Wednesday, 21 June 2017

MWL's Conference on Tolerance in Islam At SOAS London

MWL’s One-day Conference on Tolerance
in Islam At Brunei Gallery, SOAS London

Dr. Mozammel Haque

One-day Conference on Tolerance in Islam, organised by Muslim World League, was held at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, on Monday, the 15th of May, 2017.

The Conference has three sessions besides the Opening and Welcome session and the closing sessions. After the recitation from the Holy Qur’an and Translation, Professor Dr. Muhammad A.S. Abdel Haleem, Professor of Islamic Studies at SOAS, delivered the welcome address followed by the Keynote address by His Excellency, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdulkarim Al Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Makkah al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia.

The First session was on Tolerance in Islam … A Method and a Message, chaired by Hajj Ahmad Thomson, Bar-at-Law. There were three papers: Shaykh Haytham Tamim presented a paper on ‘Compassion and Brotherhood in Islam’; the second paper on ‘Aspects of Tolerance in Islam’ was presented by Professor Muhammad A.S. Abdel Haleem, OBE and the third paper on ‘Qur’anic Justice and Shared Social Ethics’ was presented by Dr. Ramon Harvey.

The Second session was on Muslims and the Tolerance …Scene and Objectives, chaired by Dr. Ahmed Meliebary. There were three papers; the first paper on ‘The Madinah Charter (The First Islamic Constitution dealing with a Treaty on Tolerance and its Global Impact)’ was presented by Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London. The second paper was on ‘Islamic Tolerance through the eyes of other Religions and Cultures’ presented by Shafi Fazaluddin and the third paper on ‘Islam’s Contribution to World Peace’ was presented by Dr. Hashim Mahdi.

After the lunch break and prayer, there was third session on Tolerance and Homeland and Communities Security chaired by Dr. Salman Al-Saad. There were three speakers; the First speaker Peter Clark presented a paper on ‘Marmaduke Pickthall and Tolerance in Islam’. Dr. Suhaib Abdul Gaffar Hasan presented a paper on ‘Harmony between Islam and Homeland and Communities’ Security’. Mr. Ajmal Masroor also spoke on this topic. Dr. Fatima Rajina spoke on the ‘Role of the Institutions in Promoting Peace in the societies’.
At the end, there was Questions & Answers session; Award Giving Ceremony and photo session.

The Keynote speech of the
MWL’s Secretary General 
In the Opening Session, The Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Muhammad Bin Abdulkarim Alissa, delivered the keynote speech in which he has affirmed the MWL’s keenness to promote a culture of peace and tolerance; constructive dialogue of understanding between the different components of the society. He mentioned the moderate approach championed by the Muslim World League.  “Tolerance is an integral part of Islam’s lofty values; ever-present in many religious texts, and abound in the Prophetic Seerah (Biography of the Prophet); the latter is considered to be the top of moral values that Islam has commended their application in all areas of life.”

He underlined the incompatibility of these lofty values with the approach of extremism based on fanaticism, incitement and confrontation. This radical phenomenon interprets the texts erroneously seeking to distort its accurate and true meanings.

He also explained that the classification of extremism often suggests a perverted behavioural nature. The extremist is intolerant, vulnerable and easily swayed and quickly overwhelmed by the collective thought, for which it falls easily prey to its harmful spell. Extremism is denuded of comfortable nature, and finds itself on either opposite pole.

“The extremist neither knows nor understands the doctrine of priorities and judgement (Jurisprudence of comparison between interests and malevolence). Neither does he recognise the purposes of Shari’ah, the change of Fatwa, and the provisions of necessity. He does not know the possibility of the change in times, places, situations, customs, intentions and people,” Dr. Alissa said and added, “And you will find the extremist conceited in accepting evidence and facts, glorifying trivial matters, violating major sins; led by encouraging division, sowing the seeds of subversion as well as accusing others of apostasy (takfir) and permitting bloodshed.”

Dr. Alissa also said You’ll find him an estranged individual to the Fiqh of agreement, congruence and rapprochement. He will be as far away as possible from being compassionate, accommodating to people and a herald of glad tidings.

He continued, “You will never find all these great meanings except in religious consciousness, which has refined behaviour and generated wisdom. These meanings have also produced the global scholar within the context of his religion’s universality.”

Secretary General of the Muslim World League concluded: “We say in brief: The outcome – and God knows best – a pledge based on the defeat the terrorist thought. The terrorist entity is established on an extremist ideology, rather than a military entity and an overwhelming political power. It was able to spread in all countries of the world, attract followers from one hundred and one countries and influence some minds, taking advantage of every available opportunity.”

Proceedings of the Conference
I am going to report briefly each session, i.e. from the Second session, the Madinah Charter by Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan and from the Third session on Marmaduke Pickthall and Tolerance in Islam and Homeland and Communities’ Security by Dr. Suhaib Abdul Gaffar Hasan.

From the Second Session
The Madinah Charter by Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
In the Second Session, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London was programmed to give a lecture on The Madinah Charter. Dr. Al-Dubayan started by saying: The Charter was one of the most important developments of the Charter which was really signed and dictated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). But this was not the first one.

He said, The first one was made about the year 620, that was one year or two years before the immigration of the Prophet (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah. He continued, “The first treaty was not written, it was verbal, as far as we know, agreed between the Prophet (PBUH) himself and the people from the Madinah (as it was called Yathrib in those days). And when the Prophet himself (peace be upon him) came from Makkah to Madinah now we have this treaty charter which some people called it was signed by the Prophet himself and the representatives of the population of Madinah. The time when this charter was written is about 624, i.e. the first year of the Hijrah of the Islamic calendar or in the Gregorian or western calendar, the 624AD.”

