To the Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America
3 September 2005
I am honoured to have this opportunity to address the 42nd Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America.
You meet at a crucial moment in history, a crossroads for the entire international Islamic community. Together we face serious choices. Together we must find the right path. Be we Arab, American, Persian, Turkish, from the subcontinent, Indonesian, Malaysian, African, European, Chinese, or of any other land, it is time for us to return to the traditional teachings of Islam, time to apply the principles espoused by God and His blessed Messenger – peace and blessings be upon him – to the issues of our day.
The American Muslim community provides a unique example of how Muslims throughout the world can join together. Among you are Muslims from every nation. Indeed, perhaps the only other place to see such diversity of the Muslim community is at the annual Hajj in Makka Al Mukarrama. This is a sign upon which we must all reflect, for as God says in the Holy Quran: "We have made you peoples and tribes that you may come to know one another".
In Jordan, we have been working with the international Islamic community in the struggle to oppose extremist interpretations of Islam. The greatest enemies of Islam are those who distort the teachings bestowed upon us by God and His Messenger, 'alayhi as-salaatu wa-s-salaam. It is time for us to stand together, to reaffirm what the greatest scholars of our tradition have said: no Muslim can call another Muslim a non-believer. Whichever of the eight great schools of jurisprudence you follow – Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali, Ja'fari, Zaydi, Ibadi, or Zhahiri – you are a Muslim. Your life, honour and property cannot be violated. In Jordan last July, these principles were confirmed by over 180 top scholars from around the world. They came from 45 countries, representing all the Mathahib of Sunni, Shi'ite and Ibadi Islam – and all Islam's currents, including Sufism. They also took an important step by reaffirming the traditional qualifications for issuing a fatwa. We have all heard extremists try to justify their political agendas, by issuing pseudo-fatwas. These distort Islam. It is our responsibility, before God, before His Messenger and before our fellow human beings, to denounce those who betray the Islamic tradition. If we remain silent, we are complicit in their guilt.
No matter what insults or offences Muslims may have suffered, nothing justifies taking innocent lives, no matter what religion or nationality they may be. Our way is to follow the Holy Quran and the sunna of the Prophet Mohammad – peace and blessings be upon him. Even if we are offended or wronged, we must remember that God Himself has commanded us:
"Let not the hatred of the people – because they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque – incite you to transgress. Help one another in goodness and reverence, and do not help one another in sin and aggression."
And: "O ye who believe, be upright for God, witnesses in justice; and let not the hatred of a people cause you to be unjust. Be just — that is closer to piety."
To bring this message of forgiveness and reconciliation is part of our role in the world, not only among Muslims, but among all humankind. Only in this way can true justice, and the peace that derives from justice, be achieved.
The Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – has told us: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." I hope that you all will continue to work with your fellow Americans, using the channels available to you, in a free and open society – a society where all Muslims are legally free to openly practice their religion – to bring to fruition these teachings of the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – so that all may benefit from them.
May Allah bless you all. Our whole Umma has high hopes in Allah and in you.
Thank you. Peace be upon you.