The Thirteenth General Conference : Renewal in Islamic Thought
Proceeding from the crucial role of the Arab Republic of Egypt and
Al-Azhar al-Sharif, combined with historical responsibilities
towards the causes of Islam and Muslims, Egypt, represented by Al-
Azhar Al-Sharif and the Ministry of Awqaf, has undertaken the task
of convening an annual conference of the Supreme Council for
Islamic Affairs. This year's session is aiming at devising appropriate
vehicles for harmonizing and renovating Islamic thinking on the
grounds of the objectives of Shari'a and its proper guidelines in the
light of the radical changes that have occurred during recent
decades in the fields of technology, information, and
communications which are being exploited through globalization by
big power as a means of imposing its hegemony upon the whole
world without any regard for cultural identities of individual
countries including those of the Islamic world.
In this context, Egypt's Ministry of Al-Awqaf convened the
l3th General Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic
Affairs to discuss the topic of:
"Renovation of Islamic Thinking"
in Cairo during 8 - 11 Rabie Al Awwal, 1422H (31 May - 3 June,
2001) under the auspices of H. E. President Muhammad Hosni
Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the
honorary chairmanship of His Eminence the Grand Sheikh of Al
Azhar Professor Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy.
The Conference has been presided by Professor Dr. Mahmoud
Hamdy Zakzouk, Minister of Al Awqaf and Head of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Affairs.
Representatives of the following Islamic States and
Organizations participated as well:
First: Arab Countries
1. Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan
2. United Arab of Emirate
6. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Second: African Countries
5. South Africa
8. Guinea Conakry
10. Democratic Rep. of Congo
Third: Asian Countries
8. Sri Lanka
Fourth: European Countries
4. United Kingdom
Fifth: American Countries
3. United States of America
Sixth: International Islamic bodies and Oranizations
1. The League of Arab States.
2. Makkah-based Islamic World League.
3. Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
4. World Islamic Council for Da'wa and Relief.
5. World Islamic Da'wa Society (Libya).
6. International Symposium of Muslim Youths.
7. League of Islamic Universities.
The Conference was inaugurated by the speech of Egypt's
President H. E. Muhammad Hosni Mubarak which was delivered
on his behalf by Professor Dr. Mahmoud Zakzouk, Minister of Al-
Awqaf and Head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
The inaugural meeting listened to the speeches of his Eminence
the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, professor Dr. Muhammad Sayyid
Tantawy; His Eminence the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of
St. Mark, Shenouda III; Professor Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk,
Chairman of the Conference; and Professor Dr. Abdel Sabour
Marzouk, General Reporter of the Conference.
The meeting listened also to the speech given in the name of
participating delegations by Professor Dr. Abdullah Ibn Abdel
Mohsen Al-Turki, Secretary-General of Makkah-based Islamic
The Conference decided to consider the speech of H. E. President
Mubarak as an official document in recognition of the guidelines
The Conference pursued its morning and evening meetings for
three successive days. Participants discussed 79 papers submitted in
English, French or Arabic and dealing with the following main
1. Necessity and criteria of Renovation.
2. Renovation in the field of Islamic jurisprudence.
Renovation in the area of Da'wa and media.
Renaissance and Resuscitation:
The Conference set up a drafting committee to formulate its
recommendations. The Committee, chaired by Dr. Sofi Abou
Taleb and made up of the membership of the participating
delegates, was entrusted with drawing up recommendations that
dwelt on the researches presented as well as the debates and
interventions conducted. The Committee came up with the
1. Assertion that renovation, by all means, remains aloof from
impairing the inviolability of the parameters of religious teachings,
rituals, and the conclusive judgments enshrined in the Qur'an and
the Prophetic Tradition (Sunna).
It should rather be meant to indicate operation of intellect and
thinking in addressing contemporary life problems, inducted due to
variables that swept the world by and large.
The aim of this process is to deduce appropriate rulings based
on Shari'a evidence; therefore, renovation should not be feared as
giving access to notions that sound alien to Islam or suggest
unbecoming trends that appear scathing to its beliefs. It should
not be thought as adopting judgments that run counter to its
purposes merely to be dubbed as "innovative".
2. Emphasis that renovation is pinned on a firm Islam-ruled
foundation derived from the saying of Prophet Muhammad,
God's peace and blessings be upon him "Allah sends to this
Nation every one hundred years he who rejuvenates its religion".
This means that renovation is a persistent norm to secure the
vitality of Shari'a and reassure the validity of its jurisprudence to
suit everywhere and all times, as articulated according to
dignitaries and key jurists such as Al Shafei, Al Shatbi and lbn Al
Qayyim, as detailed in their books and as practised during their
3. Emphasis that renovation should not be taken as wasting or
dissipating earlier efforts of original thinkers. It should be
readapted to accommodate what seems to be in conformity with
the circumstances of the age without restriction to particular
jurisprudential views or specific doctrines.
Furthermore, their long-lasting interpretations should serve as
guidelines in the process of stipulating judgments compatible with
mutations that were not dealt with their early writings. All this
should necessarily take place within a collective framework of
sound scrutiny undertaken by jurisprudential academies or
authorities concerned in Islamic countries, and legislation should
be enacted by the legislative authority to this effect.
