Addressing the Ummah in his historic speech from Jakarta, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar replies to the misconception of persecuting the East’s Christians, stressing: -
- The Indonesian people are one of the most essential pillars of the Ummah and a hallmark in the history of Islam and Muslims.
- To connect Islam to terrorism is great injustice.
- Muslims distinguish between religion as a Divine Guidance and those who exploit it to achieve their goals, interests and policies of expansion and domination.
- We cannot remain silent about the violations against the poor Muslims in Myanmar … As well, we cannot remain silent on the occupation of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the attempts of its judaization.
- I appeal the world’s intellectuals, elders and brave men to find solutions to the problems of persecuting Muslims at the hands of non-Muslims, in the Eat and the West alike.
- I do not know about any religion or heavenly Book to prescribe such a severe punishment for blood-shedding, in both this worldly life and the hereafter, like Islam.
- Al-Azhar Al-Sharif spares no effort to continuously warn Muslims against the deviation of thoughts that brings about extremism and terrorism.
- Now is the time for those who did evil against our religion, Ummah and history to come back to righteousness, for this is better for them than continuing in their injustice.
- It is the duty of the scholars of the Ummah to preserve its unity and protect its creeds from the interpretation of the ignorant and the corruption of the extremists.
- Renewing curricula should be based on the Qur’an, the authentic Sunnah and the consensus of Muslims. They should, as well, be away from dealing with controversial issues as fixed principles of religion.
- We should realize that taking one permanent stand as to the controversial issues and the strange fatwas has participated greatly in today’s division and dispute of the Ummah.
His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar's Speech
Dr. Prof/ Ahmed al-Tayyeb
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise and thanks are due to Allah. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Prophet Muhammad, his family and his Companions
As-salamu alaukum wa rahamt Allah Wa barakaatuh!
At the beginning of my speech, all praise and thanks be to Allah for granting me and the accompanied delegation from Al-Azhar and Muslim Council Of Elders a chance to visit the Republic of Indonesia and to meet its kind nation as a whole, specially our brothers and sisters in Islam. This nation gains respect of Egypt and its nation because of its importance in the Muslim World in which it is considered a landmark in the history of Islam and Muslims, and their faithful adherence to Islam as a doctrine, behavior and legislation.
Noble Indonesian people, I am not exaggerating if I say “Indonesia is granted special ability to introduce Islam to the world as a religion calling for felicity in this worldly life and in the Hereafter, preserving the originality of ancient legacy of the religion and the stupendous aspects of modern civilization and striking a balance between the individual needs and the common interest of the community".
This Indonesian people were able to discover the spiritual Islamic treasures, its legislative and moral values, and to deduce its values of justice, equality, openness towards the other, encouraging people to possess sources of power, making use of all means that leads to scientific and technical progress, and reliance on Allah to get these spiritual and materialistic energy. Thanks to this harmony between faith, science and labor, Indonesia now is able to occupy the top position among the developed countries in the region and became an effective and important tiger among Asian tigers setting the best example of a civilized people who presents the true image of Islam as a religion that guarantees not only the happiness of humanity in the Hereafter but in this world life as well. It refutes with the practical evidence the anti-Muslim allegations claiming that Islam is a religion of laziness, dependence, social backwardness, and that it hinders economic and political development. In reality, the Indonesian model became a source of honor for Muslims thank to its great economic progress in South East Asia.
Indonesian people embraced the message of Islam delivered by Muslim tradesmen, adapting the nature of this archipelago as kindness, security and love of peace as well as justice and tolerance of the Islamic doctrine and its legislation.
At that time, “Nusantara” was the first region to receive Islam then it spread out until Indonesia became the largest and the greatest Islamic country, and the strongest in their love for Allah, His prophet, the Holy Quran and its Shari‘ah.