After this, Dr. Al-Dubayan said there was another treaty, not charter; that is the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, in the year 629. These were the main very important treaties, documents in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him).  This one is in writing; the one of Hudaibiyah in the text; the first one we don’t have the text we just have it in reading.

Dr. Al-Dubayan then jumped and did not go deep about the authenticity of the text. About the authenticity of the text, He said, “Really lot of scholars, or some scholars have argued about the authenticity as a whole or one text, some scholars argued about the authenticity of some part of it and some scholars have not accepted and there were many who accepted as really authentic text written and narrated by many of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Then Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned about the historian who first mentioned about this. He said, “The first one who mentioned about this is Ibn Ishaq Muhammad bin Ishaq, the most famous historian of the period of the Prophet (PBUH). Bin Ishaq died in 768 which is about 150 years after the immigration of the Prophet (peace be upon him), i.e. one and a half century after the immigration of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The ICC Chief also mentioned, “We had actually chain of narrators, from bin Ishaq to the course of the charter and what is really very amazing; the last person in this chain was Othman bin Mugira. Bin Mugira said he found the Treaty was written in a book with the family of Umar bin Khattab himself. That means it was in writing; it was not just their belief, they say and then somebody memorised or memorises it but it was found with the family of Umar al-Khattab.  Dr al-Dubayan maintained I think the authenticity is very very strong.

Speaking about the importance and significance of the Charter Dr. al-Dubayan said, “To understand how important this one is we have to go back to Madinah itself to know who were there; when the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madinah. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madinah, there were Jewish community in Madinah; there were Arabs who were non-Muslims yet and, of course, early strongly there were some Christians in Madinah, may be individuals, not very big community but there were some Christian Arabs who followed their religion before Islam; there was a big community of Jews in Madinah itself when the Prophet came.

So there were different people of different religions of different tribes - all of them living in Madinah. It means it was multicultural multi-religious and multi-ethnic communities living in the city. It is interesting to know the type of life and the relations among these people and communities and here lies the importance of the Charter, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madinah, said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Going into the details of the Charter, the Director General of the Centre mentioned “The first thing we see in this Charter is the tolerance. The subject tolerance is really very very important in this document. The Charter has 52 items, 25 of these items are really about the lives of Muslims and 27 of these items related to the relations within Muslims and between other faiths, Jews and Christians in Madinah in those days.”

First of all, the Madinah Charter removed any kind of racism. Dr. Al-Dubyan mentioned, “If we examine first the Charter removed any kind of racism among the relations in Madinah. No racism among the people; they were one nation; they were whole one nation. That means they were sharing the same rights; sharing the same duties; and which actually later on about the duties to help each other when the Madinah the city was attacked. The duties to help each other were like a financial crisis; everybody must share and must contribute something.”

Then Dr. Al-Dubyan mentioned about the social justice aspect of the Charter. He said, “Social justice means when there is some issues it must be dealt with the law itself and it must be taken and considered by the head of the city. It is really, may be, the first political charter or constitution written. One of the aspects is respecting the rights of the neighbours, respecting the rights of properties. These are all in the document which show what is called in the modern terminology or in modern times the rights and the same written in the same charter.”

Then Dr. al-Dubyan mentioned about the economic aspects about it. For example, the economic independence among the communities is written in the charter. He said, “There was economic independence; that means Jews were responsible for their own properties; Muslims were responsible for their own properties; and everybody knows what he had and they must all contribute in the case of poor or in the case of need. This is what is written in the charter.”

These are some of the aspects of the charter which are very very important. Dr. Al-Dubyan also mentioned another important aspect is that there are some books now really examining the document itself.

He said, just about five days ago there was a conference in Bahrain talking only about this subject of this document the Charter of Madinah and studies and many scholars presented different papers about the economic sides of it. Another one is about the political side in it. I think, in the modern time or in the modern history of Arabs, they did not argue of the different form of the state.

“How is the state in Islam? How is the state written in Arab history? -That is the big argument in the Islamic studies; Arab studies in the 21st century. and I think if this charter is re-examined and studied it will lead us to a kind of or a form of state; said Dr. Al-Dubyan and added, “It will show us how there were respect among people of different faiths; how independence they have of their faiths; how independence they have of their economic issues; how also they must work together whenever there is any threat to the state or for the state itself and how much they have relations to each other and they respect each other. And how much of the justice was there. For example, in item no 40 in the charter it says that everybody is independent of the crime and nobody will be responsible for the mistake of another person, even if he is from the same family or his friend or something.”

Another aspect which Dr. al-Dubyan mentioned is the tribal culture. He said, “Because of tribal culture, if somebody is killed in the tribe the other tribe will try to kill anybody from that tribe, even if he is innocent; not committed by the person who committed the crime. That was stopped in this charter. To make the responsibility really is individual only; the person himself; and nobody can be responsible for the crime of other people.”

Dr. al-Dubayan finally emphasized the tolerance aspect of the Charter. He said, “Supporting each other; working together; respecting neighbour and neighbourhood and everything. Actually two items they are all going about tolerance. It is really a model. I think we really trying to implement again the idea and then bring them into life that will help for better understanding of Islam.”

