by Our Own Correspondent (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 10, Safar, 1436)
The Islamic World Congress on Extremism and Takfirism was held in Qom, Iran on November 23-24. It was attended by hundreds of ulama, academics and activists from all Schools of Thought in Islam. Our correspondent was there and filed this report.
The eruption of takfirism in parts of the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) and Africa has aroused much anxiety among sincere and committed Muslims. The gruesome acts of beheadings, torture, rape, etc. by the takfiris have caused alarm not least because such acts are totally against the values and teachings of Islam. Far from presenting an accurate picture of Islam to the world based on the teachings of the noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), such conduct reinforces the most distorted version peddled by Islamophobes in the West.
How to confront this phenomenon is a question that has agitated Muslim minds because they do not want the din of Islam to be hijacked by cannibals and murderers. It has to be dealt with on two fronts: military and intellectual. While the military front is important, it is the intellectual front that is more important because Islam has to be reclaimed from the terrorists that have caused havoc in already devastated Muslim societies.
It was to this aspect that the “World Congress on Extremism and Takfiri Movements in the Islamic World” turned its attention. For two days (November 23–24), more than 350 delegates from some 83 countries around the world and hundreds more from the Islamic Republic discussed this latest challenge to Islam. They included ‘ulama, academics and activists from all schools of thought in Islam. Interestingly, the conference was held not in Tehran but in Qom, an important religious centre in Iran and the seat of numerous learning institutes with tens of thousands of students studying theology, philosophy, and other related subjects.
The institutes headed by two leading Islamic scholars — Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi and Ayatullah Jafar Sobhani — were behind the effort in bringing such a large group of Muslims together from all over the world to confront a problem that affects the very soul of Islam. Numerous themes were discussed at the conference. These included the ideological roots of takfirism, their regional and international sponsors and the motives behind using such groups.
The conference held at Jam-e Mustafa, a huge complex in the heart of Qom, started with recitation from the noble Qur’an. Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi then welcomed the delegates and thanked them for coming to address a serious challenge facing the Muslim Ummah. He elaborated on the problem at hand and urged those present to seek solutions from the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the noble Prophet (pbuh). The most serious challenge posed by takfirism — a challenge that is deliberately promoted — is the issue of sectarianism.
This is a tool used by some regimes in the Muslim world to divide Muslims so that they would be engulfed in their own problems without having the time to think about the illegitimate regimes.
This is a tool used by some regimes in the Muslim world to divide Muslims so that they would be engulfed in their own problems without having the time to think about the illegitimate regimes. This has been used on numerous occasions in the past and has served the nefarious agenda of these regimes. Unfortunately, some Muslims are also easily manipulated by having their emotions played, resulting in much chaos and confusion. The price is paid by ordinary Muslims because such divisions in the Ummah are exploited by the enemies of Islam — the imperialists and Zionists. In fact, these twin evil ideologies are really behind the promotion of takfirism because they know that this serves their agenda in the region.
The opening session of the two-day conference was taken up by scholars presenting their thoughts on the issue. The afternoon sessions were devoted to four commissions that addressed the problem from many different perspectives. The afternoon sessions went on from 3 pm until 9 pm, reflecting the seriousness of the issue. Delegates were given an opportunity to present their thoughts on analyzing the phenomenon of takfirism and how to confront it. Three aspects repeatedly came up: the roots of takfirism, objectives of the sponsors and how to confront this phenomenon.
Understanding the root causes of the problem is halfway to finding the solution. Correct diagnosis is essential before a remedy can be offered. This is what the conference participants did. There were divergent opinions expressed at the conference reflecting the openness with which scholars in the Islamic Republic deal with various challenges and issues. No specific agenda is imposed or solution proposed or even suggested except to come to a common understanding about the problem at hand. No sincere Muslim with even limited awareness of the takfiri mindset can be in doubt that it is a huge problem and has caused socio-political and cultural divisions in the Ummah. Entire societies have been disrupted with countries like Syria and Iraq having suffered massive devastation. Others will be targeted with the same devastating consequences. While the takfiri phenomenon, like its primitive precursor, the Khawarij ideology will ultimately be defeated, it will come about after Muslims have paid a very high price in life and blood not to mention the physical destruction of their societies.
The Qom conference was the fourth in a series, the others being held in Damascus, Islamabad and Baghdad over the last three years. This was by far the largest gathering of ‘ulama and scholars from all parts of the world indicating what can be achieved when there is an Islamic state behind such an effort.
It was proposed at the World Congress to establish a permanent secretariat to deal with such challenges. Four departments of the World Congress are already operational, according to the Secretary General, Hujjat al-Islam Alizadeh Mousavi. These were identified as follows:
Participants, especially the ‘ulama, were urged to develop consensus on the issue of takfirism so that a future plan of action can be devised. It was interesting to note that the Sunni ‘ulama were at pains to distance themselves from the takfiri ideology and said that these misguided people have distorted the teachings of the Qur’an and the message of peace, mercy and forgiveness delivered by the noble Messenger (pbuh).
There was also recognition of the fact that some Muslim youth had been misled by the takfiris and used by others for their nefarious agenda. Many ‘ulama pointed out that the path chosen by these groups leads to hellfire where they will abide forever, as per warnings contained in the noble Qur’an.
The final session of the second day was addressed by Ayatullah Jafar Sobhani. He is a leading scholar of the Sirah on the noble Messenger (pbuh) and he touched on the lessons that must be derived from the Sirah. The various committees also presented their reports to the World Congress.
A day after the conference, the delegates were invited to the Bayt-e Rahbari where the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei addressed them on this very important topic. As is the norm, the meeting at the Rabhari was attended by thousands of people. The Rahbar advised the Congress participants to present the correct image of Islam to the world that came to liberate humanity from the tyranny of other men. Shedding of innocent blood is forbidden in Islam and that those who indulge in such conduct are committing a great sin.
While takfirism is a serious problem and has caused much devastation in the Muslim world, what became clear at the World Congress was that there was no difference of opinion between Shi‘i and Sunni ‘ulama about its destructive nature and how best to confront it. The World Congress in Qom will go a long way to dispelling many myths about divisions in the Ummah. These are deliberately being propagated by those whose selfish interests are served by them.
What is needed now is for the Congress delegates to convey the message of unity and fairness that they experienced over the several days of deliberations both before, during and after the conference, to Muslims in their respective constituencies worldwide.