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Interfaith Programs

Jakarta Conference on Islam and the Future of World Peace

Islam and the Future of World Peace
Excerpts of Proceedings of the World Summit of Muslim Leaders
Jakarta, Indonesia, December 20-23, 2001
Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace

The Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace [known since 2005 as the Universal Peace Federation], has been active in promoting dialog between peoples of different faiths, ethnic backgrounds and religions.  We offer the following selections of presentations at the Jakarta Conference. The conference proceedings book is out of print.

Islam and Democracy
Abdurrahman Wahid, President of Indonesia (1999-2001)

We gather from different parts of the world in this time of need to formulate what should be the position taken by the Muslims in the changing world after what happened on September 11 in New York. For me, the so-called terrorism that is perpetrated by different people from different religions and different nations is a response to something. And for the Muslims, it is a kind of response to the challenges found by Islam or facing Islam. Among the challenges, one of the most important is the challenge of modernization. Modernization came in the world in the form of westernization.

Now we see that the response to the challenge of modernization should be answered by us through education, through the development of values within the Islamic people. But, in order to educate the people we have to also fill the gap in the three different regions of Islam.

In Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, we see the non-governmental organizations are free to pursue their main fields. In Southwest Asia maybe a little bit less, but anyway the independence of the community to choose their Imam or leaders of praying and khutba (Sermon), (khatib) (who delivers the sermon), [and] also witnesses the independence joined there. But in the Middle East, I see that the government takes everything and lowers the tradition of NGO nearly to non-existence. Ayatullah Ruholla Khomeini in Iran began to challenge this during the time of Shah of Iran, and he succeeded in bringing up the new traditions of Ulamas (scholars). But the problem now is that this is limited wholly to Ulamas, not yet to the various NGOs. So then we have to see the development further in Iran. In other parts of the Middle East, you see nearly-non-existent NGO traditions. We have to fill the gap. And reeducating ourselves means we have to understand each other in order to close the gap between us.

The second thing that should be remembered is that the Muslims stressed too much on institutions, physical or non-physical. The physical ones include Islamic parties and Islamic states. I think it is good to have an Islamic state or Islamic party but not to rely completely on them. The non-physical institution is like the fiqh (jurisprudence), the tasawwuf (mysticism) and so forth. So then we have to reeducate ourselves in promoting freedom for the layman, freedom for the ordinary man to go out.

I think, in this respect, the situation in the Islamic world requires us to take the first step to formulate what we have to do in the future. From Indonesia, I would like to present the case of our Ulamas; maybe unknown to many of you back in 1935. The Ulamas gathering in the Jam’iyyat Nahdlatul Ulama, the association of the awakened Ulamas had a Mu’tamar, a congress in Banjarmasin, ten years before our independence. There, they faced the question of whether Muslims are obliged to defend the known kingdom of Netherlands India, as Indonesia at that time was known, which was ruled by non-Muslim, the Dutch, the imperialist. The answer by a Mu’tamar attended by 6,000 Ulamas was that, yes, they are obliged to defend the Kingdom of Netherlands India, east India, because they are free to practice the teaching of Islam because the community has the right to implement Islam without seeking the approval of the Kingdom itself and because in the past, Islamic kingdoms existed there.

This is continued by our decree or our embracing Pancasila, the five principles of the state. So by this then we strengthen the decision in Banjarmasin that we are obliged to defend the state which is run also by non-Muslims beside the Muslims. Now in the Republic of Indonesia, so far, the four presidents have been Muslims and the obligation is clear. The problem came up with the question of Islamic Law. The question at that time was the so-called “Jakarta Charter,” the obligation for the Muslims to implement Shariah (Islamic laws). At first, everybody agreed that the Jakarta Charter on the obligation to implement Shariah. Islam would be formulated in the constitutions of the new state. But one day later the Christians rejected that by saying that, if so, we will become second-class citizens. Because of this the representatives of the Islamic movements there, including my father, Abdul Wahid Hasyim, dropped the Jakarta Charter. So now all the citizens have the same status. Now, if the decision was wrong to abrogate the intervention of the state in the implementation of Shariah that Ulamas would, of course, reject the position. But they accepted the position. So, that means we can continue to say that the Jakarta Charter is not necessary.

