Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Proceedings of the Historic International Conference for Dialogue at Makkah

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Makkah al-Mukarramah: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, called on Muslims to counter challenges of rigidity, ignorance, narrow-mindedness so as to make the world accommodate the concepts and prospects of the message of Islam. “We are the voice of justice and moral values, we are the voice of rational and just co-existence and dialogue, the voice of wisdom and admonition, and dialogue with the best way possible as Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, ‘Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and discuss with them in ways that are best’,” the King said, while inaugurating a three-day conference on inter-faith dialogue, organized by the Muslim World League (MWL), held in Al-Safa Palace, in Makkah al-Mukarramah, on Wednesday, 4th of June, 2008.

King Abdullah, the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques
“The way to the others will be through the common values: the values that the Almighty has sent for man’s goodness, the values which discard unfaithfulness and that protect from crimes and fight terrorism, values that belittle lies and establish moral principles, truth, honesty and justice and enforce family ties,” the King said.

“Our hearts are full of tolerance and love that the Creator has ordered us to maintain,” the King said.

The King also said, “We will argue peacefully. In case we disagree, we refer to what Allah has said: “You have your own religion and I have mine.”

This Conference brought together more than 500 scholars, thinkers, officials of Muslim organizations and dialogue centres and academics from all Muslim countries and Muslim minorities living in various countries. More than 300 media representatives from all over the Muslim and Muslim minority countries, armoured with their professional tools, were seen cruising the conference halls of the International Conference looking for interviews and stories.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia
Addressing the gathering, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh of Saudi Arabia said privilege of influential communication should be used in positive ways.
”It is not true that Islam is the religion of terrorism and violence neither is it correct that Islam violates human rights,” he said.

”In fact, Islam is the religion of mercy and it respects human rights,” the Grand Mufti added. He said Muslims have pinned their hopes on King Abdullah who has been always working for the unity of the Islamic Ummah, as he knows very well the difficulties that face Muslims.

Former President of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani
Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, in his speech, said in the augural session: “A few meters away from Al-Safa hill, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) used to address the disbelievers of Quraish. Saudi Arabia is now doing the same.” “We are suffering from many problems and it is the duty of our scholars to suggest solutions. Countries of the Muslim world represent nearly a quarter of the world, so we should create an alliance and take unanimous decisions as 20% of the whole world’s resources are under the control of the Islamic states,” he said.

Secretary General of the MWL, Dr. Abdullah Mohsin al-Turki
The Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Abdullah ibn Abdul Mohsin al-Turki, said, “The rapidly violent current of globalization has unfortunately inundated mankind with serious crises and problems for which it earnestly looks forward for Allah’s mercy to save it from the various ailments and guide its technological and cultural creativity to what helps man achieve due reform and happiness.”

Dr. Turki said, “In Islam, there are solutions for man’s contemporary crises. Furthermore, the Muslim Ummah, which has a civilized pioneering experiment, is capable of both fostering coexistence with the modern civilization, and guarding its development with the Islamic ethics and principles. The Qur’an said, “There hath come to you from Allah (new) light and a perspicuous Book.” “Wherewith Allah guided all who seek His pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leadeth them out of darkness, by His Will, unto the light, - guideth them to a path that is straight.” (5:15-16).”

Dr. Turki also said, “The followers of other religions have views on contemporary problems that cannot be ignored. Like Muslims, they have their share in presenting solutions for man’s crises and the challenges confronting him. Moreover, the principles of these religions either come close or remain far from the Islamic tenets depending on what remains from the truth that Allah endowed to previous Prophets (May Allah’s blessing be upon them ) and revealed in their books. Likewise, philosophies have humanitarian aspects common with religions, as their founders had encouraged each other to promote morals and avoid vices and bad conduct.”

Emphasizing on the importance of Dialogue, the MWL chief said, “With meaningful dialogue, Muslims can point out many humanitarian aspects which are common with others and promote these aspects for drafting a programme of action indispensable for mankind and helpful for encouraging mankind to come nearer to the heavenly guidance that Islam presents as solutions to these problems. For, Islam is characterized with comprehensiveness, and encouraging Muslims to keep away from selfishness, passion and hegemonic tendencies displayed in ethnic and regional expressions. However, dialogue with followers of other religions and philosophies in this connection does not mean that Muslims relinquish the rules of Islamic Shari’ah.”

