Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grand Mufti of Syria : There is Only A Culture of Humankind. Let's embrace it.

I was pleased that I attended the talk organized by the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies headed by Prof Dr Hashim Kamali today. The talk was moderated by Dr Chandra Muzaffar. It was a rare occasion where I was very happy to hear a religious cleric give his talk. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Deen Hassoun was invited to talk on the topic of “Challenges facing the Muslim World”.  

The following is what I understood him to say:

On Malaysia

He said that Malaysia is a good model for other nations to follow. It has achieved many things. He was very impressed with the cosmopolitan nature of Malaysian society and the diversity of its religions and races.  This, he said, demonstrated God’s creativity very clearly. God did not just create the Muslims but all the non-Muslims and atheists as well. If we examine every human being, we will find the stamp “made by God” on them! He further says that if we understand and accept God’s creativity in creating diverse religions and races, we will understand the true value of human nature.  

On Religion, politics and religious people

He opines that religious leaders should stay away from political office. This is because religion is for all humanity and politics will limit the religious leader to a small segment of the population or make him partisan. This does not mean that religious leaders should shy away from political issues as politics is very much a part of life. The role of the religious leaders should be to advise and guide the political leaders and invite everyone to peace. 

He explains that Syria has diverse religions and sects – Muslims of various sects, Christians of various sects, Aramenians (the language that Jesus spoke), Jews, Atheists, Zorasters. He was entrusted to be the Grand Mufti for all of them, and not just one group. 

He says “When I read the Quran, it pointed to one faith but many religious path. Each prophet have different paths but faith is one - different legal paths”.

We are all creations of God
He explains that religion was created to serve humankind and not the other way round. That religion came after Adam. He rhetorically asked the question: is there a Hindu world, a Muslim world, a Christian world, etc? Why don’t we just say a “human world”? Does ‘musibah’ (calamity) just befall one group and not the others? The Palestinian and Iraqi issues are human issues not a particular group's issue.

He recalls in school that he was taught only the Muslims prayed properly. Later when he read the Quran, he realized that it spoke of believers and people of faith.  All prophets from the different cultures – Noah, Shuaib, Moses, Jesus – also prayed. These are Prophets from diverse cultures. Our children were never taught about other cultures.  It was as if we ourselves are just one universe to the exclusion of the rest. When our children live in narrow circles, they get confused when they meet diversity. However, the fact is God created all of us through His creativity. Isn’t a non-Muslim a living breath that God created? He says we need to cultivate the courage and fortitude to engage others who are born in different cultures and build bridges of peace. 

Inter cultural experiences

He gave the example of how Prophet Jesus left the environment of his Armenian culture to mix with others and how Prophet Muhammad left his Arabian cultural environment to mix with others. It is through such cultural mingling that we learn because different cultures have different things to offer.  There is no harm but benefit in learning from one another. We are all of one faith but may be of different legal religious paths.
He said that the Prophet Muhammad was an example of transcending cultural barriers where he married a Coptic Christian and a Jewish woman.  However, today we are building walls and barriers between different cultures and hence in this regard, we have become more primitive.

He regards it unfortunate if human beings want to be trapped into narrow circles while the true value of humankind is its diversity. 

Muslim Unity

He said that there is too much emphasis on division between the Muslims. He rhetorically asked: ‘Was the Prophet Muhammad a Sunni or Syiah or Wahabi or anything else? He was a man of faith” . He says Muslims should learn to embrace each other and discard the divisions. He citied Europe as an example where people of differing cultures have discarded their differences and embraced unity. We should learn from their ability to do so. He prays and hopes that Asia will cooperate and unite as one.

What came across clearly was the Grand Mufti’s message that we are all the “living breath” created by God and we should embrace God’s creativity in making us diverse. The nature of humankind is simply diversity and that is God’s ‘handiwork’ which any person of faith will rejoice and celebrate. 

I wish him all the strength, peace of mind and heart to continue conveying this message of humanity to all.


[NOTE: This is my understanding of the Grand Mufti’s talk.]


Rashid Embong said...


There are quite a number of good clerics out there. Unfortunately only the mediocre ones seem to get all the attention.


Rashid Embong

mekyam said...

i hope you don't mind my posting a link to this excelllent post on my facebook status.

thanks much!

Jahamy said...


My Pleasure!