The Third Session
Marmaduke Pickthall  and Tolerance
by Dr. Peter Clark OBE
Dr. Peter Clark OBE is a consultant, writer and translator. One of his books is Marmaduke Pickthall, British Muslim. Dr. Clark first spoke about the life and work of Marmaduke Pickthall, a novelist who embraced Islam in 1917 and translated the Holy Qur’an, the first translation by a believing Muslim who was also a native speaker of English. He said, “My study of Pickthall, first published in 1986, has been reissued and translated into Arabic. Two other volumes, dedicated to his work, have been published. I think there are two reasons for this interest. First, he was a British Muslim; his life demonstrates that there is nothing alien about Muslims in Britain. Secondly, his writings emphasised the openness and liberal traditions of Islam, in contrast to some of the statements made in the name of Islam today.”

Dr. Peter Clark talked about Pickthall’s intimate familiarity with three or four areas of Islam. He said, “Pickthall was remarkable in having an intimate familiarity with three or four areas of the world of Islam. In his youth in the 1890s he spent two years wandering round Syria and Palestine, mastering colloquial Levantine Arabic. He spent prolonged periods in Egypt. Before the First World War he was for several months in Istanbul where he learnt Turkish and became a champion of the Young Turks. Then from 1920 to 1935 he was in India, the last ten years in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad under whose auspices he undertook his great work of translation and was founder-editor of the remarkable journal, Islamic Culture.”

Speaking about Pickthall’s conception of Tolerance in Islam, Dr. Clark mentioned his lecture entitled “Tolerance”. He said, “In addition to his novels and short stories that articulate the attitudes of ordinary Turks, Syrians and Egyptians, he wrote extensively about Islam. In 1917 he moved to a position of leadership of the British Muslim community and gave addresses and khutbas in which he proclaimed that Islam was a religion of tolerance. The summation of his Muslim faith was expressed in a series of lectures he gave in Chennai/Madras in 1925. They have been published as The Cultural Side of Islam and many times reprinted.”

“One lecture was entitled “Tolerance”. In this lecture he quotes from the Holy Qur’an in support of his own liberal views. He argues that Muslims were at their strongest when they were open and tolerant. He recalls the tradition of plurality in places where there were mixed communities of Muslims, Jews and Christians. Places of worship were shared. I could point to a dozen buildings in Syria, he said, which tradition says were thus jointly used; and I have seen at Lud (Lydda), in the plain of Sharon, a Church of St. George and a mosque under the same roof with only a partition wall between.” Dr. Clark mentioned.  

Talking about the Ottoman Empire as tolerant Empire, Dr. Clark mentioned, “He (Pickthall) was in Syria at the end of the Ottoman Empire and saw it, at its best, as a tolerant Empire. Christians and Jews flourished. When Jews (and Muslims) were expelled from Spain at the end of the fifteenth century, they were given a warm welcome in the Ottoman Empire. Until nationalism undermined relationships, there was a balance of communities. Of course practice was never always in line with precept but, as Pickthall said, The poor Muslims and poor Christians were on an equality, and were still good friends and neighbours. The Muslims never interfered with the religion of the subject Christians. There was never anything like the inquisition or the fires of Smithfield.”

“Tolerance is a negative quality. It is the refraining from persecution or oppression. To turn tolerance into something positive is to celebrate the other,” said Dr. Clark. But while speaking about Pickthall’s works and life in Hyderabad under its Nizam, Dr. Clark said, “He (Pickthall) was happiest in Hyderabad which was effectively a benevolent autocracy. Hyderabad, like the Syria of his youth, was a multi-ethnic community but the Nizam saw himself as the patron of all. He funded the buildings of buildings, not exclusively Islamic, as well as providing extensive social services. One of Pickthall’s tasks in Hyderabad was to negotiate a marriage alliance between the son of the Nizam and the daughter of the last Ottoman Khalifa, Abdulmecid, a man of great culture, a musician and a painter, at home in the cultures of Turkey, Arabia and Persia as well as of western Europe.”

“Until the Ottoman Empire imploded the Sultans were often the patrons of Christian and Jewish endeavours, In Haydarpasha Istanbul there is a synagogue today named after Sultan Abdulhamid II,” he mentioned.

Speaking about the Sixteenth Century Mughal Emperor Akbar, Dr. Clark mentioned, “He (Pickthall) respected the sixteenth century Mughal Emperor, Akbar, who was open to all religious influences. He established the Ibadatkhana that was open to people of all religions and of none, where there were discussions of everything. In the following century the Persian Shah Abbas enjoyed talking with European Christians about their faith to such an extent that there were rumours that he was about to become a Christian. But it was simply unbounded intellectual curiosity. A believer, Pickthall thought, strong in his faith, should have no anxiety about open and searching enquiry. Any scientific enquiry is simplify an exploration of the divinely created world.”

Dr. Clark also said, “Akbar and Abbas and the Ottoman Empire at its best implemented this policy of tolerance, acceptance and even celebration.”

Dr. Clark would like to end this with some words Pickthall spoke in his last Madras lecture. “Muslims cannot adopt the institutions of other communities, but it is their duty to respect the customs and institutions of other communities, and to live with them on terms of neighbourly regard and tolerance. Intolerance and what is called fanaticism have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. . . . There is nothing in the teaching of Islam to justify hatred of any man for his opinions or for seeking to win others to his opinions. God forbid that I should have to say it: There is nothing in the teaching of Islam to justify murder. Islam preaches equal justice to all men, tolerance for all sincere opinions, respect for all good men, wherever found. Islam is not against the rest of the world, but for the rest of the world, striving for right wherever found against wrong wherever found. I would urge most strongly on your notice the need to preach and Suhaib the wine of the non-Muslim. We are forbidden to speak anything concerning his religion which could hurt his feelings. The tolerance of Islam in history is our great claim to the consideration of the world.”

