A Letter to American Scholars and Intellectuals
How We Can Coexist
A little while ago, educated people had been discussing a paper prepared by the Center for American Values entitled "What We`re Fighting For" which was signed by sixty American intellectuals. It centers on a number of issues, among the most important of which is to explain the morality behind America`s war on what they call terrorism and to call the Muslims to stand with them, adopt American values, and fight against what they describe as Islamic radicalism.
We welcome dialogue and exchange. Dialogue, in principle, is a noble endeavor where we can take a good look at our moral foundations and discuss them with the intent of establishing a more just and equitable relationship between our nations and peoples. From this point of departure, we the signatories to this letter - from the land of the two mosques and the cradle of Islam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - present our point of view as an informed alternative with the intent of establish an atmosphere of mutual understanding that can be adopted by organizations and governments.
We are firmly convinced that it is necessary for people of knowledge and probity to enjoy a far-reaching depth of vision. Thit will not permit them to pursue choices made by individuals and circles, under the pressure of circumstances, that fail to take ethics and human rights into consideration. Such are the choices that lead societies to perpetual anxiety, deprivation, and inhuman conflict.
The language of their discourse is the language of power. This is a mistake, since making power the language of dialogue tends to permit the forces of conflict to play a difficult and uncertain role in the future.
At this important juncture in history, we call upon unbiased thinkers to engage in earnest dialogue to try and bring about better understanding for both sides that will keep our peoples away from the domain of conflict and prepare the way for a better future for the generations to come who are expecting a lot from us.
We must invite everyone to the process of dialogue that we present to our world, and do so under the umbrella of justice, morality, and human rights, so we can give glad tidings to the world of a process that will bring about for it peace and tremendous good.
To the extent that dialogue is necessary and effective, it must maintain a tone of respect, clarity, and frankness. These are the prerequisites for its success. Dialogue itself can only be built upon such a foundation, and those participating in it must be willing to accept criticism and correction unflinchingly.
Therefore we say clearly and in total frankness that we are prepared to discuss any issue raised by the West, realizing that there are a number of concepts, moral values, rights, and ideas that we share with the West and that can be nurtured to bring about what is best for all of us. This means that we have common objectives. Nevertheless, we, just like you, possess our own governing principles and priorities and our own cultural assumptions.
Our Values and Guiding Principles
There are a number of basic principles and moral values that govern our dealings with other nations. These were set forth fourteen centuries ago by the messenger of Islam, Muhammad. This was before human rights organizations existed and before there was a United Nations with its international charters.
Let us look at some of these:
1. The human being is inherently a sacred creation. It is forbidden to transgress against any human being, irrespective of color, ethnicity, or religion. The Qur`ân says: "We have honored the descendants of Adam." [17:70]
2. It is forbidden to kill a human soul unjustly. Killing a single person is to God as heinous as killing all of humanity, just as saving a single person from death is as weighty as saving the lives of all humanity. The Qur`ân says: "If anyone killed a person except as recompense for murder or spreading havoc in the land, then it would be as if he killed all of humanity. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the lives of all humanity." [5:32]
3. It is forbidden to impose a religious faith upon a person. The Qur`ân says: "There is no compulsion in religion." [2:256] A person will not even be considered a Muslim if he or she accepted Islam under duress.
4. The message of Islam asserts that human relationships must be established on the highest moral standards. Muhammad said: "I was only sent to perfect good conduct."
The Qur`ân says: "We sent aforetime our messengers with clear signs and sent down with them the scripture and the balance so the people could establish justice. And We sent down iron wherein is mighty power and many benefits for mankind." [57:25]
We read in another place in the Qur`ân: "God does not restrain you with regard to those who do not fight you on account of your faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God loves those who are just." [60:8]
5. All the resources of the Earth were created for humanity. The Qur`ân addresses this when it says: "It is He who has created for you all that is on the Earth." [2:29]
These resources were only created for human beings to benefit from them within the limits of justice and for the betterment of humanity. Therefore, spoiling the environment, spreading havoc on Earth, perpetrating violence against weaker nations and fighting to wrest from them their wealth and the fruits of their prosperity, is conduct that is reviled by God. In the Qur`ân we read: "When he turns his back, his aim is to spread mischief throughout the Earth and destroy crops and cattle, but Allah does not love mischief." [2:205] and: "Do not make mischief in the Earth after it has been set in order." [7: 56]
6. Responsibility for a crime rests solely upon the perpetrator of that crime. No one may be punished for the crimes of another. The Qur`ân says: "No bearer of burdens must bear the burdens of another." [35:18]
7. Justice for all people is their inalienable right. Oppressing them is forbidden, irrespective of their religion, color, or ethnicity. The Qur`ân states: "And whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a close relative is concerned." [6: 152]
8. Dialogue and invitation must be done in the best possible manner. The Qur`ân says: "Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good preaching and argue with them in the best manner" [16:125]
We believe in these principles, as our religion commands us to. They are the teachings of Muhammad. They agree to some extent with some of the principles that the American intellectuals put forth in their paper. We see that this agreement gives us a good platform for discussion that can bring about good for all of mankind.