I realize that there are so many people, including Indonesia, who would like to see the state reflect this in the constitution. The obligation is to carry out the Shariah of Islam in one way or another. But there are still those who think that the state has no right to interfere in the religious life of each citizen who reject the Jakarta Charter, that the obligation to carry out the Shariah lies on the shoulder of the citizens of all the community, not on the state. I think this is the main problem we faced back in 1959; we already decided by 52 percent against 48 percent to reject the idea of Islamic state. I think now the number of those who would reject this Islamic state is greater. Because of this democratic trend, we have to say that Islam should develop in a cultural way in Indonesia but not in an ideological way.

Knowing this in the context of Indonesian history we can understand why there are so many people rejecting terrorism but there are also those who see Osama bin Laden as a hero. This is normal in a democratic society and I would like to see that this is something to be condoned by all of us. But I come with the idea of rejecting the use of violence because I am the follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Because of this I reject terrorism. This is very clear. In this respect democracy is a wise form of government for our people. It is very important for all of us and I will give all my life for it.

The Qur'an Recognizes Plurality
Dr. Alwi Shihab, Chairman, Nation Awakening Party, Indonesia

We bear great responsibility to remind our selves and others that Islam is not the only religion of peace, since peace is a universal religion. Historically, Islam is the last phase of a long development of revelation in history. That the prophet of Islam regarded his message to be consonant with and complementary to those of Torah and Gospel is clear from the frequent references in the Qur'an to the witness of the People of the Book to its own truth and authenticity. The Qur’an, being the main source of Islamic spirituality, repeatedly urges Muslims to reflect on its revelation. Yet the Qur’an is not meant to be simply an object of contemplation but a divinely revealed scripture whose worldview is meant to be pondered, comprehended, and implemented in society. “Will they not ponder the Qur’an, for had it been from other than God they would have found in it much discrepancy?"

The Qur’an presents itself as an ultimate source of moral guidance and social harmony among its adherents and between them and other scripture-based faith communities. The Qur’an, as we observe throughout its verses, speaks not about religions but about religious people. It must therefore be emphasized that the Qur’an recognizes the plurality of religious communities and the essential validity of their beliefs. While Jews and Christians are mentioned as “People of the Book,” they are mentioned along with other faith communities. The Islamic attitude towards the People of the Book was, from the start, one of both accommodation and confrontation. It must be added here that the Qur’an at times presents these two aspects in the same breath.

Confrontation did not, generally speaking, revolve around political or social issues, but rather strictly theological issues. However, the ideal relation envisioned by the Qur’an between Muslim and Christians is not only one of accommodation and coexistence, but of amity and mutual respect. In addition, the Qur’an recognizes the good intentions of the Christians even where it considers their actions to be in error. A clear example of this is the assertion that Christians have themselves invented monasticism, desiring by this God’s good pleasure. (57:27) This Qur’anic acceptance of difference and acknowledgement of its value is the clearest sign of tolerance and accommodation.

This call of mutual acceptance is based on the Qur’anic notion of the unity of scriptures. The Qur’an regards both the Torah and the Gospel as sources of guidance and light. The Qur’an, far more than Muslims have ever done, accepts the pluralism of religions and affirms the unity of faith. The only common elements it insists on are sincere faith in God and works of righteousness. In a rare instance where a verse occurs twice almost verbatim, it affirms this basic principle. (2:62 and 5:69)

In fact, Islam and Christianity as religions of the Book have far more in common than the theologians of either tradition have been willing to recognize or admit.

Against our thesis of religious harmony, it may be argued that the Qur’an also contains verses that foster disunity and discord. Such statements as: “O you who have faith, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies” (awliya) and “ Neither the Jews and the Christians would be pleased with you (Muhammad) unless you follow their religion.”

This ambivalence in the Qur’anic attitude is largely due, we believe, to particular circumstances and specific political problems between Muslims and the People of the Book. These verses should not in any way be used to negate the positive verses, which are in any case more numerous and more emphatic in their insistence on mutual recognition and fair dialogue between Muslims and the People of the Book.

