Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance Workshop at Watford Hertfordshire

International Conference on mechanism
how to deal with Muslim Minority

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Watford, Hertfordshire: Two-day conference titled “Juristic Reasoning in Regard to the Verification of Case Rationale as applied to Minority Jurisprudence” organised by the Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG), London in cooperation with the Islamic Moderation Centre, Kuwait, held at the historic Hunton Park Hotel Conference Centre, Watford, Hertfordshire, from Saturday to Sunday, 26-27 November, 2011.

The conference was convened in the United Kingdom to create an understanding of Islamic rules and orders as far as the Muslim minorities are concerned. About twenty-six high-profile Islamic scholars from various countries including the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Mauritania, United States of America, Germany, South Africa, Tunisia, France and Somalia attended the conference, which was held at the historic Hunton Park Hotel Conference Centre, Watford, Hertfordshire between 26 and 27 November, 2011.

Influential names such as renowned Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayah, Chairman of the Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG), London; Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, President, World Muslim Congress, Saudi Arabia; Mr. Shahid Malik former Justice Minister of the UK, Dr. Adel Abdullah Al-Falah, Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs of Kuwait and Hamza Yusuf, Vice-Chairman of the Global Centre were among the speakers. The conference ended with the issuing of a New Resolution approved by all the delegates.

The Conference discussed three important issues, first of all, about the objectives of the conference; secondly, about the Fatwa by Ibn Taymiyya on Dar-ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam and thirdly, the Islamic rulings about Muslim minorities living in the east or in the west. I have the opportunity to interview some of the scholars about those three issues. Among them were Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, President, World Muslim Congress, Mr, Shahid Malik, former Justice Minister of the UK and Mr. Aftab Ahmad Malik, who is currently pursuing Ph.D. looking into the theological origin of Al-Qaeda and a global expert on Muslim Affairs of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and Mr. Jihad Hashim-Brown, Director of Research at the Tabah Foundation in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Objectives of the Conference
The workshop was discussing how to create an understanding of Islamic rules and orders so far as the minorities are concerned. Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef told me, “It is not required from the minorities to follow what has been done in the Muslim countries. Because they lived outside and the fatwa which was given to them makes them very upset; because they were asking to follow the Islamic rules like it was in Makkah and Madinah which is not possible. Of course, such thing as praying, fasting and other pillars of Islam, like this, nobody can change them. But as far as the daily life affairs, family matters and also co-existence with the non-Muslims; these are the things which has to be considered without any prejudice or without any narrow mindness. This is what the Global Centre is trying to introduce in this conference.”

Dr. Naseef said, “So this workshop is to create better understandings and puts the Islamic order, to make the Islamic community workable; you cannot force things. Islamic jurisprudence is very rich; you can make volumes out of them; and what about this minority. There is nothing about the present situation of minority. We have to create about this to make it easy; what is called is the verification of the situation. We have to verify the situation before you pass the judgement or give them the Fatwa. This is the process; we are at the beginning of the process. It needs cooperation, finance from different Muslim countries, institutions and universities and so on. If you want to create awareness in our Muslim countries; these institutions, organisations and universities of the Muslim countries should take part in this urgent, practical study of the cases, deep research into the situation and so on.”

Dr. Naseef also mentioned, “This conference is a part of different workshops continuing. It is not an easy job. It will take years to reach something recoverable to the communities but meanwhile we give them our Muslim communities assurances that we have the capabilities and abilities and the will to create the kind of situation which makes the Muslims happy living as minority in the east or in the west, still something can be useful.”

In this connection he mentioned about the European Council of Jurisprudence. He said, “I think the European Council of Jurisprudence have already started this process; they had a meeting last year and every time they meet they produce a fatwa, carefully studied to give the Muslims confidence that their Islam is rich with the solution which solves their problems.”

The Fatwa by Ibn Taymiyya
Confusion was created by an error in the manuscript of Fatwa by Ibn Taymiyya. It is one of many Fatwas written by renowned medieval scholar theologician called Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. He was asked by the inhabitants of Mardin in Turkey about the status of Mardin whether it retained Islam status or is it become Dar-ul-Harb. Mr. Aftab Malik said to me, “That was an unusual question. If we read the context, we will find Mongols had adopted the Muslim faith only a few decades prior to the Muslim lands. The people were not sure whether they were really Muslims or not. So they asked this question. Even Ibn Taymiyya responded by saying look Muslims have their law, Christians have their law. It is neither Dar-ul-Islam nor Dar-ul-Harb; it’s a composite.”

Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef also told me in an interview, “Ibn Taymiyya said it is neither Dar-ul-Harb nor Dar-ul-Islam. We have to co-exist; we have to recognise each other and we have to give rights to everybody. So it is a long history. It happened because of distortion unintentionally.”

Speaking about the mistake, Mr. Aftab Malik said, “When the Fatwa was written, typed and produced a manuscript some 700 years ago, a mistake in one word committed.”

A discrepancy has come up in some printed editions of the fatwa with regard to the final passage “The Muslims living therein should be treated according to their rights as Muslims, while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be treated according to their rights.” In some printed editions, the text is corrupted to read: “…while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be fought as is their due.”

This change in meaning is the consequence of the substitution of two letters in a single word. Instead of the correct word yu`a¯mal (should be treated), the word is rendered yuqa¯tal (should be fought). This typographic error changes the meaning of the phrase drastically.

Dr. Naseef said, “The Fatwa of Ibn Taymiyyah was printed in Egypt with an error of one word that was a typing mistake. It is an Indian scholar who found the error and Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayah also looked for the manuscript and in one of the manuscripts in Egypt Sheikh bin Bayah found the true statement of Ibn Taymiyya which is everybody should be treated accordingly and so Muslims should be staying with others.”

