviated, and its reasons would have been completely figured out.
Likewise, you can look bemoaning disasters and adverseries that have afflicted millions of citizens of Syria, Yemen, and Lybia, etc. who were slaughtered, displaced, and forced to roam through deserts and wastelands, due to the grim war with which they have nothing to do.
If you started to ask about the direct cause that fiercely and barbarically ignited the fire in the land of the Arabs, you are only right if you say that it is a religion-related war, or a war disguised in religion. However, seen from the perspective of its direct causes, this war has nothing to do with religion at all. It has been closely associated there with the domains of regional covetousness and expansions serving sectarian agenda, and obeying orders of hegemony policies, new maps’ drawing, border changing, and an outline designated to fragment the greater Arab entities, distract their efforts, and weaken their economic and military powers to ensure an eternally safe and stable settlement of a permanent colonial entity that penetrated deep into the heart of Arabism.
Organizers of this entity believed that weakening neighbors would be a source of their strength, security and safety. They forgot, or rather ignored, that the facts of history, geography and nature of things cannot imagine a ship safe from sinking while the surrounding waves are furious and tumultuous. Such facts stipulate that once neighbors of an entity are deprived of peace, the same entity will inevitably be deprived of peace in the long or in the short run.
The direct cause that ignited this cruel war, whose beginning is known, but we know nothing about how it will end, is the rise of sectarian disputes among Muslims themselves. Revival of Sunni-Shiite disputes has provided fire-ignitors, including war brokers, arms’ dealers, and those who add fuel to the fire, with a platform ready to launch aircraft and missiles on three countries that are the reservoir of the oldest humanitarian and Islamic civilizations. When one contemplates on the identity of weapons used in the killing of the men, women and children of these countries, one knows that the parties, which manage the war and manipulate the thread of the game, are from overseas, and that this, as they say, is a proxy war.
It is fair for ourselves and for others to recognize that we, Arabs and Muslims, are the first to bear the religious and moral responsibility for this chaotic and absurd war before God and before history. We have swallowed the poisonous bait and we have been unaware of the trap in which the nation has been caught, and whose leg has fallen trapped into. It is still trying to set itself free from that trap but in vain.
After the destruction that ravaged everything in the north, central, south and west of the region, no one knows when this war will end, where it will take the region to, and what the forthcoming reconstruction costs. This could result in a paralysis of the Arab economy and a serious lack of resources and components of the Arab treasures.
Of course, we, Arabs and Muslims, have not been alert to two fatal calamities that tightly stick to and logically entail each other:
First: As I have mentioned before, there are susceptibility to fragmentation, disagreement, being sidelined to partial national interests, and lack of seriousness in dealing with the sanctity of the homeland. Some ultimate objectives are required to preserve such national sovereignity or sanctity. These objectives include farsightedness, responsibility bearing, vigilance and a previously studied sensing of the risks that plague everyone when sanctity of the homeland is violated. What is worse is to practice fragmentation and dispute even in situations where disagreement is a kind of underestimation of the historical responsibility for the nation, if not a form of «treason» for our children, offspring and future generations. For me, such situations are those in which it is necessary to unite, be of one rank, agree on one plan to deal with such an urgent situation and confront an enemy that entered the country and wreaked havoc on its territories.
The second calamity is that this national rift, as might be described, necessarily requires an exceptional Islamic legal or jurisprudent authentic reference, which each faction brings from our heritage to support and justify its own approach. In such case, it is not strange that some factions resort to our remote, and near, heritage to legalize a kind of emergency jurisprudence of Jihad, which appeared in a particular environment, to address some urgent situations, where Muslims were facing a colonial enemy which already occupied the land of Islam with its force. In this case, it is incumbent on every Muslim, man and woman, to face, rebel against and defeat this occupying force.
In such contexts or circumstances it is natural and logical to issue some judgments and legal opinions for Jihad and fighting to address these urgent situations. Such legal opinions are exclusively connected to such contexts or circumstances and must not go beyond the age in which they were issued, nor be applied to other different ages, characterized by peace, stability, and international peace treaties, that require a jurisprudence of peace and security and necessitate peaceful treatment with others and the implementation of international instruments.
It is not altogether acceptable by the Islamic Shari’a law or by human reason, which the Ever-Glorious Qur’an and the honorable Sunnah give a unique and high appreciation not found in any other religion, that some Arabs and Muslims now import the old Jihad jurisprudence of the Mongols, Tatars and Crusaders or the modern resistance jurisprudence issued to oconfront the British colonialists in India and its environs and implement this kind of context-bound jurisprudence to resolve their disagreements and disputes. Such jurisprudence and its rulings have no place now, since they are out of their circumstances. Once circumstances end, their respective jurisprudence and rulings must end too; otherwise, Muslim societies naturally turn into chaotic and disorderly, as is happening now.
We have learned at Al-Azhar a jurisprudent rule that confirms the connection of a ruling to the existence of its respective contexts or circumstances. It is unanimously agreed that when certain circumstances do not exist, their ruling has no place to be issued or implemented. The context that no longer exists was one of confronting and rebelling against a disbelieving colonial enemy whose objective was to wipe out Islam and Muslims. The respective ruling that was connected to this context was fighting to defend the faith, the land and the nation. This ruling has no place now due to the fact that its contexts or circumstances did not continue to exist.
This crisis of misunderstanding and false analogy or theorization is the calamity responsible for the shedding of Muslim blood wholesome, in dozens and in hundreds every day. The issue to bulk large at this calamity is to find a religious cover to justify describing a dissender as a diebeliever to use this as a pretext to kill her/him later.
These research papers that I introduce here are closely linked to the theme of «terrorism», which is the calamity, the scourge, and the expansive cancer of the age. They address and debunk the misconceptions and fabrications of terrorism which extremists and takfiris produced and used to defame Islam and Muslim history.
Al-Azhar prioritizes the issue of addressing this danger of terrorism that was falsely and unfairly associated with Islam and Muslims. To positively deal with this issue, Al-Azhar, inter alia, holds conferences, pays frequent visits to major religious institutions in Europe and elsewhere, acquaints its pre-university students with the facts and ideas of the armed groups that kill people in the name of Islam, tracks, analyzes and refutes the extremistic and terroristic ideologies through Al-Azhar electronic Observer, which responds to these ideas in nine of the world's languages, and sends peace convoys in joint with the Muslim Council of Elders. I state here that Al-Azhar does its best in order to implement its mission of undermining the terroristic ideology, exposing its errors and misconceptions. Nevertheless, Al-Azhar assures that the intellectual deviation and its sudden development are not the sole cause of the emergence of these armed groups. It is paradoxical and bewildering that such a group has these potentials and in the blink of an eye has obtained such massive military, financial, and combat capabilities that enabled it to extend its influence over vast areas of Mesopotamia and Levant. Such paradox will remain a mystery, but the forthcoming days may reveal its secrets in order for us to know its outer and inner face.
You are about to be left now with some specialized scholars and their great profound, accurate, and insightful studies, which will eventually enable you to realize the absurdity of the terrorist ideology, the falsity of its arguments, and the lying of its misconceptions. They also affirm that Islam does not know this bloody ideology and that Muslims abhor and deny terrorism.
Written at Al-Azhar Sheikhdom
25th of Rabie ul-Akhar 1438 A.H.,
23rd of January 2017.
Prof. Ahmed At-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif
Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders