“It’s incredibly meaningless for a group of people to gather after centuries have passed to try and invalidate a religious view given centuries ago,” Directorate of Religious Affairs President Ali Bardakoğlu said in remarks to the Anatolia news agency in regards to the “Mardin: The Abode of Peace” conference held last weekend in Turkey’s southeastern Mardin province.
Bardakoğlu emphasized in his comments that his directorate had found it inappropriate from the outset to host or participate in the conference. “The opinions on religious topics that Islamic scholars have announced are valid or not according to their compatibility with the main sources of the religion, the general principles and aims of the religion and whether or not they answer the conditions and needs at hand. The opinions that the scholars of Islam give have a validity restricted by their own time and conditions of that time,” he said in criticism of the effort.
Well-known religious scholars from across the Muslim world had spoken at the conference, focusing on Ibn Taymiyyah’s well-known legal verdict, or fatwa, concerning Mardin and addressing the question of whether the city fell into the classical categorization of either dar al-harb (abode of war) or dar al-Islam (abode of Islam). The answer to this question was of critical importance when it came to the issue of jihad as warfare, including the determination of legitimate versus prohibited targets. Scholars at the summit contended that the fatwa could not be interpreted -- as some extremists have -- to condone violence or terrorism, saying that it rather emphasized that non-Muslims needed to be taken care of as opposed to attacked.
“Associating contemporary terrorism and violence with Ibn Taymiyyah’s Mardin Fatwa is to fail to understand the goings on in the world in our day. In fact, it even means holding Islam and Islamic scholars responsible for such happenings,” Bardakoğlu asserted. “Just tying everything in the Middle East -- bloodshed, violence, tears, terrorism -- to the Mardin fatwa is a hapless approach that is truly blind, ignoring the true causes of events by associating Islam and Islamic scholars with negative occurrences such as violence and terrorism and holding Islamic scholars who lived centuries ago responsible for them.”
The conference had been sponsored by independent Muslim educational NGOs the Global Center for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG) and Canopus Consulting. While Bardakoğlu had criticized the event as an effort to repeal one fatwa with another, a conference organizer speaking with Today’s Zaman after the event had said the declaration -- not a fatwa -- released upon the summit’s conclusion aimed to “reassure people of all faiths and none that Islam does not condone murder” and to challenge the mode of thinking of those who already knew of the original fatwa. “The New Mardin Declaration” emphasizes that “anyone who seeks support from [Ibn Taymiyyah’s Mardin] fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation and has misapplied the revealed texts.” The full text of the declaration is available at www.mardin-fatwa.com.
Meanwhile, Bardakoğlu also commented on other recent events, including the Monday double suicide bombing of the Moscow subway system. “Terrorism in Baghdad affects us as deeply as terrorism in the metros of Moscow, Tokyo, London and Spain. We oppose it all, but it’s necessary to avoid … associating terrorism and violence with any one religion, people or geography,” he said, also condemning terrorism and violence anywhere in the world, no matter who it is perpetrated by or against.