(VI) The Importance of the Universal Consensus (Ijma’) on the Amman Message and its Three Points

(VI)(i) The Main Problem besetting the Ummah Today

Now in our day the main problem besetting the Ummah is disunity and thus weakness. Muslims are weak and unable to protect themselves. They are unable to lift their children out of abject poverty and misery, and unable to save them from danger, ill-health, malnutrition and inadequate education. Muslims are now unfortunately passing through the time about which the Prophet—may peace and blessings be upon him—spoke as follows:

‘The nations will summon each other upon you as you call guests to eat from a plate of food,’ they said ‘Will we be few in number on that day O Messenger of God?’ He said, ‘No, rather you will be many on that day, but you will be [disunited and weak] like the foam on the ocean. And God will remove the fear in the hearts of your enemies and place in your hearts al-wahan.’ They said, ‘What is al-wahan O Messenger of God?’ He said, ‘Love of this world and hatred of death.’ 14

Now our worldly weakness, disunity and inability to even protect ourselves is linked by the Prophet—may peace and blessings be upon him—to spiritual weakness, worldliness and forgetfulness of God and the next world. Indeed, success and strength in the world is predicated upon spiritual strength and sincerity of devotion to God. God says in the Holy Qur’an:

Whoso desireth the reward of the world, (let him know that) with God is the reward of the world and the Hereafter. God is ever Hearer, Seer. (Al-Nisa, 4:134)

Moreover, God says in the Holy Qur’an:

… And to help believers is ever incumbent upon Us. (Al-Rum, 30:47)

We note that God does not say that it is incumbent upon Himself to help Muslims (Muslimeen); rather, He says that it is incumbent upon Himself to help believers (Mu’mineen). Thus—and God knows best—God’s help (and therefore certain strength and success) is predicated upon the degree of sincerity and strength of our faith. Conversely, continued failure, weakness and disunity in the world is thus a sure sign of our weakness in faith. The main problem besetting is thus surely is weakness and disunity, caused by weakness of faith.

(VI)(ii) Resolving the Main Problem besetting the Ummah Today

If weakness of faith makes us divided and lacking in defenses, and that is the main problem besetting the Ummah, then it follows that strength of faith and unity of the Ummah are the solution to its problem. One cannot, however, impose sincerity and strength of faith on the Ummah: God said, speaking to the Prophet himself—may peace and blessings be upon him:

Lo! thou (O Muhammad) guidest not whom thou lovest, but God guideth whom He will. And He is Best Aware of those who walk aright. (Al-Qasas, 28:56)

Indeed, God does not aid those who do not make any effort to change themselves:

…. Lo! God changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts. (Al-Ra’ad, 13:11)

However—as the verse above also indicates—it is nevertheless possible for Muslims themselves individually to work to increase, with God’s grace, their own sincerity and faith, through practicing righteous deeds, virtue and piety. God says in the Holy Qur’an:

Lo! those who believe and do good works, their Lord guideth them by their faith. Rivers will flow beneath them in the Gardens of Delight. (Yunus, 10:9)

Lo! God is with those who keep their duty unto Him and those who are doers of good. (Al-Nahl, 16:128)

Moreover, the very practice of piety and righteous deeds itself brings about solutions from God to all possible problems:

…And whosoever keepeth his duty to God, God will appoint a way out for him / And will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. And whosoever putteth his trust in God, He will suffice him. Lo! God bringeth His command to pass. God hath set a measure for all things. (Al-Talaq, 65:2-3)

As for him who giveth and fears [God] / And believeth in goodness / Surely We will ease his way unto the state of ease. (Al-Layl, 92:5-7)

Lo! those who say: Our Lord is God (Allah), and afterward are upright, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not nor grieve, but hear good tidings of the paradise which ye are promised. / We are your protecting friends in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There ye will have (all) that your souls desire, and there ye will have (all) for which ye pray. (Fusilat, 41: 30-31)

What can be done to facilitate this, to help Muslims help themselves through righteous deeds, piety and virtue, is to acquire and spread true knowledge of Islam and virtue, and to combat religious ignorance and misguidance:

And the believers should not all go forth. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware. (Al-Tawbah, 9:122)

Keep to forgiveness [O Muhammad], and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant. (Al-A’raf, 7:199)

Then, as quoted by the July 2005 International Islamic Conference, direct efforts at uniting the Ummah—accompanied by piety and virtue—can and must be made:

The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren and fear God that perhaps ye may obtain mercy. (Al-Hujurat, 49:10).

