The Eternal Values
Global Forum on
Changing Values for Human Survival
The Late Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro, Grand Mufti of Syria
Kyoto, Japan, 17–23 April 1993
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the Lord of all creation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet you with the greeting of Islam: peace be on you all. As the spiritual co-chairman of the Global Forum, I express my joy and optimism in meeting you in this beautiful city of Kyoto, the spiritual, cultural and historical center of Japan.
Despite the dazzling advancements of human society in science, technology, culture and art, man is still a victim to misery and suffering everywhere. We see examples of hunger and homelessness in the most advanced nations, including the industrialized nations of Europe, Asia and the Americas, where many live below the poverty level.
We see oppression and persecution in the form of regional wars motivated by outdated thinking based on fanaticism, of which true divine religion is innocent. Though major world organizations — the United Nations, its Security Council and the European Community — were formed to promote peace and safeguard the world community, yet they stand powerless. This brings into question whether such agencies have any real value and, specifically, whether they are really working for world peace, or for the sole interests of the powerful.
We see the ease and speed with which these organizations implement some resolutions, while on the other hand we see their procrastination in executing other ones, which remain on paper only, as though they have two sets of values. On occasion, the Big Powers resort to the veto on important measures in the Security Council, which makes us ask if they are truly acting for the sake of international peace.
Twentieth-century man faces serious dangers, such as AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, ethnic disruptions and misuse of the environment. Insofar as the latter is concerned, the Earth’s atmosphere, water and soil have become so polluted that man is facing the very real threats of desertification and global warming, because of emissions of greenhouse gases and the depletion of the ozone layer.
There is, however, an even greater danger that confronts man, which is the loss of love and compassion in the hearts of most people. The fragmentation of the family structure, the intrinsic unit of any society, is due to the lack of emotion that creates the sense of an individual’s responsibility towards his family. As a result, we find an increase in the divorce rate, children running away from home, brothers fighting with each other, the misuse of intoxicants and drug addiction. This disintegration is not limited to the family but is seen in the general distancing of man from his fellow man.
If we ask ourselves the reason for this deterioration, which threatens man’s very existence, we must acknowledge its origins in individual, nationalistic or religious egotism, which have weakened man’s link with the divine law. This situation has allowed man’s baser self to dominate his reason, crippling his very humanity. We see him uttering the wisdom of the prophets and sages without putting it into action.
A group of people in the world today consider themselves superior to the rest of mankind. They believe they have the license to commit atrocities such as rape, enforced migration of peoples from their homeland and persecution to the point of genocide in the name of ethnic cleansing. Therefore, in the struggle for material dominance man has adopted for himself a new set of values that have spread in the form of aggression, terrorism and organized crime, which controls arms, sex and drugs. Is this the New World Order with its global justice that humanity aspires to?
To rescue the ship of humanity from sinking and thus save mankind, we must resort to the heavenly laws, which have no bias towards anyone, be he prophet or man of power, except to the truth whatever it may be. Further, we must liberate man from ignorance and immorality. Such noble values, however, require from us a complete and total dedication, self-sacrifice and coordinated, willing efforts for the good of all mankind.
There is no peace so long as there is the oppressor and the oppressed, the over-fed and the hungry. We must return to the essence of religious values, which were perfected by the teachings of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the messenger of Islam, who described himself in the following words: “The likeness of me and the Prophets before me is that of a building which they completed except for the last stone, and I am that last stone.”
When a man of reason adopts knowledge, wisdom and a purified soul, these values instill in him love for his fellow man, a love so comprehensive and sincere that he prefers his fellow brothers to himself. As Muhammad, in concert with all the Prophets, says,
“None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”
These values liberate man, freeing him from worshipping his fellow beings, from ignorance, sectarianism, superstition and religious fanaticism. They liberate him from the worship of his baser self to the worship of God, the Creator, Whose justice does not discriminate between white and black, strong and weak, or rich and poor.
Prophet Muhammad, describes the justice of the Creator in the following terms:
“Should you not side with those who have rights? Verily they have the right to proclaim them.”
The Holy Quran says,
“Be just and fair and witnesses for God even against yourselves, parents or next of kin.” T.Q., Sura 4, The Women, verse 135.
It also says,
“God enjoins the doing of justice, benevolence and help to relatives and forbids inequity, wrong-doing and transgression.” T.Q., Sura 16, The Bee, verse 90.
Prophet Muhammad further emphasizes this by saying,
“God has no regard for a nation that acts unjustly by not permitting the weak to receive their rights from the powerful.”
He also called for high moral values and standards, which he applied first to himself, perfecting them to the point that if he wronged someone he hurried to compensate him, and if he distributed charity he did do so without bias.
He condemned the maltreatment of any person on the grounds of color, race or religion. He called people to regard the revealed religions with respect and commanded adherence to them by their respective followers. All this was done to create a productive human society in which the individual was favored based on his piety, observance of duty, protection of rights and avoidance of evil.
Should not the international organizations protect these rights and values assiduously, or should they follow the example of the fabled judge? The fame of this judge grew, when his neighbors visited him complaining that their ox had run into his field trampling his vegetables and flowers, and killing his chickens. Upon hearing this, the judge grew furious, and started yelling abuse at his visitors demanding compensation and the immediate slaughter of the rampaging ox. At this point, his guests replied, “Your Honor! Sorry, it seems we have made a mistake. It is not our ox that has marauded your field but yours that has entered our field and done the damage.” The judge paused for just a moment, coughed politely, and then bellowed for the books of law and new world order to be brought to him. At the same time, he turned to his visitors and said, “We must study the case more closely and consult the legal specialists in such matters. Perhaps,” he stammered, “we may find an explanation as to what our ox has done.”
I wonder at the wisdom of the powerful in the world organizations as to why they act like this judge who measures with two scales of justice. Can this bring about peace?
Man now fears his fellow man and is more at home with the beast of the jungle, which only attacks its prey when hungry. As for man today, he devours his prey despite his satiety. He has infected himself with the virus of lust and greed. Through the bitterness of his plight, he spreads his disease, broadcasting promiscuity and pornography throughout the world using satellites, as if he aims to erase any remnants of purity and virtue left in mankind. An Arab poet said,
A wolf howled and I found company.
A man spoke and the world narrowed in my fright of him.
We all know our world is now but one global village, or a ship that ploughs the seas of the universe. To avoid wrecking this ship upon the rocks of selfishness, corruption and oppression, men of wisdom and heralds of justice must join with the men of religion to lay down a blue-print for a building furnished with the best values from all revealed religions. Thus, they will create a building that invites men of all nations to enter, live under its security, and roam freely through its rooms.
Hence, I call for the use of a book, each chapter of which specializes in each religion, to be taught by qualified and sincere teachers in schools throughout the world. It should express the importance of knowledge, wisdom and self-purification, and the brotherhood of mankind. It must be an advocate of justice, equality and instill in the reader compassion towards God’s creation. Muhammad says,
“All creatures are God’s dependents; the most beloved by God are those who are most helpful to them.”
In short, this book must represent the mission of the Prophets of all revealed religions. God defines this mission addressing Muhammad in the Holy Quran:
“We have not sent you except as a Mercy to all the Worlds.” T.Q., Sura 21, The Prophets, verse 107.
Peace be upon you all.
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