Jordan's Abdullah Urges Muslims To Unite To Confront Violence

(Islamic conference in Amman aimed to unify Muslim groups)

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- It is the duty of all Muslims to communicate the true message of Islam to the world and reject acts of violence and terrorism that contradict the principles of Islam and undermine the interests of the Islamic world, according to Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"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," the king told more than 170 Islamic scholars and clerics gathered in Amman, Jordan, July 4, for the International Islamic Conference. "Islam is not the religion of violence and terrorism, or prejudice and isolation."

Participants traveled from 35 countries to take part in three days of discussions about the nature of Islam and its role in the modern world. The scholars and clerics discussed 45 working papers addressing a range of issues from the role of women in Islam to human rights and images of Islam in the mass media.

King Abdullah said that the first step toward addressing inaccurate views of Islam is forging a unified voice among different groups of Muslims.

"The divisions between the children of the Ummah [Islamic world], acts of violence and terrorism practiced by some groups and organizations, 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," he said.

He urged the participants, who represented each of the eight principal schools of Islamic thought, to forge a unified position on the nature of Islam.

"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," he said.

The eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence are based on the legal opinions of early Muslim jurists, who sought to explain the principles of Islam as they applied to worldly situations during the first two centuries following the death of the Prophet Mohammed. The four schools of Sunni Islam include Hanafi, Malaki, Shafi'i and Hanbali. The primary Shi'a school is Ja'afari. In addition, there is the Zaydi school, followed primarily in Yemen, the Ibadi school, followed in Oman, and the Zahiri school.

Citing fatwas [religious decisions] from several prominent Muslim clerics, the conference participants issued a closing statement affirming that anyone who adheres to one of the eight schools is a Muslim. "Declaring that person an apostate is impossible," the statement said. "Verily his (or her) blood, honor and property are sacrosanct."

The statement also condones followers of the Ash'ari creed (based on the work of a 10th century Baghdad theologian), Sufi orders (mystical groups) and Salafi thought (fundamentalism), as long as they believe in God and His Messenger, Mohammed, and as long as they adhere to the five pillars of Islam: the declaration of faith, the five daily prayers, the paying of zakat (charity), the fast during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

In the past, declarations of takfir [apostasy] have been used as justification for killing other Muslims deemed to have strayed from the true path of Islam. Most recently, the doctrine of takfir has been used by terrorists in Iraq to justify killings between Sunnis and Shi'a. In essence, the clerics' statement forbids this sort of internecine violence.

The participants' closing statement went on to say: "No one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of jurisprudence defines." It also said that no one may create a new school of jurisprudence.

The Jordanian monarch said that establishing a methodology for the issuance of legitimate fatwas "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."

King Abdullah said that Islam has historically been a foundation for harmonious relations between different peoples, and he urged Muslims to ensure that it continues to play this positive role in the world.

"Over the ages, Islam has established a basis for better human relations between individuals, nations and peoples, irrespective of differences in religion, color or gender, on the principles of tolerance and dialogue with others; this was meant for the good of mankind, everywhere, at all times," he told conference participants.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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