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Ideas on Proximity

Oct 9, 2009, 4:40 AM

4. Scientific experience of ISESCO

The Islamic Countries Education, Scientific, & Cultural Organization [ISESCO], is the most important Islamic organization that has ever focused on the proximity issue as a strategic objective, attaching great significance to the issue.

Therefore, the organization is considered as the specialized organ focusing on proximity within the Islamic World currently, and its management, particularly its esteemed Secretary General Abdul-Aziz Othman al-Tawajiri, has opened very broad and promising horizons before the eyes of that organization and the entire Islamic World.

Dr.al-Tawajiri has especial interest in proximity issue and ISESCO has therefore, advised various strategies to promote Islamic unity, including:

-  Strategy for development and advancement of religious training in Islamic countries, 1988

 -   Cultural Strategy of the Islamic World, 1991

 -   Scientific & Technological Strategy of the Islamic World, 1997

 -   Strategy for Cultural Activities in the West, 2000

 -    Strategy for repatriation of Islamic World elite Immigrants from the West, 2002

ISESCO thus obviously attaches great importance to proximity among Islamic schools of though and has so far sponsored two seminars on the purpose, one in 1991, and the other one in 1996.

   The international Islamic Organization has also commissioned a group of Alims{Islamic Scholars} and experts in the field to devise the Strategy for proximity among Islamic Schools of though. The scheme proposed by that group was presented to the 30th  OIC Foreign Ministers Conference in Tehran, in the year 2003, and was later on approved at the OIC Summit in Butra Jaya, Malaysia.

In the prelude of that strategic scheme the following points are reiterated:

- Guarantee for the authenticity and soundness of the Proximity Strategy includes: good will; holding dialogues based on logical bases; getting assistance from experts; acceptance of the governments and the Alims in this public call; and participation of foundations in executive parts of it;

 -  Thoughts serving as pillars for the proximity movement include: refining the holy Islamic jurisprudence from disputes over beliefs; multiplication of religious verdicts that promote proximity, and unity among Islamic school of thought; adding to the richness of jurisprudence by offering a variety of ideas leading to the issuance of any single verdict;

-    Great significance of proximity among Islamic schools of thought is due to these foundations: Islam's exalted objective of achieving unity within the global Islamic society; honoring world Muslim's demands and trying to improved their status in the world;

-      Public and private sector organs, foundations and institutes are all responsible for pushing forth the proximity movement, and it is in other words, a public responsibility for the Islamic World;

-      Differences of opinion in fundamentals and secondary issues might remain.

The entire Islamic schools of thought, with no exception, have issued their exclusive verdicts, merely on secondary issues in Islam. The matter is the harbinger of blessings, an opening in religious affairs, and a provider ensuring the variety of prompting technical replies appropriate with the diversified demands of the various parts of Ummah.

Meanwhile, prominent religious personalities of all schools have always wholeheartedly accepted students from other schools, never yielding to separation among schools.

    Also, in order to pursue with the proximity movement, we need to choose a certain school at a time. The differences of opinion between Ja;fari Shi'a School and the suuni schools are not much different from the existing differences among the four major Suuni schools.

The fact that scientific encyclopedias on jurisprudence quote the ideas of eight schools of thought; the verdict issued by the Sheikh of Al-Az'har based on which following the Ja;fari school's jurisprudence is permitted, and that it can be taught at that university; are appropriate and good example for religious pluralism and favorable religious diversity within the Islamic World. In the framework of fundamental unity, we are in need of a systematized development in Islamic jurisprudence.

     The Muslims are agreed unanimously on the fundamentals of faith, Ummah, and jurisprudence, whose fruit is civilizational unity and belief in having a shared Islamic motherland "Daar ul-Islam". In the framework of pluralism, this is quite natural, and faultless, not leading to calling one another infidels, disbelievers, or initiators of new beliefs in Islam "Tabdi'a".

     The proximity movement is aimed at refraining from faith disputes, rejecting the factors that lead to considering one another disbelievers, and changing the level of differences of opinion from taking sides as "disbelief-sanctity", into "true-false."

In Chapter One of this strategy there are discussions over the differences in the jurisprudences of different schools; efforts made to promote proximity; and plots hatched to sow the seeds of discord among Muslims. The disputes that were at a time regarded as blind differences of opinion have gradually turned into causes for serious conflicts among various Islamic World quite tense, and that proves the reason why the Glorious Qur'an always encourages full unity among Muslims. In this chapter an Islamic saying that stresses the great importance of unity is quoted and under it the need to respect the beliefs of the others and to safeguard the Islamic brotherhood is stressed. The following conclusions are then drawn from the discussion:

-           Proximity is not equal with the annihilation of one school into another, nor the merging of any two schools of thought, but a step towards boosting sympathy among Muslims;

-           The differences of opinion that are quite a natural phenomenon must not lead to bloody religious disputes;

-           Negative propagations about any certain school of thought would lead to discord among the entire Ummah.

The chapter then focuses on the efforts made to promote proximity so far. Historically speaking, the first signs of religious disputes and differences of opinion emerge in the 2nd Century after Hegira, fomenting various political and national disputes and bigotry. Meanwhile, during the same era there were great and marvelous signs of lenience and sympathy among Muslims.

    In latter parts of the same chapter we read, "Despite having differences of opinion with some of the dispels and the issues related to the era of his leadership, Ali {pbuh}, never allocated any space in his heart for hatred, and permitted no one to swear the caliphs before him.


To be continued.