Harmony between Islam and Homeland
and Communities’ Security – Dr. Suhaib Hasan
The topic of the third session Harmony Between Islam and Homeland and Communities Security. Dr. Suhaib Hasan presented a paper on this subject. In his paper Dr. Hasan said, “As Muslims, we claim that the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, may peace be upon him, was a messenger of peace, who established peace practically. To prove this claim, let us look into it through these three criteria:

*To establish internal peace of mind.
*To establish peace in society at large where people can live without fear and coercion.
*To establish peace internationally in a way the wars are no more than a necessary evil, and exist only to eradicate oppression and bring tyranny to an end.”

Dr. Hasan said, “The Prophet (SAW) has established all these three criteria. Arabs in his times had some extraordinary characters which eventually made them capable of carrying out the great task of turning the Arabian Peninsula into the seat of Islam and a source of global inspiration. They were known for bravery, generosity, sense of dignity and gallantry and trustworthiness. But these highly merited characters were marked with excessiveness which caused them sometimes to appear negatively.”

“The valour was turned into plunder and smouldering the flames of war on petty issues. The generosity was turned into gambling, even for charitable purposes. The dignity and gallantry, of family and tribal pride led them to create havoc and massacre in the ranks of enemies in the name of vengeance and racial supremacy. The Prophet (SAW) was very successful in moulding these characters in a positive direction, to a productive and to a peaceful way of life,” Dr. Hasan mentioned.
Dr. Hasan also said, “So let us take the three criteria, first to establish internal peace of mind internally: Islam is peace and one of Allah’s attributes is Al-Salam and our greetings in The Muslim greeting is “Assalamu-u-Alaikum” (peace be upon you). And Darul Salam means the House of peace.” “

Then the second criteria is to establish peace in society. Dr. Hasan said, “Secondly, establishing peace in society. Society itself is composed of small units: a house or a family. There are a number of institutions that help create a peaceful society. Let us consider each one of them.

He also mentioned, “The House of the Family ‘Sakinah’ or tranquillity is declared as one of the most important factors in creating a successful dwelling. In the Qur’an Allah said, “And (also) of His signs is that He created for you mates of your own kind so that you acquire peace from them, and He created between you love and mercy. Verily, in this (system of creation) there are signs for those who meditate.” (Surah 30:21)

Dr. Hasan then said, “Next to the house comes one’s neighbours. Then The institution of Al-Hisbah (Ombudsman) and then the The institution of Bait-ul-Mal: the wealth to be distributed to the poor and the needy. After this there was very most important thing is the The institution of Qazar (importing justice) and this has been mentioned by some of our speakers as well. Allah said in the Qur’an:  “Verily, We sent Our Messengers with clear signs, and We sent down with them the Book and the balance of justice so that people might grow firm and stable in justice. And (of minerals) We brought forth iron in which there is a fierce force (for weapons and defence) and which has (multiple other) benefits for people (in industrial development). And (the purpose is) that Allah may bring to light the one who helps Him and His Messengers (i.e., the Din [Religion of Islam]) without seeing. Surely, Allah is (Himself) the All-Powerful, the Almighty.” (57:25) So wherever there is justice, it is a peaceful country.”

In this connection, Dr. Hasan mentioned, “Once Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, was asked about the fate of England in the face of constant attack by the enemy during the last days of the Second World War. He replied that as long as the courts of this country were functioning well and providing justice to the people, there was no reason for anyone to fear or despair.” Then Dr. Hasan mentioned the institution of Mirath (the distribution of the inheritance).

And then the third criterion is to establish peace internationally. About this criterion Dr. Hasan mentioned: “Though the Prophet (peace be upon him) was constantly forced to engage in fighting, seeking peace was his primary objective in life and that is why the Qur’an certified that: “And if they (the combatant or hostile disbelievers) incline to peace and reconciliation, you also incline to it and put your trust in Allah. Surely, He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”(8:61)”

Then he mentioned about the The Treaty of Hudaibiya in the 6th year of Hijrah.

Dr. Hasan said, “The legacy which was left by the Prophet (peace be upon him) as for peace and war could be summarised as follows:
*The objective of a State is to provide peace on all levels, individual, social and nationally.
*War is a necessary evil which serves the purpose of defence and eradicates tyranny and injustice.”

Dr. Hasan also mentioned, The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself participated in 23 battles (Ghazwat) during which only one person was killed by his own hand because he confronted him directly.”
  • Killing involved the combatants only. He prohibited the killing of non-combatants especially women, children, old people, persons confined to the houses of worship. Beneficial objects, whether cattles or trees were treated as sanctuary.
Peace is the preferred option over even if it is accomplished on the expenses of one’s own interest. That was the lesson of the Treaty of Hudaibiya in the 6th year of Hijrah.” Mentioned Dr. Hasan.

Closing Statement: Recommendations
After that, the participants started the conference’s topics, led by scholars of Dawa activists, leaders in areas of science, advocacy and cultural work in a number of Islamic countries. The conference was also attended by leaders of Islamic centres and offices in the United Kingdom. At the end of the session discussions, the participants proposed the following recommendations:
  • To praise the efforts made by the Muslims in the United Kingdom to promote the real image of Islam; to appreciate their cultural contributions and positive engagement with everybody.
  • They salute their efforts in spreading the culture of accepting others in their midst due to the firm belief in the difference between people while promoting the concepts of positive communication among followers of religions and cultures to serve humanitarian work and maintain human dignity and preserve human rights.
  • To sustain the positive spirit that Muslims have had over the past centuries in their fair dealings with others and co-existing with them side by side. They call upon the various components of society to exert efforts to promote citizenship and expand constructive dialogue among them.
  • The consolidation of common human values and solidarity in protecting national public interests, and to overcome difficulties that hinder coexistence in a happy safe way.
  • Respect symbols and national traditions, including greeting, peace and national protocol, according to the priorities of the concept of citizenship, and accept what some might see from his point of view as reservation or doubt on some of its contexts. Hence, the Muslim has to work on the procedure between the pros and cons within priorities and comparison. One might sustain a greater harm as a result of objection than the original provisions he may consider; as long as – by consensus – it won‘t cast a Muslim outside the fold of Islam. To bring Muslims together and reject doubts, and the consequences of objection; there are important considerations which have a great weight on the provisions of the law. However, if a Muslim deliberately commits greater evil to avoid a lesser one, then he has breached the basis of Sharia. This will be based on the assumption of accepting what he sees as the correctness towards what he considers a lesser evil.
  • To promote noble moral values, encourage lofty social practices, and the necessity to cooperate in addressing ethical, environmental and family challenges. To endorse cooperation in the development of sustainable progress that will benefit everybody involved.
  • Denounce the phenomenon of “Islamophobia” which is the result of misunderstanding the reality of Islam, its cultural creativity and lofty objectives. Imparting objectivity and rejecting prejudices must be promoted. Learning about Islam must be acquired through its origins and principles, not through the horrors committed by perpetrators falsely attributed to Islam.
  • To invite religious and educational institutions to promote a culture of cooperation and understanding, and encourage religious values that would establish tolerance and positive coexistence.
  • To inviting Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries to demand their religious rights through peaceful and legal means; including the Hijab, halal slaughter, Islamic schools and the adoption of Islamic holidays.
  • Muslims must be alert of being dragged behind the religious rebel rousers’ passion against the decisions of those States. Moreover, anyone unable to remain in his adoptive country must leave it; God’s earth is far and wide; the way it is mentioned in the verse of Sura An-Nissa. Everyone must be careful to preserve his moderate religious belief and his national consciousness from the incursion of extremist ideas.
  • The need to cooperate on what will benefit the entire humanity. Communities are called to form a universal alliance to reform the civilisational disorder, which considers terrorism one of its branches, and one of its consequences. The beginning of humanity was founded on cooperation among all people based on our common origin and creation.
  • The participants praised the efforts of the Muslim world League and expressed their thanks for holding the conference. They commended its efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims around the world. They appreciate the Rabita’s (MWL’s) assistance, awareness to them and interception of extremist messages to reach them. They also cherish the religious advices provided to the communities along with its great support to their demands. They praise the MWL’s position in accordance with its new vision based on its weight and trust thanks to its religious wisdom and insight.
  • They also noted the support provided by the University of London in facilitating the organization of the conference. The Muslim World League along with the Muslim community appreciates the presence of scholars, preachers and intellectuals. These are a reflection of the finest case of a civilized example of coexistence and positive communication. This academic appreciation carries a prestigious dimension of interest and graciousness.
Earlier, on Sunday, the 14th of May; the Islamic Cultural Centre, London invited His Excellency, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdulkarim Al Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Makkah al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia to a reception at the Library  Conference Hall of the Centre where he met and addressed an audience of ambassadors, representatives of different Embassies in London, religious leaders, imams, leaders of the Islamic centres and senior members of the Muslim communities and spoke on integration.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

What to do towards the end of the month of Ramadan

What to do toward the end of the
month of Ramadan

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The blessed month is approaching to the end; only a few days and nights remain. Today is Tuesday, 25 Ramadan corresponding to 20th of June, 2017. Either Sunday, 25th or Monday, 26th of June, there will be Eid, Insha Allah, depending on the sighting of the moon of Shawwal. Eid Mubarak to you all. May Allah accept our good deeds.

I have already mentioned in my last week column the importance and significance of the last ten days and nights of the month of Ramadan. What I am going to write in today’s column seems to be repetition of the same but it is not. It is actually an interview carried out a few years ago with a renowned Islamic scholar, Professor Dr. Ahmad ibn Saifuddin al-Turkistani. He was a Professor at the Imam Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. As early as early 80’s when the Saudi Television started the Second Channel in English, there used to be an Islamic programme entitled “Islam In Focus” run by Dr. Ahmad ibn Saifuddin every Friday just after the Jumah Prayer. It was very popular to the English knowing immigrants, particularly in Jeddah, Hejaz. I was one of them. I had the opportunity to meet him in London when he came here at the Saudi Cultural Bureau, London. I conducted an interview with him at the last week of the month of Ramadan a few years ago.

“This is one of the days that we are so much happy to live, to observe. Today is Friday and Friday is the best day the Sun has ever risen on and today is one of the days of the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the master of the months. This is a month of blessings, favours on us. We should be thankful to Allah the Almighty for what he has given us. We are many others deprived of not enjoying the mercy of the month of Ramadan. So Alhamdolillah. Alhamdolillah, Alhamdolillah,” said Professor Dr. Ahmad ibn Saifuddin Turkistani.

