Islam has no central authority or church. It has been held together over the centuries and generations, across geographic, juridical and intellectual diversity, by texts and by established, authoritative interpretations of these textsâ€”starting with the Holy Qurâ€™an itself. Misinterpretation of these texts, and misunderstanding of the methodologies of their interpretation can have very dangerous consequences and can lead to an entirely different civilization from that of traditional orthodox Islam.
2. What are the greatest challenges facing Islam today?
Islam today as a religion faces many challenges and problems. Perhaps one of the greatest of these is misunderstanding and confusion about the true nature of the religion of Islam amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This misunderstanding has led to erroneous interpretations of Islamic texts and thus illegitimate religious edicts (fatwas) by people who are intellectually and morally unqualified to make religious edicts. Correcting this situation through proper understanding of the traditional Islamic texts in all their diversity and complexity is thus of profound importance to the future of Islam and Muslims.
The Amman Message started as a simple but detailed statement issued in Ramadan 1425 AH / November 2004 CE in Amman, Jordan by King Abdullah II of Jordan and senior Islamic scholars. It described what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam. It is a message of devotion to God, love of the neighbor, goodwill, moderation and peace.
4. What are The Three Points of The Amman Message?
In order to give more religious authority to the Amman Message and in order to tackle the root problem of misinterpretation in Islam, in 2005 King Abdullah II sent the following three critical questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam:
Based on the fatwas provided by these great scholars (who included the Shaykh Al-Azhar; Ayatollah Sistani and Sheikh Qaradawi), in July 2005 CE, King Abdullah II of Jordan convened an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars or ‘Ulama) from 50 countries. In Amman, the scholars unanimously issued a ruling on three fundamental issues (which became known as the ‘Three Points of the Amman Message’):
These Three Points were then unanimously adopted by the Islamic World’s political and temporal leaderships at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005. And over a period of one year from July 2005 to July 2006, the Three Points were also unanimously adopted by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies, culminating with the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah (the Islamic Worldâ€™s leading juridical body), in July 2006. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide â€”as can be seen online (at www.ammanmesage.com)â€” unanimously endorsed the Amman Message and its Three Points.
The signed, universal Islamic Consensus on the Amman Message and its Three Points is of the greatest importance because it amounts to a historical, universal and unanimous religious and political consensus (ijma’) of the Ummah (nation) of Islam in our day, and a consolidation of traditional, orthodox Islam. The significance of this is: (1) that it is the first time in over a thousand years that the Ummah has formally and specifically come to such a pluralistic mutual inter-recognition; (2) that such a recognition is religiously legally binding on Muslims since the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: My Ummah will not agree upon an error (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab al-Fitan, Hadith no.4085), and (3) that it addresses one of the most critical problems facing Muslims today: lack of agreement about what constitutes Islam, and thus lack of agreement about who is a Muslim and what is truly â€˜Islamicâ€™.
6. Is the content of the Amman Message something new in Islam?
No. There is nothing essentially new in the Amman Message, nor could there be for it to be truly authentic, for Islam is a religion revealed by God, and therefore not changeable by man. The Amman Message is merely a concrete restatement and crystallization of the common principles of traditional, orthodox, â€˜moderateâ€™ Islamâ€”in all its traditional schools of thought and lawâ€”the Islam to which over the vast, overwhelming majority of the worldâ€™s approximately 1.4 billion Muslims belong.
7. What does â€˜Ammanâ€™ have to do with the â€˜Messageâ€™?
Nothing. The name â€˜Ammanâ€™ merely comes from the fact that the Message was first launched in Jordan by the countryâ€™s king and scholars. The Message is a universal pan-Islamic one, as is seen in its acceptance by Muslims authorities from every school of thought and of law in Islam, and in its ratification by Muslims from every country and major Muslim community in the world.
8. Will it resolve all of Islamâ€™s problems? Will it help?
No, the Amman Message will not resolve all of Islamâ€™s problems: no religion can be without problems on the worldly plane, especially in the modern age. The Economist (June 28th, 2007) argues that:
This much is true: any of the Muslims who are drawn to jihadist violence, or to strident forms of political Islam, are indifferent to, or ignorant of, the nuances of theology; that makes them susceptible to â€œamateurâ€ fatwas. But as a French scholar, Olivier Roy, points out, it doesn’t follow that such peopleâ€”when presented with sophisticated religious argumentsâ€”would change their mind. In many cases, they have a general aversion to the idea of elaborate theology.
However, what proper awareness, education and understanding of the Amman Message and its Three Points, might well do, God Willing, is prevent 99.99% of Muslims from being influenced by illegitimate fatwas and sliding into takfir and terrorism, as a visceral over-reaction to poverty, injustice and mistakes in Western foreign policy. After all, God says in the Holy Qurâ€™an:
O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and let not hatred of any people make you swerve from justice. Deal justly, that is nearer to piety. Observe your duty to God. Lo! God is Informed of what ye do. (Al-Maâ€™idah, 5:8)
Finally, proper awareness of The Amman Message, may also, by exposing the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of true Islam, help in preventing calls in the West for hostility against Muslims as such. As George Yeo, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, declared in the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly (about the Amman Message): "Without this clarification, the war against terrorism would be much harder to fightâ€. It thus may help to prevent a wider conflict between the over 55% of the worldâ€™s population: approximately 2.1 billion Christians and 1.4 billion Muslimsâ€¦.
9. What could it mean for Islamâ€™s relations with non-Muslims?
The Amman Message Initiative is good news not only for Muslims, for whom it provides a basis for unity and a solution to infighting, but also for all non-Muslims. For, in safeguarding of the basic principles, texts and legal methodologies of Islam, the Amman Message necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam’s internal ‘checks and balances’. It thus assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights; women’s rights; freedom of religion; legitimate jihad; good citizenship of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government, all key issues that are essential to world peace and harmony.
In order that Amman Message not remain merely a historical agreement on basic principles, various steps are being taken to introduce it through pragmatic and institutional means, such as : (1) inter-Islamic treaties; (2) national and international legislation using the Three Points of the Amman Message to define Islam and forbid takfir; (3) the use of publishing and the multi-media in all their aspects to spread the Amman Message; (4) instituting the teaching of the Amman Message in school curricula and university courses worldwide; and (5) making it part of the training of mosque Imams and making it included in their sermons.
Whoever you are, and wherever you live, you can help by adding your voice to this unique and historic international Islamic consensus. Please visit www.ammanmessage.com, where you can read more about the Amman Message and find many useful documents and links. Under the button saying: CLICK HERE TO ENDORSE THE AMMAN MESSAGE (or on the automatic pop-up) you can add your name to the list of people worldwide who have endorsed and supported the three points. Your understanding of the Amman Message is in itself important goal. Your endorsement of the Amman Message is one way to contribute towards peace in the world.
H.R.H. Prince Ghazi, Chairman of the Amman Message Committee; July 22nd, 2007.