In respect of the relationship between Egyptian and Indonesian people, it dates back to a long time ago, as some historians said, then it developed across the centuries to include commercial, scientific and cultural exchange. Some Indonesian pilgrims were used to staying in Mecca and al-Madīnah after performing Hajj to receive knowledge by Al-Azhar's scholars. European historians wrote down that the fifties of nineteen century witnessed the residence of the first Indonesian community in Egypt to be taught in Al-Azhar by his scholars staying in one of Al-Azhar porticoes called "Al-Jawi Portico” (Al Riwaq Al Jawi). Cairo press printed Islamic Indonesian scholars' books. The Indonesians are also affected by the reformation movements of the Islamic thought that is lead by Imam Mohamed Abdu’ students, the national movements under leadership of Mustafa Kamel and the leaders of the national power, through their students who studied in Al-Azhar.
Now, more than 3500 Indonesian students study in Al-Azhar. The tuition fees and living expenses of 262 of those students are covered by Al-Azhar. Al-Azhar offers 20 scholarships every year to Indonesia, while the number of Al-Azhar envoys in Indonesia reached 31 teachers
It is generally admitted that our contemporary world in which we live is surrounded by many complicated political, economic and environmental crises. The most worst one for the third world countries and its people is security of man's life, honor, property, land and country, lack of peace, spread of chaos and disturbance, prevalence of power and loss of honor for the oppressed people. Moreover, these crimes of blood shedding are committed now in the name of religion, especially those perpetrated under the name of Islam among the other religions, even "terrorism" becomes a symbol for this religion and restricted to it. This is a wrong judgment, a kind of fooling minds and falsifying reality and history. It is clear that some followers of the other religions committed those terrible atrocities in the name of religion. What about the crusades in the Middle East, the religion wars in Europe, courts of the inquisition against Muslims and Jews. Were not all of these barbaric wars brand human history with the stigma of cruelty!! It may be said that these transgressions went with the wind and have no effect on the contemporary world. Hence, what about the "Second Crusade "! I did not use this word due to the conflict in which we live in both the Arab and Islamic worlds. Rather, it is a title of a book by John Feffer a well-known American researcher, "Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam". Actually, there is no time to explore or summarize the book, as it is one example of many other books. Rather, I wanted to show that the deviation, which led small group of Muslims to commit those atrocities that strongly denounced by the Muslim scholars and intellectuals, occurred similarly in the other religions and it is approved by the scholars who promised those who commit it with paradise.
I affirmed to all of you that meditation of the history of "comparative terrorism", if it is right to use it, approves that Muslims were the truly fair and objective, as they were differentiating between the religions and its principles and the deviation of its followers. The Muslims historians and scholars were calling for this terror wars as the Frank wars but they did not attribute it to the religions that these war are launched under its name, rather they did not even attribute to the Cross as they were aware of the great difference between the religion as a divine religion and those who try to exploit it for political interests and other purposes, though what Muslims previously exposed to and what they still expose to in many areas known to all of us. We cannot give the deaf ear to the injustice that is inflicted upon the oppressed Muslims which include the genocide, murder and forced deportation in Myanmar amidst the shameful silence of the concerned international institutions which its laws and conventions entail maintaining the human's right in life, as there is no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims.
We cannot remain silent on the occupation of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the first Qiblah and the third holy mosque and the place in which the journey of the Prophet (PBUH) took place, and the attempts of its Judaization and changing its Islamic characteristic landmarks.
If some Western religious institutions allows itself to ask the whole world now to solve what they called the problem of oppressing the Christians in the East; in spite of the mutual and peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Eastern Christians in the East, and in spite of the fact that what Christians face of oppression and eviction is less than what Muslims face whereas their women and children were killed in seas and deserts during their escape from their homes, I appeal sages around the world to solve the non Muslim oppression against Muslims in the East and West to achieve security, spread peace and help humanity prosper East and West.
Allah, the Almighty, does not reveal religions for peoples' suffering but as light guidance and mercy. Muslims, in particular, has nothing to do with terrorism and its results of bloodshed and violence. I personally do not know any religion or a book which vowed severe punishment for shedding blood in this worldly life and the Hereafter, such as Islam and the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an prescribed retribution for intentional killing in worldly life and promised the killer severe punishment in the Hereafter, "But whoever kills a believer deliberately, the punishment for him is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared a tremendous torment for him." , (An- Nisa: 93).
