To the Opening Session of the International Islamic Conference
4 July 2005
Honoured ladies and gentlemen,
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you,
It is a real pleasure for me to welcome you at your meeting today in Amman, to discuss the different issues and challenges facing the Muslim Umma (nation). You are most welcome, guests and scholars, for whom we hold respect and appreciation.
Over the ages, Islam has established a basis for better human relations between individuals, nations and peoples, irrespective of differences in religion, colour or gender, on the principles of tolerance and dialogue with others. This was meant for the good of mankind, everywhere, at all times. Yet today, the Umma is defamed, abused and falsely accused when it comes to discussions of the Umma's role in this age.
As a start, let us confess that we, Muslims, have not always fulfilled our obligations towards our religion and towards ourselves. Some Muslims, or those who promulgate “Islamic” slogans, have defamed Islam and Muslims, and harmed Muslims, intentionally or non-intentionally.
The divisions between the children of the Umma, acts of violence and terrorism practiced by some groups and organisations, what is going on in Iraq, Pakistan and other Muslim countries in the form of accusations of apostasy and the killing of Muslims in the name of Islam, do not correspond to the principles and spirit of Islam, and Islam disavows them. Such practices generate turmoil and corruption on earth, because they give justification to non-Muslims to judge Islam according to acts that Islam disavows, and subsequently interfere in Muslims' affairs.
We find it incumbent on us as Muslims, whose hearts are filled with love for God and His Prophet, to be the first to face these unjust campaigns to which Islam is presently subjected, and to be the first to call on fellow Muslims to reject discord and to unite their words and their positions. Thus came the Amman Message which was launched by us in the holy month of Ramadan last year, from the Hashimiyyeen Mosque in Amman. Then we called for convening this conference in which representatives of the eight Muslim schools of thought (Mathahib) congregate from different countries to discuss the many issues and challenges to the Umma and to specify fundamental basic solutions to overcome them.
The first and most important of these challenges is unifying the position of the adherents to the eight Islamic schools of thought: the four Sunni schools, the Ja`fari Shi`i school, the Ibadi school, the Zaydi school and the Thahiri school. We can begin by acknowledging that, in the practice of their faith, the adherents to each of these eight schools of jurisprudence are practicing true Islam, and that declaring any one of them an apostate is unacceptable. Disagreement among scholars (ulama) is a blessing. Let us follow the example of Imam Al Shafi`i's saying: our school of thought is right, but might be wrong, and other schools of thought are wrong, but might be right.
Great Muslim scholars and trusted Muslim authorities issued fatwas – which are familiar to you – affirming that this principle is right and acceptable, because the adherents to the eight schools of thought are in agreement on the fundamental principles of Islam: they all believe in God the Almighty and Sublime, the One and Unique, that the noble Quran is the word of God revealed, and that our master, Mohammad, peace be upon him, is a Prophet and Messenger unto all mankind. All agree on the five pillars of Islam: the two testaments of faith (shahadatayn), ritual prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting the month of Ramadan (sawm), the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Sacred House of God, and also on the foundations of belief: belief in God and His Angels, His Scriptures, His Messengers and the Day of Judgement, in divine providence – good and evil.
Disagreement between scholars is only with respect to some of the ancillary branches of religion (furu') which came into light after the death of our master, the Prophet, peace be upon him. These disagreements originated with matters pertaining to worldly and political affairs of the Caliphate. The fatwas of the prominent scholars of the Islamic Umma also accepted as legitimate all forms of worship practiced by adherents to the eight Islamic schools of thought in accordance with their own Mathab and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar's fatwa included that moderate Sufi thought is acceptable as long as it is based on the two testaments of faith that God is the One and Unique and that Muhammad is Allah's messenger, and as long as it adheres to the five pillars of Islam and the Holy Quran.
Acknowledgement of the schools of jurisprudence within Islam would permit the emergence of a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas, and the definition of who is qualified for this undertaking. This, with God's will, would end the practice of defaming others as apostates and close the door on ignorant people who practice killing and terrorism – of which Islam is innocent – in the name of Islam.
You meet today with so many issues and challenges facing the Umma on your agenda. You are, with God's guidance, qualified to deal with these issues and challenges, and to define Islam's position on each one of them. Primary among our obligations as Muslims is to present to the world the true essence of Islam – the religion of moderation, forgiveness, mercy and rational, scientific dialogue. Islam is not the religion of violence and terrorism or prejudice and isolation. God Almighty says:
“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! Thy lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is best aware of those Who go aright” (al-Nahl: 125).
Islam provided us with rules to best protect human rights and to guard man's freedom and his human dignity, irrespective of his religion, gender or colour. God Almighty says:
“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is knower, Aware” (al-Hujurat: 13).
Islam emphasised the need to respect the rights of minorities and non-Muslims who live within Muslim society. It established for us a clear methodology to honour relations, conventions and agreements between Muslims and other nations and peoples. God Almighty says:
“And keep the covenant. Lo! Of the covenant it will be asked” (al-Isra' :34).
Islam does not accept prejudice and isolation, but calls upon us to seek scholarship and knowledge. God Almighty says:
“Are those who know equal with those who know not” (al-Zumar:9)
It also calls us to be open to others, and to benefit from their experiences in all fields of life. God Almighty says:
“Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not” (al-Nahl:43).
I am confident that you are aware of the challenges facing Muslims today, and of the malicious attack on Islam through slander and misrepresentation due to some Muslims' lack of understanding of the essence of their religion and the ignorance of many non-Muslims of the nature and noble values of our religion.
From this arises the importance of your role and the responsibility you shoulder in unifying the Islamic Umma, with all its schools of jurisprudence and presenting the truth about our faith and its great message.
May God, the Almighty and Sublime, grant all of us success in serving our religion and our Umma and unifying the Islamic nation.
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.