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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Final Statement of "Al-Azhar International Conference on Renovation...

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

The Final Statement of
"Al-Azhar International Conference on Renovation in Islamic Thought"

All praise is due to Allah. May Allah’s Peace and Blessing be upon Prophet Muhammed, his family, Companions, and those who follow his footsteps until the Day of Judgment!

      Owing to its belief in the imperative to bring about renewal in religious affairs and to follow the course of our Sharī‛ah (Islamic Law) in order to keep abreast of new developments for the common good of all people in all aspects of life, and responding to the persisting needs, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif has invited the leading Muslim scholars around the world to participate in an international conference titled, “Renewal in Islamic Thought” held from 2-3 Jumādā l-᾿Ākhirah 1441 A.H. (corresponding to 27-28 January 2020). The conference has been organized at Al-Azhar Conference Center in Nasr City, Cairo, under the auspices of H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi who inaugurated the conference with a speech delivered on his behalf by H.E. Dr. Mostafa Madbouly, the Prime Minister of Egypt.

     Over two days, the conference included seven interactive sessions that discussed renewal issues, in addition to many other related topics.

     In continuation of the marsh of Al-Azhar to bring about renewal in Islamic thought and jurisprudence, in the light of its moderate approach that has always characterized Al-Azhar over centuries, the notable Muslim scholars declare to the whole world what follows:

  1. Renewal is one of the basic requirements and an integral part of the Islamic Sharī‛ah to keep pace with new developments over ages and achieve the public interests.
  2. Authenticated, clear-cut Islamic texts are not subject to renewal by any means. However, speculative Islamic texts that are not certain in meaning are subject to legal reasoning. Fatwas based on such speculative texts vary in response to place, time, and people’s customs, provided that the renewal applied to such texts goes in line with the fundamental objectives of the Sharī‛ah, its general rules, and the public interests.
  3. Renewal is such a complicated issue that only knowledgeable scholars are able to bring it about. Therefore, unqualified people should not be involved so that renewal may not turn into an arbitrary dispersion.
  4. All extremist and terrorist groups reject renewal attempts. Their call is typically based on manipulating religious concepts and falsifying Sharī‛ah terminologies such as governance system, ḩākimiyyah (i.e. political leadership), hijrah, jihād, and fighting, as well as their stance towards those who disagree with them in opinion. The same applies to their violations against well-established religious fundamentals and the horrific crimes they commit against people, their properties, and honor. Indeed, such behaviors have marred the image of Islam and the Islamic Sharī‛ah in the minds of the Westerners and those who are impacted by them in the East. Further, many attributed the atrocities committed by those groups to Sharī‛ah rulings, eventually leading to the rise of islamophobia in the West. Therefore, it is the responsibility of respective institutions and the whole society to support the efforts exerted by the governments to eliminate the evils of those extremist groups.
  5. One of the primary reasons for the intellectual imbalance of those groups is that they do not distinguish between the Islamic rulings related to creed and those related to practical religious aspects. For instance, they deem committing sins an act of disbelief and consider some permissible acts as obligations. As such, they cause great difficulties for people and cause severe damage to the religion of Islam.
  6. Extremist groups interpret the term ḩākimiyyah to mean that governorship and political authority may only be attributed to Allah so that whoever takes authority over people from among humans is considered to have challenged Allah, the Most Exalted, in one of the fundamental attributes of His divinity. To them, whoever challenges Allah is a disbeliever that deserves to be killed because he would then challenge Allah in one of His divine attributes. Of course, such argument put forward by those groups constitutes a blatant distortion of the Sharī‛ah texts stated in the Noble Qur᾿ān and the Prophet’s tradition that have clearly attributed governance to humans. Furthermore, these Sharī‛ah texts deem the rulings issued by legal authorities based on legal reasoning applied to Allah’s rulings to have a legal force. In this context, we cite Ibn Ḩazm’s famous statement, “It is Allah’s ruling that humans should be entrusted with governance.” In the context of marital trouble, for example, Allah Almighty instructs, “…then send forth a judge from his family (the husband's) and a judge from her family (the wife's).” (Qur᾿ān, 4:35)  In the context of compensation for breaching religious rules during pilgrimage, Allah also says, “…as shall be judged by two men of justice among you.” (Qur᾿ān, 5:95)


     Accordingly, the correct concept of the term ḩākimiyyah should be promoted among people according to the creed of ᾿Ahl us-Sunnati wal Jamā‛ah (the main stream Muslims). It should be made clear to people that the human rule strictly following Sharī‛ah rulings does not challenge Allah’s supreme sovereignty but it is rather deemed a part of it.