Lailatul Qadr
We have only a few days and nights are left but still they are very important. Only yesterday we have been receiving the month, just yesterday, 25 days past but still the best is there, the 27th night and 29th night of Ramadan; there is Lailatul Qadr. Professor Turkistani asked do you know what Lailatul Qadr is and said, “It is better than 1000 months; by simple calculation, Lailatul Qadr is better than more than 83 years. Just imagine 84 years. The average life of Muslims, most Muslims die before their age; which means you are getting the reward of more than 83 years. Even better, because Allah Subhanahu wa Taala says Lailatul Qadr khairun. This is a golden opportunity; it’s a gift even to this Ummah and we shall take it. It’s worth to take a vacation, to take some days off your work; to leave all things at your hands and get this opportunity. Only a few days. Then they will be gone.”

Narrating the blessing of this month of Ramadan, Professor Turkistani said, “This night is so much blessed. The Angels will come down and will bring blessings and Allah Subhanahu wa Taala will forgive anyone who is committed to Allah on that night reciting the Glorious Qur’an, engage in prayer, doing all the good deeds that a person can do. Even if you stay awake all the night it’s worth it. When the last ten days come on his own life, the Prophet peace be upon him would avoid sleep during the nights of the last ten days. And he would stay away from his wives only concentrating on Ibadah. It’s worth it.”

“It is nine days or ten days for more than 83 years what a bargain. Why can you not use it brothers and sisters. This is what Allah Subhanahu wa Taala has promised us.  This stays  until Fajr; until the coming dawn; so we shall be very much interested in this. Anyone who misses that he is a deprived one. Deprived. We shall not be deprived of this great prize, a great opportunity,” said Professor Turkistani.

What a blessing! What a gift!
Professor Turkistani also mentioned what a bargain it is. He said, “Just say a one good thing:  SubhanAllah Alhamdo lillah La ilaha Illallah Allahu Akbar.  It is like you have done for 83 years and 4 months. What a blessing; what a gift that is given to us this opportunity the biggest bargain. I do not see any bargain better than that. You see that? Even when people bargain, they go to stores and markets and online trying to buy the best thing that they need and they dream of. They say ouh; this is the biggest bargain; no, wallahe, the bargain is Lailatul Qadr. This is the biggest bargain.”

Professor Turkistani urged people “Please do not let it go away without cashing as much as you can; devote the rest of the time for Ibadah; because that will affect the rest of your life. It should, if you surely coming towards Allah with Taubah from your heart, from inside, then Allah will accept you, Insha Allah and then Insha Allah, you would be happy for the rest of your life. You would be guided on the straight path. So you keep on the truck until you meet Allah Subhanahu wa Taala. This is the time and that’s why Allah Subhanahu wa Taala promises that you stand with imaan and Ihtesab. imaan believing in Allah and believing in His Rewards and Ihtesaban seeking the rewards from Allah Subhanahu wa Taala alone; not from any one else and all your previous sins are forgiven. You fast the month of Ramadan all your previous sins are forgiven if again if you stand up in Salah during all the month of Ramadan and you should do it out of Imaan and Ihtesab and all your previous sins are forgiven.”

Professor Turkistani mentioned the first of those Ibadah is the Zakat-ul-Fitr.  He said, “Zakat-ul-Fitr is the source of purification and feeding of the poor and the needy. It is a source of purification for yourself in case you have committed some sins and who amongst us has not committed something wrong in the month of Ramadan or any other time and it is something to feed the poor and the needy.”

How Zakat-ul-Fitr is estimated? Enquired Professor Turkistani and promptly answered, “It is estimated Soa as in the Hadith of Abu Sayeed al-Khudri (RA) follow the Rasoolullah peace be upon him. He gave examples, all these types of food. So it means that we should give Zakat-ul-Fitr in food, not in money. I know that Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimullah) said it is permissible to do in money but the Prophet peace be upon him and the Companions did not give Zakat-ul-Fitr in money. They gave it in food. They could have given in money; they would pay Zakat-ul-Maal or any type of Zakah from wealth, from money. Zakat-ul-Fitr again so that the poor and the needy have not to seek on the day of Eid, they should be happy; they should enjoy with the rest of the Muslim community. That’s why, we should have to give it in food.”

Again, Professor Turkistani enquired, “How do we do it?” and answered, “Well, lets seek the poor and the needy in our community. If we have someone we know who is in need we shall give Zakat-ul-Fitr to these people. If we do not know people, then we shall give the money to the trusted charities and organisations that collect the money, buy the food and give it to the poor and the needy on your behalf. If not in this country; if this country would not  have poor people to the extent that they can be receiving Zakat-ul-Fitr, there are many people up there, in Africa, Asia and throughout the Muslim World who need this food who cannot buy who stay at night starving.”

“In Syria, for example, as you have heard from your brothers, telling you that the Ulema in that country in their Fatwa people eat cats and rats because they do not have the food to eat. Situations because of the war going on in Syria; and the same thing with other people who are starving and do not have the food. This is the way to express your own sympathy with your brothers. This is something that you need to do and Zakat-ul-Fitr is a must. It’s not a choice and it is for everyone in the household, everyone. Even those who think they are poor; if they have a food for a day and a night, they should give out Zakat-ul-Fitr. If they have enough for one day, they should give Zakah to other poor people and the needy people and that would be a Saa,” said Professor Turkistani in his Khutba (Sermon).