In summary then, what can be done practically speaking to help resolve the main problem besetting the Ummah is to practice virtuous and pious deeds to overcome our spiritual weakness, to work to dispel ignorant discourse and to unite and make peace between Muslims. This is contained in the following sacred verse, quoted at the beginning of this chapter:

There is no good in much of their secret conferences save (in) whosoever enjoineth charity and fairness and peace-making among the people; and whoso doeth that, seeking the good pleasure of God, We shall bestow on him a vast reward. (Al-Nisa’, 4:114)

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(VI)(iii) The Goal of the Amman Message and its Three Points

The goal of the Amman Message and its Three Points is, by the grace of God, to do precisely what was mentioned above as the solution to the main problems of the Ummah: the Amman Message itself aims to dispel ignorance about Islam, and is a call to virtue, piety, mutual acceptance and fairness. The aims of its Three Points (on takfir, the Mathhabs and fatwas) are: (1) to stop the practice of declaring other Muslims as apostates for secondary doctrinal disputes (real or imaginary) thereby criminally depriving them of their rights, making it licit for others to kill them and creating strife (fitna) in the Ummah. (2) To have all Muslims recognize each other, thereby naturally making the Ummah more united and hence stronger. And (3) to stop—or at least expose—incorrect fatwas by ignorant and unqualified people which misguide Muslims into all manner of dangerous, destructive and sinful ideas, and consequently modes of behavior and actions.

Moreover, by specifically safeguarding the very methodologies of Islamic Law—the Mathahib, which function to coherently resolve ostensible (but not real) conflicting or dialectical indications from the Qur’an and the hadith (the root sources of the Shari’ah) and extract plausible (if varying) conclusions—the Three Points of the Amman Message work to safeguard the whole Shari’ah and consequently the whole of Islamic civilization (at least in principle). In other words, recognizing and safeguarding the Mathahib means not only safeguarding the Muslims who follow them, but also preserving the internal intellectual cohesion of Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) and consequently assuring its practical outcomes in the form of balanced religious rulings. Like sound logic based on sound premises, sound Mathahib (the word in Arabic literally means ‘points of departure’), based on Revelation (Qur’an) and on inspiration (hadith) are bound to lead to sound conclusions. The Mathahib are thus like trees that give the fruits of Islamic Law from the sacred base of Revelation and inspiration. God says:

Seest thou not how God coineth a similitude: A goodly word, as a goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into heaven, / Giving its fruit at every season by permission of its Lord? God coineth the similitudes for mankind in order that they may reflect. / And the similitude of a bad word is as a bad tree, uprooted from upon the earth, possessing no stability. / God confirmeth those who believe by a firm saying in the life of the world and in the Hereafter, and God sendeth wrong-doers astray. And God doeth what He will. (Ibrahim, 14:24-27)

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(VI)(iv) The Importance of the Amman Message and its Three Points

The importance of the Amman Message and its Three Points is: first that, as seen and discussed earlier, it contains—if God wills—an exact, powerful and pragmatic remedy to the ills of the Ummah of Islam, rooted in religious principles. Second, that there has already been—by the grace of God—as mentioned at the onset, a historical, unique and religiously authoritative universal Islamic unanimous consensus upon it by both the Ummah’s highest political and religious leaders. It is thus potentially an extremely important tool to bring about peace, reconciliation, unity and hence development, prosperity and strength in the Islamic world. It is so especially because, as will later be discussed, it also inherently but necessarily contains all that is necessary (from the Muslim side at least) for peace and good relations between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

However, for these things to come about, it is evidently necessary—if God wills—to ‘implement’ and ‘disseminate’ the basic ideas of the Amman Message. Without application, even with a universal Islamic consensus upon it, the Amman Message and its Three Points will inevitably remain a theoretic and academic construct. Moreover, since, in another sense, the Amman Message contains no essentially new intellectual content (and could not, for then it would be a heresy), but merely affirms, publicizes and gathers a consensus upon true traditional, orthodox, pluralistic Islam, it changes nothing in itself: after all, whatever various Muslim groups say about each other in theory, all Muslims are allowed to go on Hajj where they accept each other amicably (and therefore recognize each other in practice) and all Muslim countries—or rather countries with a plurality of Muslims in them—are allowed to join the O.I.C., and participate in other Muslim organizations. It is true that rights of certain groups of Muslims are sometimes not respected by other groups in Muslim countries, but it is also true that no government of a Muslim country (at least to the knowledge of the present author) will officially deny that a group of its citizens are Muslims, if those citizens do not do so themselves first. In other words, there has always been to a certain extent a de facto unspoken recognition of the principles of the Amman Message. The Amman Message has given this unspoken recognition voice, form and credibility. However, in order to make a real difference these principles must be consciously and deliberately implemented everywhere.