  1. Takfīr (i.e. creed excommunication or declaring a fellow Muslim an unbeliever) is a major strife that has been lurking around in the Muslim societies for ages. Only a person dissenting from, or ignorant of, Allah’s religion dares to pronounce it. In fact, takfīr constitutes a judgment on people’s consciences, which is something only known to Allah, the Most High. Therefore, if a Muslim pronounces a statement that can be interpreted to mean that s/he has become an unbeliever for ninety-nine reasons and there is one reason for not interpreting it as such, then the accusation of disbelief should not be made on the basis of suspicion. This is pursuant to the legal maxim that reads, “What is proved by means of certain evidence can only be negated on the basis of equally certain evidence.”
  2. The extremist groups’ call upon people to migrate from their home countries is religiously ungrounded and the opposite is absolutely true according to the ḩadīth by the Prophet (p.b.u.h), “There is no hijrah (i.e. migration) after the liberation of Makkah.” Therefore, the terrorist groups’ call on youths to leave their homelands and migrate to deserts and unpopulated territories to join terrorist gangs is driven by corruption in religion and ignorance of the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharī‛ah. The correct ruling declared by the Muslim scholars from Al-Azhar Al-Sharif is that it is permissible for any Muslim to reside on any Muslim or non-Muslim land as long as his life, property, and honor are protected, provided he is free to perform his religious rituals. The correct interpretation of hijrah that is applicable to our present age is to abandon sins and to migrate for seeking one's livelihood, gaining knowledge, and reclaiming the lands, thus achieving the development of nations.
  3. Atheism is a considerable danger that undermines the stability of the societies sanctifying religions and respecting religious teachings. It is one of the weapons of the cultural invasion that seeks to uproot religions and weaken the social fabric under the pretext of ‘religious freedom’. It is a direct cause of the rise of extremism and terrorism. Therefore, societies have to be aware of the negative impacts of the calls for atheism and the denial of Allah’s existence that cause utter confusion among the believers in Allah. Muslim scholars must be armed with a renewal approach to dealing with the dangers of atheism. Such approach should employ reasoning-based and cosmic evidence and the findings of modern empirical sciences that support faith realities. This should be done through holding meetings and dialogues with youths and making use of modern communication means.
  4. Jihād is not synonymous with ‘fighting’. Indeed, the fighting carried out by the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and his companions was only one type of jihād. It was aimed to defend Muslims against the aggression acts of their enemies. It was never meant to kill those who have a different religion, as claimed by extremist groups. A well-established Islamic ruling is that it is prohibited to cause harm to non-Muslims or kill them unless they initiate fighting against Muslims.
  5. In its strict sense, jihād is the responsibility of the competent authority in the country in accordance with the constitution and the law rather than on the basis of the wish of individuals and groups. If a group claims to have the right to assume such responsibility and start recruiting and training youths and encouraging them to fight and behead others, then this is undoubtedly a misled group that promotes corruption on the earth and wage wars against Allah and His Messenger. Competent authorities should stand very firmly and decisively against such extremist groups.
  6. A Muslim state is a democratic, constitutional, and modern state. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, represented by scholars of the Muslim nation, reiterates that Islam does not recognize the so-called ‘religious state,’ as there is no evidence in our Islamic heritage that supports such labeling. This conclusion is clearly understood from the articles of the Constitution of Madinah and what is reported from the tradition of our noble Messenger (p.b.u.h) and the rightly-guided caliphs who succeeded him. While Muslim scholars disapprove of the concept of religious state, they equally denounce the state that denies religions and isolates them from peoples’ lives.
  7. Caliphate was a governance system adopted by the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (p.b.u.h) and it fit their time and ensured a sound management to both worldly and religious affairs. However, there is no text in the Noble Qur’ān or the Prophet’s tradition that obliges Muslims to adopt a specific system of governance. All temporary governance systems that ensure justice, equality, freedom, protection of the nation and citizens’ rights, regardless of their religious affiliations or beliefs, avoiding to contravene the fundamental principles of the religion, are accepted by the Islamic Sharī‛ah.
  8. A ruler in Islam is one chosen by the free will of people to be their sovereign according to the method stipulated in the state constitution or as required by the applicable laws. His duties include working to achieve the common good of his subjects, administration of justice, and protection of the state’s borders and its internal order. Further, he shall be responsible to ensure the optimal use of the state’s resources and wealth and shall fulfill the citizens’ needs to the available extent.
  9. Full citizenship is an inalienable right of all the citizens of each state with no discrimination among them on the basis of religion, sect, race, or color. It is the basis on which the first Muslim state was established as adopted by the Constitution of Madinah. Therefore, all Muslims should revive this basic principle.
  10. Of the good manners that Islam urges us to demonstrate is to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious feasts. The calls adopted by extremists in this regard are nothing but an expression of rigidity, and narrow-mindedness, and a gross slander against the fundamental objectives of Islamic Sharī‛ah. Moreover, such extremist calls are part of the fitnah (strife) which is more dangerous than massive bloodshed, causing serious harm to non-Muslims. Therefore, there is not any violation of the principles of our Islamic belief in congratulating non-Muslims.  
  11. Officials should ban media contents that promote such anomalous thought which has become very noticeable during the holy feasts of non-Muslims. Such thought causes tension and lurks hatred among the individuals of the one community.
  12. The crimes committed by terrorist and militant groups, especially killing civilians, policemen, and other security men, who protect the society and the national borders, and attacking private and public properties are crimes that cause corruption on the earth. All legal, security, and military measures should be taken against such crimes. Furthermore, practical deterrent measures should be taken against the terrorist groups and the countries that support and shelter those groups and incite them to attack their homelands.