How that would be translated into today’s measurement? Professor Turkistani asked and promptly replied, “It would be about two kilogram and a quarter. If you pay three kilograms of any types of food, rice, dates, barley, anything that people eat, which is an edible thing; something they can keep and preserve. You cannot give out, in meat, for example, or something that can be immediately consumed; cooked food, for example. It has to be a food that the poor and the needy can save and can prepare their own meals. For everyone in the household, young or old, male or female, the newly born, anyone born before the sun set of the last day of the month of Ramadan has to be given Zakat-ul-Fitr and it is the responsibility of the head of the household; those who spent is the man who is earning and even if it is the woman who is earning and spending in the family then it is their responsibility to pay.”

When shall we pay it? Professor Turkistani again enquired and said, “Not until before Eid day; at least two days before Eid and it shall be given out before Salat-ul-Eid, otherwise it would not be Zakat-ul-Fitr; it would be sadaqah. And it would not do its purpose unless it is done and given to the poor and the needy so that they can go for the Eid prayer and happy. They feel that they have enough and they can share with the Muslim community. Nice occasion and celebrate Eid along with them.”

Think about the people who became homeless due to the terrible horrific London Tower Fire at Kensington West London. Help those people with whatever you have and whatever you can give either food, clothes, material and donations. At this stage, this charity, this donation near to your home, near to your locality, near to your neighbour is most important and they deserve to have your Zakat, alms-giving and charity.

That was for Zakat-ul-Fitr. The second form of Ibadah is Takbeer. Professor Turkistani mentioned, “It is a Sunnah to do Takbeer starting from the Maghreb of the night of Eid until Eid prayer. How do we say, what do we say? Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Illallah Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar walillahe wal Hamd. Any form of Takbeer is good to announce this and to obey Allah Subhanahu wa Taala as Allah said so you shall complete the number of days fasting and announce Takbeer. That’s why it is Sunnah to do Takbeer from the Maghreb to the Salat-ul-Eid in congregation. You say on yourself, you say it among Muslims, you say in the Masjid, in the house, anywhere wherever it is possible to pronounce loudly just to inform Muslims around you that this is the time of praising Allah and celebrate Eid.”

The third form of Ibadah during the end of the month of Ramadan is Salat-ul-Eid. Professor Turkistani mentioned, “We need to come to Salat-ul-Eid. Salat-ul-Eid is an obligation upon the whole community, but for every individual it is something strongly recommended. Some people choose to sleep on the morning of Eid and miss the prizes because during the day of Eid as people are coming to the prayer the Angels are standing at the doors giving prizes. You wouldn’t see them but belief me, if you have done well in the month of Ramadan you receive prize on the day of Eid. That’s why it is important to come to Eid prayer and to receive the prize and look and see that prize on the day of Eid. So on the Eid, take complete bath and then wear the must you have, put on perfume for man, but not for woman because you will attract the opposite gender, and then come to Salatul Eid to attend and celebrate with the rest of the community Eid. Everyone, man and woman, young or old, shall come to Eid prayer; without exception, even women who are having the menstruation. But they should avoid area of prayer, area of musalla. But they should come and be among the community to enjoy this occasion along with the rest of the Muslims. This is the third Ibadah.”

Fasting is prohibited on Eid Day
Fasting is prohibited on the day of Eid. “We need to break on the day of Eid of fast because it is prohibited to fast on the day of Eid,” said Professor Turkistani and added, “It is a gift from Allah and we shall receive it and how do we break we break it with date, one or three or five or more, eat single or odd number of dates on the day of Eid in your home before you come out. And it is Sunnah to go from one way and to return another way in order to meet as many people and to greet them on the day of Eid. Eid is the day of forgiveness, a day when you really forgive those who have done wrong to you. This is the time to show forgiveness and Allah who give you forgiveness in return.”
25 Ramadan, 1438

20 June 2017

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Lailatul Qadr - Seek the Greatest Night of the Year

The Last 10 days and nights of Ramadan
Seek the Greatest Night of the Year

Dr. Mozammel Haque

I still remember my childhood when an old man of 70 years, Abdul Jabbar, used to come from the district of Faridpur (now in Bangladesh) took the silent alleys of our village in the night, chanting and calling, to wake up Muslims for the last meal before another day of Ramadan fasting begins.  Abdul Jabbar reminds one of a character from the book The Thousands and One Nights. He is a strange person who comes out from the depth of the night to disturb the quietness by a shrill cry calling, Suhoor…Suhoor.

Now that person is replaced in a big city like London by Muslim Community Radio (MCR) – Ramadan Radio – in East London, Kismat Radio and Islam TV Channel calling Muslims to wake up for their breakfast. In Ramadan, all Muslims who want to fast should eat before starting to fast.

The Month of Mercy the blessed month came and is passing away very fast. Today, Thursday, is the 20th of Ramadan. More than two-third of the blessed month has passed; still there is time to get our sins cleared, still there is time to ask for forgiveness from Allah the Almighty who is ready to forgive our sins. The remaining days and nights of the blessed month is full of Allah’s mercy and blessing. In this part of the month, especially during the last 10 days and nights, a night which is the greatest night of the year, the Lailatul Qadr. During these ten days and nights, Muslims spend in the Mosque for I’tikaf

I’tikaf means seclusion and staying in the Mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would perform I’tikaf for last 10 days every Ramadan. In the year that he died, he performed it for twenty days. (Related by Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and Ibn-Majah). The next Friday on 23rd of June (28 Ramadan) will be the Jumatul-Widah, the last Friday of the Blessed Month of Ramadan. Eid will be either on Sunday or Monday,. 25th or 26th of June, depending on the sighting of the Shawaal Moon.

