Thursday, 3 September 2009

Shaykh Sudais at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Shaykh al-Sudais at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Shaykh Sudais urges academics to
involve and support dialogue

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Imam and Khateeb of the Masjid al-Haram of Makkah visited the new building under construction of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford on Monday, the 10th of August 2009 and Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Centre took him to the different halls of the new building.

After coming back to the Old building of the Centre where it is functioning at the moment, Dr. Naseef introduced Shaykh al-Sudais, Imam of the Haram and the Professor of the Ummul Qura University, Makkah to the faculty members, staff and students of the Centre saying that the Shaykh has come to the Centre for the first time. “We have the pleasure and honour to receive him and to listen to his short lecture today and to benefit from that,” said Dr. Naseef while welcoming the Imam of the Masjid al-Haram and his companions.

His eminence, the Shaykh expressed his pleasure and delight to visit this scientific edifice, the Centre for Islamic Studies and to convey the best greetings and regards of the brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the government level as well as at the academic level and also those who work at the Haram in Makkah.

The first point Shaykh mentioned during this talk is the favour of Allah the Almighty on humanity and said that the purpose of God’s revelations and his messengers is to honour the humanity and the human beings and to activate a close relationship between different nations and different peoples so that they may become more acquainted with each other. Then his eminence recited the verse of the Holy Qur’an that Allah the Almighty has sent his messenger to make the bond between different nations and different peoples stronger.

The second point Shaykh said it is very clear that the people live on this earth adhering to different cultures, different ideas and belonging to different civilizations. It is part of God’s plan. Shaykh also mentioned that there are differences among peoples and these differences are not or should not be the cause for conflict and strife between different peoples. But they should also be keen together towards the common good of humanity even if their beliefs and value systems are different.

The third point Shaykh mentioned is that Islam is a religion of moderation; not a religion of extremism or radicalism. It is a faith that enjoins virtuous conduct, it encourages values, it encourages people to be tolerant towards others and it encourages people basically to live in harmony, peace and security. That is the basic message of Islam, the Shaykh said.

The fourth point Professor al-Sudais said the academic institutions generally have the responsibility to carry especially in a world which is full of misunderstandings, mistrust and apprehensions about the others whoever that might be. The first, of course, through academic work they can present the fair faith of Islam; the faith of Islam that shows its tolerance with others; of course, all in an academic manner.

Shaykh celebrates the existence of this institution and similar institutions like it in the West because they could help to act as a bridge that will present as the true picture of the faith of Islam and this role, as his eminence has put it, the primary role of those academicians and others in the West.

The fifth point the Shaykh mentioned is about knowledge and its role as a means to a better life and a means to recognizing the Creator. Professor al-Sudais said, the Revelations of Allah the Almighty has never been an obstacle towards scientific progress or scientific inquiry. In fact, if you look at science, any science or any form of knowledge that will bring the creation closer to the Creator. There is a positive emphasis on that in Islam and other religions.

The sixth point the Shaykh wanted to mention, is that as part of Islamic doctrine is the belief in all the Messengers and Prophets of God, especially Ibrahim, Issa and Musa (Peace be upon all of them) and others. This kind of common belief in all the Messengers of God will provide a sound basis on which people of different faiths can come together and work for the common good of humanity. That is something people need to reflect upon.

The seventh point Professor al-Sudais mentioned is that Islam as a faith is strongly in favour of dialogue with those who are different; for dialogue has the primary role in the message of Islam and it is one of the means to convey the message of Islam to others. While reciting the verse which says: “invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom,” Shaykh said, all the prophets of Allah have been tasked with initiating dialogue with those who do not belief in them, in fact with those who reject them and therefore we the followers of that guidance should reactivate, reignite and reestablish that method and methodology especially when at times we find people attributing things to the faith that are not true of the message of that faith; just because some Muslims have acted improperly or wrongly one cannot see the whole faith in that same violent or radical picture and therefore in order to explain your position I think you need to engage with others in what we call dialogue.

The point eight Shaykh mentioned we should give special attention to look after students and young people and to care for them, especially in a world that has become full of consumers and materialism. His advice is: this Centre and other institutions should try and specifically cater for young people including students.

The point nine the Shaykh mentioned this academic centre and all other institutions similar to it to devote some of their time and academic expertise to look at the difficulties and the problems that Muslims are facing when they live in the West generally. The Shaykh also mentioned when academic institutions are involved and they present report it would be taken seriously by those in position of decision-making or policy makers because it would be grounded in facts rather than just bushes.

Finally, point ten the Shaykh said, an institution like this and other academic institutions should certainly involve themselves in what we broadly describe as the movement of dialogue of civilizations nowadays which is an international movement; it should be strengthen and offered all the help it requires from academics. This movement has something to contribute to a better world and the academics ought to be involved in it and supported and especially there is a concerted effort in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to embark on an international project like that.

Finally he thanks the organizers, especially Dr. Naseef, the chairman of the Board of Trustees and all those who are at the Centre.

Speaking on behalf of Dr. Farhan Nizami, the Director of the Centre who expressed his regret not to be here and from myself, Dr. David Brown, the Registrar of the Centre, thanked His eminence for honouring this Centre by his visit. Dr. Brown said, “This Centre is rather unique institution which owes a great deal, I am not saying simply because the chairman is sitting next to me a great deal to the vision and commitment of its trustees from the very beginning.”

“To establish an institution which will encourage through serious study a better understanding among everybody of the culture and civilization of Islam and to create that centre at Oxford as part of the structure of the University so that I was delighted when we announce the new building in the local newspaper the headlines of symbols of hope to have for the first time in the history of Oxford an academic institution at this university which is an Islamic foundation,” said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown also added, “May I suggest your eminence that people sitting around this table who are here at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies represent different cultures, different civilizations and different religious faiths and we are all parts of God’s creation and to meet together to demonstrate that is one of the strengths and purposes to establish the Centre for Islamic Studies.”


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