  13. Drugs, other intoxicants, under any name or in any amount, and whatever affects the mind and behavior are absolutely forbidden religiously. All educational, cultural, missionary and security measures that prevent their use and circulation must be taken. Deterrent penalties should be enacted against those who import and deal in them. Addiction treatment centers should be supported by increasing their capacity to treat addicts and integrate them into society. Competent authorities should prevent showing drug dealers and drug abusers in movies and soap operas in a manner that tempts young people into imitating them.
  14. Fighting corruption, fraud, favoritism, and unfair discrimination among people in terms of accessing equal opportunities is a religious, legal, societal, and moral responsibility for which every official in the state should be accountable. All institutions must support the state’s role in eliminating such practices that have detrimental impact on the development and stability of societies.
  15. Suicide is a heinous crime, which is alien to our societies. It is more abhorrent and graver than killing another person. That is because the one who kills another fellow human, who is considered [by the Qur᾿ān] to have killed humankind altogether, may be forgiven by the family of the murdered, or may receive his punishment in this world. However, the one who commits suicide would dies and receive a severer punishment in the Hereafter. It is the duty of scholars and thinkers and those concerned with education, culture, and youth to study the causes that typically lead some to commit this crime.  Immediate, short-term and long-term solutions must be developed to uproot this crime which is alien to our religious eastern society.
  16. Blood-feud crimes are abhorrent practices inherited from ignorant generations of the past. They do not fit our temporary civilized societies that believe in heavenly religions. If a murder is perpetrated, punishment should be left to the competent authorities. The family of the murdered can only ask for diyyah (i.e. a monetary compensation) or grant pardoning. What some families do of killing the murderer or any of his relatives, forcing the family of the murderer out of their homes, or attacking their properties in any form, each is a crime as heinous as the murderer’s crime itself. Competent authorities should take all necessary measures to prevent it.
  17. Rumors pose a grave threat to the security and development of societies. They are among the major crimes prohibited by clear-cut religious texts.  Competent authorities should control rumors, expose their falsity, demonstrate their threats, and enact deterrent penalties on those who spread them.
  18. Tourism is recognized by the heavenly religions and we must let all people know that. The state must protect tourists against any attacks in any form, any abuses, and any harmful attitudes. The aggressors must be punished with the prescribed penalties mentioned in this regard. The entry visa issued by the state constitutes a security covenant that must be legally fulfilled.
  19. Antiquities are a cultural heritage that provides information about past nations and civilizations. They are not idols as promoted by the extremist groups. Therefore, it is not permissible to attack antiquities or change their original form by any means. These constitute a property for the next generations, managed by the state to achieve their interests, even when such antiquities are found in a land owned by individuals or agencies. Deterrent heavy penalties should be enacted to prevent the sale or export of antiquities outside their countries.
  20. It is permissible for women at the present age to travel without a maḩram (i.e. a close relative who may not desire her as a woman) as long as she travels in a good company or in a safe and secure means of transport.
  21. It is permissible for women to assume all posts that fit them, including senior public posts in the government.
  22. Seeking divorce without legally justifiable reasons is prohibited, whether it is initiated by the husband or the wife, due to its detrimental impact on the family, especially the children. Moreover, divorce goes against the morals promoted by the Sharī‛ah and contradicts the objectives set for entering into marriage, including establishing family stability and sustainability. We should put an end to the chaos of divorce incidents by seeking consultation and arbitration between the couples prior to their seeking a divorce, an act which is religiously recommended. Scholars entrusted with the issuance of fatwa (religious verdicts) should adopt the easiest religious rulings when they are encountered with divorce-related questions.
  23. Any family member who contributes to the growth of the family wealth, such as the wife who would contribute with her money into her husband’s, and the children who work with their father in his business, should be compensated for. In such cases, the individual should be given an equal part of his/her contribution from the inheritance, if the amount of this contribution is known. If it is not, then it should be estimated by experts in their respective fields of activity.

     In conclusion, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and its scholars, joined by all Muslim scholars and thinkers who have participated in this event, express their deep thanks to H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for sponsoring this event and for his inaugural speech that has proved essential to the success of this conference. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif also expresses its gratitude to their Eminence the respectable scholars, their Excellency, the leading men and women in our societies, media figures, and all attendees for their active participation. Finally, Al-Azhar would like to declare that efforts will continue at Al-Azhar International Center for Renewal to address new issues on an ongoing basis.

     Before we bid you farewell, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the State of Gambia and its Minister of Justice who prepared and filed a statement to the International Court of Justice in condemnation of the killings, abuse, human genocide, and displacement crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims. As we gather in this conference, we affirm that such events should not go unpunished, and that they bring disgrace on the world that remains silent to these horrible crimes.

Last but not least, I thank all of you and look forward to having the honor of meeting you in upcoming conferences, Allah’s willing.

May Allah grant us success!

Issued in Cairo on 3 Jumādā l-᾿Ākhirah A.H.

(Corresponding to January 17, 2020 A.D.)

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