Moment to introspect

…Sectarian beliefs must unite, not divide us

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 25 2017 11:24PM | Updated Date: Sep 25 2017 11:48PM
Moment to introspect

Kashmir predominantly Muslim in religious belief  has of late been manifesting a tendency of sectarian intolerance, noticeable in pronouncements from the pulpit, contrary to the endearing practices of the past where tolerance ruled whatever the sectarian persuasion. Measure of intolerance, sometimes amounting to harsh jottings on social networking sites disturb sensitive souls craving for tolerant approach of the past. The trend of intolerance may not be alarming, however as witnessed in many societies, slipping into an abyss may not be far away. Hence, it could be taken as the moment of introspection to reverse the developing trend.   

Religion, whatever its denomination has had sects right since organized religion originated. While religion entails a belief in certain fundamentals, sects denote variation in religious practices. Thus while Protestants practice religion in a varied manner from Roman Catholics, both adhere to fundamentals of Christianity. Judaism—the Jewish religion has had different movements: orthodox, conservative and reform defining approach to Jewish Law, Rabbinic traditions, as also significance of the state of Israel. Islam too has its sects—Sunnis and Shias mainly and sub-sects.  Islam with Christianity and Judaism constitutes Abrahamic chain of religions, taking Syedena Ibrahim (A.S) as the patriarch of Prophets, hence united at the root, and deserving mutual respect. Since Islam advises, ‘No Compulsion in Religion’ even religious persuasions other than Abrahamic chain, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism deserve respect. 

Sectarian differences while expected may not lead to sectarian conflicts, as sects emerge from the same religious root. Islamic sects worldwide have exhibited a remarkable tolerance down historical epochs. Sectarian difference leading to conflicts is a recent phenomenon, barely a few decades old. And, it is worth noting that it is not the doctrinal variation resulting in conflicts, but political differences amongst Islamic states emerging in sectarian colours. It could be said that what is contextually political has a bearing on widening sectarian differences. The differences find an outlet on pulpits, and in written word—books, columns, jottings on social networking sites. Politics thus gets an accomplice—sectarian variation. It has impacted Kashmir, fortunately in a much lesser degree than elsewhere. Whatever the level of impact, no room may be left for complacency overtaking the populace, the leadership, the society at large. It should concern one and all to stay wide awake, lest a tragedy overtakes.

Fortunately there are leads to follow in a world with widening conflict zones having sectarian hues. One such lead, a significant one is the ‘Amman Declaration’ a milestone in the unity of Ummah. The highly desirable narrative, much needed in the present epoch was initiated by King Abdullah of Jordan. He initiated an effort to unite Ummah by posing three leading questions to 24 eminent religious authorities of different Islamic sects. The answers were significantly of a uniform pattern to the following questions:

(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)?

The response of the Ulemas sought to declare:

(a) what Islam is and what it is not

(b) what actions represent it and what actions do not

(c) what is true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam                                                                                                                                                                     

The Amman message started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH /9th November 2004 A.D by King Abdullah. Subsequently, a three-point ruling was issued by 200 Islamic Scholar from over 50 countries, focusing on issues of: defining who a Muslim is, issues of Takfir, and of fatwa. In July 20005, King Abdullah convened an international Islamic conference, attended by 200 of the world's leading Islamic 'Ulema’ from 50 countries. They issued a unanimous ruling on three fundamental issues which eventually became known as ‘Risala-e-Amman’ [Risala: Arabic for letter, communiqué or declaration]. The salient features of this declaration are:

1. They specifically recognized the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shia and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim.

2. Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims.

3. Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.

These ‘Three Points’ were then unanimously adopted by the Islamic worlds’ political and temporal leaderships at an Islamic conference convened at Mecca in December 2005. And over a period of one year from July 2005 to July 2006, the ‘Three Points’ were  unanimously adopted by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies, culminating with endorsement by International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide endorsed the ‘Amman Declaration.’

In further enunciation of this declaration, it was pointed out that five pillars of Islamic faith—Shahada--professing faith in Allah [SwT] and Prophet Mohammad [pbuh] Salat [Nimaz] Siyam [fasting for a month in year] Zakat [alms to poor and needy] Haj [pilgrimage to Holy cities] constitute fundamentals of faith, and anybody abiding by them is a Muslim, and nobody has a right to take him otherwise or take recourse to ‘Takfir’ which stands clearly forbidden by Amman Declaration. 

The message in the declaration needs to be heeded by one and all, irrespective of the sect we may subscribe to. 

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]