The importance of Muslim unity, preservation of the Ummah against international plots, support for the intifadah in Palestine and the Islamic resistance in Lebanon as well as condemnation of Zionist attempts to usurp the holy city of al-Quds were major themes discussed at the eleventh International Conference on Islamic Unity in Tehran (July 10-12). Concern for the plight of Muslim minorities, especially in Europe, Christian missionary activity in Muslim countries–Central Asia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh--as well as attempts to suppress Islamic Movements were condemned.
The unity of the Ummah, a Qur’anic imperative, was reaffirmed by the delegates who came from all over the world. The congress was held in the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting conference centre, an impressive hall with excellent facilities. Last year foreign ministers of Muslim countries had met in the same centre in preparation for the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Repeatedly speakers–both Shias and Sunnis–reaffirmed their commitment to Islamic unity and warned against the plots of the enemies of Islam. The conference was attended by ulama, muftis, scholars, teachers, students and Islamic activists from all over the world.
There were Muslims from Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenstan, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Western Europe, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, North America as well as from Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa. It was truly a microcosm of the Ummah in all its diversity.
As is customary at such conferences, a large number of speakers were accommodated. This necessitated limiting each speaker to 10 minutes although a few were allowed to speak longer. Shaikh Naumani, as usual, ably conducted the sessions. The inaugural address was delivered by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who now heads the Expediency Council. He not only welcomed delegates but also talked about the fitrah of man which he said had been created pure by Allah. This was a reference to the Qur’anic verse (30:30), which states that there is no altering of the [pure] nature in which Allah has created human beings.
In his concluding remarks on the last day of the conference, Ayatullah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri, head of the Organisation for Islamic Culture and Communication in the office of the Rahbar, also drew attention to this. He pointed out that the Rahbar, Ayatullah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, in his address to the delegates in the morning, had focused the issue of the Judaisation of al-Quds by the zionists while president Mohammed Khatami had stressed the importance of the Majma-e Taqrib Conferences. ‘Islam had all the features which fulfilled the needs of humanity,’ said Ayatullah Taskhiri.
His paper on the first day about ‘Balance, leniency and ethics in Islam’ had drawn much interest. Other speakers not only talked about the importance of Muslim unity but also highlighted some of the problems they faced in their societies. In the morning session of the first day, speakers included Ahmed Muhamed al-Khalili (Yemen), Shaikh Sabri Coci (Albania), Ayatullah Jafar Subhani (Iran), Dr Yusuf Kettani (Morocco), Shaikh Ali Shay (Kenya), Shaikh Yaqub Ismi (Philippines), Shaikh Ahmed az-Zain (Lebanon), Dr Abdallah al-Nafisi (Kuwait), Ayatullah Ibrahim Jannati (Iran) and Dr Jibril Aminou (Nigeria).
In the afternoon session, Shaikh Habib Khojeh (Saudi Arabia), Maulana Ishaq Madani (Iran), Shaikh Abubakr Siddiq (Bangladesh), Wahba al-Zuhaili (Syria), Ayatullah Ahmed Asifi (Iran), Mufti Shafqu Omar Basic (Croatia), Imam Muhammad al-Asi (US), Allama Sajid Naqvi (Pakistan), Abdullah Azmi (India), Syed Munawwar Hassan (Pakistan), Dr M Taufik Ashawi (Egypt), Shaikh Mahmoud Siyam (Palestine) and Dr Mustafa Ceric (Bosnia). The first day’s session ended after 11 pm.
On the second day, the delegates were addressed by the Rahbar on the occasion of the birthday of the noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace. In addition to the foreign guests, there were hundreds of people from all over Iran as well.
When the formal session resumed in the late afternoon, Ayatullah Baqir al-Hakim addressed the issue of the crimes of the Iraqi regime against innocent people. Other speakers included Ustad Fadhil Noor (Malaysia), Ayatullah Amid Zanjani (Iran), Mufti Hamdi Yusuf (Belgrade), Omar Madani (Jordan), Nooru Musa Habib (Ethiopia), Shaikh Hussain Gabries (Lebanon), Shaikh Abdur Rahman Mullahzehi (Sistan-Baluchistan, Iran), Sister Safynaz Kazem (Egypt), Zafar Bangash (Canada), Professor Mukashifi Taha Qabashi (Sudan), Dr Abdul Aziz al-Tuwaijari (head of ISESCO), Dr Anissa Abdul-Fattah (US), Shaikh Nur Baba Nuri (Sulaimaniya, Iraq), Hasan Abdul Karim (Nigeria), Dr Amel al-Bayati (Iraq), Professor Vaezi (Afghanistan) and Shaikh Abdul Razak Rahbar (Turkmenstan).
The two commissions headed by Muhammad Ali Azarshab and Dr Muhammad Mehdi Najar also presented their reports. Ayatullah Muhammad Vaez-Zadeh Khorasani, secretary general of the Unity Conference, not only thanked all the participants but also all the volunteers and various organizations for their cooperation and help.
The main activity at such conferences occurs outside the formal sessions where Muslims get an opportunity to meet and greet each other and exchange views. This year, there was a strong presence of Muslims from Europe, especially those parts where they face a direct threat to their very survival–Bosnia, Kosova, Albania and Serbia.
The plea by the Mufti of Belgrade to establish an Islamic army in defence of Muslim minorities, though much appreciated, was considered impractical. Similarly calls by some delegates to establish an Islamic common market and to take steps towards economic cooperation between Muslim countries were discussed but it was felt that it would require more time to materialize.
The delegates were urged that they must convey the message of unity to their respective communities as well as work toward eliminating misunderstandings between different madhahibs in Islam. It was proposed that branches of Majma-e Taqrib be established in other parts of the world as well.
Muslimedia: August 1-15, 1998