Tolerance & Coexistence in the 21st Century from Abu Dhabi

The Tabah Foundation in cooperation with the Canadian Embassy in the UAE, and under the auspices of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, organized a nighttime symposium replete with a diverse multitude of attendees on Tuesday March 10th, 2015 at the InterContinental Hotel Abu Dhabi’s Auditorium. The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. John Andrew Morrow—a Canadian scholar who lectures at Ivy Tech Community College, USA—joined by prominent guests including Sheikh Ahmad Al Kubaisi, Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Canadian Ambassador in Abu Dhabi Arif Lalani, and Chairman of the Tabah Foundation Habib Ali Al Jifri, alongside a select elite of diplomats and social dignitaries.

The evening was kick-started by a tour of an exhibition showcasing a collection of photocopied documents and manuscripts discovered by Dr. Morrow in his critically acclaimed study on “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World.” In his speech, Morrow referred to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s treaties with the Jews and Christians since the very beginnings of Islam, and mentioned that these covenants continued to be honored during the reign of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and through the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, all the way to down the Ottoman Empire. He pointed out that records of these covenants were not only found in Islamic sources but also detected in other sources, such as Christian-Arab sources and translated into a number of languages including Latin, Ancient Greek, Assyrian, and Persian. Dr. Morrow further indicated that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s covenants with the Christians of Najran and Persia, as well as Assyrian and Orthodox Christians, Egyptian Copts, and Abyssinian Christians, invariably underpin the values of tolerance, equality and peaceful coexistence amongst all, in an unprecedented and advanced move for an era marked by intolerance of pluralism.

The Chairman of the Tabah Foundation—Habib Ali Al Jifri—then commented on Morrow’s speech, saying: “We are today at a momentous turning point in Muslim history, in light of the presence of those who ascribe the crimes and perversities committed to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh); such a correspondence is forbidden and unacceptable, since there is no such thing as a moderate or an extremist Islam, rather, there are moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims.” After that, Sheikh Ahmad Al Kubaisi and Ambassador Arif Lalani each delivered separate short speeches. Subsequently, tweeters interacted with the event on social media networking site Twitter using the hashtag #المعاهدات_النبوية for Arabic speakers and #CovenantsUAE for English speakers.

Furthermore, the Tabah Foundation held a number of specialized debate circles for the purpose of engaging specialists among the attendants in the discussion on par with roundtable debates on the one hand, with its guest Dr. John Morrow on the same topic. A roundtable was held for scholars and researchers, another for Arab diplomats, and a third for non-Arab speaking diplomats, besides a meeting with Arab academics and clerisy. The event also included two televised programs on Wednesday evening: one on Sky News Arabia hosting Dr. Morrow and Habib Ali Al Jifri, and an interview with Morrow on Al Arabiya Channel. Dr. Morrow and Habib Al Jifri then paid a visit to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, where the former presented the UAE Minister with a copy of one of the prophetic covenants as a souvenir.

The Tabah Foundation has been keen on organizing these wide-ranging activities and events springing from its mission to “Re-enabling Islamic discourse to recover its ability to understand the real world context” and to propagate an international message highlighting that tolerance, coexistence, and respect of different faiths, human beings, and non-Muslim communities in the region is a genuine call launched since the days of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and to clarify that what we are witnessing today in terms of murder and slaughtering of Muslims and non-Muslims alike amounts to a disfigurement of the commands of the Prophet (pbuh) and a deviation there-from.

Related Links

Video promoting the symposium

– News Release: A “Roadmap” for “Tolerance & Coexistence” from Abu Dhabi – Al Ittihad Newspaper .
– News Release: Returning to the Roots of Islam—A Necessity for the Umma’s Proegression – Al Bayan Newspaper.
– News release: Lecture in Abu Dhabi stresses awareness – about true Islam – The National.
– News Release: Islam is not against other religions, says scholar – Khaleej Times.
– Sky News Arabia Interview Video.
– Sky News Arabia Interview Transcript.
– Al Arabiya Channel Interview Video.

Seminar: The Rationality of Islamic Tradition within the Context of Contemporary Thought

Tabah Foundation held a seminar entitled ‘The Rationality of Islamic Tradition within the Context of Contemporary Thought.’ The seminar took place during the semi-annual meeting of Tabah’s Senior Scholars Council. It shed light on a recently released research publication by Tabah on postmodern thinking by Dr. Karim Lahham, Senior Research Fellow at Tabah Foundation and Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple, UK.

Featuring some of the most-renowned Islamic personalities, the participants were led by the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars Dr. Ali Gomaa, Chief of the Board of Tabah Foundation Al-Habib Ali Al-Jifri, the Libyan Ambassador to UAE and chairman of Kalam Research and Media Dr. Aref Nayed, in addition to a number of professors from Zayed University and a distinguished group of academics and competent experts.

