The Grand Imam Delivers a Speech to in Abuja to the African Continent and the Islamic Communities in All Parts of the World

  • | Thursday, 19 May, 2016
The Grand Imam Delivers a Speech to in Abuja to the African Continent and the Islamic Communities in All Parts of the World

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
May Allah's peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family and companions!
May Allah bestow His peace and blessings upon you!

In the beginning of my speech, I would like to extend my profound thanks to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari and his Deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo for inviting me to visit Nigeria and meet with its scholars, thinkers and intellectuals in order to foster the fraternal ties between the Egyptian and Nigerian peoples. These ties, as you know, are strong, historic ones that have been characterized by cooperation on various regional and international sides. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif's visit affirms to all the honored Nigerian sects that Islam, as we teach and have been taught at Al-Azhar, is the religion of humanity and regional and international peace. Islam has never called and will never call for violence, blood shedding, distress or disasters that strike the innocent.
We have come here so that Muslims here as well as non-Muslims would gain more certainty that Islam is a religion of peace. Islam does not only extend peace to human beings, but also to animals, plants, inanimate beings and the entire universe. We also believe that the other divine faiths dictate the same as Islam, for they all were revealed by Allah, the Exalted, who described Himself in the Qur’an  as the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the Most Loving, the All-Subtle, the Most Compassionate,  and the All-Forgiving who forgives sins and accepts sincere repentance. Allah is also the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent, the Supreme Avenger and the Overpowering One over those who transgress against people, shed their blood and make them live in distress and sorrow. Allah has decreed that the wrongdoers will not escape his punishment whether now or later. Allah says, "And never think that Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only gives them respite until a Day when their eyes will stare (in horror)."[Qur’an , 14:42].
Dear Brothers,
It never crossed the minds of the early Muslims that a day would come when the Muslims would have to travel everywhere to defend their religion and reveal its essence and reality because a group of those who falsely attribute themselves to Islam have made Islam a target of accusation and distorted its image. They have been keen on disseminating footages of beheading to international satellite channels in remarkable insistence, which proves that objective behind this hideousness broadcast globally is distorting the image of Islam globally and viewing it as a religion of violence, blood shedding and savageness. Search for those who benefit from this havoc, and those who stand behind these dreadful crimes by providing them with money at times, and with arms, supplies and plans at others. Those criminals also find those who provide legal justifications for their crimes.
Dear Brothers,
I do not wish to say reiterated statements as I remind you of things you already know, or even know by heart, about the tolerance and respect that Islam offers for the others who differ from us in terms of religion, belief, race, color and language. Although this is not a context for elaboration, reminder is still needed as this affliction, or satanic being has started to achieve its evil objectives represented in the spread of hatred for Islam and Muslims among the followers of the other religions and the majority of the people of the West who have begun to wonder apprehensively: "Is real Islam what Muslim scholars represent to us? Or is it what we see on TV channels? Undoubtedly, visual depicted information is better perceived and more easily remembered than spoken or written information. Therefore, I deem it necessary to provide you with some facts that must be understood by Muslims and non-Muslims; facts that we have to declare at present in order to find a way out of the bloody crises that strike the entire world. Only the poor and misery-stricken people pay for such crises; shed tears and experience death, havoc, and loss of their beloved ones.
I would like to pose a question, an honest answer to which, in my opinion, represents the first step towards regaining the proper understanding of and real concept about Islam. The question is "What is the relationship between Islam and the divine faith that preceded it? Is it a relationship of tension, mistrust and apprehension? Or is it a relationship of cordiality and common understanding?
You might be surprised if I said that this question could be deemed illogical because, according to the Qur’an , "Islam" does not denote a particular religion but rather a name for the common religion that all the Prophets called for, and was adopted by those who believed in their messages. The Qur’an  dubbed Abraham (pbuh) as Muslim and Hanif (devoutly obedient to Allah) even though Abraham was not a follower of the message of Muhammad that came thousands of years after Abraham. Allah used the same description for the other previous prophets. He cited Ismael (Ishmael) and Ishaq (Isaac) as saying " Our Lord, and make us Muslims to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation to You" [Qur’an  2:128]; cited the children of Jacob when addressing their father as saying, "We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac - one God. And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." [Qur’an  2:133]; Noah as saying, "And I have been commanded to be of the Muslims."[Qur’an  10:72]; Moses as saying: "O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then rely upon Him, if you should be Muslims."[Qur’an  10:84]and the disciples of Jesus as saying, "We have believed in Allah and testify that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]" [Qur’an  3:52].
Based on this fact, the Qur’an states another fact that the message of Islam shares the same core and essence with the previous Divine messages. This means that Allah (Glory be to Him) has not sent for Muslims a completely new religion; rather, Allah has revealed to Muslims the same message revealed to previous Prophets and nations as Allah says, "He has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus - to establish the religion and not be divided therein. Difficult for those who associate others with Allah is that to which you invite them. Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]." (Qur’an 42 13)
