Al-Azhar Faces Misconceptions:
Papers of Al-Azhar Conference to Counter Extremism and Terrorism
Professor Ahmad At-Tayyeb,
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar,
President of the Muslim Council of Elders (MCE)
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah. May Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon His Prophet Muḩammad, 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 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 the area is still being shaken by incidents of terrorism, killing, bombing, and destruction. Meanwhile, our religion is still challenged by 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 been paid before in its history, far or 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 is derived from the very root of «peace» and whose Prophet is sent to be a mercy for the entire humanity. It will also be recorded that they have not stood to get a grip on the Ever-Wise Qur᾿ān that they recite day, and night and that says, “Do not quarrel with one another, or you may be disheartened, and your vigor will vanish; so, endure patiently; surely Allah is with the steadfast.” (Qur᾿ān, 8: 46)
On the contrary, they are so quarrelsome and argumentative that they wage wars against one another due to sectarianism.
Unlike their ancestors, the present Muslims do not view Islam as a source of unity, strength, dignity, and invincibility. Rather, a stubborn, ignorant group of them has made it the cause of blind sedition and doomy confusing distress that are so bewildering to wise people, not to mention the obscurity of laity and common people.
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 people of the same religion and the same nation! Had this Arab blood been shed with foreign hands, one would have understood this ordeal and figured its reasons out.
Likewise, you can look at bemoaning disasters and adversaries afflicting millions of citizens in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, 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 start to ask about the direct cause that fiercely and barbarically ignited the fire in the land of the Arabs, you are right if you see that it is a religion-related war or a war disguised in religion.
In fact, this war has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. It has been closely associated with the domains of regional covetousness and expansions, serving sectarian agendas and obeying orders of hegemony policies. New maps are drawn, and borders are changed. The aim is 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 had penetrated deep into the heart of Arabism.
The organizers of this entity have believed that weak neighbors would be a source of their strength, security, and safety. They have forgotten, or rather ignored, that the facts of history, geography, and the nature of things cannot imagine a ship safe from sinking while the surrounding waves are furious and tumultuous. Such facts stipulate that once the neighbors of an entity are deprived of peace, the same entity will inevitably be deprived of peace in the long or the short run.
The direct cause that ignited this cruel war, whose beginning is known, but whose end is unknown, is the rise of sectarian disputes among the Muslims themselves. Revival of Sunni-Shiite disputes have ignited war mongers, including war brokers, arms' dealers, and those who add fuel to the fire. They have formed a platform ready to launch aircraft and missiles against three countries that are the reservoir of the oldest humanitarian and Islamic civilizations. When one contemplates on the identity of the weapons used in killing men, women, and children there, one knows that the parties which manage the war and manipulate the threads of game are all foreign. This is a proxy war.
It is fair to recognize that we, the Arabs and the Muslims, are the first to bear the religious and moral responsibility for this chaotic and absurd war before Allah and before history. We have swallowed the poisonous bait and we have been unaware of the trap in which the nation is 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 come to an end, where it will take the region to, and what the forthcoming reconstruction will cost. This could result in a paralysis of the Arab economy, and a serious lack of the resources and the components of the Arab treasures.
Of course, we, the Arabs and the 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. Ultimate objectives are required to preserve such national sovereignty 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 to our children, offspring, and future generations. To 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 has entered the countries and wreaked havoc on its territories.
The second calamity is that this national rift, as it might be described, necessarily requires an exceptional Islamic legal or jurist authentic reference, called on by each faction from our heritage to support and justify its own approach. In such case, it is not strange that some factions resort to our remote or near heritage to legalize a kind of emergency jurisprudence of Jihad, which appeared in a particular environment, to address some urgent situations, when the Muslims were facing a colonial enemy that occupied their land by force. In this case, it is incumbent on every Muslim, man or 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 about Jihad and fighting in order to address these urgent situations. Such legal opinions were exclusively connected to those contexts or circumstances, and must not go beyond the age in which they were issued. Neither should they be applied to other different ages characterized with peace, stability, and international peace treaties. What is now required is a jurisprudence of peace and security that can lead to peaceful treatments with others, and the implementation of international instruments.
It is not acceptable in the Islamic Sharia or human reason—to which the Glorious Qur᾿ān and the honorable Sunnah show a unique and high appreciation unprecedented in other religions—that some Arabs and Muslims import the old jihad jurisprudence against the Mongols, the Tatars, and the Crusaders or against the British colonialists in India, and implement this context-bound jurisprudence to resolve their present disagreements and disputes. Such jurisprudence and its rulings have no place now, since they are out of context. Once circumstances end, their respective jurisprudence and rulings must end too; otherwise, Muslim societies naturally turn 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 the Muslims. The respective ruling that was connected to this context was fighting to defend the faith, land, and 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 shedding Muslim blood in dozens and hundreds every day. The issue to resort to at this calamity is for those to find a religious cover to justify their describing a dissenter as a disbeliever and to use this as a pretext to kill.
The 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 have produced and used to defame Islam and the Muslim history.
Al-Azhar prioritizes the issue of addressing this danger of terrorism that was falsely and unfairly associated with Islam and the 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 extremist and terroristic ideologies with the help of Alazhar Observer. This official site responds to these ideas in nine languages and sends peace convoys in coordination with the Muslim Council of Elders (MCE).
I state here that Al-Azhar is doing 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 groups have these potentials and, in the blink of an eye, have obtained such massive military, financial, and combat capabilities that enabled them to extend their influence over vast areas of Mesopotamia and the 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 deception of its misconceptions. They also affirm that Islam does not know this bloody ideology and that the Muslims abhor and deny terrorism.
Written at Al-Azhar Headquarter
Rabī‛ul-Akhar 25, 1438 AH/January 23, 2017 CE
Professor Ahmad At-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar,
President of the Muslim Council of Elders (MCE)
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