The new Mardin dec­la­ra­tion

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - S Iftikhar Mur­shed

FRI­DAY marked the fourth an­niver­sary of the adop­tion of the New Mardin Dec­la­ra­tion by glob­ally renowned Mus­lim the­olo­gians and aca­demics from across the world in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia, Turkey, In­dia, Sene­gal, Kuwait, Ye­men, Bos­nia, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Iran, Morocco and In­done­sia. They con­vened at the pic­turesque south-east­ern Turk­ish city of Mardin on March 27-28, 2010 and ac­com­plished more in a few hours than what that grotesquely inept out­fit known as the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of the Is­lamic Con­fer­ence has been able to achieve in the four decades of its fu­tile ex­is­tence.

The meet­ing, which was jointly or­gan­ised by the Ar­tuklu Univer­sity and the Global Cen­tre for Re­newal and Guid­ance, was chaired by the famed scholar and for­mer vice pres­i­dent of Mau­ri­ta­nia, Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Mah­fudh ibn Bayyih. In the two days that the con­fer­ence lasted, it crit­i­cally ex­am­ined and then ex­posed the de­lib­er­ate tex­tual dis­tor­tions of the Mardin fatwa of Taqi ad-Din Ah­mad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328). It is from the cor­rupted ver­sion of this de­cree that Al-Qaeda and its af­fil­i­ated net­works have de­rived their ide­ol­ogy which jus­ti­fies mass mur­der and de­struc­tion in the name of Is­lam.

Though the fatwa was is­sued more than 700 years ago, its rel­e­vance to the ter­ror­ism-plagued con­tem­po­rary world is undi­min­ished. This was recog­nised by the Mardin schol­ars who ac­cord­ingly de­cided "to take the fatwa from the spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal fo­cus for which it was in­tended to a broader global fo­cus and from the con­tin­gen­cies of Ibn Taymiyyah's time to a time­less un­der­stand­ing."

Ibn Taymiyyah was born in Haran, an ob­scure lit­tle town in the Mardin re­gion, and was only seven at the time of the Mon­gol in­va­sion of the area. His fam­ily, which con­sisted of some of the most well-known the­olo­gians of the times, was forced to flee to Da­m­as­cus which was then ruled by the Mam­luks of Egypt. But the dam­age in­so­far as Ibn Taymiyyah was con­cerned had al­ready been done. At that ten­der age he had wit­nessed the atroc­i­ties per­pe­trated by the Mon­gols and was trau­ma­tised. Hideous mem­o­ries of Mardin haunted him for the rest of his life.

In Da­m­as­cus he was taught Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence by his fa­ther and steeped him­self in the teach­ings of the Han­bali school of thought. Al­though Ibn Taymiyyah was soon ac­knowl­edged as the fore­most re­li­gious author­ity of his times, he also be­came con­tro­ver­sial. As early as 1293, he came into con­flict with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties for protest­ing the sen­tenc­ing of a Chris­tian on charges of blas­phemy. Five years later he was ac­cused of an­thro­po­mor­phism (as­crib­ing hu­man char­ac­ter­is­tics to God) as well as for con­temp­tu­ously crit­i­cis­ing the le­git­i­macy of dog­matic the­ol­ogy.

Around that time Ibn Taymiyyah ac­com­pa­nied a del­e­ga­tion of the ulema to Mah­mud Ghazan, the ruler of Mon­gol Em­pire's Ilkhanate branch in Iran in or­der to per­suade him to stop at­tack­ing Mus­lims. But sud­denly ghastly scenes and im­ages from his early child­hood in Mardin came back to Ibn Taymiyyah, and, un­able to res­train him­self, he told the ruler bluntly: "You claim that you are a Mus­lim and you have with you muftis, imams and sheikhs but you have in­vaded us and reached our coun­try for what? While your fa­ther and your grand­fa­ther, Hu­lagu, were non­be­liev­ers, they did not at­tack and kept their prom­ise. But you promised and broke your prom­ise."

This im­pas­sioned out­burst brought Ibn Taymiyyah to the ad­verse no­tice of the au­thor­i­ties. He was sub­se­quently jailed on sev­eral oc­ca­sions for con­tra­dict­ing the opin­ions of the jurists and the­olo­gians of his day. On the or­ders of the Mam­luk rulers of Cairo he was im­pris­oned in Da­m­as­cus from Au­gust 1319 to Fe­bru­ary 1321 for pro­pound­ing a doc­trine that cur­tailed the ease with which a Mus­lim male could di­vorce his wife. He was in­car­cer­ated again in 1326 un­til his death two years later for is­su­ing edicts that con­flicted with the think­ing of those in author­ity.

But his fame had spread far and wide and his bier was fol­lowed by 20,000 mourn­ers, many of them women who con­sid­ered him a saint. It is ironic that Ibn Taymiyyah's grave be­came a place of pil­grim­age even though he was an ex­po­nent of the fun­da­men­tal­ist strand of Is­lam and is con­sid­ered one of the prin­ci­pal fore­run­ners of the Wah­habis.

It is against this back­ground that the schol­ars at the Mardin con­fer­ence moved on to a tex­tual ex­am­i­na­tion of Ibn Taymiyyah's ac­tual de­cree. He was point­edly asked whether his beloved land, Mardin, was an abode of war (dar al-kufr) or the home of peace (dar al-Is­lam). His an­swer was that an un­prece­dented com­pos­ite sit­u­a­tion had emerged. Mardin was nei­ther an abode of peace where the Shariah pre­vailed nor was it a land of war be­cause the in­hab­i­tants of the re­gion were be­liev­ers. There­fore, he de­creed that "the Mus­lims liv­ing therein should be treated in ac­cor­dance to their rights as Mus­lims, while the nonMus­lims liv­ing there out­side the author­ity of Is­lamic law should be treated ac­cord­ing to their rights."

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