By Dr. Altaf Hussain

Understanding essence of Islam key to fostering unity

November 30, 2018

TEHRAN_ We are fully aware of the dangers and challenges facing the Islamic world today. Evil influences not only threaten its unity, distort its identity, tarnish its tenets but brutally attack the very message of Islam.

Some elements in the West unfairly consider Islam as their enemy; others who claim to profess Islam have admittedly committed inhuman and criminal acts in its name; some others hide behind the veil of Islam to brazenly harm the very edifice of the faith. The message that is under attack is the message of peace, universal brotherhood and humanity transcending the considerations of color, race, ethnicity and religion. Islam is a righteous religion that embraces the entire spectrum of human life, upholding what is good and forbidding what is evil, accommodating others and honoring all humankind.

The goal of world’s 1.6 billion Muslims should be to participate fully in the development of human civilization and in the progress of humanity by stressing on unity of the human race, equal rights and obligations, peace, security, social justice, protection of human life and preservation of environment. The message of Islam is to bring mercy to all people, emphasize virtue of compassion and urge tolerance and forgiveness. Islam upholds human life. It detests extremism.
The month of Rabiaul Awal is of special significance to the Ummah as it marks the birth of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), the messenger of Allah and the seal of all prophets. The ‘week of unity’ is observed in this month as a mark of tribute to the man who was sent as ‘mercy’ to mankind. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our allegiance to the pristine principles of this great faith.

On religious and moral grounds, we denounce terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. No argument or excuse can justify the brute acts of terror. Terror outfits like ISIS, Taliban or Al Qaeda cannot wriggle out of the charge of practicing terror. We reject their campaign of terror carried out in the name of Islam.

We equally reject the malicious campaign that portrays Islam as a religion of terror, violence and extremism. In Holy Quran, Allah invites believers to ‘the paths of peace’ and promises to bring them out of darkness into light (Surah Maidah).

We should renew our commitment to the cause of Islamic unity and brotherhood, and help in the elimination of internecine bickering between Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam.

There is no denying that there are differences of opinion on some doctrinal and theological issues but we tend to forget that Islam is not a monolithic faith, amenable to a narrow and singular interpretation. It is made up of a rich pattern of diversity although flowing from a common source. What divides us pales in comparison to what unites us.

In this context, it is appropriate to refer to the Amman Message of November 9, 2004 endorsed by 200 Islamic scholars from all recognized schools and sects from over 50 Muslim countries. This message is a historical, universal and unanimous religious and political consensus of the Ummah.

It focused on definition of a Muslim, excommunication from Islam (takfir) and principles related to delivering religious edicts (fatwa). It recognized eight legal schools of Sharia/Fiqh and schools of theology – Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali, Jafari, Zaydi, Zahiri, Ibadi. It forbade pronouncing takfir upon others recognized as Muslims.

For Muslims, Amman declaration provided a basis for unity and a solution to infighting and for non-Muslims it presented an authentic picture of what Islam is and what it is not. The rationale behind it was to dispel the unfair charge of intolerance, lack of inclusiveness and pluralism against Islam nurtured by some sections in the West and others who claim to be Muslims and yet willingly or inadvertently present a distorted view of Islam through their irresponsible utterances or actions.

Imperialist, colonial and neocolonial forces take perverse advantage of sectarian differences among Muslims. Following the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, the Zionists and Western imperialist forces encouraged Saddam Hussain to fight Iran on the sectarian lines, resulting in enormous human and material loss to the Ummah.

At that time, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood had issued a statement, asking the people of Iraq to not fall into the trap of enemies who sought to sow discord. “This war is not a liberation war for the oppressed men, women and children who neither have a way out nor guidance,” read the statement, urging people to lay down weapons and join the camp of the revolution. If only people had paid heed and not fallen into the vicious trap set by the enemies.

Currently, fratricidal wars are being fought in Syria and Yemen in the name of sects. ISIS is maliciously using the sectarian card in its bloody campaign in Iraq and Syria. Sectarian clashes continue to be fueled in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the neo-imperialist forces. Similarly, troubled relations between people of various sects in Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia are a matter of grave concern.

All these sectarian feuds have no doctrinal or theological basis. They are either politically motivated or else a result of denial of political and economic rights. The international community should realize its responsibilities and right the wrongs. The United Nations (UN) has a key responsibility to ensure implementation of its resolutions to ensure justice to people who continue to be denied their basic rights. The Ummah too should pull its socks and set its house in order. Sooner the better.

Author is a Kashmir-based doctor, writer and a prominent member of civil society. He is the author of ‘The Wounded Paradise’.

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