As we attempt to comprehend the spirit of the age and its manifold challenges, we become aware of our civilizational heritage, of a political legacy and an Arab Renaissance which was founded in the last century on the principles of nationalism, freedom, unity, independence, equality and progress. The long-term vision toward the future was manifested in this blessed Renaissance as it paved the way for liberty and national identity. Those were the demands and aspirations of a nation upheld by my great-grandfather, Sharif Hussein bin `Ali, may God bless his soul, while yearning, with its sons and daughters, for a luminous future for our Arab Nation. He said, “Our Renaissance has emerged to support truth and advocate justice, and to glorify the Holy Qur`an and the Sunna of His Prophet.” (Al-Hussein bin `Ali and the Great Arab Revolt, Arabic, Suleiman Musa, 1992, p. 131).
Approximately one hundred years since the inauguration of this movement, we continue to remember with profound pride the two fundamental premises of the Great Arab Revolt: safeguarding the dignity and honour of Arabism, and adhering to the noble and sublime values of Islam. (The intellectual orientations of the Great Arab Revolt based on Al-Qibla newspaper, Arabic, Dr. Suheila Rimawi, 1992, p. 22).
This Revolution resisted all manner of exploitation of true Islam, while at the same time emphasizing that Islam and progress are inextricably interwoven realities. It also called for applying the Shura system (government by consultation) as one of the principal means of social and political reform. Moreover, it devoted the utmost care and attention to the civilizational and human dimension of the entire Arab region, while adhering to heritage and tradition in countering the perils threatening the nation (UMMA).
One of the nation’s sons who yearned for freedom and change was Suleiman Bustani, who looked forward to a future where the desired reforms would be actualized and where tyranny would be dismantled. He elaborated on these ideas in his book entitled, “Memories and Lessons or the Ottoman State Before and After the Constitution,” 1908. In this context, I say: History is not just a narrative process, but is rather an embodiment of lessons and reminiscences which ignite imaginative thinking of the possible, without restrictions or limits.
Adhering to our cultural independence revitalizes the Arab mind that is open to the other; emanating from its particularity that respects diversity in all its forms, as well as cultural pluralism, which leads us to speak about the idea of coexistence. We should keep in mind that great civilizations are open to diversity and adopt tolerance and forgiveness for all. This was the state of Islamic civilization in its period of efflorescence—encompassing different religions and cultures, and including individuals of different ethnicities and nations. In effect, diversity was one of its sources of strength, given that difference is one of the universal laws upon which existence is based. When minds are unable to explain the nature of difference, and hearts are impervious to accepting the other and embracing his/her worldview, and fanatical affiliation to sect or creed becomes prevalent, barriers are created between the various segments of society, and the natural balance that exists in the relationship of Man with his fellow Man is undermined.
The dangers of war, the calls for division, the sectarian discourse and the evils of disintegration can only foreshadow additional human suffering and flagrant violation of human rights— the human whom God Almighty honoured and made His steward on earth. One of the paradoxes which mar our Arab and Islamic condition is the gap between what ought to be and what actually is.
Responsible Arab free will is inextricably bound to reason and wisdom. Furthermore, it is consonant with common human values, and adhering to these human values leads to security for all. Examining those common values contributes to unveiling the real face of extremism. In the context of this endeavor, we need to focus on global and regional commonalities, and to activate the role of regional and Arab institutions which represent our priorities and define them in an independent manner. There is no doubt that any future Arab action lies in supporting cooperation and integration among the countries and peoples of the region. The civilizational weakness and malaise that we are currently experiencing underscore the necessity of renewal in various fields, and the promotion of the work ethic, participation, creativity and achievement.
We are now celebrating the advent of the blessed month of Ramadan. On this auspicious occasion, I convey to my next of kin and the sons and daughters of my homeland and the Arab and Muslim nations my felicitations, praying to God Almighty for peace, security and stability in our entire Arab homeland, and for the elimination of suffering and blatant violation of the human rights of the uprooted, the displaced and the refugees—our brothers in humanity.
God Almighty willed that Ramadan be a month of worship, guidance and the strengthening of relations between Muslims. Once again, I call attention to the importance of establishing a Global Zakat and Solidarity Fund. Since I made this call over three decades ago, I have never stopped reminding others of the importance of the Zakat system, its developmental role in less fortunate Muslim countries, its ability to provide a dignified way of life in Muslim societies, and to reinforce the values of altruism, moral authority and human dignity.
The true tolerant image of Islam continues to be subjected to misrepresentation and distortion by those who engage in terrorism, aggression and extremism in the name of religion. Focusing through Zakat on such human values as mercy, compassion towards the needy and the traveler, and social solidarity and cooperation would doubtless contribute to disseminating the true message of Islam, which is rooted in justice and peace, while distancing it from being associated with terrorism and phobia.