سالة عمان‎‎

“In this declaration we speak frankly to the [Islamic] nation, at this difficult juncture in its history, regarding the perils that beset it. We are aware of the challenges confronting the nation, threatening its identity, assailing its tenets (kalima), and working to distort its religion and harm what is sacred to it. Today the magnanimous message of Islam faces a vicious attack from those who through distortion and fabrication try to portray Islam as an enemy to them. It is also under attack from some who claim affiliation with Islam and commit irresponsible acts in its name.”

Islam has no central authority, church, and global sacerdotal hierarchy. The signatories of the Amman declaration considered important to affirm the validity of diverse schools of Islamic law and thought in an attempt to bring some cohesion and common ground to the Islamic World, the Ummah.

The Amman Message has been criticized by Sunni Barelvi groups. CIFIA, a Sunni Barelvi group based in Hyderabad regards the message as contrary to the teachings of Islam. Suhail Nakhouda, writing in the Amman-based Islamica, stated that the Amman message did little to effectively address ongoing problems.
Despite the ecumenical nature of the Amman Message, since it was issued there has been a marked decline in Shia-Sunni relations as a result of increased sectarian conflict in such countries as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.

Muslim unity is the major theme of the document. But disagreement has emerged among Sunnis and Shias over the document.

Document encourages Muslim teachers to cushion off their youths against extremism in religion and condemns terrorist activities which have given Islam a bad image globally. Document portrays positive attitude towards science and dialogue with other communities and this may likely generate opposition to it. As expected some groups have roundly criticized the document.

The Amman Message (Arabic: رسالة عمان‎‎) is a statement calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world that was issued on 9 November 2004 (27th of Ramadan 1425 AH) by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.[1] Subsequently, a three-point ruling was issued by 200 Islamic scholars from over 50 countries, focusing on issues of defining who is a Muslim, excommunication from Islam (takfir) and principles related to delivering religious edicts (fatāwa).[2]

Despite the ecumenical nature of the Amman Message, since it was issued there has been a marked decline in Shia-Sunni relations as a result of increased sectarian conflict in such countries as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.

Islam has no central authority, no church and no sacerdotal caste. It is and has been held together over history by texts—starting with the very word of God, the Holy Qur’an, and the sayings or hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him—and common practices. Whilst all Muslims have a basic, fundamental common ground, each branch of Islam, each school of jurisprudence (Mathhab) and each school of Islamic thought have their own distinct legal methodologies, authoritative interpretations of the Qur’an, canonical collections of hadith, and recognized (formally or informally) contemporary authorities. Thus in order to bring about an universal Islamic consensus on a given subject or situation it is necessary not only that it be inherently compatible with Islam’s fundamental texts, but also, practically speaking, that the leading recognized authorities from all the branches, Mathhabs and schools of thought of Islam endorse and recognize it as being fundamentally truly Islamic.

After the death of the Prophet—may peace and blessings be upon him—Islam spilt into two large branches (Sunnis and Shi’as) and one small one (the Kharwarij). Today, the Sunnis comprise around 88 per cent of all Muslims, the Shi‘a around 11 per cent, and the radical Khawarij no longer exist, and have been replaced by the Ibadhis who comprise less than 1 per cent of all Muslims. The Ibadhis survive only in Oman and the Southern Sahara. The Shi’a are divided into 3 branches: the majority Ja’fari Shi‘a who are concentrated in Iran and Iraq (with some minorities into the Arabian Gulf, Syria and Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan); the Ismaili Shi’a who are spread out over Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, East Africa, North America and elsewhere; and the Zeidi Shi’a who are concentrated in the Yemen. The Sunnis are everywhere the majority except Iran, Iraq and parts of the Arabian Gulf.

These three main divisions of Islam then developed their own schools of juridical methodology (Mathhabs) and consequently of Islamic holy law (Shari’ah): the Sunnis developed four major Madhhabs (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i and Hanbali,) dating back to around 800 CE; the Shi‘a developed two major Madhhabs (the Ja‘fari Madhhab — the so-named ‘Twelvers’, named for the number of their infallible Imams; and the Zeidi Madhhab — the so-named ‘Fivers’, likewise named for the number of their imams). The Ismaili Shi’a (the ‘Seveners’—so-named because of the number of their infallible imams) have two branches: (A) the Dawudi Buhara who follow the fiqh of Qadi Nu’man and thus are basically Shafi’i with some Ja’fari fiqh under the aegis of their Chief Dai’i, the Sultan of the Buhara, and (B) the Nizaris who follow their living Imam, the Aga Khan, and (see letter of the 49th Aga Khan to the International Islamic Conference of July 2005) affirm loyalty to the Ja’fari Mathhab. The Ibadhis developed their own Madhhab, and mention must be made of the Thahiri Madhhab which developed in Muslim Andalusia (there are no Thahiris as such alive today but scholars still consider the methodology of Madhhab as valid). These together formed the so-called ‘eight Madhhabs’ of Islam.

Within the eight Madhhabs of Islam, which are Juridical schools and not necessarily doctrinal ones (‘aqidah) necessarily, there are different schools of thought. Most Sunnis of the four Madhahib—with the notable exception of the Salafis/Wahabis (who are Hanbali of origin but have their own distinct formulation of Sunni ‘aqidah)—follow the Ash’ari-Maturidi (despite slight differences, the two are essentially one tradition) theology and ‘aqidah. Mention must then be made of the Sufis (perhaps a quarter of Sunnis are associated with Sufism in one form or another—legitimate Sufism being typified by the writings of Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali) and the students of Irfan. These are not followers of new legal schools — quite the contrary, the Sufis are fully Sunni, and the students of Irfan are fully Shi‘a — but rather mystics within those legal schools: they are, in theory at least, the ascetics of Islam—their principle concern being to intensify the remembrance (dhikr) of God.

Finally, as regards ‘religious orientations’ it might be said that these are basically of three different kinds: (1) ‘traditionalists’ who respect the Madhhabs as described above (at least 95 % of all Muslims could be described as such); (2) ‘fundamentalists’ who basically want to do away with 1400 years of Islamic tradition and practice in the name of ‘going back to’ (what they imagine to be) the age of the Prophet—may peace and blessings be upon him (less than 5% of all Muslims could be described as such), and (3) modernists who basically want to do away with 1400 years of Islamic tradition in the name of ‘keeping up with modern times’ (these are less than 1% of all Muslims, mostly Westernized, wealthier and with secular academic educations ).

About arnulfo

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