Islamic scholars question war in the 'abode of peace'
MARDİN - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/28/2010 12:00:00 AM | MUSTAFA AKYOL
Dozens of renowned Islamic scholars gathered in the eastern Turkish city of Mardin over the weekend to discuss a critical issue: the Muslim faith's verdict on war and peace.
Dozens of renowned Islamic scholars from various countries gathered in the eastern Turkish city of Mardin over the weekend to discuss a critical issue: the Muslim faith’s verdict on war and peace.
The famous “Mardin fatwa” of Ibn Taymiyah, a well-known Islamic jurist who lived in the city seven centuries ago, is considered by some as the medieval forerunner of modern radical Islam.
Those who gathered to revisit his views agreed that the world is much different than it was in the jurist’s time and said that Muslims need to reinterpret old ideas. A total of fifteen scholars from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Nigeria, India, Albania, Bosnia and Turkey joined the conference, parts of which were aired live by Al Jazeera Arabic.
The way Ibn Taymiyah denounced the Mongol rulers of his time, who claimed to be Muslim but fell short of implementing the Islamic Shariah, has provided justification for some radical groups to denounce Muslims they view as less strict as “apostates.” The jurist’s division of the world into the “Abode of Islam” and the “Abode of War” – and his view that a place is not really a part of former unless it implements Shariah – have also inspired fundamentalists dedicated to establishing “Islamic states” in predominantly Muslim countries.
[HH] Revisiting the Mardin fatwa:
The conference, tellingly titled “Mardin: The Abode of Peace,” was hosted by the city’s newly found Artuklu University, sponsored by the U.K.-based Global Center for Renewal and Guidance and supported indirectly by the British and Turkish governments.
According to daily Milliyet, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate refused to directly organize the conference, citing two principal reasons: It said it is groundless to blame all post-Sept. 11 violence on Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa when political, social and economic reasons also play a major role, and that no one in Anatolia or the rest of the Islamic world remembers a fatwa, or Islamic legal opinion, issued seven centuries ago.
Most of the scholars who took part in the series of panels at the two-day conference argued that the “Mardin fatwa,” like all other fatwas, is bound by the context in which it was issued. Yet only a few of them directly addressed what kind of a reinterpretation is necessitated by the context of the modern world.
One scholar who aired clearly reformist views on the matter was Ahmet Özel from Turkey, an associate professor at the Center for Islamic Studies in Istanbul. “In the medieval age, all states were constantly at war with each other, and there was no system of international law,” he said. “That is why medieval Islamic jurists saw non-Muslim countries as the Abode of War.”
Even at that time, Özel noted, the eighth-century Islamic scholar Abu Hanifa said that a country would not be deemed an Abode of War if it established security for Muslims and gave them the right to practice their religion.
“Today, Muslims are not only secure and free in European countries, they can even be elected to parliaments,” Özel said. “So these medieval categories of Abode of Islam and Abode of War do not explain anything today. We need new terminology.”
[HH] ‘No such thing as an Islamic state’
Another scholar who argued for an extensive reinterpretation of classical texts was Mustafa Ceric, the grand mufti of Bosnia. “Most ulema [Islamic scholars] have a problem,” he said. “They know the classical texts very well, but they don’t know the contemporary world that much.”
During the time of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ceric added, there was no concept of international law based on human rights.
“Today the world is so different,” he said. “The Bosnian Muslims who took refuge in European countries such as Sweden found there the rights and privileges that they would not exactly find in Muslim countries.”
“There is no such thing as an Islamic state,” Ceric told journalists. “There are only states that provide justice, freedom and security and those that do not.”
Aref Ali Nayed, the director of the Kalam Research & Media Institute in Dubai, also dismissed the idea of a geographically defined Abode of Islam. “A liberal, welcoming environment, in which a Muslim can freely practice his religion, is an environment that offers an abode of peace,” he said. Nayed added that Muslims may well be supportive of such a “liberal secularism,” which he said is different from the “French-Revolution-like secularisms that are anti-religious.”
The proceedings and the final declaration of the conference will be soon available online at www.mardin-fatwa.com.