Posts Tagged With: Mahmud Shaltut

Taqrib, Not Takfir: The Way to Rediscover

(A modified version of a reaction to the presentation “Intra-Religious Dialogue: How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover Its Unity” by Felix Körner, SJ, PhD, Pakighinabi Conversation Series, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Philippines, August 30, 2017. Fr. Körner, a German Jesuit priest, holds two doctorates in Islamic Studies and Catholic Dogmatics. Affiliated to the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University, and a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s “Commission for Relations with Muslims,” the lead discussant lectures on the Catholic faith, intra-Christian dialogue, and Muslim-Christian relations.)

At the outset, let me greet all of you – including the awake, the sleepy and the sleeping ones – with the greetings of peace: Salamun ‘alaykum! I am Mansoor Limba, your brother in faith and/or humanity…

Considering the very short time allotted, I shall concisely describe what I observe to be the trend of every faith tradition, and then I will cite Qur’anic passages that somehow give a hint on this trend. I will proceed on attempting to make a conceptual clarification of the word ‘unity’. Thereafter, I will cite three cases of efforts toward Islamic proximity (taqrib). Then I will make my concluding remarks.

Trend of Every Faith Tradition

I hope that all of you have no qualms in agreeing with me that true to all faith traditions, during the early period of each faith tradition, the doctrines and practices were simple and uncomplicated, while the original guide or guides were present, guiding the community of believers.

At a later period, the doctrines and practices would tend to become complicated, with the coming of new circumstances, followers, and questions. You can add to that the fact that during the same time, the original guide or guides were no more present.

The early period may be described in every faith tradition as an ideal period on account of the absence of differences. On the other hand, the later period may be described as a period challenge or challenges due to the then emerging differences and conflicts.

Qur’anic Citations

Making a hint on both periods, some Qur’anic passages, such as those below, can be cited:

“Indeed this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord. So worship Me.” (21:92)

“The faithful are indeed brothers.” (49:10)

“Hold fast, all together, to Allah’s cord, and do not be divided.” (3:103)

“And do not be like those who were divided [into sects] and started discord.” (3:105)

“O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you have faith in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more favorable in outcome.” (4:59)

Conceptual Clarification of ‘Unity’

The title of this Conversation is “Intra-Religious Dialogue: How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover Its Unity.” As you may agree, a key term here is ‘unity,’ which requires conceptual clarification; otherwise, we will commit the same mistake of the anecdotal four blind men – in the poetry of Hafiz – who claim to know what elephant is, whereas in reality, each of them only touched an elephant’s body part.

When we talk about Islamic unity, we actually mean any of the following conceptions: (1) homogenization, (2) heterogeneity, and (3) proximity.

In homogenization, the way to attain the unity of the Muslim ummah (community) is to homogenize all Muslim schools of thought; to unify the Islamic school of thought. The outcome of this approach to unity is takfir or to declare other Muslims as unbelievers (kafir) and, therefore, as apostates (murtaddin) – “whose blood is ought to be shed”.

Another way to Islamic unity is ‘heterogeneity’ in which we assume that all these Muslim schools of thought are absolutely correct. The outcome of this approach is, in my view, something that borders on hypocrisy (nifaq).

The third way to achieve unity among the Muslims, which in my opinion, is the viable and reasonable one, is proximity or taqrib. Under this conception of unity, there is the attempt at exploring common grounds as guided by mutual recognition and respect among the various Muslim schools of thought.

Efforts Toward Proximity (taqrib)

And in recent years there have been many efforts along this line. One case was the long correspondence between a Sunni and a Shi‘ah scholar, namely, Shaykh Salim Bisri, the Rector (Mufti) of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi of Lebanon. The outcome of this effort was the publication of their series of correspondence in book form under the title Al-Muraja‘at (“The Correspondence”). The good news is that its English rendition is available online for free.

Subsequent to this correspondence was the interaction between two equally prominent Sunni and Shi‘ah Muslim scholars at the time, namely, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut, the Mufti of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi of Iran. The two outcomes of this effort by these two religious giants in the then Muslim world were Shaykh Shaltut’s fatwa (religious edict) recognizing Shi‘ah Ithna Ash‘ari jurisprudence as a valid Islamic jurisprudence, and the creation of World Forum for the Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought (Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah).

A third and relatively recent case is the Amman Message, which fortunately was mentioned by Fr. Felix in his presentation. The ‘Amman Message’ started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 by H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It significantly contains three (3) questions posed to 24 of the most senior Muslim scholars from around the world (including Shaykh al-Azhar of Egypt, Ayatullah Sistani of Iran and Shaykh Qaradawi of Qatar): (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?

Three important points are highlighted in the document: (1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (madhahib) of Muslim jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali), the two Shi‘ah schools of Muslim jurisprudence (Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Muslim jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Muslim jurisprudence, is a Muslim. (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Muslim jurisprudence than there is difference between them. (3) Acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas.