How can Islam be described with terrorism?, while Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, "The most excellent Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure". The Prophet also said, "The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable his blood, his property and his honor."
Islam not only prohibited killing and bloodshed but also intimidating people even if it was a kind of joking, the Prophet said, " He who pointed a weapon towards his brother the angels invoke curse upon him even if he is his real brother so long as he does not abandon it (the pointing of weapon towards one's brother Muslim). " prophet also said, It is not lawful for a Muslim that he frightens a Muslim".
How come this religion be charged with terrorism ,violence and barbarianism while Allah described his prophet as being Mercy for all humans, Allah said " And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.(Al- ‘Anbyaa: 107). Prophet Muhammad- himself- affirmed that Allah has sent him as a mercy for all worlds, he said, “I am a gift of mercy granted by Allah the Almighty”. One who thinks about this verse and hadith would conclude two facts:
First Fact: Mercy in a broader sense is the reason behind sending Prophet Muhammad to people. The rhetorical linguistic style of exception and restriction in the verse and hadith was to assert this concept to make the verse in harmony with hadith and to affirm that the Prophet Muhammad is the Prophet of mercy who has been sent as mercy and that mercy is the ultimate goal sending him to people.
The Holy Qur’an proves this fact through the frequencies of the word of mercy in the verses of the Qur’an. Among all virtues mentioned in the Qur’an such as truthfulness (sidq), forbearance (Helm), justice (Adl), honesty (Amanah), forgiveness (‘Afwa), generosity (Karam) and others, the virtue of mercy is mentioned several times as the word and its derivatives are mentioned about 315 times while honesty 145 times, patience 90 times, forgiveness 43 times, benevolence 42 times, trust 40 times, and faithfulness 29 times.
Second Fact: The second fact that we can deduce from contemplating the verse and the hadith is that mercy refers to all creatures. Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as mercy to all creations and all nations and not Muslims in particular. This is the meaning of the word "the worlds" as its concept is not restricted to the world of Mankind but it contains all worlds counted by scientists, sages and philosophers that includes the worlds of humans, animals, plants and inanimate objects.
If you take a quick look at his (PBUH) biography, you will be amazed at his mercy that covered all these creatures from inanimate things to humans; he (PBUH) interacted in peace and tranquility with inanimate beings, as expressed in his sayings, "This is Uhud, the mountain which loves us and which we love" and his saying, "I recognize a stone in Mecca which used to pay me salutations before my advent as a Prophet; indeed I recognize that stone even now."
This clearly manifested in his (PBUH) clear instructions for the army not to demolish houses of the enemies, destroy their buildings or cut down their trees. For example, the Prophet (PBUH) once addressed the army saying, "…do not steal from the booty, and do not act treacherously. Do not mutilate and do not kill children.", and in another Hadith he said, "…do not cut down trees, do not spoil palm trees, and do not demolish houses."
These are only some of many instructions that his Companions followed after him. For example, Abu Bakr instructed the army of Usamah b. Zayd that it is not permissible to kill children, old men, women, employees, and monks in the lands of the enemies. He forbade them to slaughter animals in the lands of the enemies except for eating and in the case there is a dire need, and the slaughtering should be according to this need.
O gentlemen! You -and the whole world- can think over these supreme human moral values which curbed Muslims in war and prevented them from injustice even with enemies. You may compare these values to the barbarism of modern wars which kill women, men and children, demolish houses and completely destroy entire cities. Everyone can discover from this comparison that Islam is a religion of mercy and Muhammad (PBUH) is the Prophet of mercy.