As the month of blessings and mercy is coming to the end, similarly the recitation of the complete Qur’an is also coming to the Khatam which might be on the 27th night of Ramadan. The last ten nights are very important nights. Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to exert himself in night prayer especially during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Lailatul Qadr (The Night of Decree)
Lailatul-Qadr is the greatest night of the year like the Day of Arafah is the greatest day of the year. It is a night about which Allah revealed a full Surah, Suratul-Qadr (97:1-5) and the 3rd to the 6th verses of the Surat ad-Dukhan (44:3-6). Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an, “Indeed We have revealed it (Qur’an) in the Night of Decree. And what will explain to you what the Night of Decree is? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) by Allah’s permission, on every errand: (they say) “Peace” (continuously) till the rise of morning!” (97:1-5). A person who misses Lailatul Qadr is really a deprived person!

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates of Hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night (during this month) which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived (of something great). (Ahmad, an-Nisai and al-Bayhaqi).

“Indeed We have revealed it (Qur’an) in the Night of Decree.
And what will explain to you what the Night of Decree is?
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel)
by Allah’s permission, on every errand: (they say)
“Peace” (continuously) till the rise of morning!”
(Al-Qur’an 97:1-5). 

Aishah said, “Allah’s Messenger used to practice I’tikaf in the last ten nights and say: ‘Seek out Lailatul-Qadr in the (odd nights) of the last ten days of Ramadan.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

The word Zakat in Arabic means purification. The giving of Zakat (obligatory charity) is the third pillar of Islam. There are two types of Zakat: Zakat-ul-Fitr (charity of Eid-ul-Fitr, given to the poor before Eid prayer) and Zakat Al-Maal (purifying charity, paid on one’s wealth).

It is to be noted that Zakat-ul-Fitr was declared by the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a prerequisite for the acceptance of fasting. But when and whom to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr? First of all, who has to pay?  Each and every Muslim, regardless of his social status, is required to give a certain amount of charity usually in the form of food grains, barley, raisin etc. called Zakat-ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and before the Eid-ul-Fitr so that every member of the Muslim community, especially the poor, have something to eat on the day of Eid.  It is meant to cement the relationship between the members of the Muslim society, to alleviate the pain of the poor, to cultivate the sense of brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of the Muslims, etc., said Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

Dr. Qaradawi also said, “If a person dies before Maghrib on the last day of Ramadan, Zakat-ul-Fitr would not be obligatory upon him even if he fasted all the other days of the month. Conversely, if a child is born after Maghrib on the last day of Ramadan, i.e. the first night of Shawwal, it would be obligatory to pay Zakat: Zakat-ul-Fitr on his or her behalf. This view is unanimously agreed upon by Muslim scholars.” The head of the household must pay for every member of the family, even for the newborn. The Muslim is supposed to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr (i.e., Zakah of breaking the fast) in the country where he or she spends the first night of the month of Shawwal.

So far as the Zakat-ul-Maal is concerned, it is also obligatory for a Muslim, who possesses the minimum wealth on which Zakat is applicable, to give out Zakat. In his Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in Makkah al-Mukarramah, Imam and Khateeb Sheikh Dr. Saleh Bin Mohammad Aal-Talib, few years ago urged Muslims to be God-Conscious and give charity to the poor and the needy. He said Zakat removes miserliness and cleans the heart from cruelty. 

Allah has stressed on payment of Zakat, which appears in the Holy Qur’an more than 30 times. There are many verses of the Holy Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that urge Muslim to give charity for the sake of Allah. Sheikh Aal-Talib said charity is an act that attracts Allah’s mercy. He said giving charity secretly extinguishes God’s anger and it is a blessing for the person’s wealth. A person who does not give in charity will be punished by removal of the blessing (barakah) from his wealth.

Zakat-ul-Fitr is associated with the Eid and is meant to create happiness in such a way that includes the poor and the needy. That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Make them (i.e., the poor) rich on this day (i.e. the day of Eid)”.

Charity in Ramadan
About charity and spending from the wealth in the Way of Allah or for the Cause of Allah, Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an, “The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.” (Al-Qur’an, 2:261).

Allah also said, “Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al-Qur’an: 2: 262)

Ramadan is also the month of charity. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “...Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month), shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time; and whoever performs an obligatory deed in (this month), shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Paradise. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Hell-Fire, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah)

Spend more time with the Qur’an. Read the Qur’an every day. Try to finish at least one time the whole Qur’an during this month by your own personal reading. Pray on time and observe all the prayers. Do not ignore the Tarawih. Make more extra and voluntary prayers. Do as much worship as you can. Do more dhikr (remembering Allah) and du’a (supplication) for yourself and for others. Repent and seek forgiveness for yourself and for others as much as you can. This is the best time for devotion and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Seek the Night of Qadr by special devotion during the last 10 nights of this month.

The month of blessing and forgiveness is passing away very quickly. Do not miss the remaining last ten days and nights. Let us clear our sins. Let us seek the Night of Qadr.
20 Ramadan, 1438

15 June2017