The Objectives of the Conference
Through this large gathering of intellectuals and elites of the Muslim Ummah, the Muslim World League sought to achieve the following objectives: “to confirm that the concept of dialogue with others is supported by the Qur’an and Sunnah highlight its ethics and rules, take inspirations and rulings from genuine Islamic sources; to study problems associated with dialogue issues, and present Islamic answers that help achieve the objectives of Islamic Shari’ah and interest of Muslim Ummah; to consider the dialogue experiments in the last five decades and evaluate their negative and positive aspects, as well as develop a new plan for promoting its future by benefiting from previous experiments; to coordinate among Islamic organisations concerned with dialogue and develop a mechanism through which the Islamic ranks are united; to agree upon a comprehensive Islamic charter with which different Islamic circles practicing dialogue abide; to study the means of using dialogue in introducing Islam, rectifying its distorted image, presenting it as a model that is capable of providing solutions for various challenges that the world remains perplexed in their confrontation; to address an appeal to others that elucidates the views of Muslim Ummah towards contemporary crises.”

Proceedings of the Conference
The Conference focussed on four pivotal topics, such as the basis of dialogue in Islam, the methodology and principles of dialogue, parties involved in dialogue, and areas of dialogue. The first session on Wednesday, 4th of June on the concept of dialogue and its objectives in the Qur’an and Sunnah and experiences of cultural dialogue throughout history, was presided over by Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid, the President of the Shoura Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Saad ibn Ali Al-Shahrani, Executive Director of the World Forum for Muslim Scholars and Intellectuals, spoke on “Islamic Authentication for Dialogue” and Dr. Jawad Muhammad Mahdi Al-Khalisi, President of Al-Khalisiah University, Iraq talked on “Experiments of Civilization Dialogue Throughout History”.

The second session discussed the topic “Dialogue Parameters and Its Legal Terms”. Chaired by Dr. Nour Muhammad Hidayat Waheed, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Indonesia. Dr. Isam Ahmad Al-Basheer, Secretary General of the International Centre for Moderation in Kuwait and Dr. Salman Bin Fahd Al-Oudah, General Supervisor of the Institution of Islam Today, were the main speakers of this session.

The third session on Thursday, the 5th of June on the mechanism of dialogue was chaired by Sheikh Muhammad Ali Taskhery, Secretary General of the Center for Reconciliation of Islamic Schools of Thought, Iran and attended by Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal-Al-Sheikh and Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Turki, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL). Three participants presented their papers in which they highlighted the framework of dialogue in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Hulail, Chief Justice of the Hashemite Court and Imam of the Royal Court, Jordan spoke on Dialogue Mechanisms; Dr. Majid Muhammad Al-Majid, Professor of the College of Arts, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, spokje on Ethics and Controlling Factors of Dialogue and Dr. Mungiz Mahmoud Al-Saggar, Researcher at the Department of Studies & Research, Muslim World League, Makkah, Saudi Arabia spoke on Dialogue – Complexities & Areas of Prohibition.

The fourth session on Thursday, the 5th of June under the chairmanship of Dr. Izzeddeen Ibrahim, Consultant to President of UAE for Cultural Affairs, focussed on the importance of coordination among Islamic organizations in holding dialogue with other faiths. Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, Secretary General of the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief, Egypt, spoke on “Coordination among Islamic Organizations concerned with dialogue”; Sheikh Badr Al-Hassan Al-Qasmi, Vice Chairman of the Indian Islamic Fiqh Council, India, spoke on “Dialogue with Followers of Various Philosophies” and Dr. Jamal Badawi, Professor of Halifax University, Halifax, Canada also talked on the session.

The fifth session on Friday, 6th of June, on the Areas of Dialogue, was chaired by Retired Field Marshal Abdul Rahman M. Sowar Al-Zahb, Chairman of Monazamat Al-Da’wah Al-Islamiah. Dr. Abdur Rahman bin Omar Mahi presented a paper on “Foundations of Dialogue & Common Human Principles”; Dr. Mahmod Ahmed Ghazi, Professor of the College of Islamic Studies, Qatar University, Qatar, presented his paper on “Clash of Civilization and World Peace”; Dr. Mustafa Al-Zabbakh, Director, General Secretariat for Association of Muslim World Universities, presented paper on “Value Reference for Protection against Environment Dangers” and Dr. Ali bin Sakr Ozek, President of the Foundation for Research in Islamic Sciences, Turkey, presented a paper on the “Common Ground of Family and Morality.”

