Sheikh Taskhiri to the Yemen Times: “The enemies of Muslims are responsible for sectarian conflicts in Islamic nations.” [Archives:2008/1216/Reportage]
Mohammed bin Sallam
Sheikh Mohammed Ali Taskhiri, Secretary-General of the Global Body to Bring Islamic Sects Together (GBBIST), was born in the Iraqi city of Najaf on October 19, 1944 and his father is originally from Mazdan governorate in north Iran.
Taskhiri is an eminent Islamic scholar. He urges the various Islamic sects to come together and abandon fanaticism. In addition to his being a scholar of Islamic Sharia, Taskhiri is a poet and a professional writer. He had authored more than 50 books on poetic, literary and linguistic sciences and participated in more than 500 international conferences. He is also a well-known member in the Religions Dialogue Committee.
Mohammed bin Sallam met Taskhiri when he visited Sana'a to attend the inauguration of Al-Saleh Mosque at the end of November and conducted the following interview with him.
Can you brief us on the most important positions you have held recently?
I am one of those working for GBBIST, a representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Islamic Jurisprudence Body in the Saudi city of Jeddah and Vice-President of Global Federation for Muslim Scholars.
What is the main objective of your visit to Sana'a?
In fact, we adore Yemen. When we visit Yemen, we needn't be asked about the purpose of our visit. I came to Yemen with the purpose of inaugurating the Saleh Mosque, which I saw as great and huge, and therefore deserves celebration across the Muslim nations. I hope that next generation benefits from its services. I also met with some senior Yemeni officials and scholars.
Muslims from the various sects meeting inside the mosque demonstrated their unity, most notably as they prayed together. Do you see the meeting as a political one or as an indicator of Muslims' unity?
I think that this is the real prayer favored by Islam. It was not a political prayer, as it was performed for the sake of worshiping Allah.
We aspire to see stronger solidarity and unity between Muslims, even if we sometimes disagree over our thoughts and ideologies. We strongly believe that this disagreement is natural since everyone of us is allowed by Islam to think freely. Most importantly, we live under the umbrella of Islam and our collective prayers at the Saleh Mosque reflect the fact that all the Islamic nations are unified. As Muslims, we are not affected by the geographical borders of our states, the different languages, races or any sectarian ideologies. We are all members of a unified nation.
We often hear about dialogue between Islamic sects. Has it reached any positive results? And how do you assess current sectarian conflicts in some Muslim states?
My brother, I would like to tell you that today's dialogue between sects is a humanitarian one, which is really favored by Islam and the Holy Quran. Many intellectuals and university professors are interested in the dialogue, and I hope that it transfers from the elite to the ordinary citizens in order for them to feel that they are members of a unified nation. I think that there are political motives behind current conflicts in Lebanon, Iraq or Pakistan and such conflicts have nothing to do with sectarian disagreement. In fact, enemies of Islam are responsible for the spread of sectarian conflicts among Muslims.
A few days ago, I met with Shiite and Sunni leaders in Pakistan, who collectively confirmed to me that disagreements in their state are political, and added that foreign forces plan to serve their interests in the Islamic state through these disagreements.
The disagreement in Iraq is purely political too, most notably as the Arab state has undergone hard conditions. Shiite and Sunni Muslims coexist peacefully countrywide while many large clans in Iraq have been found to be comprised of Shiite and Sunni Muslims. The disagreement in Iraq is political and has nothing to do with Islamic sects in the nation.
I don't see a conflict between Shiites and Sunnis as a problem, nor do I think that sects must be engaged in resolving such a kind of conflict. All the Zaidi, Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafai and Ithnaashari sects are Islamic and move on the same orbit. It is our enemies who want us to lose our unity and who label conflicts between Islamic sects as religious.
Can you give us a glimpse of the dialogue between religions?
The dialogue between religions is also promoted by Islam and the Holy Quran. This dialogue is natural as all religions have common features. And there are numerous issues we can dialogue on, as well as cooperate to solve. Religions constitute a source of pride for all civilizations and an essence for all cultures, and therefore we can transfer dialogue from religions into cultures and then to the level of civilizations.
We are willing to dialogue with other religions for the sake of resolving any pressing issues and promoting peace, love, justice and equality. By doing so, we will consequently reject all the forms of extremism, terrorism and unjustified violence.
Do you have something to say about the campaign against Islam that started in September 2001? Was it designed to insult Islam before other religions or conducted spontaneously with no intention to hurt Islam?
Western animosity towards Islam is very old and so is the conflict between Islam and Western values. In the past, Islam expanded into the western world and the Ottoman armies destroyed fences constructed by the West. The West used to think according to a unified strategy, and agreed on a unified strategy and unified international system. The West had already halted advancement of the Ottoman armies and started occupying the Islamic nations in the 17th Century.
The Western occupation of the Islamic state of Indonesia began in 1646 and lasted for 300 years. The Westerners then thought about occupying almost all the Islamic states in the 50s of the 20th Century. They also concentrated on fragmenting the Islamic nations, but Muslims woke up after fifty or sixty years when they saw the Iranian Revolution led by the late Imam Khomeini, and the defeat of the Soviet Union at the hand of Afghan militants.
Afterward, several false and baseless charges were directed towards Islam and the Westerners exploited them to dominate Islamic states under the guise of fighting terrorism, and therefore established military bases in Muslims' land. They occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and have been planning to attack Iran, Syria and other Islamic states. However, they were surprised by the Islamic resistance that foiled their plots and other Zionist projects to help Israel extend from the Euphrates to the Nile. Consequently, the Zionists started to construct the separation wall to protect themselves from the Palestinian resistance, which is pondered upon as an unprecedented failure.
I think that Islam will not back out on the decision to liberate all the Muslims' lands. By establishing unified projects and utilizing its available material and human resources, the Islamic nations will restore their power and prestigious status on earth, as well as their glorious civilization. To achieve this objective, Muslims need to demonstrate a serious will.
Who is in charge of documenting your work and activities?
I don't think that I have produced something that is worth documenting. I am a student and a knowledge seeker. I am a young soldier of Islam and a herald interested in promoting Islam and serving my culture and nation.
How many books have you so far authored?
I have authored nearly fifty books, attended more than 500 international conferences on jurisprudence, politics and economics, submitted tens of scientific dissertations and held several key political posts.
Do you have any final comment?
I would like to assure my brothers in Yemen that their brothers in Iran, be they leaders, scholars or ordinary people, highly respect them and appreciate their culture and values. All of us know that the Yemeni-Iranian relations date back to the pre-Islamic ages before they were strengthened by Islam. And, I hope those relations become stronger over time. I have already said to President Saleh that Yemen's relations with Iran are strategic and need to be enhanced.