4. Emphasis that Islamic jurisdiction (Shari'a) principles must
constitute the fundamental source of legislation in Islamic societies
and that specialized jurisprudential council should be formed to
act as terms of reference regarding stipulations subject of
As legislation normally touches upon variables and matters of
relevance to contemporary life, notwithstanding their divergence
and diversification, it is essential that jurisprudential academies
and associations include specialists in social, political, economic,
and scientific areas besides the jurists so that newly-enacted codes
can keep abreast with ongoing developments and changes in all
these areas, while irrevocably adhering to the rules of Shari'a and
meanwhile adjusting fairly to the ever-renewing requirements of
5. Ascertaining that human rights are safeguarded pursuant to
Islamic Shari'a which provides the source of all rights and
obligations. It is no innovation to recommend the amendment of
definitive judgments relating to family affairs such as inheritance
rights, child and woman rights, as observed in Islamic Shari'a.
Whichever is contrary to Islamic jurisdiction is none of these
rights. No organization or group, whether at home or abroad, is
entitled to interfere with any matter that is connected with Sharia
provisions in force in the Islamic world.
6. The Conference appeals to whoever lives up to interpreting the
Glorious Qur'an to be committed to the criteria and controls
endorsed by Muslim Ulama and to turn down aberrant
illustrations in contrast to the nation consensus and which are
detrimental to its parameters while rendering it admissible to
benefit from well established scientific facts.
7. The Conference reaffirms adherence to the rules of the Prophetic
Sunna in force, being the second original of Islam and meanwhile
repudiates claims of skepticism concerning its credibility.
8. The Conference calls on countries with Islamic minorities to
duly respect the Islamic creed and rites and also appeals to the
Islamic minorities in these countries to abide by the rulings of
Islam and to pay tribute to the standing public order of such
9. The Conference urges Muslim Ulama to chalk out the Shari'a-
based regulations governing the lifestyle of such Islamic
minorities in view of the living conditions prevalent in the
countries they are settled in, thus making their life easier and
sparing them inconvenience besides guaranteeing good
neighborliness with the natives of these countries.
10. The Conference corroborates the necessity of reverting to
elaborative jurisprudential evidence particularly absolute
interests and norms in order to release judgments to enable
Muslims to counteract developments of the age.
11. The Conference recommends that Muslim Ulama highlight
Islamic moderation tendency revolving around fairness, mercy,
equality, and their applications as per Islamic legislation with
particular emphasis on the principle of interdependence, and
social solidarity in support of the tenacity of the Muslim family
and the righteous upbringing of young generations and in
realization of economic balance between individual and group
interests. It as well underscores bringing to attention the faith
oriented aspect of this trend of moderation and bogging down
trends that foment disbelief in religion.
12. The Conference calls on the Cairo-based Supreme Council for
Islamic Affairs to assemble and classify the universal rules which
the jurists had drawn from the Qur'an and the Sunna to avail
ourselves thereof in sorting out discretionary rulings to cope with
the developments of the age.
13. The Conference relays to Muslim Ulama the wisdom of
gaining knowledge of established scientific facts in areas of
medicine, economics, science, and technology so long they
were neither proven contradictory to conclusive judgments
nor conducive to unethical behaviour or corruptive manners.
14. The conference recommends that full care should be exercised in
identifying modes of expounding Islam to the Western world. In so
doing emphasis should be laid upon:
A - Calling to Islam is based upon sagacity and peaceful
admonition, denunciation of violence, non-coercion in
religious affairs, equal treatment for Muslims and non-
Muslims alike (equality in duties and rights).
B - Callers should be well acquainted with the native
language of the host country and the rulings of the religion
therein and the prevailing conditions in the societies
C - Asserting the fact that Islam reconciles reasoning and
faith and is liberal with original thinking in matters far from
worship and creed which are based on obedience and
D - Callers must be fully aware of controversial issues
between Islamic and Western systems such as the institutions
of inheritance, marriage, and other personal statute questions.
15. The conference recommends that greater effort be exerted
towards enhancing Arabic considering the fact that it is the
language of the Qur'an and Sunna. This would serve as a
connecting link between generations both in Arab countries
and in Islamic non-Arabic speaking countries. Arabic should
be the medium of official discourse, and cultural expression,
as well as the vehicle reaching in all educational institutions
including those of university and higher levels. It should also
take the second place of importance after native languages in
Islamic non-Arabic speaking countries.
16. The Conference recommends that all Islamic countries
and organizations take on a positive role in lifting the
sufferings of Iraq, which are sustained by innocent men,
women, and children of that country.
17. At the conclusion of their proceedings the participants
declared their support of Palestinian Intifada in the face of
aggression. They asserted that the Intifada is nothing but an
exercise of the right of self-defense and self-determination and
called upon Muslim peoples to extend every possible support
to the Intifada towards cessation of aggression and
achievement of the legitimate right of the Palestinian people
to establishing their independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif
as its capital.
Participants also drew attention of the Islamic governments
and organizations to the escalating dangers of genocide and
displacement to which Palestinian freedom-fighters have been
subjugated as well as to the violations committed against
Islamic sanctities in occupied Palestinian territories in
contravention of UN Charter and other international
agreements and instruments protecting the rights of people
under occupation. They also called upon all active players the
world over as well as the UN to adopt without delay whatever
means that could secure protection for the unarmed Palestinian
people against such threats.
May Allah graciously guide us along the path of discretion
and help us with our steps and moves towards implementing
successfully our cherished recommendations adopted at this