There were Questions & Answers sessions after every session.

The Makkah Al-Mukarramah Appeal
At the conclusion of the Conference, the participants issued The Makkah Al-Mukarramah Appeal recommending to form an international Dialogue Commission, Establish King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz’s International Centre for Civilization Interaction, create King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz’s Award for Civilization Dialogue and conduct conferences and symposiums and meetings of research groups on dialogue among followers of Revealed Messages, Civilizations and cultures as well as considerable philosophies to which academic and media personnel as well as religious leaders representing various international cultures are invited to participate in.

Ramadan - The Month of the Qur'an

Ramadan: The Month of the Qur’an

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Noble Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan (Al-Qur’an, 97:1-3.). The Qur’an was sent down in the month of Ramadan on the Night of Power Lailatul Qadr. (Al-Qur’an, 91:1-3.). It is the month of Ramadan that Allah has honoured by revealing the Qur’an. Because of this strong relation between the Qur’an and the month of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to read the Qur’an to Archangel Jibreel every Ramadan. I think this is the right place to discuss the purpose and objective of the revelation of the Qur’an, its importance, the campaigns against it and the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an.

First of all, Allah the Most High, created mankind and gave him the gift of expression. For the guidance of mankind Allah sent Prophets to every single community. In the words of the Qur’an, "There has been no community to which God’s messengers have not come" and "Muslims should make no distinctions between them." So it is the duty of a Muslim to honour all the prophets equally.

The Qur’an represents the culmination of all other earlier Revealed Books. The Qur’an is the last of the Revealed Books. The Qur’an is the first religious book in the world, which requires the belief in other revelations, a part of its Faith. This Sacred Book was revealed to the last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan. Allah Himself said in the Qur’an: “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to Mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong).” (2:185). Allah the Most High has especially mentioned the exact date and month of the revelation: “We have indeed revealed This (Message) in the Night of Power.” (97:1) So the purpose of the revelation of the Qur’an was for guidance of Mankind.

The Qur’an is emphatic in proclaiming that Islam is the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the Prophets Jesus and Moses were not Jews but Muslims. "Surely those who believe (in that which is revealed to Muhammad Peace be upon him) and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabaeans – whoever believes in Allah, and the Last Day and does good, surely their reward is with their Lord, and there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve." (2:62). "A Guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and judgement (between right and wrong)." This is the most important characteristic of the Qur’an, the Book that Allah has revealed in the month of Ramadan. It is guidance for mankind. It is clear proof, clear proof of guidance and of judgement.

Before the revelation of the Qur’an, it was preserved and guarded from corruption in the "Mother of the Book". Allah Himself said: "Nay this is a Glorious Qur’an (inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved" (85:21-22). When Allah wanted to give this Trust to someone, the Heavens, the Earth, and the Mountains, i.e. other creatures of Allah, besides man, refused to undertake this Trust or responsibility. They preferred to submit their will entirely to Allah’s Will, which is All-Wise and Perfect, and which would give them far more happiness than a faculty of choice, with their imperfect knowledge. Allah says in the Qur’an: "We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it: He was indeed unjust and foolish." (33-72).

So it is the human beings who took the responsibility of the Trust without realising its importance. This Sacred Book was revealed to the last Messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the month of Ramadan. The Qur’an is the revealed book of God which has been in existence for more than four hundred years and the Word of Allah is available in its original form. There has not been an iota of change in this unique historic record. Its originality and authenticity has been guaranteed by no other than Allah the Almighty who challenges in the Qur’an itself.

Allah said, "This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah: on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelation) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt – from the Lord of the Worlds." (10:37). In another verse of the Qur’an Allah challenges, "Or do they say, "He forged it?" Say: "Bring then a Surah like unto it; and call (to your aid) anyone who can, beside Allah if it be you speak the truth!" (10:38). "Or they may say, "He forged it." Say, "Bring you then ten Suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever you can, other than Allah! – if you speak the truth!" (11:13).

