Islamicjerusalem as a model for conflict resolution, peaceful co-existence, and co-operation [Archives:2008/1164/Culture]

June 16 2008

By: Professor Dr Abd al-Fattah El-Awaisi, F.R.Hist.S.
[email protected]

The Muslim core teaching sources conform to the methodology of Tadafu', the concept of Adl, the principle of not excluding others, and the constructive argumentation methodology. Preserving human dignity is very central in Muslim thoughts and attitude. Islamicjerusalem provides and promotes a climate of religious and cultural engagement and dialogue, tolerance and diversity, and social justice. It also encourages, supports and contributes to fostering a multicultural ethos of mutual cultural understanding and respect, and a common understanding between different communities and individuals at all levels.

In the last six years, the world has witnessed much debate on new forms of the global phenomena of fundamentalism and extremism. People are more aware of the intense political climate, clashes that have come to be known as “fundamentalism” or “extremism”.

The concept of a 'clash of civilisations' has become part of our everyday vocabulary. However, the basis of any such clash is either sheer ignorance or an extreme interpretation of the religious scriptures or secular ideologies on which people found their beliefs and actions.

The main principles for the Muslim theoretical frame of reference towards dealing with others are based basically on the core Muslim sources, the Qur'an and Sunnah. It was mainly on these sources that the Muslims developed their conceptual and theoretical framework towards non-Muslims. Based on the core Muslim sources, the main key elements of such a model are: the methodological approach of Tadafu' (counterbalance) and the concept of 'Adl (Justice), the principle of non exclusion, and the constructive argumentation methodology.

Tadafu' methodology

Muslim core teachings reject the philosophy of a conflict based on eliminating the other party so that the victor can have the stage to himself. This would mean in effect annulling the principle of plurality and diversity. Islam considers that plurality is the basis of everything apart from God. Indeed plurality in nations, religions and religious laws is part of the design of the universe. As confirmation of that idea, Islam favoured another method, namely Tadafu' or counterbalance, as a means of adjusting positions using movement instead of conflict.

This conflict-free method is what Muslim teachings see as a means of preserving a non-Muslim presence in this life. Tadafu' is not only to preserve Muslim's sacred places, but to preserve the sacred places of others.

Concept of 'Adl (justice)

This methodology is linked to a very central concept in the core Muslim sources, the concept of 'Adl' or justice which encompasses all without discrimination between Muslim and non-Muslim. For example, the Quran states:

Wa la yajrimannakum shana'anu qawmin 'alla an la ta'dilu. 'idilu huwa 'aqrabu li al-taqwa.

… and do not let the enmity and hatred of some people lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to piety. (Qur'an, 5: 8).

The command to be just in this Qur'anic verse is general without specifying any race or group above another. The Prophet Muhammad warned against any unjust action by using a very clear and strong instruction to Muslims that they must deal with non-Muslims justly.

The principle of non exclusion

The claims that Muslims adopt the principle of excluding others to live with them, as in the case of Jews barred from residence in Islamicjerusalem (which is the area around Al-Aqsa Mosque bound from the North by Nablus, from the South by Beer Shiva, from the East by Mu'tah in Jordan and from the West by the Mediterranean Sea) is the during the first Muslim Fatih, has not only not been historically proven incorrect, but also contradicts the core Muslim teachings which reject the notion of supremacy of one people or race over others. It contravenes the most basic Islamic principles concerning treatment of the People of the Book. Indeed, the reference in particular to the Jews is out of step, and even seems to clash with the main Muslim teachings, based on the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Constructive argumentation methodology

The Qur'an encourages Muslims to engage in discussion with all people in general and with the People of the Book in particular, through constructive argumentation, “argue with them bi-alati hia Ahsanin in the most beautiful (politest) manner” (Qur'an, 16: 125). The Qur'an lays down one condition for this constructive argumentation methodology, namely, that it should not be only in a beautiful way but in the “most beautiful manner”.

According to the Qur'an, the starting point for any conflict resolution should be through constructive argumentation based on the power of knowledge and not from an arrogant position. In addition, constructive argumentation is a methodology encouraged by the Qur'an as a means for “constructive dialogue” and positive negotiation with others.

Peaceful co-existence and mutual respect

The other Muslim core teaching sources conform to this methodology of Tadafu', the concept of 'Adl, the principal of not excluding others, and the constructive argumentation methodology. Both methodologies, concept, and principals emphasise the need to care for preserving human dignity and belongings. Preserving human dignity is very central in Muslim thoughts and attitude.

This preservation leads to the establishment of tolerance, which not only means rejecting the notion of compulsion in religions and cultures but promoting the appreciation and acceptance of others. This should lead not only to respect for non-Muslim rights but to granting them protection of lives and properties, freedom, security and support, and enabling them to become citizens and members of the society without interference in their culture and religion. Determining the status and rights of non-Muslims should act as a means to a peaceful co-existence and mutual respect among the different cultures and religions in a society.

Islamicjerusalem as a model

The best practical and clear model to represent this policy of dealing with non-Muslims is the Umar's Assurance of Safety to the people of Aelia. Indeed, the Assurance is the major religious pillar and the frame of reference to establish the nature of this relationship between the communities of Islamicjerusalem's society, which rejects the notion of the supremacy of one people or race over others.

The methodology of Tadafu'', the concept of 'Adl ; the principle of non exclusion, and the constructive argumentation methodology are intertwined key elements of this model. It is not possible to separate them as not one of them operates without the others. They are also linked and interlinked with their religious context. However, they do not operate simultaneously, with one simply reflecting the others.

Perhaps all these elements is what prompted Salah al-Din's letter of reply to King Richard I 'the Lionheart' of England in October 1191 CE during the negotiations in the third Crusade. In an exclusive agenda, Richard claimed that “Jerusalem is the centre of our worship, which we shall never renounce, even if there is only one of us left” Salah al-Din replied by stating that Islamicjerusalem is the sacred legacy of the followers of all nations. He asserted the Muslim rights without denying the Christian rights in Islamicjerusalem and refuted Richard's claim that Muslims were invaders. In his reply, he stated that: “Islamicjerusalem is ours as much as it is yours. It is even more important for us, since it is the site of our Prophet's Night Journey and the place where the people will assemble on the Day of Judgment. Do not imagine, therefore, that we can waver in this regard”.

One good example which represents Islamicjerusalem as a model for conflict resolution were the negotiations between Salah al-Din and King Richard I 'the Lionheart' of England during the third Crusade (1189-1193). Their constructive dialogues not only led to resolving very complicated competing claims but ended with building confidence and establishing a good relationship and mutual respect between the two great leaders – which in their turn led to secure peace in one of the most conflicted areas. They succeeded in reaching an agreement, Al-Ramla Peace Treaty, which was signed on 23 Sha'ban 588AH/2 September 1192 CE.