It is time for the humanitarian side of religion to come to the fore
We find this to be a difficult time in the history of humanity. Covid-19 has brought about ever increasing tragedies of death and deprivation, all the while inflaming our social and economic problems. The time has come to form a humanitarian consensus -- strong and active -- to face the challenges and dangers that threaten humankind and its future on our small planet.
As a group of Muslim scholars and thinkers that share in the ethical commitment and humanitarian obligation towards others, we call on all individuals wherever they may be to take part in the blessed efforts of international, regional, and national organizations and carry out their human, ethical, and religious duty to overcome a deadly pandemic that has affected humankind, our ways of being, world economies, and indeed a majority of life systems, and afflicted the impoverished with the additional suffering of a livelihood constricted and constrained.
With a view to revive the ethical and humanitarian responsibility towards others as the governing and organizing principle of human behaviour and activity, and out of the belief that the concept and practice of Zakat, or the giving of alms, entails good for mankind.
With respect to the conference that the Arab Thought Forum planned to hold on the subject of the “Universalism of Zakat -- Dimensions and Institutional Manifestations” in Ramadan of 1441H, we issue a call of support to the initiative made by Prince El Hassan bin Talal under the heading “Solidarity and the Awakening of the Human Conscience” and a call to action for the establishment of an international institution for Zakat and human solidarity, an undertaking that His Royal Highness called for many a year ago.
In all its reverberations and consequences, the present calls for reform from within. We must find inner peace and security, seek the soundness of our hearts and resuscitate a collective consciousness that leads us to the reinforcement of values that elevate the dignity of man above polychromatic nationality, religion, colour, and gender.
Reason and human existence today face monumental challenges -- in awe of a minuscule organism, intelligence has stood befuddled. An egalitarian pathogen perseveres in its might and obliges us to underline the potential of human suffering to bring people together further than the vocabulary of interests and gains.
In truth, each of us harbours the feeling that the threat to humanity is one. And that truth ought to marshal our capabilities and give rise to thoughtful reflection on the meaning of our collective humanity in all its strengths and weaknesses whilst it uncovers for us novel spaces of convergence and joint action.
The good of an individual lies in his humanity, and his humanity a cornerstone of human solidarity around which all of our shared values revolve. An imperative that beckons us to recognize our shared responsibility towards future generations -- the injunction to give serious thought to the challenges facing humanity is a corollary of the belief in the dignity and the rights of man.
These arduous times are a test of the humanity of man and his humility just as they are a test of the truth, rituals, and fruits of faith: Will we fail or will we succeed? We Muslims carry the flag of a merciful and compassionate religion. An international institution for Zakat and human solidarity should be preceded by interpretive jurisprudential activity on the issues of our time such as Zakat and social solidarity.
Zakat could be a starting point from which mercy -- which God Almighty rendered as the principal purpose behind the sending of His Messengers -- is realized. The revival of our human and ethical duty towards others is in effect a revival of the common sense that God has endowed us with. A revival as such would be a faithful representation of the true religion of God in all its doctrines and fundamental parameters.
We thus refer to a fatwa by Muslim scholars that permits, nay applauds, accelerating the payment of the Zakat owed over the course of one or two years to the impoverished and even favours the rapid payment of Zakat over waiting for the start of the holy month of Ramadan to give alms.
The value of that Zakat in the Muslim world this year alone is estimated in excess of four hundred billion dollars -- a tremendous sum which, if collected, in the current circumstances where curfews and shutdowns have meant interruptions to the livelihoods of many, may salvage the faith, lives, and dignity of the needy.
The ability of the mind to innovate, invent, and face challenges is resounding. The problems that arise from a knowledge alien to the idea of a balance with nature can be addressed through the integration of the natural and social sciences.
An opportunity to exhibit the extent of our involvement in the deft management of a crisis and showcase our collaborative efforts to realize the common good and blunt the effects of poverty, destitution, and illness on people -- the present brings to the fore the role of networking and coordination, the obligation to learn from others, and the importance of working together to rebuild the trust that remains lost and that which has weakened between the young and the old and the rich and the poor.
