The Thirteenth General Conference : Renewal in Islamic Thought
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
By: Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk
Minister of Al-Awqaf
Renewal is the normal course of life, and change is the law of
existence. No created thing remains as it is forever. The alternative to
renewal is stagnation, which means life coming to a halt. This is an
impossibility since life and mobility are inseparable. Today we live in a
fast-moving world. Every day witnesses new developments in the fields of
science, technology, information, and communications. It is clear that the
successive developments in today's world have no limit.
Although man, like any other creature, is subject to the laws of
renewal, he, on the other hand possesses a will through which he can
orient such renewal to the destination he likes. He is not a feather in the
wind that goes wherever the wind goes. Nor is he merely influenced by
his surroundings, but influences and directs events, which means that he
plays a positive and effective role in the movement of life.
Muslim communities do not live separated from other communities
in this world; they are influenced by that which is taking place around
them, and are required to renew their life, activate their thought,
whetting their wills, and participating in enriching thought as well as
enriching life itself.
Islam, being the religion of the innate nature, copes with the laws of
life and does not clash with human nature. Therefore, Islam encourages
continual renewal of the movement of life and society with the aim of
achieving the best in all walks of life. Hence the call of the Prophet
(prayers and peace be upon him) to renewal was a clear call that cannot
be misinterpreted when he said, "Allah sends to this nation at the
beginning of every one hundred years that who renews its religion for it"
The renewal in question is not a random matter, and does not stem
from a vacuum, but is rather a renewal that is based on understanding
reality for the sake of unveiling its negative aspects as a springboard to
rectifying matters and paving the way for enriching life with more
creativity that adds new things to the people's world in all fields, a
practice which rectifies for them their religion and their world as well.
Despite the fact that the aim of renewal is quite clear, there is a
group of Muslims who are afraid of it, and consider that each renewal is
a heresy, and that each heresy is a misguidance, which is in turn will be
in Hell. This think that by so doing they are doing what is right and are
preserving religion against the heresies of heretics and the innovations of
innovators. All these are among the uninformed friends who do harm to
the religion unintentionally. The required renewal is not an open pasture
or a no-man's-land open to whoever desires; rather it is a renewal
controlled by rules which would preserve the established bases of the
religion, and at the same time assure its vitality and its being fit for every
time and place.
The great changes which our modern world has undergone should
awaken sleepers and alert the unaware in our Muslim world to search
for a way out of the perplexity which our Muslim nation experiences in
this perplexing world. There is no escape for Muslims from moving on all
fronts and in all directions for renewing thought and coping with the age
so that they may be able to face contemporary challenges, which are new
challenges that the world has not known before. Facing these challenges
by old mentalities or those which locked themselves in frozen moulds
would not succeed or be strong enough to steadfast in facing the new
violent storms. Hence renewal becomes incumbent on Muslims if they
wish to exist in today's world.
The required renewal means to equip ourselves with all the
facilities of the modern age, and enlightened understanding of the new
changes, with the aim of moulding Muslim's lives in a way that copes
with these changes on the one hand, and preserves the vitality of Islam on
the other hand, as well as paves the way for Muslims to participate in
making progress and orienting the events of history. It is not proper for
Muslims to remain motionless in the seats of spectators, matching in
sheer passivity the incidents going on around them in today's world,
being satisfied to remain consumers of the products and thoughts of the
All these issues and many others have been a motive for us at the
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to hold a conference that discusses
Hence was the Thirteenth General Conference of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Affairs, which was held in Cairo between May 31
and June 3, 2001 G. under the title of "Renewal in Islamic thought".
Representatives of more than seventy countries and organizations
participated in it, and discussed over four days more than eighty papers
about the necessity and guidelines of renewal, renewal in the fields of
Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh), call, and mass communication. It also
discussed the issues of renaissance and revival, as well as other important
The aim behind all of this is to contribute, through the Supreme
Council for Islamic Affairs, a modest effort towards enlightening
intellects and guiding minds, showing the way, and highlighting the issue
of renewal in its capacity as an issue of utmost importance to Muslims in
today's world before time surpasses this deeply waked nation, which is
due to awaken from its snap, rise from its fall, restore its strength, get out
of the civilization dilemma in which it was besieged in the for several
centuries, and contribute effectively in determining the fate of this world,
which belongs to us all.
As it customary after the convening of every conference by the
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, it gives us pleasure to present today
this book that includes the proceedings and activities of the Thirteenth
General Conference of the council, which was held under the kind
auspices of His Excellency President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak.
We hope that the publication of the papers of this conference would
contribute to advancing the movement of renewal in our Muslim world.
The issue of renewal in Islamic thought is a continuous process and an
incessant movement, which are contributed to by the successive
generations. The flood of this movement will continue like a flowing
river, which renews its currents, and its edifice remains erect as long as
Allah wills it to last.
May Allah guide our intention, and may He guide our steps.
Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk
Al-Muharram, 18,1423 A.H.
April 1, 2002 G.