Al-Habib al-Jifri inaugurated the event by pointing out that the region is standing at a cultural juncture, the early introductions of which date back three or four hundred years ago. He asserted that during the current period we are witnessing fast-paced cultural transformation accompanied by a state of comatose blanketing attempts of renewal stemming from our scholarly tradition which are based on an accurate conception of changes in human reality. He added that the current Islamic discourse faces a problem with regard to the possibility of the continuation of its connectedness with its uninterrupted chain of transmission (whether in relation to narration, comprehension, or moral purification); and with regard to the scholarly gradualism which the Muslim community had grown accustomed to being tied to an established methodology, along with an ability to confront present-day challenges.

The seminar was facilitated by Sheikh Usamah al-Azhari, director of the Office of The Message of al-Azhar. Dr. Karim Lahham—the author of the research work in discussion—delivered a paper addressing the consequences of the concepts upon which modernists base their understanding of Islam. He criticized modernists’ raucous voice in their calls for reform, along with epistemological and philosophical poorness in terms of founding real intellectual reform.

Dr. Lahham’s paper concentrated on the extent of such modernists’ comprehension of philosophical principals, along with their accuracy in applying them to the Islamic tradition. He admonished the modernists and postmodernists for incarceration in an “ideological cave” of assumptions. This condition spawned a host of barriers separating Muslims from their own legacy—a legacy that is replete with discerning research methodologies. The gravity of this condition stems from its reduction of faith to religious rituals, and to the political domain through the imposition of epistemological barriers between man and religion. Dr. Lahham warned against the danger of the grave attempts by modernists resulting in the absence of a multitude of re-categorizing sciences, along with their modus operandi in terms of structuring concepts and philosophies based upon scientific rules. At the end of the paper, he called for a comprehensive reconsideration of the relational configuration between traditional sciences and for re-extracting the hidden gems lying latent in the Muslim intellect, including its catalog of sciences and disciplines.

Sheikh Saeed Fouda, a researcher in the discipline of kalam (scholastic theology), commented on Dr. Lahham’s lecture by commending the depth of its substance, objectives and outcomes, and its endeavor to deconstruct the intellectual, philosophical and epistemological foundations upon which the modernist intellectual school of thought depends. Sheikh Fouda also referred to features of contemporary philosophy that holistically addresses human beings—rather than human intellect—as a referential yardstick for understanding the world. This is a characteristic feature of postmodern thinking; a symptom that we have been suffering from particularly with respect to the postulation that the mind does not exist by itself, as argued by Nietzsche. The latter considered reason as one of the causes of humanity’s regress. Sheikh Fouda highlighted that postmodern thinking does not acknowledge the existence of a priori concepts and that its proponents describe reason, in their own words, as an idol that must be shattered.

Following Sheikh Fouda’s critique, the floor was opened for comments from the attendance. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session by addressing the definitions of reason offered by Muslim in addition to the “four pillars of reason”: the Brain, sound senses, sensed reality and prior information. This quadrate explains the content and conditions and basis of taklif (moral and legal responsibility) in Islam. Dr. Gomaa confirmed the importance of the role of previous information, with its two sources being revelation and the world. For Muslim scholars, knowledge is taken from both books of revelation; the holy Quran, and the world. Through understanding both books of revelation Muslim scholars credited revelation as a source of knowledge. Muslims learn from both books knowing there is no contradiction between them. In case where a contradiction arises they know it is due to their understanding of the Qur’anic text not the sacred text itself. This is what drove Islamic scholars to divide the Qur’anic text—all of which is definitive in terms of its authenticity (qat‘i al-thubut)—into two categories: definitive in meaning (qat‘i al-dalalah), and speculative in meaning (dhanni al-dalalah). Revelation is therefore neither superior nor antithetical to reason, but rather it is one of its sources. The same applies to the universe: it is a source of reason and if a contradiction arises, the universe then takes precedence over speculative understanding of the scriptural text. Dr. Gomaa also dealt with the topic of the collective consciousness or mind (al-‘aql al-jam‘i), which is considered an essential and indispensible element in the structure of the intellect.

Dr. Aref Nayedh’s comment followed, shedding light on modernists’ incoherence, which he claimed to be no more than a new kind of sophistry and fallacy in their approach in interpretation of Quran. The so-called “Qur’anist school” _which considers Quran the only source of Tashree’_ subscribes to this approach. It is noticeable in this school’s literature—as well as in postmodern literature—that the scriptural text is analyzed through certain mechanisms such as metaphorical interpretation, semiotics, hermeneutics and structuralism. The interpretive approach of this school has slipped into error as a result of its examination of the relations between meanings without referring to the relevant circumstantial prerequisites, like the prerequisites of the historical condition (for example: on the issue of circumstances of revelation, or asbāb al-nuzul), prerequisites of the accumulative condition, or what is known as the collective mind. Extirpating Qur’anic text out of its historical context, from the Prophetic Sunnah which is its interpretative reference, and from the uninterrupted chains of narrations, has led them to falling into such fallacy during their attempt to interpret Qur’anic texts. In the concluding section of his comment, Dr. Nayedh stressed the dire need for the contribution of the discipline of kalam and to connecting this discipline with contemporary philosophies.

