Forum 2015

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Forum 2015

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Sessions Sessions

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Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah

Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah

H.E Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum For Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.
Angola

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Venue for Forum 2015

The St. Regis Resort Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is located on Saadiyat Island, one of the luxury resorts in Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat

The St. Regis Abu Dhabi +971 2 659 3888

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The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies was launched last year in response to the unprecedented violence and devastation spreading throughout the Muslim world in recent years, leaving vast regions on the brink of implosion. The impetus for this initiative was that the situation is more dire than crises of the past owing to the widespread nature of the conflicts and their duration. These conditions have rendered our lands unstable and lead to distorted perceptions of Islam worldwide – particularly in the West, where prejudice and acts of violence against Muslims are increasing as a result of an escalation in Islamophobia.
By the grace of God, and thanks to the generous support of the United Arab Emirates, more than 250 Islamic scholars and Muslim intellectuals convened in Abu Dhabi last year and made the inaugural forum a groundbreaking success. The conference captured the attention of intellectuals and decision makers throughout the Muslim world and in the West, and established itself amongst prestigious international organizations. Alas, in the wake of the inaugural forum, violence and devastation continued to spread throughout Muslim societies. The imminent threats faced by so many Muslim communities today underscore the critical importance of the recommendations put forth by the 2014 forum, the essence of which are to counter violence, fundamentalism, and extremism, regardless of its background, motives, or theological justifications, and to cultivate peace in Muslim societies.
The objective of the inaugural Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies was to declare war against war in order to bring about peace upon peace – to extinguish the flames of violence, to rescue those who are engulfed in conflict, and to deescalate tensions throughout the Muslim world. The goal of the second annual forum is to re-establish the priorities of Muslim societies by rehabilitating hearts and intellects to a more thorough understanding of the salience of peace in Islam, the shariah, and our tradition. This can only be achieved by adhering to the proper methodology when interpreting scripture and the traditions of the early generations, for the violence and devastation sweeping through the Muslim world today are not only forbidden by Islam and condemned by shariah, they are beyond the pale of reason and humanity.
At this fateful moment in the history of Islam, our utmost priority must be to plant the seeds of peace in Muslim societies. Such work cannot be divorced from the principles, objectives (maqāṣid), and laws of Islam, since these are the foundation of culture, ethics, and morality in these societies, as well as the bridge between Islamic and universal human values. As such, the forum calls upon Islamic scholars (ʿulamā’) worldwide to come together in a spirit of unity and collaboration to confront violence and fundamentalism. Because misguided religious rhetoric is used to justify violence and destruction fuelled by oppression, ignorance, and hatred, the international community is in dire need of the contributions of Islamic scholars to extinguish the flames of violence.
This crisis presents an opportunity for Muslim thinkers and people of influence in general and for Islamic scholars in particular to carry out the responsibility of making clear the true nature of our religion – a faith of peace, love, and harmony – which has been so grotesquely misrepresented. Some of us have become a trial for others, bringing destruction upon them while each party sees themselves as reformers. When others subject us to oppression, we respond in a way that would make us seem like enemies. The time has come for influential Muslims everywhere to liberate themselves from the psychological, cultural, and social pressures that constrain their spiritual progress by returning to the principles, purposes, and priorities of Islam so that they may be the conscience of the people or to show them the reality of the situation: {O my people, how is it with me that I call you to salvation, and you call me to the Fire?} (Qur’an, 40:41).
By the grace of God, Islamic scholars and Muslim intellectuals will convene on April 28th – 30th, 2015 at the second annual forum to resume our efforts to extinguish the flames of violence ravaging Muslim societies, to prevent further physical and psychological devastation, and to plant the seeds of peace and bring them to fruition as the sole means for conflict resolution, advocacy for causes, and eventual change, except in the case of self-defense. To fulfil these objectives, participants will engage in the following discussion sessions:
Session One
The Geographical Reach of the Crises in Muslim Societies and Case Studies of Peace and Reconciliation
Accurately understanding the reality on the ground is essential to appreciating what that reality forces upon us in terms of challenges, and it also allows us to discover the hidden opportunities and possibilities therein. Perhaps many of the misguided beliefs and actions in Muslim societies can be attributed to inadequate knowledge of the reality of individuals, communities, and nations. Accordingly, the first part of this discussion will begin with a thorough study of the major crises in Muslim societies so that it will become clear for any who still remains oblivious to the dire and predictable consequences of these tensions and conflagrations in all areas of the Muslim world.
The second part of the discussion, on the other hand, will endeavour to lay out the elements conducive to bringing about peace in modern societies. This will be based on models from both Muslim societies and other communities as well, for resolving disputes with violence and armed conflict is neither inescapable nor inevitable. Rather, it is the result of a failure to maintain noble attitudes so that we may live together harmoniously, the inability to sacrifice individually or communally by forgoing even legitimate rights, and the inability to forgive injustice, even if egregious, all for the sake of a future society with a place for everyone, wherein everyone can live in peace and security. {God changes not what is in a people until they change what is in themselves} (Qur’an, 13:11).