That typographic error in typing “forms the basis of many of the radical Islamists today. So people wanted to justify their project or their idea that they have legality, they have a legal precedent, they will cite the Ibn Taymiyya’s Fatwa to prove a legal precedent,” said Aftab Malik and observed, “A number of implications arise from the Fatwa; the first and foremost is basing their understanding of the type of misprint and the second aspect is a lot of individuals does not qualify they don’t understand what Dar-ul-Harb or Dar-ul-Islam means. They have no background, no authority. As I have said in my speech that these people have secular profession, not religious profession. Unfortunately, we have inherited this madness. Those people who are inviting us to take these matters have no qualifications to make the pronouncement in public. We are so illiterate religiously that some of us listen unfortunately to what they say.”

Dr. Naseef said, “This is misunderstanding; this is misinterpretation and misuse of what they are talking about Ibn Taymiyya’s Fatwa. This has harmed the Muslims everywhere.”

Mr. Aftab Malik also said, “Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayah offers us a hope; he offers a synthesis between the text of our religious forefathers the great scholars but also the context. He understands some of the Fiqh-an-Nas and the Fiqh-al-waqih. So he is a person who understands the jurisprudence of the people but he also understands the context as well but unfortunately in the 20th century Muslims are playing by the scholars who know the text but do not know context; and those who know the context do not know the text.”

Mr. Jihad Hashim-Brown said about this Fatwa and Dar-ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam controversy was the topic of the previous conference that took place in Mardin, Turkey two years ago. He said, “One of the outcomes of that conference is that the pre-modern or medieval classification of states or regions as being Houses of Harb (war) or Houses of Islam is no longer applies, there is no reason of continuing applying that because international relations have become much more sophisticated; so we need to take deep into that tradition and see that what instrument or methodology enable us to come to success to get into it and viewing it going.”

Mr. Shahid Malik
Referring to Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayah’s speech on integration, Mr. Shahid Malik said, “Integration was the way forward. One of the great challenges we have in this country still is the reluctance or lack of integration. It is on both sides, if you will, not just the Muslim problem, it’s a problem for our society and so I think whatever comes out on 12/12/12 conference integration is such an important theme I hope it is addressed there and I am always give a strong message to Muslims in the UK that although we are 3% of the population we can’t afford to think 3% we got to think 100% if we want our society to work, even if we believe that 97% are just thinking 97%. “

Former Justice Minister also referred to another point of Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayah’s speech, “One is text and context. It is so important, and it sounds quite poetic as well; that’s why we fly hopefully. It is really not just about the letter of the law but spirit of the law and there again it is really important theme Insha Allah, for next December 2012.”

Mr. Malik also said, “I am sure Insha Allah with the leadership that is here and the leadership that will be there at the 12/12/12 would get the kind of conclusion that Muslims all around the world are looking for and Insha Allah that would lead to a better age for Islam and for Muslims.”

Some comments and observations
about the Workshop
Dr. Naseef observed, “Our sources are limited; it needs big budget; every time we look for finance for our workshop, it needs attention of big Muslim organisations and Muslim countries to contribute or to take part in this research and do it themselves. I think, in my opinion, we should distribute the works, among people, individuals and organisations to adopt some of the research and they do; otherwise it would not be done.

Mr. Aftab Malik said, “I hope that Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayah and his Centre, the Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG) start producing more policy directives; but you know it must be coming down to the masses. Because we don’t want to restrict to policy makers but I think the average person like myself like average Muslims we need to hear this because this gives hope.”

Mr. Hashim-Brown said, “The Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance was trying to reach deeply into the instrumental methodology inherent sacred law, sacred knowledge and find and draw on those dynamic methodologies to look at how we can find solutions to facilitate modern life in the contemporary societies for Muslims whether they still adhere to their religion, Islam or often times there are many obstacles challenges that are faced by Muslims the world over quite often in minority situations in the west.”

He also mentioned, “It would seem that as though there is no solution but in fact there are solutions and the mechanism to bring about new solutions are present in the traditions. So the ingredients of renewal are there; we just have to draw on them. Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayah’s efforts is to present some of these ingredients so said the methodology of renewal and draw people’s attention to them. They might very well enable more enlightened Islamic discourse for Muslims living in the west. “

Mr. Hashim-Brown also said, “The effort that has put on this Conference is very important and every little bit counts. It will have an impact in spreading an idea of grounded renewal of Islamic teachings and possibilities for cooperative and productive relationships of Muslims with the societies, of which they are members. So look like each event is extremely important because it pushes that understanding forward and it brings in advises in new people and take those things out and promote them to others. So it returns back to the very point you made that the people are hearing about that. Each little bit counts.”

Former British Justice Minister Mr. Shahid Malik commented, “I think this kind of workshop would lead to the conference in December next year or to give very strong guidance. But I also think there is a need to empower Muslims to be better citizens in the countries where they live. That might mean improving the quality of life and the participants better.”

Mr. Shahid Malik also said, “I also welcome this idea that Islam and Islamic principles are timeless in the sense that you can apply them to modern times as well. They are not static.”

Former Justice Minister of the UK said, “My advice is that after the 12/12/12 whatever the conclusion you come to, you should then do a road-show of this conclusion like in the UK, Road show in London, Birmingham, to Leeds, to Manchester, to Sheffield, to Nottingham, to Coventry, to Bradford. We got Muslim communities and talk about all these great scholars thought when they came together to conclusions they came to and I think in that way you start make sure that it goes to the grassroots and to the ordinary Muslims who can benefit from all these wonderful works taking place..”

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