Article by Tengku Hasan di Tiro, leader-in-exile of the Acehnese Islamic movement GAM, published in Crescent International, March 16-31, 1987. Reprinted in Issues in the Islamic movement, vol. 7, 1987 (1405-06), pp. 171-173.
The annual world seminars: proof of the Ummah’s unity
By Tengku Hasan M. di Tiro
I am distressed by the news that there will be no world seminar in London this year. The Muslim Institute’s world seminars, held regularly for several years, had produced a sustained track record of accomplishment that is unique and unexcelled in the recent history of the Islamic world. The hundreds of scholarly articles, essays and academic papers that had been written exclusively for the seminars are living testimony that the worldwide Islamic movement exists and is alive and well. Such dynamism and vitality are not seen in other religious, cultural, non-governmental organizations in the world today.
Of particular interest is the fact that those ulama, intelligentsia and writers participating in the work of the seminars came from all schools of thought and from all madhahib of Islam. Thus the seminars were dramatic reassertions in flesh, blood and thought, here and now, of Islamic unity, presenting exhilarating glimpses of the early, original Islam at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. It was at that early period when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had pronounced and decreed: ‘Today We completed for you your religion. We vouchsafed for you Our blessing and We are satisfied to make Islam your religion’ (5:3).
Thus Islam had already been completed during the lifetime of the Prophet and no new permissible or impermissible items may be added or subtracted from the list already enacted and completed then. The madhahib did not surface until two to four hundred years after the death of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and of all the sahabah. And yet it was these madhahib that had been made instrumental in splitting the Ummah, although Allah had clearly warned about the consequences of such splitting and quarrelling: ‘Do not quarrel amongst yourselves because that will make you fail and will result in the loss of your power and influence.’
The London seminars had demonstrated how easy it would be, provided there is a will, to return to the original Islam, to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, that is, to the complete unity of the Ummah. Allah’s commandment, ‘Hold fast to the religion of Allah and do not quarrel among yourselves’ (3:110) is workable here and now. Thus the London seminars had set the practical example as well as provided a theoretical framework for the unity of the Ummah as it was meant to be. Such endeavours will go down in history well and will not fail to create an impact of their own.
Therefore, the London seminars have worked well as a successful laboratory where the theoretical and the practical aspects of the problem of the unity of the Ummah have been tested, applied, and pronounced workable.
Moreover, this London experiment in the unity of the Ummah has an added significance and meaning because it has been conducted at a point in time when the Ummah is probably most divided, most shattered, dispersed, and demoralized: when the Ummah has been divided by the might of the kuffar, into some 45 nation-States with each State claiming ‘national’ instead of Allah’s sovereignty over His territory. Such a fraudulent claim is in fact involving even more fraud because the pretended sovereignty of the artificial nation-State is in fact the sovereignty of the western colonial powers that had imposed the demarcation lines in the first place by force of their arms; when some parts of the Ummah have been subjected to oppression and enslavement, such as Palestine by Israel and the US, Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, Acheh Sumatra by Javanese Indonesia, Pattani by Thailand, Moro by the Philippines, Kashmir by India; when some parts of the Ummah have been attacked by the other parts, such as Iran by Iraq, West Sahara by Morocco, Palestinians by Lebanese nationalists; when the Ummah has been divided into Sunni and Shi’i camps; and the Sunnis are further divided into four, then eight, then sixteen, then thirty two sects, ad infinitum; when the Shi‘i also divided into so many little sects and sections; when each kufr-created nation State has its own mufti, and every mufti issues his own fatwa making halal what Allah had made haram, and making haram what Allah had made halal. Even to Shaikh ul-Azhar it has had to be said: ‘No, ya Shaikh Azhar, No,’ by our most esteemed brother-in-Islam, Dr Al Sayed Fahmi Elhinnawy of Egypt.
Maybe this is the time referred to by Khalif/Imam Ali bin Abi Talib when he said: ‘There will come a time when there will be nothing left of the Qur’an except its printed pages, and when nothing will be left of Islam except its name. Then the mosques will be luxuriously built but empty of any real guidance. Those who will be visiting them are the worst kind of people on earth: they are the source of all fitna and wrongdoings… And we must distance ourselves by the Grace of Allah from such forgetfulness.’
It was precisely at such a time, as it were, that the London seminars had emerged, giving such forceful messages, showing such brilliant examples of the unity of the Ummah in the midst of global disunity. It was a demonstration of the art of the possible by the finest elements in the world of Islam.
Such an example cannot be ignored except by the blind, the deaf and the dumb. Such an example represents a flickering light, a ray of hope, in the otherwise total darkness in the world of Islam at the beginning of this fifteen century of the hijrah. It must be a personal duty of every aware Muslim in the world today to see to it that the seminars go on!
Crescent International, March 16-31, 1987.