In Conversation with Syrian Grand Mufti
Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin Mohammad Adib Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria during his maiden but brief visit to Kashmir cautioned Muslims against falling prey to extremism and religious bigotry and stressed on unity of Muslims and universal message of Islam.
Mufti Hassoun once said, I follow all sects of Islam. I am Sunni in practice, Shia in allegiance. My roots are Salafi, and my purity is Sufi.
Highly learned Mufti from the most modern but now war ravaged Arab country was born in Aleppo (Halab) in Syria. His father, Muhammad Adeeb Hassoun, was also a well known Sheikh.
Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin Hassoun studied at the University of Islamic Studies, where he graduated as Doctor in Shafi’i fiqh. Hassoun took office as Grand Mufti of Syria in July 2005, six years before war broke out and after the death of Mufti Ahmed Kuftaro.
During his stay in Srinagar Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin spoke to Kashmir Observer Editor-in-Chief Sajjad Haider and correspondent Auqib Javeed about the situation in the Arab World especially Syria, issues facing the Muslim world and need for Ijma of Muslim clergy on extremism and sectarianism.
Here are the excerpts from the conversation.
Q) Please explain what actually is happening in Syria?
Before I speak on Syria, I would like to speak on Kashmir. It is for the first time I am visiting here and I think no Aalim (Scholar) from Syria has visited Kashmir before. We get to know about the Kashmir situation from the Western media and what they had projected about Kashmir is that this is only a place of strife and unrest, that there is no value for human life, people dont have a normal life here. That is what we had in mind before we came to Kashmir. But this is heaven on earth and media has distorted facts and really the time I arrived in Kashmir, I felt we are not doing enough for Kashmir.
Regarding India I know it was once the centre of knowledge for Islam and before colonisation of India, Ulama from Kashmir and India used to come to Syria and other countries for religious studies. If you visit my library in Syria, you can see a lot of books written by scholars from India and responsibility lies on my shoulders to tell the world the situation in India and Kashmir. And I wish peace should prevail in Kashmir.
I believe people of Indian Sub-continent, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri-Lanka should unite and become one powerful subcontinent. They can become a great nation. If European countries can unite and from one European Union why cant South Asia be one? Europe has one single parliament now and I was invited to deliver a speech there and was surprised to notice that they speak 14 different languages yet they are under one roof. I stressed them to maintain the unity.
There in Europe, they had two world wars and lost millions of human lives but still they made up and have one single parliament for all Europeans.
Before 70 or 80 years, British and French came and divided one Arab nation in Levant into four nations, Lebanon, Syria, Jordon and Palestine. They politically divided us and the work was accomplished by just two foreign ministers Sykes and Picot. Now, people want to reunite and Syria has been always calling for the reunification. That is the reason we are being punished. They want to divide us on the basis of religion and sects. Syria has always been opposing their plots and we stood against them. When Syrian Army went into Lebanon, the country was divided into four entities, Sunni, Shia, Druze and Christian and when we withdraw our Army, Lebanon was one and united.
They went to divide people of Iraq and at the time Syria refused to provide its airspace for aircraft to the United States and that is also one of the reasons we are being punished because we refused to bow down before them.
Whatever is happening in Syria now, is the execution of punishment by the United States and its allies because we stood against them always. We didnt bow down to religious extremism which they want to promote to weaken Islam. They try to split us in different doctrinal divisions like Hanafis, Jafaris or Sunnis and Shia so that we remain busy fighting each other. The fact is when we didnt bow down to any of the so called superpowers then they gathered fighters from all over the world and made them fight against us in our own country.
Q: So do you mean to say that whatever is happening in Syria is a proxy war imposed by US and its allies not a legitimate popular uprising against a brutal dictatorship?
People should not believe whatever Western media and their propaganda machinery dishes out. We welcome all to come to Syria and see for themselves the real situation.Like in the case of Kashmir, they (Western media) portrayed negative things about Kashmir. They propagated that Kashmiris are killing each other and are violent but when we came here we were pleasantly surprised to see such a beautiful place and a warm-hearted people.
When I came to Kashmir I found it a piece of heaven. It was very nice to hear the Azan (Call for Prayers) all over coming from the mosques. It was nice to see the Mosques, Temples and other religious places standing side by side.
Syria has more than 23 different sects but we dont consider any sect to be a minority. We believe all sects are equal. Every citizen of Syria has equal rights. We dont have any differences on the basis of religion and sects but unfortunately some Western powers didnt want to see a prosperous and united Syria and they played a big game against us. But Alhamdulillah (Thanks to God) they failed in their sinister design.