Thus the Qur’an confirms the previous Divine Scriptures. Moreover, the Qur’an has described both the Torah and the Gospel as containing guidance and light –the same as the Qur’an. The Qur’an reads, "Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah ] judged by it for the Jews," (Qur’an 5: 44) and says, "And We gave him [Jesus] the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous." (Qur’an 5: 46)
The Qur’an states that each one of these Divine Scriptures confirms the previous one/s. Prophet Muhammad has described the relation between him and previous Messengers -though they may be of remote times or places- in a very impressive way when he said, "I am most close to Jesus son of Mary among the whole of mankind in this worldly life and the next life. All the Prophets are of different mothers but belong to one religion." He meant that all Prophets are like brothers who have the same father but different mothers; the father in this figurative simile is the faith which is shared by all of them, but the mothers –who are different- are the legislations given to every Prophet which differed pursuant to the difference of nations and times in which this particular prophet was sent. In this regard we have a famous legal maxim that states "the shar’ (legislation) of Previous nations is our shar’ as long as it is not abrogated."
Based on this Qur’anic stance which is as clear as day, it is not a matter of exaggeration to disregard any question about the relation between Islam and other religions because such question seems as a question about the relation between one and the same thing –totally illogical, is not it?
You may ask: having such a relation of mutual respect, love and preservation of rights between Islam and other Divine religions; what about the followers of other man-made religions?
My answer is: the Qur’an has detailed the rules of the relation with Jews and Christians because Judaism and Christianity represented the biggest religions adopted in Arabia and the surrounding areas of Persia and Rome at the time of the revelation of Qur’an. As for other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, they were unknown fro Arabs at that time. However, the teachings of the Qur’an the Prophetic Sunnah covered the relation with such religions when stating the general rule that govern the relation between Muslims and non-Muslims in general, basing this relation on values of justice and fairness with followers of any other faith or ideology as long as they do not transgress against Muslims or expel them from their lands: "Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion - [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers." (Qur’an 60: 8-9)
The Qur'an bases this stance on the fact that it looks equally to humans as they all are the children of one father and one mother; a non-Muslims is a brother of a Muslim either in religion or in humanity. Thus it is a human unity in which one approaches the other, and no one is preferred to another except with good deeds.
A religion based on such values and clear cut texts cannot be described as a religion of violence, terrorism or extremism. It is not a matter of wisdom to judge religions by the atrocities of few of their followers, who get blinded and misguided. Anyway, it is better for non-Muslims to be fair and to negate such unfounded claims; otherwise no Divine religion will be free from the accusation of terrorism and killing innocents in the name of religion.
Having stated such stance, it is necessary to understand how Islam regulates the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims; is it a relationship of peace or killing?
To answer such question, it is good to start with a hopefully clear brief of some Qur’anic verses that provide us with Divine laws that govern this issue.
The first law is that which we can call the law of variation that is the Will of Allah to create His creatures different from one another. Had Allah willed to create humans with one faith, color or language, He would have done so. This difference is a reality and we know that there are no two persons with the same fingerprint or iris recognition. As the Qur’an states this law of variation, it affirms it will continue to the end of life. Allah says, "And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. Except whom your Lord has given mercy, and for that He created them." (Qur’an 11: 118-119), "To each of you We prescribed a law and a method," (Qur’an 5: 48) and "It is He who created you, and among you is the disbeliever, and among you is the believer. And Allah, of what you do, is All- Seeing." (Qur’an 64: 2)
Thus variation among people is a Divine law as stated in the Qur’an in decisive texts. This necessitates that the relationship between those varied people should reflect the nature of variation itself, not to contradict it. It is illogical that Allah wills to create humans different, and then He asks them to force one another against their own nature or orders them to kill each other due to something against their choice. Therefore the Qur’an states freedom of religion saying, "There shall be no compulsion in religion" (Qur’an 2: 256), "So whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve." (Qur’an 18: 29), "would you compel the people in order that they become believers?" (Qur’an 10: 99), “But if Allah had willed, He would have united them upon guidance. So never be of the ignorant" (Qur’an 6: 35) and "You are not over them a controller." (Qur’an 88: 22).
Form this point, the Qur’an answers our question about the societal and international relations in Islam to decide that: as long as Allah has created humans different from one another and granted them, consequently, the right of freedom of faith, then there is no way to deny that the relations between them should be a relation of peace or –in the Qur’anic terms- a relation of ta'aaruf (knowing one another) as the Qur’an says, "O mankind, verily We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." (Qur’an 49: 13)