It may take a long time, gentlemen, to recount aspects of this mercy with humans, animals, plants and inanimate objects. However, I meant by this quick review to question: how was this religion being portrayed as a religion of violence, killing and terrorizing innocent people, in spite of being a religion that revolves around mercy as its basis and ultimate objective? This religion would not have been falsely accused of this false allegation, if it had not been afflicted with those young Muslims who went astray and committed murder, arson, and mutilation of Muslims and non-Muslims dead-bodies, and they think their crimes are a form of struggling for the sake of Allah and -by this- they are devoted to their Islamic nation. These people label all Muslims who oppose them disbelievers Furthermore they declared those who did not adhere to their deviant thoughts as Kaffir (infidels). However, Islam categorically rejects and denies their deviant thoughts and ideologies.
Al-Azhar, which takes the responsibility before Allah on Day of Judgment for communicating and clarifying the true message of Islam to people, has spared no efforts in continuously alarming that these thoughts are deviant, and they are not part of Islam, the Qur’an, or the Sharee’ah. Those people are misleading others intentionally or unintentionally in their claim of following the teachings of God and the Prophet (PBUH). They also insult Islam more than it is insulted by its enemies, and distort its pure tolerant image. By their misleading approach, they gave a fake image of Islam, a case that has been exploited by the enemies inside and outside the Islamic world, in order to attack Islam and its basic principles, and mock the Messenger (PBUH), his Sunnah and Sharaa’ah.
Al-Azhar is still calling these young people to come back to their senses, and to know that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has warned us against this fanaticism in religious matters which led them - and us with them - to these crises and tragic events, as he said: "‘O people, beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters." He (PBUH) also said, “Those who go to extremes are ruined” i.e. go to extremes in words and deeds.
Allah says in the Qur’an: "And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers" (Adh-Dhāriyāt (The Winnowing Winds): 55).
So we remind those people who transgressed against us and insulted our religion, nation and history, it's the time to return to the right path –coming back to the right path is better than persisting in falsehood- and we call them to repent of what they committed against their religion and nation. Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, as Allah says: "Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills."(An-Nisaa: 48), also He says: "Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good." (Al-A'raf (The Heights): 56), and also says: " Say, O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful"( Az-Zumar: 53)
I would like to remind myself and the scholars of Ummah of our duty for exerting our utmost efforts and offering advice for maintaining the unity of the nation and protecting it from any kind of distortion. We have to pay attention to the necessity of establishing facilitation in jurisprudence and fighting the exaggeration and extremism in religious matters. We also have to fight the culture of deviation and Westernization that led a group of Muslims to commit such atrocities and destroy our identity and the deep rooted heritage of Muslims. We must put into consideration the danger of education in establishing jurisprudence of facilitation and the culture of coexistence. In addition, there must be an act of renewing the school curricula according to the principles of the Glorious Qur’an, Sunnah and consensus of Muslim scholars, as well as to avoid dealing with controversial issues as basic principles of religion.
A necessary point is to seek Fatwa (religious verdict) from the people of knowledge who abide by the schools of Ahlu Sunnah in all their opinions and who have considerable experience of the modern issues. In addition they are aware of the deviant opinions that contradict the views of the majority of scholars and jurists over more than fourteen centuries. We have to know that fanaticism for such odd and deviant fatawa has greatly contributed to the division, dispute and failure of the Muslim Ummah. Besides, this division and dispute led to opening the doors for external interference.
We have to hold firmly to the rope of Allah and stick to what Allah commanded us, as He the Almighty says, "And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided". (Aal-‘Imran: 103) This is necessary not to be of those who are being warned against division by Allah, Allah the Almighty in the Qur’an, "And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient". (Al-Anfal: 46) or those who have been warned by the prophetic saying, "The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last enervation into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation). Messenger of Allah (PBUH): He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death".
We, scholars of the Ummah in all its sects, have to contemplate this miraculous Prophetic parable which depicts a bowl where there is scrumptious food, and around it hungry people, calling each other to eat and swallow it while the owners and guards of this bowl were busy with trivial issues. If we applied this prophetic parable to Arab and Muslims today, we would realize where we stand today from this Hadith that predicted our current situation fifteen centuries ago. So is there any who will contemplate?
May Allah’s Peace, mercy and grace be upon you!