It must be stressed, therefore, that the pursuit of interreligious dialogue and harmony should not be simply an academic one, but it should go beyond. We must be aware that we live in a religiously, culturally and ideologically pluralistic world that we can either share or destroy. We must, therefore, be selective in our choices of sacred texts and concepts, and we should give preference to those that encourage greater understanding and cooperation among the people of different faiths and ideologies. This need is specially pressing for the followers of such world religions as Christianity and Islam. Religious leaders should fully accept the charge of being highly selective in our use of religious texts to this noble end.

Furthermore, we should reflect upon the fact that by origin humankind was a single people or nation. God could have kept us all alike, monolithic. But in his wisdom he grants us diversity and plurality, not only in any given time but also throughout the ages. This diversity of many kinds tests our capacity as well as our willingness to establish harmony in difference and constructive cooperation in diversity. Still more, the Qur’an accentuates the need for unity and togetherness in our diversity as it says: “To each among you We described a Law and an Open Way. If God had so willed He would have made you a single People, but his plan is strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute.”

In conclusion, the Qur’an presents to the three Peoples of the Book a challenge and a promise. The challenge is for all of them to live by the moral and spiritual dictates of the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an. The promise is that if they do so, both the sky and earth would freely bestow on them their blessings; “were they to abide by the Torah, the Gospel and that which was sent down to them from their Lord, they would have provisions from above them and from beneath their feet” (5:66).

Can Jews, Christians and Muslims hear the voice of God to each in their own language? This is indeed the real challenge of the hour.

Complementary Rights and Responsibilities
Dr. Irawan Abidin, former Ambassador of Indonesia to the Vatican

Civic responsibility in political society, I believe, refers to the duties and responsibilities of the individual Muslim as a citizen to the society that gives him protection and provides the environment for the fulfillment of his personal potential.

As it is well known, many political concepts that have greatly influenced modern political thought had Roman and Greek origins. What is not so well known is that these concepts could have been lost to the human race during the dark ages in Europe had they not been preserved and refined by Islamic scholars. Indeed, the flourishing of political ideas during the European Renaissance and the age of Enlightenment must be credited to a large extent to Roman, Greek and Islamic scholarship.

Thus there is a great deal of political lore from which we can draw in our discussions on the relationship between the citizen and the society to which he belongs, the society having become formally organized as a nation-state.

The relationship between the citizen and society is a two-way track of rights and responsibilities. The citizen has inalienable rights, rights to which he is entitled not only by virtue of his citizenship but by virtue of the fact that he is a human being who is equal in worth to any other human being before the eyes of Allah. On the other hand, the citizen has duties and obligations to the state that he may not violate without risking the legitimate and just removal of his individual rights.

Thus the citizen has civic responsibilities to society because it has rights that political society or government must uphold and protect. We may focus on these responsibilities, but let us never for a moment forget that there are rights which give meaning to these responsibilities.

We are particularly interested in the citizen or group of citizens who happen to be Muslims. Thus, the question may arise: is there any difference between the civic responsibility of a citizen who is a Muslim and that of a citizen who is not a Muslim?

What I can say with confidence is this: The teachings of Islam have an answer to all civic and political questions and to all questions of the relationship between individual and society—for they tell us not only of Allah’s mercy and beneficence and Allah’s power and providence but also of Allah’s justice. The most effective politics is is attended by justice. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to prove this when he served as head of state and government first in Medinah and later a rapidly expanding ummah (community of believers). And before he could be the wise and just head of a wise and just government, he was a wise and just individual citizen. There is much that we can learn from his example.

Justice and Peace Are Not Always Binary Options
Dr. Mohd, ManzoorAlam, Director, Institute of Objective Studies, India

I would like to make a statement and an appeal: “Might cannot be treated as right, suspicion cannot be treated as proof or evidence, and vanity cannot be accepted as law of peace.”