Conclusion

In conclusion, rather than takfir, taqrib is the way to rediscover Muslim unity, and a simple step viable to you and I at this point in time is the endorsement of the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com). In doing so, you will only spend a minute indicating your name, email, position, and word of endorsement (http://ammanmessage.com/invitation-to-endorse-the-amman-mes…).

In case a minute is still too long for you, just Like and Share Amman Message’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Official.Amman.Message). Doing so is just as fast as saying, “Yes to TAQRIB, No to TAKFIR!”

Thank you!

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The ‘Amman Message’: A Primer

The Amman Message

MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Immediately after the first round of Pakighinabi (Conversation) Series on the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith and intra-faith dialogues (http://www.addu.edu.ph/blog/2015/04/29/the-significance-of-the-amman-message-by-dr-mansoor-limba) at the Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, on April 22, 2015, and another presentation (The Role of Religious Organizations in the Promotion of Mutual Understanding and Harmony: The Case of ‘Amman Message’) at an international interreligious conference on the approach of Islam and Christianity towards religious extremism and violence (http://www.ust.edu.ph/news/international-conference-on-interreligious-dialogue) held at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, on April 29-30, 2015, the need for an introductory reading material on the said document was expressed by some attendants to both forums. This primer is a personal response to the said request.

Q: What is the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 by H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Q: What does the ‘Amman Message’ significantly contain?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ significantly contains three (3) questions posed to 24 of the most senior Muslim scholars from around the world (including Shaykh al-Azhar of Egypt, Ayatullah Sistani of Iran and Shaykh Qaradawi of Qatar): (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?

Q: What relevant event happened subsequent to the issuance of the detailed statement?

A: In order to cement further the religious-legal authority of the answers to the said three fundamental questions, King Abdullah II convened in July 2005 an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (‘ulama) from 50 countries.

Q: What were the points highlighted in the said conference?

A: Three (3) points were highlighted in the said conference, namely: (1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (madhahib) of Muslim jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali), the two Shi‘ah schools of Muslim jurisprudence (Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Muslim jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Muslim jurisprudence, is a Muslim. (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Muslim jurisprudence than there is difference between them. (3) Acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas.

Q: In short, what is the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in intra-faith dialogue or the relationship among Muslims?

A: The said document is reportedly the largest contemporary ijma (consensus) in the Muslim world. From July 2005 to July 2006, it had already earned 552 endorsements from 84 countries including those of the late King Abdullah al-Saud and 14 other personalities from Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar University Rector (mufti) Sheikh Tantawi of Egypt, Sheikh Qaradawi of Qatar, Ayatullah Sistani of Iraq, and Imam Khamene’i of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As of June 1, 2015, there are 68,975 online endorsements since March 1, 2007.

Q: What are other efforts along this line of the ‘Amman Message’?

A: In contemporary time, there have been many intra-faith efforts by Muslim scholars, some of which are the correspondences (al-muraja‘at) between Sheikh Salim Bisri of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Sharafuddin Musawi of Lebanon; the exchanges between Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Husayn Burujerdi of Iran; the opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam (Forum for Proximity of the Schools of Thought in Islam) in Egypt; re-opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam in Tehran; the declaration of 12th to 17th of the Islamic lunar month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal as International Islamic Unity Week; and the annual International Islamic Unity Conference every month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal, among others.  

Q: In short, what is the significance of ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith dialogue or the relationship of Muslims with followers of other religions?

A: A relevant point highlighted in ‘Amman Message’ is that acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas. In other words, only a high-ranking Muslim scholar worth his title has the authority to issue religious edict, which oftentimes targets the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims. As such, not any Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman or ‘Ali is religiously qualified to do so.

Amman Message’ website further elaborates, thus: “The safeguarding of the legal methodologies of Islam (the madhahib) necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam’s internal ‘checks and balances’. It thus assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights; women’s rights; freedom of religion; legitimate jihad; good citizenship of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government. It also exposes the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of true Islam.”

Q: Given this intra-faith and interfaith significance of the ‘Amman Message,’ how can one endorse the document?

A: It is very easy. The endorsement can be done online. Just visit ‘Amman Message’ website at http://www.ammanmessage.com.

Q: How long will online endorsement take?

A: It will only take one to three minutes to fill up the following information: full name; email (required); country (required); date of birth (required); title; position; organization; whether Muslim or not; whether Muslim scholar (‘alim) or not; and gender.

Q: May a non-Muslim endorse the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The fact that one of the pieces of information asked in the online endorsement box is whether the endorser is a Muslim or not logically follows that a non-Muslim may endorse the ‘Amman Message’ considering its practical importance and benefits to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Q: How can one invite a friend to join the online endorsement?

A: The website provides a Tell a Friend Script (http://ammanmessage.com/tellafriend/index.php) which will only take a minute to fill up.

Q: How many and who are the prominent Muslim entities from the Philippines that have already endorsed the ‘Amman Message’?

A: Based on the information provided in the ‘Amman Message’ website (http://ammanmessage.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=31) as of June 1, 2015, there is no prominent Muslim entity yet from the Philippines that has endorsed the ‘Amman Message’.

 

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