We find it vital to emphasize the role played by faith in strengthening our capacity for hardship and our ability to persevere in the face of that hardship as well as the role played by faith in encouraging support for and the alleviation of the suffering and pain of others. “We shall certainly test you with fear of hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But [Prophet], give good news to those who are steadfast” -- the Qur’an (The Cow 2:155).
We view man as a part of nature rather than as a creature outside of God’s natural creation. Man is thus entrusted with the care of the Earth and the creatures that inhabit the Earth: “We offered the Trust [of reason and moral responsibility] to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains; yet they refused to undertake it and were afraid of it; but mankind [undertook to] bear it” -- the Qur’an (The Joint Forces 33:72).
We call for a reconciliation between humankind and nature. Mankind must develop a sense of responsibility towards the environment and begin to protect the environment.
A balance between the requirements of modern civilization and the preservation of life must be found: Pollution of all stripes and encroachments of all kinds must be curtailed, natural resources must be carefully managed, and troves of buried ore must be maintained and preserved. Institutional responsibility thus lies in the increase of funds made available for the purposes of scientific research in our contemporary societies.
The here and now is a truly encouraging moment for the humanitarian side of religion to come to the fore, and a moment conducive for the development of a civilizational discourse anchored in the shared values of humanity. In its entirety, humanity must unite and bring repertoires of knowledge together and synchronize the endeavour to find a way out of the global catastrophe that we all face regardless of race, colour, and belief.
We are all children of a civilization united by the common bonds of a far greater kind than the differences -- cultural, racial, or other -- that divide us: “People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide” -- The Qur’an (Women 2:1).
We must come to sense the moral responsibility that we hold for the disasters caused by man, or those natural disasters that come as a consequence of the actions and conduct of man; as the Holy Quran says, “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of the people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done so that they may return [to righteousness]” -- The Quran (The Byzantines 30:41).
In the sake of Allah/God.
El Hassan Bin Talal, President and patron of the Arab Thought Forum
Abdullah Gül, Former President of Turkey
The International Union For Muslim Scholars (IUMS), on their behalf
Shaikh Dr Ahmed Abdul Salam Raissouni, President of IUMS and Shaikh Dr Ali Al-Qardaghi, Secretary General of IUMS
Majelis Ulema Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council) on their behalf Dr Anwar Abbas, Secretary General
Arshad Hurmuzlu, Former Adviser to the President of Turkey
Khalil Al-Khalil, Former member of Shura Council -- Saudi Arabia
Shaikh Abdullah Azzi, Yemen
Shaikh Ikrima Sabri, Imam of Al Aqsa Mosque -- Jerusalem
Haji Allahshükür Hummat Pashazade, Shaik ul-Islam and Grand Mufti of the Caucasus, and Secretary General of Baku International Centre for Interfaith and inter-Civilization Cooperation – Azerbaijan
Dr Hichem Grissa, President of Ez-Zitouna University, Tunisia
Shaikh Abdel Karim Khasawneh, Mufti of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Professor Mohammed Abdel Haleem, University of London
Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President of the Religious Islamic Italian Community; ISESCO Ambassador for Dialogue among Civilizations, Member ECRL European Council of Religious Leaders and Co-Coordinator of the European MJLC Muslim and Jewish Leadership Council.
Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President of Zakat Foundation of India
Prof Azza Karm, VRIJE University, Amsterdam
Imam Izzeddin Elzir, Imam of Florence
Dr Mohamed Hussein El Zoghbi, Federação das Associações Muçulmanas do Brasil -- FAMBRAS (Union or Islamic Associations in Brazil)
BAZNAS, Republic of Indonesia; on their behalf: Prof Dr Bambang Sudibyo, MBA, CA, Chairman of BAZNAS and the Vice-Chairman Dr Zainulbahar Noor
Dr Mohammad Abu Hammour, Secretary General of the Arab Thought Forum
Prince Hassan bin Talal is a member of the Jordanian royal family.