This part of the discussion will cover the following topics:
1. The geographical reach of the crises in Muslim societies.
2. Contemporary case studies of achieving peace and reconciliation in Muslim communities, such as Aceh, Indonesia, as well as in non-Muslim communities, such as South Africa, in order to devise strategies for establishing peace in areas of conflict. Responding to discord with violence is neither necessary nor inevitable: rather, it constitutes a failure of intellect and reason and an incapacity to withstand the psychological and social repercussions of sacrificing rights and forgiving grievances in order to establish a society where people coexist in safety and peace.
Session Two
Rectifying Misconceptions and Clarifying Core Concepts Related to the Promotion of Peace
One of the sessions of last year’s inaugural forum was dedicated to the rectifying of key misconceptions; this was due to their critical role. Islamic concepts are misunderstood when any of their contributing factors are distorted, whether they be in interpretation of linguistic or legal meanings, or in the objectives (maqāṣid) and rationales (ʿillal) that give rise to rulings, or in understanding the context and conditions in which the revelation was seated.
The Forum’s Scholarly Committee took on this task because misunderstandings, distorted interpretations, and confusion are among the greatest intellectual causes of violence that is carried out in the name of Islam. Therefore, an urgent priority for Islamic scholars and Muslim intellectuals must be to challenge distorted concepts that contradict the core message of Islam, the cultivation of our communities, and their internal coherence and external security. Such misunderstands are corrected by clarifying the misconceptions at their root.
In order to further advance the study of these misconceptions, the following three concepts have been selected for further examination due to their prevalence and widespread misuse in Muslim societies today:
1. Jihad and military force
2. Excommunication (takfīr)
3. Pre-modern demarcations for societies
Jihad and Military Force
In spite of the many layers of meaning to jihad – including its internal and external dimensions –it is as if the term has become synonymous with violence, and so a clarification of jihad’s relationship to various violent acts is critical. For example, it is necessary to specify who retains the right to declare a military jihad, especially in light of the fact that this right, which used to belong exclusively to the state, has been hijacked by individuals and groups whose authority to do so is not supported by shariah or by the Muslims themselves.
The concept of military jihad has been divorced from the objective of ensuring peace and justice, repelling aggressors, and defending the disenfranchised and the freedom of religion. Instead, military jihad is now a pretense to committing acts of unspeakable corruption and destruction worldwide. It is important to verify the appropriate application (ta^qÏq al-man¥~) for military jihad in the modern world, in which international norms have removed the barriers to calling to Islam, and where nations have entered into covenants and established organizations to prevent conflict and manage international relations on the basis of nonviolence and cooperation.
Excommunication (takfīr)
As for excommunication (takfīr) – i.e. denying another’s faith and declaring him an infidel – it is a ruling the shariah has extensively cautioned against exercising wrongfully. Early Muslims avoided the practice of excommunication and implemented numerous caveats for it, as they considered exercising it wrongly a most grave sin, classified under “sowing corruption on earth” due to the ramifications in this world and the hereafter. However, in contemporary Muslim societies, excommunication is no longer based upon definitive and unambiguous criteria for which no other interpretation can be made and restricted to core matters of faith; instead, it is loosely carried out based on ambiguities and implications of statements people make and in response to matters for which no practical legal ruling is to be applied.
The broadening and loosening of the criteria for excommunication is, in effect, the broadening of the group of people who are targeted to be killed. And so, it is critical that we make absolutely clear what according to sacred law warrants takfīr. That is, what would negate a person’s faith and necessitate considering him an apostate? Are the concepts used today to justify takfīr, such as loyalty and disavowal (al-wal¥’ wal-bar¥’), actually valid grounds for takfīr? Furthermore, who is authorized to issue the ruling of takfīr – a legislative body, such as the mufti, or an executive one, such as a judge? Since the grave consequences of this charge may include murder, should we criminalise declarations of takfīr from other than the appropriate authority? When considering these questions, one must also take into account that Muslims are not in complete control of their societies and that the realm of doctrine and belief is separate from the realm of legal judgments.
Pre-Modern Societal Demarcations – The Abode (D¥r) Construct
The concept of the “abode” (dār) – or division of the globe – is widely misunderstood and used today as a justification for committing crimes in the name of Islam. This system of demarcation between the “Abode of Islam” and the “Abode of War” arose from a particular historical context in which the jurists noted, in the absence of international treaties guaranteeing Muslims their right to freely and safely practice their religion in countries ungoverned by the shariah code, an essential relationship between international religious and political authorities throughout the world.
Is it reasonable to make a demarcation system that was particular to an historic time and place into a universal one applicable to all times and places? Haven’t circumstances changed, altering the concept of an abode with their binding international treaties and protection of small countries that would otherwise have been swallowed whole by superpowers if international relations were dictated solely by military might? Are we not now living in abodes of composite demarcations that allow people from various religions and faiths to coexist in peace? Isn’t the fact that Muslim citizens of non-Muslim countries are free to safely practice their religion and call others to it evidence of this composite abode?
