On October 12th 38 highly respected and theologically diverse clerics from the Muslim world wrote what is widely considered a respectful and engaging “Open Letter” to the Pope in response to his controversial comments about Islam made during his Regensburg address in September. Not only was the letter of historical significance, but it also represented an articulate and reasoned invitation to dialogue from Muslims with the Papacy on matters of theology and faith. The signatories included top scholars from Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, the United States, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Kosovo, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.
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Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI by 38 Leading Muslim Scholars and Leaders.
In an unprecedented move, an open letter signed by 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world was sent to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 12, 2006. The letter, which is the outcome of a joint effort, was signed by top religious authorities such as Shaykh Ali Jumu‘ah (the Grand Mufti of Egypt), Shakyh Abdullah bin Bayyah (former Vice President of Mauritania, and leading religious scholar), and Shaykh Sa‘id Ramadan Al-Buti (from Syria), in addition to the Grand Muftis of Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Istanbul, Uzbekistan, and Oman, as well as leading figures from the Shi‘a community such as Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri of Iran. The letter was also signed by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan and by Muslim scholars in the West such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf from California, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Professor Tim Winter of the University of Cambridge.
All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories, including a woman scholar. In this respect the letter is unique in the history of interfaith relations.
The letter was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian”, including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam. They engage the Pope on an intellectual level concerning these crucial topics—which go well beyond the controversial quotation of the emperor—pointing out what they see as mistakes and oversimplifications in the Pope’s own remarks about Islamic belief and practice.
The Muslim signatories appreciate the Pope’s personal expression of sorrow at the Muslim reaction and his assurance that the words of the Byzantine emperor he quoted did not reflect his personal opinion. By following the Quranic precept of debating “in the fairest way”, they hope to reach out so as to increase mutual understanding, reestablish trust, calm the situation for the sake of peace, and preserve Muslim dignity.
Christianity and Islam make up more than half of humankind in an increasingly interconnected world, the letter states, and it is imperative that both sides share responsibility for peace and move the debate towards a frank and sincere dialogue of hearts and minds which furthers mutual understanding and respect between the two religious traditions. Indeed, the scholars point out, both religions teach what Christianity calls “the two greatest commandments”. The commandment that “the Lord our God is one Lord” and that we shall love Him with all we are is enshrined in the first testimony of faith in Islam, “There is no god but God.” The second commandment “to love thy neighbor as thyself” is also found in the words of the Prophet, “None of you believes until he desires for his neighbor (in another version, his brother) what he desires for himself.” The signatories also point out the positive contacts the Vatican has had with the Islamic world in the past, with a hope that they will continue and even grow in the future.
(listed in alphabetical order)
1. H.E. Allamah AbdAllah bin Mahfuz bin Bayyah
Professor, King AbdAl-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia
Former Vice President; Minister of Justice; Minister of Education and Minister of Religious Affairs, Mauritania
2. Professor Dr. Allamah Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan Al-Buti
Dean of Department of Religion, University of Damascus, Syria
3. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çagˇrıcı
Grand Mufti of Istanbul
4. H.E. Shaykh Professor Dr.Mustafa Ceric
Grand Mufti and Head of Ulema of Bosnia and Herzegovina
5. H.E. Shaykh Ravil Gainutdin
Grand Mufti of Russia
6. H.E. Shaykh Nedžad Grabus
Grand Mufti of Slovenia
7. Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Mashhour bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafeez
Imam of the Tarim Mosque and Head of Fatwa Council, Tarim, Yemen
8. Shaykh Al-Habib Umar bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafeez
Dean, Dar Al-Mustafa, Tarim, Yemen
9. Professor Dr. Farouq Hamadah
Professor of the Sciences of Tradition, Mohammad V University, Morocco
10. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson
Founder and Director, Zaytuna Institute, California, USA
11. H.E. Shaykh Dr.Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun
Grand Mufti of the Republic of Syria
12. Dr. Shaykh Izz Al-Din Ibrahim
Advisor for Cultural Affairs, Prime Ministry, United Arab Emirates
13. H.E. Professor Dr. Omar Jah
Secretary of the Muslim Scholars Council, Gambia
Professor of Islamic Civilization and Thought, University of Gambia
14. Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abideen Al-Jifri
Founder and Director, Taba Institute, United Arab Emirates
15. H.E. Shaykh Professor Dr.Ali Jumu‘ah
Grand Mufti of the Republic of Egypt
16. Professor Dr.Abla Mohammed Kahlawi
Dean of Islamic andArabic Studies, Al-AzharUniversity (Women’s College), Egypt
17. Professor Dr.Mohammad Hashim Kamali
Dean, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Malaysia
Professor of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, International Islamic University, Malaysia
18. Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller
Shaykh in the Shadhili Order and Senior Fellow of Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (Jordan), U.S.A.
19. H.E. Shaykh Ahmad Al-Khalili
Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman
20. Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Kubaisi
Founder of the Ulema Organization, Iraq
21. Allamah Shaykh Muhammad bin Muhammad Al-Mansouri
High Authority (Marja’) of Zeidi Muslims, Yemen
22. Shaykh Abu Bakr Ahmad Al-Milibari
Secretary-General of the Ahl Al-Sunna Association, India
23. H.E. Dr. Moulay Abd Al-Kabir Al-Alawi Al-Mudghari
Director-General of the Bayt Mal Al-Qods Al-Sharif Agency,
Former Minister of Religious Affairs, Morocco
24. H.E. Shaykh Ahmad Hasyim Muzadi
General Chairman of the Nahdat al-Ulema, Indonesia
25. H.E. Professor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Washington D.C, U.S.A.
26. H.E. Shaykh Sevki Omerbasic
Grand Mufti of Croatia
27. H.E. Dr.Mohammad Abd Al-Ghaffar Al-Sharif
Secretary-General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Kuwait
28. Dr. Muhammad Alwani Al-Sharif
Head of the European Academy of Islamic Culture and Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
29. Shaykh M. Iqbal Sullam
Vice General-Secretary, Nahdat al-Ulema, Indonesia
30. Shaykh Dr.Tariq Sweidan
Director-General of the Risalah Satellite Channel
31. Professor Dr. H. R. H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal
Chairman of the Board of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Jordan
32. H.E. Ayotollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri
Secretary General of the World Assembly for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thoughts (WAPIST), Iran
33. H.E. Shaykh Naim Trnava
Grand Mufti of Kosovo
34. H.E. Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Uthman Al-Tweijri
Director-General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Morocco
35. H.H. Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani
Vice President, Dar Al-Ulum, Karachi, Pakistan
36. H.E. Shaykh Muhammad Al-Sadiq Muhammad Yusuf
Grand Mufti of Uzbekistan
37. Shaykh Abd Al-Hakim Murad Winter
Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Divinity School, University of Cambridge, U.K.
Director of the Muslim Academic Trust, U.K.
38. H.E. Shaykh Muamer Zukorli
Mufti of Sanjak, Bosnia