The media is a powerful weapon, the weapon that is being used with great force, tact and ruthlessness to attack Islam and Muslims. People do believe what media tells them to believe, because a time comes when media, from being a carrier of a message, becomes the message itself. Today this message is that Islam is violence. This is one big fat lie which must be nailed. You must begin to nail it with your great scholarship and erudition:

  • Genghis Khan killed far more people in his life than were killed in all wars between Muslims and non-Muslims till then. And Genghis Khan was not a Muslim.
  • Far more people died in World War I than in all wars between Muslims and non-Muslims till then. And World War I was not started or fought by Islam.
  • Far, far more people died in World War II than in all wars between Muslims and non-Muslims over the entire history of Islam. World War II was not started or fought by Islam and Muslims.
  • Fascism, which claimed tens of millions of lives, was not the invention of Islam or Muslims.
  • Nazism, which devoured millions upon millions of lives, too, was not a creation of Islam. Hitler, who killed millions was not a Muslim, nor was Mussolini.
  • Not Stalin either, who killed 30 million people.
  • Nor Pol Pot, who decimated several million.
  • Nor the great torch-bearer of “civilization,” Columbus, whose “discovery of America” led to the murder of million Red Indians in cold blood and the enslavement of generations of black Africans.

Islam did not do any of these. Please remember all this before being misled by media malevolence. Intellectuals and Muslim leaders have a duty to go deeper into facts of history and analyze present trends with caution, with academic rigor and independence of thinking.

Peace, justice, freedom and equality are mainsprings and cornerstone of modern political society. All these are equally cherished as moral and spiritual values in different religions, especially in Islam. These values create space in political society:

  • Culture space
  • Identity space
  • Religion space for understanding and interaction in different sections of the society.

The dynamic force of Islam is da’wah (inviting people to Islam), and da’wah is a source of re form, sharing in thought and action, creating an environment of justice, peace, freedom, and equality. It leads to tolerance and brotherhood in the society. But in real world conditions, one is perpetually involved in making a choice between conflicting values. Those who exalt “peace” above all else, disre­garding the vital value of justice, are either naïve, hypocritical, or insensitive to injustice because of their own class, national privilege or position.

In the eyes of Islam peace is accorded a fairly high ranking in the hierarchy of values; but not so injustice. The Qur’an, and the life of Prophet Muhammad (saw) as exemplifier of each teaching, en joins on every righteous person the duty to oppose injustice and oppression to anyone anywhere. In real life, however, the option is not always binary between “justice” and “peace” or between “equality” and “freedom.” There are shades within each category that require discrimination, that is, tolerable inequality, reconciled to larger freedom and tolerable injustice reconciled to pervasive peace, and vice versa.

It is here that civic responsibility demands the Muslim, like any other committed humanist, to engage in a peaceful moral struggle to eradicate injustice from human society, which should involve him in an intellectual and leadership quest of understanding afresh what constitutes injustice, and its modalities and who and what factors are responsible for it. When to use force is again a question of choice to be transparently decided upon depending on the nature and dimension of the issue. When opting for using force, one has to weigh the pros and cons, evaluating whether it can be efficacious in achieving the goal, whether it will be possible to ob serve the ethical legal norms of no harm to noncombatants, and also whether the result would be worse anarchy and disorder than before.

In conclusion, civic responsibility in political society will never be discharged; it is endless. We Muslims understand the nature of change and the requirements of the global scenario from the Islamic perspective. It is the duty of intellectuals and Muslim leaders to sit together, to think and plan together, and work together to save humanity.

Expanding our Horizons
H.E. Hadi Nejad Hosseinian, Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations

It is our responsibility to understand the facts of our religion, and our mission to convey those facts to others. But in different times and locations, and in order to live in our time, we should understand the existing realities of our time, and differentiate between the essence of religion, which is stable, permanent, absolute and eternal, and the interpretations that we have of religion.

Today we are witnessing how some groups are being accused and thereby marginalized, the rise of xenophobia, waging war that leads to more suffering of innocent people, and remain unconcerned about the future of the world. The war in Afghanistan and increased suppression of the defenseless people of Palestine are examples of the level of crises that confront our Islamic world.

In the midst of these events, what is our responsibility as Muslims? Can we endure this injustice to our faith or should we resort to our logic? No other religion or school of thought does as much as Islam to invite humanity to uphold peace, live in coexistence, and dialogue for decisive and logical struggle against discrimination, inequality, exclusion, and coercion.

Our common message to all Divine religions is: Let us uphold what we hold common in our belief to not worship anyone but God, not to accept partners for him, and not to allow anyone from among us to take the other as his ruler, except for God.