Dr. Ali El-Konaissi, Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at Zayed University, followed by commenting that Muslim philosophers—led by al-Kindi—expanded in their engagement with theories of the mind. They interpreted, explained and extracted—not to mention corrected—all ideas on the mind derived from Greek philosophy after first translating Greek works into Arabic. He cited the example of the al-Kindi’s critique and amending Aristotle’s theory of hylomorphism in the work De Anima which was translated into Arabic under the title Fi maheyat al-‘aql (On the Essence of the Intellect). Aristotle asserts that the intellect is divided into two types: an active, and a passive type. In response, and based on his deep comprehension of the essence of religion, al-Kindi reclassified the intellect in a new way. He argued instead that there are four types of the intellect: (1) the primary (or First) intellect, which belongs to God; (2) the potential intellect, which is the human intellect and the tool of connection to primary intellect; (3) the acquired, and; (4) the demonstrative intellect.

The paper presented is part of the Tabah Papers series produced by Tabah Research. The objective of the paper is to probe the conceptual structures upon which the writings of postmodernist thinkers are founded. The work concludes that any thinker or writer is the heir of the gamut of concepts or conceptual orders which surface in his or her writings whether consciously or otherwise. Any given concept is neither an orphan nor has no origin. Thus, the validity of any concept largely relies on the origin of its genealogy. Consequently, the value of any idea is commensurate to the value of its origin. This is what the researcher has attempted to trace and evaluate in his work.

To read the presented paper, please click here

Release of new analytic paper: Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa

In an event featuring the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, and al-Habib Ali al-Jifri, Tabah Foundation released its latest analytic paper “Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa”.

Reducing Role of Biases in Muslim Responsa

The new paper presents errors in the process of issuing fatwa and proposes solutions for reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas.

Tabah Foundation for Islamic Studies has released its newest research publication, titled Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa. The brief sheds light on the errors that may occur in the process of issuing fatwas which may result from employing heuristics, It also proposes solutions for reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas. The new publication was issued in both Arabic and English.

The event organized by Tabah to mark the release of the brief was attended by high profile Islamic figures, among them the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gumaa,
H.E. Dr. Hamdan Musallam Al-Mazrouei, Chairman of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Dr. Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Grand Mufti of Dubai and Managing Director of the Fatwa Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities, al-Habib Ali- al-Jifri, Chairman of Tabah Foundation, along with a number of muftis and academics. Sheikh Musa Furber, researcher at the Tabah Foundation, delivered a talk that shed light on a number of errors that petitioners commit when dealing with issues for which they need a fatwa. He also addressed the impact of such errors on the process on issuing fatwas when scholars deal with matters relating to the contemporary context or newly occurring issues. This study analyzes such mistakes.

During the event, the researcher presented the concept of fatwa and the significance of the role of the mufti in the process of issuing fatwas. He identified four stages in the process of issuing a fatwa: conception (the petitioner describes a specific case and the mufti asks for additional details); adoption (the mufti matches the relevant features of the case to the relevant legal subjects); evaluation (where the mufti checks whether the pre-conditions, essential elements and associated conditions for the issue that has been identified have been met in the petition’s specific case, and its ensuing legal consequences); and response (the mufti re-examines the petitioner’s circumstances to ensure that applying the ruling will realize the petitioner’s interests without violating the overall objectives of the Shari‘ah).

Then the researcher addressed a number of patterns that could be attributed to heuristic-related biases affecting the mufti, which he categorized into ten patterns: The anchoring effect (focusing on a past reference or a single trait or piece of information); the availability effect (estimating the likelihood of events based upon the ease with which they can be recalled from memory); the confirmation bias (seeking out or interpreting information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions); fundamental attribution error (over-emphasizing the role of personality traits when explaining one’s own behavior); the halo effect (allowing the observation of a positive trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a positive evaluation of other traits); the reverse-halo effect (allowing the observation of a negative trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a negative evaluation of other traits); the overconfidence effect (excessive confidence in one’s own ability and accuracy when answering questions); the primacy and recency effects (the tendency that items near the end of a list are the easiest to recall); the recency bias (recalling or giving greater weight to recent over earlier events); and the self-serving bias (the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than for failures). The researcher briefly explained the impact of these patterns in the conception and adoption stages of fatwa.

