The Fourteenth General Conference : The Truth about Islam in a Changing World
Prof. Dr. Mahmûd Hamdî Zaqzûq Minister of Awqâf (Endowments)
Our contemporary world is experiencing successive changes and developments, particularly post September 11th events that occurred last year, events that have left negative and clear effects on the image of Islam in the world. All this was accompanied by media and non-media attempts to deliberately confuse facts and accuse Arabs and Muslims of being hostile to civilization and encouraging terrorism.
Although Islam- that has existed for fourteen centuries was revealed by Allah to His Prophet Muhammed, Allah's prayers and peace be upon him as "a Mercy for all creatures" and confirmed by the Ever- Glorious Qur'ân by "We sent thee not, but as Mercy for all creatures". Nonetheless, several media organs have succeeded in focusing their accusations on certain Muslims for perpetrating the said events and, one way or another, linked Islam with terrorism.
Hence, it has become incumbent to confront this blatant injustice aimed against Islam and Muslims by adopting an objective stand to determine and indicate the reality of Islam in this changing world through its fundamental and infallible texts as well as its sound teachings recognized by the world at large over fourteen centuries.
In fact, all this prompted the civilizational edifice established by Muslims in which they contributed over long centuries in enriching human civilization. Moreover, their contribution, in particular, to Western civilization in the Middle Ages through Andalusia, is evident in history and has enabled Europe to setup out of the Middle ages to the threshold of the modern age. In this context, it is necessary to remind of the splendid example given by Islamic civilization in terms of the peaceful coexistence that prevailed among religions under this civilization, a fact experienced in Europe between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Andalusia.
However, this brilliant civilization is now deemed to be totally ignored and forgotten in the wake of the aforementioned events, let alone accusing Islam and Muslims of terrorism, as if the world was suddenly faced with a religion devoid of history and only recognized through sporadic events and irresponsible acts committed by some Muslims, and are also perpetrated by groups from other religions and civilizations.
Therefore, it was incumbent to convene this Conference at this juncture in order to clarify Islamic facts and define concepts that have governed and continue to govern the relationship of Islam and Muslims with followers of other religions and civilizations.
It is also necessary to redress the confusion and ambiguity that have lately spread on the concept of Jihad in Islam and its relation to the phenomenon of international terrorism that does not distinguish a religion from another nor a civilization from another.
In the final analysis, the importance of this clarification and declaration stems from the need to define the future relationship between Islam and other civilizations in general and Western civilization, in particular.
The Conference has examined and studied these issues in its four axes. Needless to say that this Conference is a link in the chain of efforts exerted and that should be continued to reveal the true tolerant image of Islâ000m.
The message of President Muhammed Husni Mubârak, President of Egypt, to the Conference indicated several basic facts that should be recognized by all. These are:
All religions- including Islâm- are in essence based on the divine call for love, peace and good. Hence, it is inconceivable that these religions are the source of evil for any peoples in the world. Furthermore, the difference should continue to be clear between Islamic Jihad and terrorism. Jihad is a legitimate right to resist aggression against religion, humans and homeland whereas terrorism is a flagrant attack against all sanctities, lives and countries.
Islâm, as it adopts and asserts religious and civilization- bound plurality among word people, sets as a principle the virtual call for reconnaissance and concord of mankind. According to Islâm, plurality was never an obligatory justification for dispute or clash or an antipathy- instigating motive. This was evidently spelled out in Allah's the Almighty saying:
"Oh Mankind! We created you from the union of a twain, male and female, and divided you into nations and communities and dispersed you over the earth to get to know each other." [Hujurat: 13]
This is an indication that plurality accounts for the normal interaction of mankind, for integration among civilizations and for cooperation among peoples with a view to enriching human experience over successive ages.
Familiarity of peoples, civilizations and religions and their closer acquaintance definitely provides clearer visions about one another, thus doing away with pre-judgments and false impressions each party entertains in relation other.
Each of us has his own respective religious and historic heritage built around a host of inherited values, norms and traditions that he is dedicated to keep safe, being the springboard of this national identity, which is not by necessity in conflict with that of others, though more or less, disparate. This certainly prompts the formula of dialogue- oriented plurality that does not recommend clash.
As it reaffirms calls for dialogue and understanding among peoples, slam similarly refutes the inter- civilization conflict allegation, because civilizations are not clash, but rather interact and integrate, taking from each other and complementing one another, being the offspring of peoples' process of giving and the harvest of historic events which all peoples substantially share in making.
Our understanding of this inter-civilization relationship springs from the fundamental principles of the Islamic religion which regards faith in preceding divine messages one of preconditions validating Islam.
As Allah, the Almighty, confirmed this meaning in the Ever-Glorious Qur'ân: "The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him form his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His Angels, His books, and His Messengers. We make no distinction (they say) between one and another." [Baqarah : 285]
The world is in need of the civilization of Muslims who constitute one fifth of its population. Muslims, in turn, are in need of world civilizations. Isolation is no longer a recommended option, actually it has become impossible to materialize in the world of today.
Deliberations in the course of the Plenary and ad-hoc workshops in which a number of non- Muslim dignitaries representing seven European countries have participated, concluded that the issue is of interest to Muslims as much as it does with non- Muslims worldwide. Non- Muslims are concerned with ransacking the truth of Islam as well as Muslims' relations with other peoples. They are also interested in ascertaining the idea of Jihad and whether or not it has to do with the phenomenon of terrorism menacing today's world. Moreover, they are all the more devoted to getting to know how Muslims envisage future relations between the Islamic civilization and other civilizations in general and the Western in particular.
In fact, misconceptions about Islam and its civilization at the world level is largely attributed to ignorance of Islam as a creed, and its teachings.
This renders Muslims accountable in terms of identifying Islam and its cause in all languages and in all nations, an action that will not be as effective unless Muslims unified efforts and closed ranks to this end, so as to ensure full- fledged coordination, integration and cooperation in various areas for the general good of Islam and Muslims.
Islam dictates clinging to Allah's ordinance and steering clear of discord and disunity. It warns against falling prey to disagreement and rivalry which unfavorably end up in outspoken failure. This meaning is emphatically underscored in the Qur'ân, when Allah the Almighty stressed: "And fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart, and your power depart" [Anfal: 46]
Hopes are pinned on 'Ulama' and men of letters to undertake their responsibility in enlightening the sons of the nation with regard to the reality of Islam and meanwhile to double unfailing efforts to put right the blurred image of Islam and the unfair counter propaganda of relevance outside the Islamic World.
Both themes are indissociably correlated in the sense of providing the firm foundation of the Islamic nation to assume its demanding task of upholding its rights on the one hand and contributing vehemently to the entrenchment of peace and stability everywhere in the world to the welfare of humanity by and large, on the other hand.
May Allah guide our steps along the path to righteousness.