His Excellency the Grand Imam’s Opening Speech to the Forum of Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies,

United Arab Emirates

  • | Monday, 1 June, 2015
His Excellency the Grand Imam’s Opening Speech to the Forum of Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies,

In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Prophet Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, his family and his Companions.

His Excellency/ Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al -Nahian- sponsor of the forum.

Honorable scholars, distinguished thinkers and intellectuals!

As-salamu alaukum wa rahamt Allah wa barakaatuh!

At the beginning of my speech, I would like to thank and appreciate the role of the government and people of the United Arab Emirates for holding this forum and for being keen to hold it every year in the presence of advocates of peace and humanity from all over the world.

I would like also to express my gratitude and appreciation to my elder brother Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, the chairman of the forum, for his great efforts in the preparation of this forum, hoping it would achieve its objectives and aims.

If the agenda limited the purpose of this forum to re-identify the culture of peace and explain its central position in Islam through an accurate reading of the revelation texts and the predecessors' heritage would be undoubtedly one of the noblest purposes which specialists should have to do. This is necessary in order to eliminate the stains that categorically covered jurisprudence of peace because of the inadequate understanding and interpretations which led some groups among Muslims to fight against their own societies and people, not against the enemies.

Yes, we are in a dire need of an honest review and critical reading to these concepts in our Islamic heritage to clarify their meanings to the pupils and the university students in study curricula to protect Arab and Muslim youth from falling as a prey to such armed groups. Our forum must call on specialists to agree upon a clear strategy with regards to aims and objectives to pull out youth from the state of chaos and intellectual and creedal instability regarding the realization of the pillars of religion and the main issues of belief and morals to a state of faith stability, calmness and correct understanding of the religion that contributed to establishing a world civilization, human fraternity and world association. Such a civilization that was not to be spread from west to east in a very short period of time -that puzzled scholars of history and civilization till today- if not based on the principle of promoting peace among people. This civilization would not spread if the prophet of this civilization was not sent as a mercy for humankind. In truth he was not only sent as a mercy for Muslims or humanity but also he was sent as a mercy for all creatures. Allah said "We have not sent you (Prophet Muhammad) except as a mercy to all humankind'' (Al-Anbiyaa: 107). Mercy requires peace. Moreover, mercy and peace are two-sided coin and I do not think there is a religion or even a constitutional or social system that bestowed mercy and protected the blood of people as the Prophet of Islam did.

It is certain that The Glorious Quran is the only book that puts upon killers two punishments: legal retribution in this life and severe torture in the hereafter. It suffices that The Quran views killing one soul unjustly as killing the whole mankind, and whoever saves one soul, it is as if he saved mankind entirely. In this regard Allah says, "Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. (Al-Ma'ida: 32). Islam also prohibits terrifying people even if it was as a means of joking and humor. The prophet (PBUH) 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)". The Prophet also said "It is not lawful for a Muslim that he frightens a Muslim". The prophet's mercy also included animals. When he saw a camel shedding tears and was

extremely exhausted, he called its owner who was a young boy from al-Ansar saying, "Don’t you fear Allah about this beast which Allah has given in your possession. It has complained to me that you keep it hungry and load it heavily which fatigues it.” 

Honorable brothers, we should not deny this lively contact between prophets and other living creatures including animals, plants and inanimate beings, on the pretext that people heard not about animals talking to a human and complaining to him. If you want to know the relation between human and living creatures in Islamic perspective, you will be astonished to know that the universe with all its worlds is not a dead or inanimate being deprived of consciousness or suitable life as stated in the Ever-Glorious Qur'an. The Ever-Glorious Qur'an frankly indicates that everything in the universe worships, praises and prostrates to Allah even if we do not have the ability and consciousness that make us realize these praises and prostration. We have many verses in this context. Also many Suras begin with that fact. Human mind cannot perceive this praise or prostration from a dead of no life "And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving".(Al-Isra: 44) "Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people?" (Al-Hajj: 18) "We gave David bounty from Us. 'O mountains, and birds, echo (the praise of Allah) with him. And We softened iron for him," (Saba: 10). 

Consequently, we can understand the Prophet's saying as recorded by Imam Muslim "I recognize a stone in Mecca which used to pay me salutations before my advent as a Prophet and I recognize that even now." Having these decisive texts, it becomes clear that the relation between a Muslim and the others –in light of the philosophy of Islam- is based on fellowship and Companionship, even if this other is a human, an animal, plants or inanimate beings. This kind of relation is based first of all on the principles of peace and communication. From this point, in particular, Islam does not allow killing at all, except in the case of facing up aggression or for a right prescribed by Allah, the Exalted, through a text that is decisive in its narration and meaning. Hence, we can understand why Islam has prohibited killing the weak in the enemy camp, prevented destroying their buildings, burning their trees and killing their bees and animals except in case of necessity for eating. This necessity even must be measured by due

circumstances. In light of these instructions, Muslims are not perceived to commit aggression or be violent, and this was why the famous man of letter (Mustafa al-Rafi’y) said, "Muslims’ swords have morals." 

