Listening to the Islamic philosopher Sheikh bin Bayyah means that you are listening to the voice of knowledge and the call of wisdom at the same time.
This global tolerance advocate believes that those fighting each other today are “adult children” who should be guided to the right path. He calls for the necessity of moving the tolerance philosophy from the “educational frame” to the “legal frame” and from a “possibility” to “commitment.”
I met the venerable sheikh in Abu Dhabi and was delighted to attend the splendid speech which he gave at the opening of the annual Assembly of the Forum for Promoting Peace.
The Islamic philosopher and chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council spoke about the Islamic world’s need for peace that isn’t protected by arms but, rather, guarded by ethics. He said: Humanity is standing today on the edge of the abyss because it is the first time in history that there are weapons that may annihilate mankind and those weapons are slipping from the governments’ hands and might be in irrational hands. Thus, a new “Fudul Alliance” should be established.
We can summarise facets of this eminent scholar’s vision in the following points:
First: The tolerance philosophy. The sheikh says that: “Instead of considering tolerance just an option among several religious options, it is high time to consider it as a religious commitment and duty. We shouldn’t just stop at adjusting religion and tolerance since they are non-contradictory, but we should improve ourselves in order to realise the correlation between both where tolerance becomes a sharia duty and a part of religion.”
In Islam, “Tolerance stands above justice.” The Holy Quran speaks about tolerance in four Quranic terms. They are: pardon, forgiveness, absolution and benevolence.
The sheikh sees that weakness is inherent in human nature and that tolerance is what mends weakness, quoting Voltaire: “We are all full of weakness and errors’ let us mutually pardon each other’s follies. It is the first law of nature.”
Second: the human being comes before faith. Sheikh bin Bayyah sees that “human dignity” is a precedent for “faith dignity.” It is mentioned in the Holy Quran that Allah has honoured all Adam’s sons. Arabs used to say that the “other” is very similar to “brother” and the letter “R” is found in mercy. Imam Ali ibn Abi-Taleb said: “If someone is not your brother in faith, he is your brother in humanity.”
Third: protecting churches is an Islamic duty. The sheikh believes that Ayah 40 in Surah Al-Haj stipulates that Muslims must protect all places of worship. Prominent Muslim interpreters, like Ibn Abbas and Al-Hassan Al-Basry, said that this ayah stipulates that Muslims have to defend churches and temples as they do their mosques.
Other distinguished Islamic scholars, like Ibn Al-Qayyim and Ibn Ashour, hold the view that the believers in other faiths such as Christians and Jews will benefit from the defence in the ayah, and not only Muslims.
Fourth: Knowing and cooperating with each other is Islam’s vision of the world. Islamic foreign policy – so to speak – is founded on two main principles: knowing each other and cooperation. Sheikh bin Bayyah says the first facet is to get to know each other. Allah calls us to know each other in the Surah Al-Hujurat 3. Getting to know each other is also a participatory act that requires an interaction between two parties and two wills and getting to know each other moves one from the narrowness of the “I” to the spaciousness of the “we.”
The second facet is cooperation. Al-Tabari, one of the Holy Quran’s most eminent interpreters, said that in Surah Al-Maidah 2, all human beings are commanded to cooperate based on amity and righteousness.
Thus, bin Bayyah sums up the Islamic approach to the world in the two Quranic commands: Getting to know each other and cooperate, for “cooperation” is the complementary part of “getting to know each other.”
Fifth: The new Fudul Alliance. The original Fudul Alliance was an ethical alliance established in the pre-Islamic era. An unjust incident occurred when Al-As ibn Wail seized the merchandise of a merchant outside Mecca thus instigating an ethical awakening among the Quraysh tribe’s elders.
The elders met in Abdullah ibn Judan’s house in 590 AD and pledged to stop injustice, confront the unjust, whoever he might be, and establish justice among the people. The main motto of the alliance was “Nobody is to fall victim to injustice in Mecca.”
The first man to call for the alliance was Al-Zubayr ibn Abdul-Muttalib, and Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr were among the attendees, which preceded Muhammed’s call to prophethood. The prophet praised the Fudul Alliance after Islam, despite the fact that it included pagans and idolaters. He said: “I was present with my uncles in the house ofAbdullah ibn Judan when an alliance was formed. If I were invited by it in Islam, I would answer it.”
Sheikh bin Bayyah called for establishing a “new Fudul Alliance,” which would be an ethical global alliance inspired by the original alliance that would be against trans-continental terrorism and would support cooperation between the big religions based on the values of tolerance and mutual respect.
The Forum for Promoting Peace views the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, and Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, as a great document and a major step towards promotion of peace between religions.
The bloody path which humanity has walked because of religious extremism must not continue. It is high time to put a full stop to this sentence.
Since Muslims are the main victims in the world today of this ideological madness, therefore Muslims are in the direst need for peace in Islam and peace in the world.
It is high time to say to extremists in every religion: enough.