Moreover, if we limit the “Abode of Islam” to those countries that have fully implemented the shariah code, does this not reduce the concept of the Muslim nation to a political concept rather than a religious one? Would this narrow definition not lead to applying takfīr against all Muslim communities that have not fully implemented shariah? Are we therefore in need of new rulings that represent values more aligned with the core principles of Islam and worthy of the image of our blessed Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, who was sent by the Almighty as a mercy to all mankind?
The scholars and intellectuals who attend the Second Forum will seek to answer these important questions based on shariah principles, maxims, and objectives.
Session Three
Peace in Islam: Its Foundations, Practice, and Consequences
Special areas of focus include the following:
• Laying out the supporting evidence for peace in Islam: this will include religious texts, concepts, values, legal maxims, and the means and mechanism related to the subject.
• Reviewing historical evidence to illustrate the centrality of peace in Islam.
The framework speech at the inaugural forum established peace as a priority that precedes all other values in Islamic jurisprudence. This conclusion was drawn based upon an examination of revelatory texts; a review of the live events of the Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him; the actions of the revered early generations of Muslims (salaf); and the jurisprudence of distinguished Islamic scholars. It also asserted that “these concepts have been misinterpreted in ways that contradict their original meaning and thus have undermined their original purpose.” The conclusions were summarized as follows: “Therefore we assert that if the call for justice is right, then the search for peace is more right.”
In April 2015, the second Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies will continue to study the foundations of peace through scholarly research based on extrapolations from text. Discussion will entail clarifying the concept and values of peace and addressing the confusion and scepticism about the call for peace, as well as reviewing the obstacles and challenges, and the means and mechanisms to achieving peace. It is also critical, in light of the image of Islam and the mounting prejudice due to the atrocities committed in its name, to review the foundations of peace in Islam and outline Islam’s contribution to human civilization in the realm of peace.
As for presenting the supportive evidence for peace in Islam, this requires a number of complementary facets, most notably the following:
a. Texts: Compiling juristic texts related to peace and distinguishing between the universals and particulars so that some parts of the corpus could elucidate others, rather than oppose them. This is a broad field which includes research, compilation, and weighing and balancing divergent interpretations.
b. Understandings: Clarifying intermediary concepts which have been misunderstood and that are intrinsically related to the concept of peace.
c. Values: Highlighting Islamic values that require Muslim societies to accept and bear the consequences of peace, such as fraternity in faith and in humanity, defending with that which is best, repelling evil with good, and practicing forgiveness.
d. Maxims: Clarifying the foundational maxims for a jurisprudence of peace, such as taking into account long term outcomes (ma’alāt) and consequences (ʿawāqib), the maxim of prioritizing the prevention of harm over the attainment of benefits (dar’ al-mafāsid muqaddam ʿalā jalb almaṣāliḥ), and weighing potential benefit against potential harm.
e. Means and Mechanisms: Explaining the means and mechanisms for resolving conflict and achieving peace individually or collectively. These include reconciliation, arbitration, clemency, treaties, and truce agreements.
As for historical evidence, it calls upon us to do justice to Islam by showcasing our scholarship, which was able to withstand external cultural and religious pressures and distinguish the peace that is inherent to Islam and the Muslim experience from exceptional circumstances caused by transient misconceptions. This scholarship reveals Islam’s contribution to the conceptualization and propagation of peace and to the development of mechanisms for its achievement and preservation. Remarkably, all of this was achieved in a tribal culture marked by perpetual violence between people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds.
Participants at the inaugural forum expressed a desire for further clarification of views and deeper understanding of these issues, and so public sessions and symposiums at our second forum will be supplemented by workshops to allow for maximum engagement with scholars and researchers. Two additional workshops will provide participants the opportunity to contribute their recommendations.
The first workshop, which is concerned with academic theory, will explore how Islamic universities can contribute to promoting peace in Muslim societies in light of their unique capacity to guide Muslim youth and to steer scientific research in juristic studies toward the absolution of Islamic heritage of the claims that undermine moderation, tolerance, and reconciliation. Islamic universities are also uniquely equipped to identify priorities and devise action plans for the project for promoting peace in Muslim societies.
The second workshop will engage young adults who are versed in social media, social entrepreneurship, and digital technology in the service of projects to promote and sustain peace in Muslim communities. This workshop arises from the forum’s belief in the urgent need for Muslim societies and institutions to channel the talents and energy of the youth toward peace and to empower Muslim youth to become leaders of projects that guide others towards the path of goodness rather than to allow them to be drawn into misguided dissention while mistakenly believing they are on a righteous path. On the final day there will a panel discussion involving committed Muslim women from around the world, who will discuss the importance of participation and engagement of women in the process of creating peace in our communities.
The committee host of the second annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies hopes this year’s conference will provide a unique opportunity for scholars, intellectuals, and youth to exchange viewpoints, share visions, and participate in establishing a culture of peace in scholarly circles, civic institutions, and throughout Muslim societies.
All praise is for God who guides us all

Concept Notes

Introductory Speech

Final Statement