As such, the major issues are put in the Qur’an in a logical order, which is not open for distortion; it is variation in people’s attitudes which leads to freedom of faith, which in turn entails a relation of peace among humans. In this way, Islam is perfectly a religion of peace, as it is perfectly a religion of equality. Having understood so, it becomes completely wrong to say –or unfortunately apply- that the motive of fighting in Islam is the others’ disbelief. This is a lie to Islam and to the conduct of the Messenger of Islam. The truth that should be stated in this regard is that the motive of fight in Islam is to "resist aggression" and not the difference of religion. Otherwise, how could we understand the literature of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) that have kept for us the rules of fighting, and how did Muslims behaved whenever they entered a new place. Muslims have always given the inhabitants of any country the right to keep their faiths and granted them the rights of citizenship as they applied the rule "they have the same rights as ours and have the same duties as ours". In no one case that Muslims gave those peoples a choice of either accepting Islam or being killed. This is what the message of the Prophet to the people of Yemen approved, as the message stated, "Those who are Jews or Christians should not be forced to abandon their religions." According to another narration reported by Abd al-Razzaq, the Prophet said, "He who hates to accept Islam from the Jews or Christians, they should not be forced to abandon his religion." Moreover, the books of Tafseer (Exegesis of the Qur’an) agree that the verse "there shall be no compulsion in religion", (Qur’an 2: 256) has been revealed regarding a man from al-Ansaar (Supporters of the Prophet) who had two Christian sons. He asked the Prophet "Should I force them to accept Islam, for they refused to abandon Christianity?" the Prophet forbid him to do so, and thereafter the above mentioned verse was revealed. So, in face of these clear cut proofs and the application of the Prophet, there is no way to accept the wrong interpretations and misleading understanding that present Islam as a religion that loves blood shedding, killing, capturing free women and selling them in humiliating manner.
Dignified scholars,
You may agree with me that there is no way but to promote sound understanding of our religion, that Muslims have followed over ages. Besides, it became necessary for scholars to interact with real world and assume the responsibility of issuing fatawa (religious verdicts). It is the duty of Muslim scholars, which they have to bear, to present the true Islam as a religion calling for fraternity, knowing and cooperating with the others, spreading peace among people in the East and the West and forbidding aggression against people, in a way that we cannot find except in Islam. Islam is unique in how it forbids intentional killing and imposes severe penalty upon the killer in the worldly life and the Hereafter.
Venerable scholars! It is inevitable to regain the sound fiqh of diversity which was one of the most significant factors of the progress of the Muslim nation. Through understanding the fiqh of diversity, we can distinguish between praised difference and dispraised difference, for the later has badly affected the Muslim nation. In light of this difference, indecisive issues turned into decisive ones; unclear texts dealt as clear one; and general rules turned into specific rules.  In light of fiqh of diversity, we can regain common grounds that all Muslims agreed upon in terms of creed and Shri'ah, and to let people follow the opinions they have been always following. The criterion differentiating between what is right or wrong is the consensus of the all Muslim scholars of the ummah. In addition, we cannot identify only one Madhhab (a school of Islamic jurisprudence) for people to follow in faith and worship, imposing it through invitation and intimidation. We have to teach our coming generations how the righteous predecessors, from the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) to the first centuries of Islam, differed with one another but they did not disunite. It was the chaos of difference -that lacked the principles knowledge- that led to spread of takfeer (calling Muslims as disbelievers) and violence and enabled evil powers to weaken unity of our nation.
Dignified scholars!
I know that I discussed in detail some issues that are known to you, but most likely they are vague to many of our youths, especially the Muslim and non-Muslim university students. I do not know, till now, any curriculum, whether in the university or pre-university education, that seriously discussed these issues to reveal their truth and eliminate their ambiguity in the minds of the youth to protect them against falling as a prey to the armed violence calls in the name of Islam. Since the last year, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif started teaching two curricula to the students of Al-Azhar institutes to counter issues of terrorism such as Takfeer, migration, Hakimiyyah, Jahiliyyah (ignorance of pre-Islamic period), caliphate, and other issues that the terrorists employ. Moreover, we started sending peace envoys all over the world, as the last one was sent to Nigeria last April. Also, we provide training to the preachers from different counties all over the world at Al-Azhar, and we held conferences in which the most prominent Muslim scholars from all over the world participated and among them were the Nigerian scholars including in particular the Nigerian Mufti, Ibrahim Saleh El-Hoseiny.
Accept my apology for the long speech which I wish to conclude by stating that my visit to Nigeria is a visit to the whole Nigerian people with its different groups and constituents, hoping to support its unity, stability and educational and scientific progress. I hope it will be great progress that will -Allah Wills- benefit all Africa, and will bring back the ancient glory of the Nigerian people in gathering both religious and worldly sciences in harmony.
Al-Azhar is pleased to offer support for this civilizational process. You may know that more Than 3500 students of your sons study at Azhar, and about forty hundreds of them receive scholarships from Al-Azhar. Since years, Al-Azhar offers thirty scholarships for your sons. On this visit, Al-Azhar has decided to increase that number to fifty scholarships per year to students who desire to study at Azhar University, provided that this increase be allocated to students of scientific faculties such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, etc. through its Da'wah and educational envoys, Al-Azhar spreads proper religious knowledge that is completely far from hateful sectarian ideas which incite hatred and sow disunity among the Nigerian people.
Thank you for your attentive listening!
Peace be upon you
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar: Ahmed alTayeb.

Mashyakhat Al- Azhar
Sha'ban, 1437 A.H.        
May, 2016 C.E.


Categories: Speeches