After the talk, the floor was opened for a Q & A session. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session with a comment on the use of the term “bias”, speaking of its accuracy in describing reality, its appropriateness resulting from its use in modern literature and from its established use in ordinary speech. He noted that bias is present in almost all disciplines, like engineering, medicine, astronomy and other sciences.
A practitioner of any of these sciences cannot separate himself from the opinions he or she holds. He also added that a mufti must pay attention to the triangle of fatwa: conception, adoption and response. Muftis must ensure that their conception resembles the reality of the case. They must be precise when listening to the case, because there could be a “miss-adoption” if they hear what they want to hear. Finally, they must be precise in using the established ruling by ensuring that it applies to the reality on which the fatwa is based.

H.E. Dr. Hamdan Al-Mazrouei focused in his commentary on the importance of the comprehension and conception of reality held by muftis, and how it reflects on his legal rulings in terms of prohibiting or permitting things to the individual or society. Dr. Ahmad al-Haddad’s speech revolved around research and its foundation in relation to two essential concepts: the fiqh of the self and the fiqh of reality. He also emphasized the significance of God-fearing as the most important attribute of the mufti in issuing fatwa. He also stressed the importance of considering the legitimate legal dispensation for the petitioner.

Al-Habib Ali al-Jifri stressed that this study demonstrated the importance of this subject matter. The real problem lies in the wide gap between a fast-paced, ever changing and complex reality, on the one hand, and the legal rulings appropriate to their historical realities that scholars and jurists have mastered, on the other. This understanding underscores the importance of muftis who have a deep understanding of our current reality. This will enforce the credibility of those in leadership positions in fatwa and Islamic discourse.

It is worth noting that the brief, Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa, recommends conducting an independent study that examines the impact of relying upon heuristics in Islamic disciplines. It also recommends that fatwa institutes educate their muftis about the influence of biases, and that the same instruction is included in mufti-training programs, since doing so will ensure that petitioners receive fatwas that are more accurate and more likely to improve the quality of their lives.

Invitation to attend event on -Muslims in the Future-

Tabah Foundation is delighted to invite you to attend “Muslims in the Future: Findings and Analysis’ from the Pew Report on the Global Muslim Population in 2030”, on Tuesday, 7th of June, 2011. 

With official Pew researchers attending in addition to Tabah-selected analysts, we will be exploring the implications of a growing Muslim population around the world and how the projections in the report pose a challenge to the Muslim community to meet their needs.

The Future of the Global Muslim Population report is a comprehensive demographic study that provides up-to-date estimates of Muslims around the world in 2010 and project the growth until 2030. The report was a joint project between the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the John Templeton Foundation.


Dr Amir al-Islam
Lecturer, Zayed University
Chairman of the Board, Inner City Muslim Action Network (Chicago, USA)

Walead Mosaad
Education and Culture Manager, Tabah Foundation

Dr Brian Grim Senior
Researcher, Director of Cross-National Data, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Dr Mehtab Karim
Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Register for Attendance


Event Agenda

Speakers’ Profiles

Related Links:

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

John Templeton Foundation

Tabah Offcially Launches: Beyond Flak Attack

Tabah Foundation officially launched it’s latest publication, “Beyond Flak Attack: A New Engagement with the Newsroom”, in Abu Dhabi on May 3rd 2011. The author, Nazim Baksh, and Hassan Fattah, Editor-in-Chief of The National, were in attendance and presented their ideas on the dynamics of Muslim-media engagement. They both called for an appreciation of the role of media and how Muslims can change the story if the story is not reflective of Islam’s nature. They explored how this change can take place and offered some insightful suggestions on ways in which we can move beyond simple flak.

Also in attendance were Khairi Ramadan, a broadcast journalist and prominent news affairs commentator from Egypt, and Sohail Nakhooda of Kalam Research, Dubai. Both offered their remarks and reflections on the proceedings of the event.

Full proceedings of the event will be available on our website soon, please check back for updates.

Related Links: Flak Attack [Full Article]

Tabah launches its latest publication: Flak Attack

Tabah Foundation is proud to announce the launch of its latest publication ‘Flak Attack’ at the Shangri-La Ballroom in Between the Bridges on the 3rd of May at 7:30 pm.
( Attendance by invitation only)

Flak Attack is a Tabah Foundation essay that is geared towards Muslim media professionals, activists, scholars and those interested, who are alarmed at today’s headlines and would like to engage the mass media in the hope of balancing it’s predominantly negative reporting with positive stories pertaining to Islam and Muslims.

Key speakers in the event are:

Nazim Baksh, A broadcast correspondent with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
(CBC) and a Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto.

Hassan Fattah, Editor in Chief of The National, a leading English newspaper daily in
the UAE.

Dr. Hessa Lootah, PHD holder in Mass Communications, from Ohio University, USA, Associate Professor at the UAE University and the Head of Mass Communications Department between 2000 and 2004.

Related links: ‘Flak Attack’ full essay