An aware and wisdom-seeking Muslim believes in himself and his belief, and therefore can fear not the other. Tolerance is a sign of open-mindedness, and the intellectual and behavioral world of Muslims is indeed open and vast. Those who are tolerant believe in themselves and their role in the world, and they are known for their foresight. Intellectuality is compatible with foresight and open-mindedness, and tradition is jeopardized through narrow-mindedness.

The kind of tradition that assumes it has no role in this world is susceptible to violence, and the kind of intellectuality that lacks sensibility and a non-violent mindset fails. Let us try to expand our intellect and personal capacities as much as the vast horizons of Islam. Let us try to portray the rational and tolerance-based image of religion while basing ourselves on the principles of freedom in thought and dialogue in logic and behavior. Although we have suffered many unrighteous behaviors, we maintain that: “we must be loyal, patient and joyous, because in our faith, to be offended is to be a disbeliever.”

The Jakarta Declaration

PREAMBLE

We begin by invoking the blessings of Allah on this effort and with salutations on the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

We, the participants and guests of the Summit of World Muslim Leaders, gathered to uphold the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), under the theme Islam and a Future World of Peace, on 6–8 Shawwal, 1422 (21–23 December, 2001) in Jakarta, Indonesia.

We affirm that:

Islam is a religion of peace and justice. From its core values emanates respect for life and human dignity which affects all ideals and actions that determine the Islamic way of life.

These ideals guide the day-to-day life of the Muslim.

Our understanding of religion and spirituality is well defined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These resources are sufficient to resolve all challenges of this and every age, as well as all social circumstances.

The universality of the teachings of Islam affirms the sanctity of humankind, and thus enjoins us to enduring dialogue of faith and civilization.

Deliberations proceeded along three lines of inquiry: Religion and Spirituality; Civic Responsibility in Political Society; and Interfaith, Intercultural, and International Relations.

RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY

We affirm that:

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as mercy for all humankind and his message of Islam and its teachings aim to produce peace and prosperity, promote love, compassion and forgiveness, and create a humane society. It is an important source of guidance in a changing and shrinking world and must be recognized as such.

To fulfill the ideals of the Prophet (PBUH) Muslims must recognize these teachings and his example as a guiding principle of one’s moral and spiritual development.

Islam rejects violence in any form against the innocent. In fact, it promotes justice and exhorts Muslims to be just even if the injustice be against their own selves, their parents, or kinfolk. Thus, implementation of justice for and by the Muslims will be the single most important factor in the elimination of violence and terrorism. To be just is the spiritual obligation of all faiths and nations.

Muslim leaders and scholars are responsible for, and have a moral obligation to teach and promote knowledge about the fundamental ethics of Islam, thus providing the foundation for peace and peaceful coexistence and harmony in the world.

CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY IN POLITICAL SOCIETY

We affirm that:

Muslim nations must devote their energies toward education of their masses, and improvement of economic opportunities for their people. They must enhance their interaction with other Muslim countries in joint projects for the welfare of their populations.

All nations of the world must apply their energies at conflict resolution globally, and be consistent at home and abroad in their concern for justice, freedom and human rights.

In any system of government the protection of the freedoms and rights of its citizens is paramount.

INTERFAITH, INTERCULTURAL, AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

We affirm that:

Dialogue toward harmony and understanding is a Muslim religious responsibility. As a consequence, people of all faiths must acknowledge, accept, promote respect and appreciate the diversity among the different faiths and cultures.

Interfaith dialogue for the purposes of removing fear of the unknown, generating good will, and establishing mutual trust, should occur at all levels including the level of individuals, faith groups, larger communities, and globally.

Intellectual and spiritual leaders are obliged to establish en during structures of dialogue to prevent conflict among people of differing religious commitments and opinion. These leaders of all faith must convince their constituencies to work harmoniously with other groups and influence their elected or appointed leaders to promote peace and justice as the cornerstone of their agenda, policies, and practice.

CONCLUSION

We pledge to be courageous defenders of peaceful teachings and interpretation of Islam and to be exemplary peacemakers in our personal, family, and social conduct of our lives. May Allah bless this effort and forgive our shortcomings.

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