By Dr Qari Asim, MBE , Senior Editor ImamsOnline.com
ImamsOnline is attending the 2nd annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies Conference, convened by H.E Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah.
I regularly attend conferences, nationally and internationally, that are aimed at promoting Peace in our troubled world. However, I am specifically looking forward to this Forum for Promoting Peace because of the vision of its founder and the incredible expertise of its participants. The phenomenally engaging and thought-provoking speeches and conversations of last year’s Forum for Peace are still fresh in my mind and continue to inspire me in my work.
The three-day long forum, 27-30 April, will provide a ‘safe space’ for discussing solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing our world. It is incredibly stimulating to think that I will be one of the three hundred and fifty Muslim scholars, experts religious leaders and thinkers from all over the world – belonging to different races and countries, speaking different native languages, having different backgrounds, and wearing different national dress of varying colours – who will all gather under the leadership of H.E Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah.
Leadership of Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah
Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah’s extra-ordinary leadership is recognized by the fact that from European governments to the White House, Muslim governments in the Middle East to the Far East, and from contemporary scholars to ordinary Muslims, the 79 year old Mauritanian scholar, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah has the respect and the confidence of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
One of the reasons Shaykh bin Bayyah can engage a diverse group of people ranging in age, race, background and knowledge, and they are willingly to listen to him, is because of his charisma, command of diverse branches of Islamic knowledge, in particular Usul-ul-fiqh, and unique way of explaining complicated subjects in the contemporary context. Shaykh bin Bayyah serves Muslims as a judicious and astute role model, particularly Muslim youth, who may too easily be swayed by the glitz and glamour of extremist ideologies.
Shaykh bin Bayyah’s Objective & Methodology
Islamic scholars have unequivocally condemned violent extremism and have demonstrated, through the medium of the Glorious Qur’an and hadith, that the violent actions of groups like Daesh, ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Taliban and al-Shabab are clearly neither supported by the Islamic scripture nor the Islamic tradition.
Shaykh bin Bayyah’s is, undoubtedly a leading voice in the field of fiqh of reality- it is not enough to know about Shar`i objectives but the ‘reality’ to which the Shari’a is to be applied. It is this troubled reality of the Muslim world that has lead Shaykh bin Bayyah say: “We must declare war on war so that the outcome is 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.
He continues elsewhere: “The responsibility of the scholars and religious authorities at this time in particular is to protect life. No sane person can remain indifferent to the loss of life and suffering in the Muslim world. What then of those who have pledged to God that they will do their part to set the world right?” Armed Jihad was undertaken by the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) to bring peace to the world, not to destroy the lives and properties of the inhabitants of the world, advocates Shaykh bin Bayyah.
He is a scholar that is on a mission to build peace and to form a unified front against the scourge of extremist ideologies, sectarianism, and terrorism that has afflicted the Muslim world for some time now.
Shaykh bin Bayyah urges the Muslim leadership to look inwardly rather the blaming the “other” and endeavour to resolve the frustration and exasperation that exists in Muslim societies. Foreign hands may be involved in destroying peace in Muslim lands, but the lack of visionary, thoughtful and tolerant leadership in Muslim (and non-Muslim) lands is one of the key causes of killing and hatred in the Muslim world. “Wars begin in the minds of men, so we must build castles of peace in people’s minds”, maintains Shaykh bin Bayyah
I am even more enthusiastic about participating in the Forum for Peace this year because part of the Forum’s focus will be considering and formulating strategies to engage audiences in the Digital Space. We, at ImamsOnline, hosted Shaykh bin Bayyah in March 2015 in London on this very precise issue of re-claiming some of the digital/online space that the extremists are using to increasingly outpace traditional religious authority and governments.
One thing that distinguishes Sheikh bin Bayyah from his contemporaries is his ability to freely weave spirituality with secular rationality and philosophy. His command on fiqh of reality has enabled him to be innovative in an attempt to bring peace in our time. One demonstration of such broad-minded thinking is the introduction of Haqqathon. The ground-breaking initiative, hosted by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and organized byAffinis Labs, is a hackathon that brings dozens of talented Muslims – experts, entrepreneurs, technologists artists, scholars, youth mentors, and more – to develop and prototype ideas for peace building amongst Muslim populations and to help Muslim scholars communicate their messages in a way that fits the world of social media.
At this fateful moment in the history of Muslims, our utmost priority is to plant the seeds of peace in Muslim societies and Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah is a leading light in that regard. He is taking courageous and pragmatic steps to lead the Muslim community from violence and protest to compassion and engagement. He is a radical preacher, who has declared war on online radicalisation and recruitment, through the Peace Forum and Haqqathon. ImamsOnline’s Digital Summit last month was also designed to raise awareness about this challenge posed by those extremists who wish to “groom” young impressionable individuals for their own political and/or violent agenda. We are therefore delighted to be part of this caravan of Peace and to help develop answers and solutions to some of the unprecedented challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah and the world at large