Historic ijma meeting in İstanbul

İhsan Yılmaz
İhsan Yılmaz


Date posted: May 1, 2013

İHSAN YILMAZ

Last weekend, a meeting organized by the Yeni Ümit and Hira magazines and supported by the Hizmet movement aimed to elaborate on the issue of ijma, or consensus of Islamic scholars, and collective consciousness.

This two-day meeting was titled “Ijma as a Common Roadmap and Collective Awareness.” I very much wished to attend but since I was in the US, I could not. I sense that I have missed a historic event that will be described as one of the first few events that paved the way for the emergence of the ummah as a civilian theological, but not political, entity that is in tune with modern times. My reading of Islamic sources suggests that God will be pleased with an ummah that reconciles Islam’s unchangeable fundamentals with the needs and necessities of the time. Such meetings are essential for this purpose.

In the meeting, Islamic scholars, men and women, from 80 countries exchanged views about ijma. Among the speakers of the event were Professor Ahmed Abbâdi, Muhammed Saad Ebu Bekir, former Egyptian Mufti Professor Ali Gomaa, Professor İsam Beshiri, Professor Muhammad Imara, Islamic scholar Selmân Hussein en-Nedvî and Professor Nadia Mustafa of the University of Cairo. Fethullah Gülen and Rashid al-Ghannushi also sent messages to the event organizers saying they were unable to attend because of their poor health.

Yeni Ümit, published in Turkish by the Hizmet movement, is a monthly magazine on Islamic knowledge and literature. It reaches out to around 100,000 people every month. Renowned Islamic scholars Professor Hayrettin Karaman and Suat Yıldırım are among the members of the magazine’s advisory board. Hira, the other organizer, is another magazine published by Hizmet. Hira is published in Arabic. It reaches out to people in many Islamic countries. Among the contributors to Hira are many writers, thinkers and intellectuals from the Arab world. Its editor-in-chief, Nevzat Savas, was spot-on in explaining the purpose of the meeting when he said that the Islamic world has good and solid ideas, but Muslims have difficulties exchanging these ideas. I hope that this event becomes an annual meeting of Islamic scholars and will serve as a platform for exchanging not only Islamic theological and jurisprudential ideas but also thoughts on Muslims’ and all humanity’s pressing concerns.

It may not directly come to mind but ijma, or consensus of Islamic scholars, implies the diversity and plurality of opinions, or ijtihad, of Islamic scholars. Thanks to the concept of ikhtilaf, or agreeing to disagree, as long as an agreed Islamic methodology is followed and the fundamentals of the faith are respected, conflicting opinions are considered legitimate. These two concepts, ijtihad and ikhtilaf, have helped Islamic scholars to creatively contribute to the lives of Muslims. With the help of ijma, shared opinions made sure that a unity within diversity has also been maintained.

When Islamic scholars were free of state pressure, this civilian activity reached its peak and Islamic civilization gave birth to several genius minds. Whenever ulama accepted state positions and became civil servants of the state, ceasing to be civilian scholars, this activity stagnated. One of the fatal mistakes of the Ottomans was to make ulama civil servants who lost their, to use a modern term anachronistically, checks and balances function. As a result, political leaders in the Muslim world, with some notable and honorable exceptions, have become authoritarian rulers and have acted as if Judgment Day will never come. It is thus imperative that this initiative remains a civilian platform. Politicians’ involvement will also create doubts on the intentions of such meetings. As history has shown, politicians will try to make inroads at such events or will try to create alternative, parallel ones, but this must be denounced by the Islamic scholars who must not attend similar state or politician-sponsored events.

SourceToday’s Zaman, 1 May 2013


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