By Mustafa Abu Sway, John l. Esposito
On Nov. 15th, 2010 (the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, 1431 AH), the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Āl Al-Sheikh, delivered the Hajj sermon at the Namirah Mosque on Mount Arafat on the outskirts of Mecca, where millions of Muslims gather on the day that is considered the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage.
The Grand Mufti’s sermon addressed many issues that are of concern to Muslims and non-Muslims alike: prohibiting terrorism and foreign occupation of Muslim countries and appealing to Europeans and Americans to take an active role against Islamophobia in their countries.
(Muslim pilgrims pray at Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca. (Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images)
Building his case against terrorism began with Quranic references to the universality of Islam, the oneness of God, the belief in all prophets and messengers on equal terms, and that humanity was not created in vain. In addition to the system of belief, revelation brought practical guidance to humanity clarifying two distinct paths, good and evil. The Grand Mufti reminded Muslims of several verses from the Qur’an that advocate a paradigm of convivencia, the antithesis of the “Clash of Civilization:” the same origin of all human beings, nations and tribes, and that they are invited to know each other regardless of their backgrounds (49:13); to be God-conscientious and to cooperate in advancing that which is good and wholesome, not to help one another in sin and aggression (5:2); and that Muslims are a moderate and middle path community that should lead a balanced and harmonious life, spiritual and otherwise (2:143), in accordance with Islamic worldview.
In detailing the worldview and values that should be upheld by the Muslim community, the Grand Mufti mentioned “absolute justice between Muslim and non-Muslim, kindred and non-relatives, friend and foe.” It should renounce “extremism and excessiveness in religion” for Islam is a “religion of mercy and tolerance, rejecting severity and violence in all forms.” The “mercy of Islam encompasses the pious and wrongdoer, and the Muslim and the non-believer.” Islam confirms the dignity of the human being; it prohibits shedding the blood of the Muslim or the covenanted non-Muslim. He cited a saying of the Prophet: “He who kills a covenanted non-Muslim will not enter paradise.” (Hadith)
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Āl Al-Sheikh stressed that Islam “criminalizes terrorism in all its forms, and calls for a peaceful and secure society in which all people could live, without external wars or internal strife.” It prohibits all kinds of assault on the human being, regardless of his race or ethnicity. He questioned the faith of those Muslims who commit acts of terrorism, indicating that true faith does not permit the shedding of blood, destruction of public property.
Reflecting on the relationship between terrorism and foreign occupation, the Grand Mufti said: “In as much as Islam prohibits and criminalizes terrorism and undermining security, it also prohibits the occupation of other countries and injustice that befell their population.” Those vulnerable people who suffer from foreign occupation had their homes destroyed while they were inside, killing the innocent people. He also stated that Muslim women are sexually assaulted by the occupying forces.
Addressing the context of foreign occupation in which terrorism emerges, he emphasized that one does not respond to terrorism with terrorism, to killing with killing and to violence with violence. The causes of terrorism should be dealt with as part of the solution.
Towards the end of his sermon, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Āl Al-Sheikh criticized the culture of globalization that permits the strong countries to exploit weak ones and suppress their culture. He appealed to the peoples of Europe and the USA, but not to their governments: “for a long time we hear you talking about human rights, justice and fairness, and this is exactly what we wish for. We uphold and confirm these principles. In as much as you do not accept attacks on your countries or security, how could you accept attacks on others, and forcing them to leave their homelands?” He asked that they end belligerent policies. He also referred to the rise in Islamophobia and how this runs contrary to the values that Europeans and Americans call for, and that there should be no double standards.
Sheih Abdul Aziz also emphasized that terrorism is not the only problem that faces humanity for there is poverty, unemployment, diseases, and natural disasters and that all peoples should return to God as part of the solution to all of these problems.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Āl Al-Sheikh’s sermon continued that of a long tradition of scholars who have addressed pilgrims ever since the Prophet Muhammad at the foot of Mt. Arafat more than 14 centuries ago, offering a constructive roadmap for Muslims and Muslim-West relations.