Allah said in the Qur’an, "And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant then produce a Sura like thereunto, and call your witness and helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your are truthful." (2:23) Allah places many verses before you. Can you produce one like it?

The world is challenged to produce a Book like it and has not produced one. It is the only Revealed Book whose text stands pure and uncorrupted today. Allah said, "Say: "if the whole of mankind and jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support." (17:88)

Since the revelation of the Qur’an, the enemies of Islam have been trying to distort it. Firstly, they said, it is not revelation, it is written by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Then they started attacking its authenticity and originality. In spite of their conspiracy, the Qur’an has been preserved in its original form.

The Qur’an is the only Book in the world which has remained for the past fourteen centuries pure without any interpolation or change and will remain so till the Last Day as Allah has guaranteed its purity. (15:9).

The purity, preservation and propagation of the Qur’an were maintained by two methods: memorization of Qur’an in Qur’anic schools and the recitation of the complete Qur’an in Ramadan. In the month of Ramadan every year the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by Archangel Jibreel to recite the whole of it twice. It was a Muzakira between the two. Abu Huraira reported that Jibreel used to repeat the recitation of the Qur’an with the Prophet once a year, but he repeated it twice with him in the year the Prophet (peace be upon him) died. The Qur’an was recited in the Taraweeh for the first time during the era of Caliph Omar.

So far as the memorization of the Qur’an in Qur’anic schools is concerned, many Huffaz and Islamic scholars have been killed in different parts of the world at different times. But still there is no dearth of Islamic scholars who can recite the complete Qur’an from memory. Severe campaigns have been launched against the Qur’anic schools, which teach the study, recitation and memorization of the Qur’an.

The Qur’an is the main Book of the Muslims; it is the duty of the Muslims to learn Qur’an, which contains their code of life and ethical values whose benefits have been experienced by mankind throughout the ages.

I have already mentioned the objective and importance of the Qur’an and how its originality and purity have been maintained. Our Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions dedicated their days and nights for worship. Their lives revolved completely around the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, reciting it in and out of Salah.

The Qur’an is the basis of the religion of Islam, and on the preservation and propagation of the Qur’an depends the very existence of this Faith. Hence the virtue of learning and teaching the Qur’an is self-evident and does not need further elucidation. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The best amongst you is he who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Bukhari, Abu Daud and Tirmidhi).

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ramadan teaches humility, Gordon Brown

By Dr. Mozammel Haque
Saudi Gazette
8 September 2008

“RAMADAN teaches patience and humility, and reminds us of our shared moral universe; our obligation to others,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his Ramadan Message in September 2008 on this auspicious occasion of the Blessed month of Ramadan.

While saying “Ramadan Mubarak” to the two million Muslims living in the United Kingdom, the British Prime Minister said, “I would like to give you, your family, and all Muslim communities, my sincerest best wishes for the holy month of Ramadan.”

“The message of empathy for the less fortunate is reflected in Ramadan by the daily fast. And Ramadan’s message of compassion and social justice spreads beyond Muslim communities; it speaks of shared values that unite us all,” Brown said and quoted one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

“The hadith of the Prophet Muhammad emphasize(s) the duty of care we owe one another. So during this special month, let us also celebrate the diversity that contributes to Britain’s strength,” said Gordon Brown.

Acknowledging the huge contribution of the British Muslim community, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said, “Muslims make a huge contribution to Britain’s success – to our prosperity, our society and our culture. And of course, Ramadan is an opportune time to consider the contribution of Islam not just to Britain, but to the world: Islamic art, science, and philosophy have enriched our lives over many centuries.”

Concluding his Ramadan Message, the British Prime Minister said, “Finally, Ramadan is also a time to recall the Prophet’s message that “the best richness is the richness of the soul.” This speaks to me, as it speaks to so many others. I look forward to continuing positive engagement with British Muslim communities across the UK.”

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband also issued his Ramadan message. “This is the first week of Ramadan and I am delighted to be able to send my very good wishes to the two million Muslims in Britain who will be celebrating this important festival and of course to Muslims around the world as well,” Miliband said.

“Ramadan is a month of contemplation, prayer and spirituality. A chance for Muslims to look at their own lives and judge them against the high standards that they set for themselves. Ramadan is also a chance to look outwards as well as inwards. To look at compassion, charity, responsibility. Not just within the Muslim community but across all of our communities.”