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Sirat conference in Colombo

A three-day Sirat conference was held in Colombo during 16-18 June. It was jointly organized by the Institute of Contemporary Thought (ICIT), Toronto, Crescent International (CI), London and Al-Islam Foundation, Colombo.

ICIT is headed by the former CI editor Zafar Bangash. It strives for the promotion and propagation of the ideas of late Dr Kalim Siddiqui (KS), a great thinker and ideologue, whose death in ......led to the disintegration of his brain-child, The Muslim Institute for Research & Planning, London. A section involved with his work has now emerged as ICIT in addition to the old institution is now headed Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, KS’s deputy for many years. KS’s son, Iqbal, is now with the ICIT. 

Study of the Sirat and a deep search into its modern relevance was a subject very dear to KS. the ICIT is continuing this tradition. The Colombo conference was part of this interest in a basic source of Islam. 

The conference was inaugurated in the Bandranaike Memorial Hall on 16 June with impressive local and foreign participation. Local participants included university teachers, businessmen, politicians and high officials including a supreme court judge. Participants from other countries included delegates from Malaysia, India, South Africa, US, UK and India.

Zafar Bangash in his keynote address reminded the conference that KS had said before his death that all the Sirat literature is chronological and very little effort has been made to derive lessons from it: how the Prophet went about his drive to acquire power.

Imam Muhammad Al-Asi said that the present preachers confine themselves to matters of taharah and najasah as if Islam has nothing to do with other larger issues of society. Petty fiqhi matters consume most of Muslim time, he said.

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, director of the Institute of Islamic & Arab Studies and editor of MG, spoke about the finality of Prophethood and its implications for Muslims.

Dr Saeed Bahmanpour of Cambridge University spoke about the application of the Shari’ah in modern times and said that demands for the application of Islam come from within Muslim societies and are not directed in any way against our faith. He said that reformist movements rose in various parts of the world of Islam at the same time: Wahhabis in the Arabian peninsula, Akhbaris in Persia and Ahlul Hadith in the Indian subcontinent.

Prof KMH Kalideen of the University of Srilanka spoke about the Prophet’s treaties and negotiations.

Iran’s Ayatullah Ameed Zanjani said that the Prophet’s advent was a great and dividing point in history. It heralded the end of an era and the beginning of another age. He added that one of the most important lessons of Sirat is Islamic unity, that is the unity of all Muslims. The Ummah of Islam is not a nationalist idea but a community based on beliefs and a mission. We have a great source in the Sirat to build a civilization and to establish institutions.

Waheedah Caravello of South Africa said that Muslim men exercise an apartheid system, segregating women from activities of society. Muslim woman must be encouraged to take part in the affairs of the Ummah.

Noor Inayah Yaakub of the faculty of law, University Kabangsan Malaysia, spoke about the application of Shariah in Malaysia. She explained that shariah courts in Malaysia are open to interference by civil courts which can overrule shariah verdicts.

Hamzah Hanifa, who teaches journalism in Srilanka university and edits Al-Islam newspaper spoke about the good relationship binding Srilankan Muslims with other sections of society especially the Sinhala majority.

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan’s paper on the finality of Prophethood will appear in a forthcoming issue of MG.

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