They tried hard to divide Syria into a number of smaller entities in order to weaken it as Syria is the only Arab country which has remained steadfast against Israel.
Q: The perception prevalent among a large section of Muslims is that Jihadists flocking to Syria were truly trying to establish a Khilafah there?
Syria is a democratic society where different religious groups coexist Christians, the Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslims. Those who call their wars religious, do so in order to provoke radicalism among Muslims.
I am telling you that after you publish your interview, you will get resentment, backlash from the public as they have been fed false propaganda by Western media, but I appeal them to come to Syria and see for themselves what actually is happening and who is doing what.
A large number of people from different countries came to Syria to to establish a so called Khilafah when Prophet Muhammad (saw) centuries ago said, Islam in Syria will never go down. I have a question for those people: Why they did not establish Islamic caliphate in their own countries first? Why did not they fight against Israel and liberate the first qibla Al-Aqsa Mosque all these years? They were misled and lured by the United States and its allies. Many of these fighters in Syria dont even know why they are fighting there and for whom.
Islam is a religion of peace and had never waged a war against anyone, and gives shelter to others. We are standing at the gate of victory in Syria and soon we will announce Syria is free from foreign fighters.
There is still American presence in some pockets of Syria and they came to support Daesh. There are credible reports that they are these days busy evacuating leaders of Daesh to safer places. What type of Khilafah they want to establish with American support?
Q) Nowadays people easily fall prey to extremist thoughts. Isnt it the failure of Ulama? Do Ulama need to change their approach?
It is the three-sided problem. First most of our Ulama remain trapped in the past. They have failed to look at the future. I am a Shafi’i scholar and my Ph.D. thesis was about Imam Abu Hanifa. What I see when the Imam was in Iraq he laid some foundation of his fiqh (jurisprudence) there. After 10 years he went to Egypt and there he changed his approach and fiqh. He said to the people there dont follow what I said in Iraq, follow what I said in Egypt (according to latest, what I reached to). You can just imagine within just 10 years he changed his way of looking at Islam. He didnt change Islam he changed his approach, the way he looked at Islam. Islam is belief and doctrine. Belief you cant change but we can make a better understanding of Islam. So we have to understand Islam in the different perspective. (Ijtihad)
The 2nd one is our Ulama need to leave their homes and reach out to the people. It is their responsibility to approach people not the other way round. Our Prophet (Pbuh) didnt keep himself confined to a particular place. He reached to people all over to propagate Islam. He traveled far and wide with the message from Hejaz to Yemen and to Syria.
I was very disappointed when I was not allowed to meet the students in some madrassas in India. On the contrary when I travel to Europe there they invite all students for interaction with me. Our Ulama should come out from the narrow-mindedness.
Our Ulama of different schools of thought during their Friday Khutbah differentiate people on the basis of sects and this confuses and disturbs the common people. I urge these Ulama dont preach hate and bigotry. Dont gather just Muslims gather whole humanity because our prophet is not mercy for Muslims alone he is Rahmatal-lil Aalamaien (Mercy for the Worlds) so why confine his message to Muslims that too a particular sect.
The third one is the outside effect. Like the United States whose ultimate goal is to weaken Muslims. Who had divided India? It were Britishers who did it and now you see you have a Kashmir conflict. It was their wish that India and Pakistan should remain at loggerheads over this piece of beautiful land.
Q) Let me bring you back to Kashmir. You met Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and declared her as a role model for the Muslim World. This comment has generated debate on social media here. Where you aware that this will stoke such debate?
I really dont know Chief Minister Mehbooba personally or her background. All I know is that every Muslim woman should make Mehbooba as role model in a sense as she has reached to this level that she is ruling a particular area. A Muslim women in an Asian society reaching up to this level is in itself an achievement. I told her she should make Umul Momineen Aiyesha and Khadijah and Prophets beloved daughter Fatima as her role model so that Muslim women in Asia would draw inspiration from her. Maybe your media has presented it in a different context but please convey to the people of Kashmir through your esteemed newspaper that we were impressed with her hospitality and dont know much about the way she governs.
Muslims should follow the path of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and should make him their role model. Stop saying, Shia Islam, and Sunni Islam we all are one and should be united.
I wish good for the people of Kashmir and I really want to know more about Kashmir. I also appeal Ulema of Kashmir to visit the world and broaden their horizon. Never allow those who preach hate and extremism be among your ranks.
Q: So let me conclude with Syria. You say Syria is entering a new phase and war is nearing an end?
Nowadays we have started the process of re-building Syria and I invite Kashmiri brothers to help us in re-building Syria and start trade with Syria. Help us make Syria a bridge between East and the West.
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