Grand Imam Shaikh Dr. Ahmad Al Tayyeb (left) and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah at the press conference on Saturday when the announcement was made. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi:The Muslim Council of Elders — an independent international body that aims to promote peace in Muslim societies — was launched in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.

The move follows the recommendations of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, held here in early March.

The announcement was made at a press conference on the eve of a meeting attended by a group of scholars and thinkers from the Islamic world headed by Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Chairman of the forum.

Members of the council are expected to redouble their efforts to reunite the Islamic world and tackle extremist ideologies that are contrary to human values and tolerant virtues of Islam, according to the founding statement read out by Dr Abdul Hakim Jackson, professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

Dr Jackson, also a founding member of the council, added the members will work collectively to develop a roadmap with the aim to extinguish the fires that sweep across the region, and address the evils of sectarianism and violence plaguing the Muslim world over the decades.

The council is the first institutional entity that gathers Elders of the Islamic nation, which was a result of the recommendations of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, and a joint initiative of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and prominent scholar Dr Bin Bayyah.

The founders of the council stressed in the statement the need to comply with the provisions of Islamic teachings that calls for peace, rooting the concept of peace, and establishing the method of peace in fiqh (jurisprudence), values, concepts, rules and culture, making the path of peace a choice for the youth of the Islamic nation.

They also placed great emphasis on the impartiality of any subjective factors which make the members of the Council a party to any political, religious or ethnic conflict.

The aim of the council, which is based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, is to unify the efforts to reunite the Islamic nation and extinguishing fires that swept the reigon through extremist ideologies that are contrary to human values and principles of Islam.

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar said that Islam, which created this Muslim nation, made its history, and became an integral part of its culture, is a religion of peace to the whole world, provides security and peace among its people, and for all mankind.

“The Muslim nation’s scholars and wise men must take their full responsibilities in this dangerous historic juncture which our nation is going through now and save their nation in this miserable battle between its people by deep thinking and careful planning with patience and perseverance, making extra effort to spread peace to achieve it and implanting it in our Islamic world through our moderate Islamic method that harmonises understanding of the text and the jurisprudence of reality away from fuelling people by false images,” the Grand Imam of Al Azhar added..

Shaikh Bin Bayyah said the state of fragmentation and strife in the nation does not allow us to be a partner in international decision-making, pointing out that the opportunities of development exist when peace exists, however what wars offer is only death and destruction.

He also stressed the importance of the separation between Islamic discourse and Islam. He explained that Islamic discourse is not Islam, it is the understanding of Islam.

Shaikh Bin Bayyah called on all parties to renounce hate speeches and sectarianism which recently has taken an extremist nature that has increased the state of division and fragmentation in the nation.

The founding members of the council include elite scholars, scientists, intellectuals and experts from the Islamic world, including the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Dr Abdul Hakim Jackson, Dr Kaltham Al Muhairi, professor at the Institute of Islamic World Studies, Zayed University, and Dr Ahmad Al Haddad, Grand Mufti of Dubai.

The forum, which was held in Abu Dhabi on March 9-10, aimed to promote peace in the Muslim communities. The event was a global platform that brought together more than 250 scientists and Muslim thinkers from around the world.

The participants recommended the establishment of an Islamic Council for the promotion of peace in Muslim communities. It is set to feature a group of Muslim scholars and experts to contribute to extinguishing the fires in the region.

They called for a number of procedures and steps that would contribute to consolidation of a culture of peace in Muslim communities.