The Significance of the Amman Message
Dr. Mansoor Limba
Pakiginabi on the Amman Message
22 April 2015
Community Center of the First Companions
We seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan, in the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful. May the peace and blessings of God be upon the prophets of God, Prophet Abraham, our four Patriarchs, and his descendants from both Ishmael and Isaac.
First, I would like to extend my gratitude for this second opportunity to be invited by the Ateneo de Davao for both Intra- and Inter-faith dialogues. Here I would like to share my personal views and reflections on the importance or significance of the Amman message in both inter-faith and intra-faith dialogues.
First, I would like to lay down two points which I believe are very important for all of us. First, is that intra-faith is far more challenging than inter-faith dialogue. Meaning, for us Muslims, for us to talk among ourselves is far more difficult and in your case, more or less, it is the same. The simple reason is that among our co-religionist, there is an assumed acquaintance with the concept or notion of the absolute truth, the room of tolerance is narrower compared to inter-faith dialogue. Second point is that it is a document, hardly could a document be significant in both intra-faith and inter-faith dialogue and Amman message is one of the exceptions.
What is the Amman Message? As it was initially mentioned, it started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan, 1425 after hijjarah, corresponding to the 9th day of November 2004 by His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. In this message he actually threw three fundamental questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world, and among this 24 scholars, are included Sayyid Tantawi, Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali Sistani, Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi based in Qatar.
What are these three fundamental questions? (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? Takfir means to declare somebody as kafir. We used to read a lot about Takfiri group, meaning, a group of Muslims that is much known to declare his fellow Muslims as Kafir. And (3) Who has the right to undertake the issuing of fatwa (legal ruling)?
The posing of these three fundamental questions did not end there. In order to cement the integrity of these 24 scholars, the King of Jordan in July 2005, initiated the holding of an international Islamic conference with 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars or Ulama from 50 countries. This is one of those very rare occasions where more than 200 Muslim scholars from 50 countries were gathered. And during the many days of the conference, they arrived at 3 fundamental points which are now our main concern.
The first point is that (1) whosoever is an adherent to one of the 4 Sunni schools of thought or Madhahib (the plural of Madhab) of Islamic jurisprudence namely: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali; and the two Shi’i schools of Islamic jurisprudence namely: Ja’afari and Zaidiyyah. The Houthis, now in Yemen, for our information, belong to the Zaidiyyah school of thought.
The second point is that (2) there exist more in common between the various schools of jurisprudence than there is difference between and among them. For us Muslims, this is something that is rare to hear and now here comes the 200 scholars declaring this one.
The third point which is actually more relevant to inter-faith dialogue is this: (3) acknowledgement of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence or Madahib within Islam means adherence to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of Fatwa.
With this, what is now the significance of these three points? First, let’s point out the significance in intra-faith dialogue, meaning among the Muslims. The said document is reportedly the largest contemporary Ijma or consensus in the Muslim world. From July 2005 to July 2006, in a period of one year, it had already earned 552 endorsements from 84 countries, including those of the late King Abdullah Al Saud and 14 personalities from Saudi Arabia, including, Sayyid Tantawi of Egypt, Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali Sistani of Iraq, Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi of Qatar and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran.
As of midnight, April 20, 2015, a few days ago, there were already 63,441 online endorsements in the website of the Amman message. The last point, what is the significance of these three points in inter-faith dialogue? Meaning, the relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims or the relationship between and among the followers of different world religions.
A relevant point highlighted in the Amman message is that acknowledgement of schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Islam means adherence to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of Fatwa, in other words, only a high-ranking scholar worth his title has the authority to issue religious edict. Therefore, not any Abu Bakar, Umar, Mustafa, Ja Afat or any Muslim is religiously qualified to do so, very few are qualified to issue Fatwa. Why are we very concerned about Fatwa? Because, in the news reports now, issuance of Fatwa is usually associated with Takfir (declaring a few Muslim as Kafir, therefore his blood is worthy to be shed or the claim of a certain group of people, Muslims or non-Muslims, as committing a certain crime which is described in the Qur’an as corruption on earth).
For the safeguarding of the legal methodologies of Islam necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam’s eternal checks and balances and therefore it assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights, women’s rights, freedom of religion, legitimate jihad, good citizenship of Muslims and Non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government. It also exposes the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of Islam. As a conclusion, we cannot help but ask the question, what’s the number of prominent Muslim entities from the Philippines that have endorsed the document? At least on the online information that they have, the answer is zero, unfortunately. The question is, is it not high time now for entities such as MCFF, ARMM, MILF, MNLF and the like to consider endorsing the Amman message?
Thank you so much.