Honorable gathering,

The mission of the revival of "the jurisprudence of Peace" in the religion of Islam –in the fundamentals and heritage of Islam- is no longer a possible option; rather, it is most likely now to be the life buoy. It was a good idea from this forum to bear the responsibility of collecting such jurisprudence and explaining it to all people alike. At the same time, I recommend that the forum carries out, in parallel, another task, I mean to collect books and magazines published by armed terrorist groups especially via electronic media. These books and magazines are published in different languages other than Arabic language and cause an imminent danger to youth. These books and articles must be collected, classified and criticized. There is a third factor which is to identify the creedal principles that form the bases of the armed groups, particularly, the principle of Takfeer (labeling Muslims as disbelievers). These groups have laid out rules for the principle of Takfeer in their literature and could therefore misguide a large number of Muslim youth in the east and the west. 

Honorable gathering, It is grievous to have many books and publications by the so-called scholars discussing the issue of Takfeer. They differentiate between permissible takfeer, that is the Takfeer of unspecified person, and the other sort which is the Takfeer of a specified person; this later kind, according to them, is permissible on certain conditions. These sayings altogether are not suitable for our Ummah’s circumstances and do not support the issue peace that we all pursue. We do not discuss here the issue of the Takfeer of specified or unspecified persons. The Holy Quran and Sunnah did not mention this classification and it was only mentioned by later scholars and therefore, it may be accepted or rejected. We have to warn that some fatawa (plural of Fatwa: religious decisions issued by certain jurists, in the past, were given in response to exceptional circumstances that are not comparable to our circumstances nowadays. The issue of

Takfeer is the best example of our point of view. Today, we find armed terrorist groups depend on the rulings they quoted from Ibn Taimiyyah and Ibn Katheer "may Allah have mercy with them" which stipulate that "declaring the testimony that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah" is not sufficient for saying that this person is a Muslim. Rather this declaration must be joined by the complete submission and defending Muslims, the Muslim state and the Shari’ah. If a Muslim does not fulfill this condition, he will be regarded as a disbeliever and must, therefore, be fought against.

The correct meaning of this misunderstood statement of Ibn Taimiyyah is that: he "may Allah have mercy with him" said these words in the seventh and eighth century (A.H.) while he was engaging in facing bloody violent battles between Muslims and Tatars, who conquered Baghdad, ancient Syria and reached Egypt where they were defeated in the battle of "Ain Jalut". At this time the Tatars proclaimed Islam and cancelled their disbelief. Besides, the leaders of Muslim countries did not find any harm to seek their help to control their lands. In this atmosphere, Ibn Taimiyyah said that it was necessary for testimony to be accompanied by deed to distinguish Muslims from others (pretending to be Muslims) who conspired against Muslims and killed them. Now, the question is how can we compare our Islamic societies now to the societies where Muslims and non-Muslims were unidentified? Can we use the same ruling that suited Muslim societies in the seventh and eighth century (A.H.) to apply it for Muslim societies in the 21st century? And how can we neglect all these political and juristic differences and contexts and allow them to appear again to provide justifications for Takfeer groups to proclaim Jihad against societies that perform prayer, pay zakat (Alms giving), fast on Ramadan and perform pilgrimage to Allah’s sacred House? How to neglect the consensus of the jurists which that a fatwa changes according to conditions, circumstances, place and time?

This bloody chaos – that takes from the idea of Takfeer evidence – requires mobilization of scholars’ efforts to face this sedition in all capitals of the Arab world, or even at every town. This shall not be achieved unless we directed our efforts to the field of education especially pre-university education. We hope to have a meeting in which those in charge of education in the Arab world and education in religious institutes put common scholarly Curricula based on the opinion of the majority of scholars in forbidding Takfeer in clear terms. These curricula must be serious and focus on correcting these misconceptions intellectually and educationally all over Arab world. Such meeting has become an urgent necessity because giving due care to education and educational discourse is more important than giving due care to addressing crowds because the majority of people are still fortified against the culture of Takfeer, unlike the new generations who depend on electronic media in gaining knowledge. It is known that these media are completely penetrated by these groups that target the youth from secondary and university stages of education.

Honorable brothers,

finally, I would like to say that the campaigns launched in mass media against the religious discourse, as the only factor for the appearance of (ISIS) and other terrorist groups, are superficial campaigns as they limit the causes behind these groups only to the religious discourse, ignoring other hidden factors that made those youth adopt armed violence as a methodology and as a last and desperate solution for changing their societies. The consecutive drawbacks, especially the political, psychological and economic drawbacks, in addition to the culture of marginalization, which this generation suffered from at more than one level, all have clearly contributed to the feeling of despair and frustration. The religious discourse is not the only solution but it is a part of solving the problem as there are different kinds of discourses: political, economic, educational, cultural, media and artistic discourses; all theses discourses were means of destruction for

people's hopes and dreams; all these discourses requires reformation not less than the religious discourse does. 

Thanks for your attentive listening!

Wa as-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatu Allah wa barakaatuh

On: Rajab 9–11, 1436 A.H., April 28–30, 2015 C.E.

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar 

Ahmad Al Tayyeb. 

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