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Houston Conference about the Quran

 

Houston Conference about the Quran

 

Was published in Arabic in March,12, 2016

Translated by Ahmed Fathy

 

Firstly:

1- We receive invitations to attend conferences, but we used for years to refuse such invitations to save our effort and time; yet, we could not refuse this special invitation because it is for a conference about the Quran.

2- ''The Communities of the Qur'an'' program has invited us to attend a conference about this topic: (How Does the Quran form Muslim Communities and their Interpretation and Vision of the Quran). This conference included speakers from different sects in addition to the presence of researchers specializing in Islamic studies among Jews and Christians. We have accepted this invitation because the inviter was Dr. Orman Badawi, and Egyptian-American who speaks Egyptian Arabic fluently, who lived in Cairo for some time, and now, he is an Assistant Professor of Middle-East studies at Houston University, and he is the founder of the program titled (The International Qur'anic Studies Association), aiming at unifying different visions and viewpoints among those specialists in Islam among different doctrines, sects, and groups. He has talked to us in the phone, and we have made sure we get to know his reformist tendencies and ideas.

3- The Department of Middle-East Studies at Houston University helped hold this conference, but the big share of effort was done by Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance in Rice University, and this institute was established in 2013 by Dr. Milton Boniuk and his wife Laura. Dr. Paula Sanders, the vice-manager of this institute, participated in organizing this conference; she specializes in history of Cairo, the Fatimid caliphate, and Jewish communities in the Middle Ages in the history of Muslims. We felt affinity with those who participate and organize the conference, because of our field of specialization and the value of tolerance that unites us all.

4- It was scheduled that the conference sessions would start on Thursday morning 10th March until the next day. Yet, a forum was added to the schedule of the conference, to be attended by all invitees, presided by Dr. Omran Badawi who hosted the following guests: 1- the imam Faysal Abdul-Raouf, the author of the book titled "Defining the Concept of the Islamic State", the imam of Al-Farah Mosque in New York, and the founder of the American-Islamic-Sufi Society that aim at promoting coexistence and dialogue between American Muslims and the rest of Americans 2- the Rabbi Dr. Reuven Firestone, specialist in Hebrew and Islamic studies at the Hebrew Union College in Los Anglos, the head of International Quranic Studies Center, and the founder of Jewish-Islamic Understanding Center. This encounter tackled several topics such as the notion of the Islamic state, objectives and aims of Sunnite sharia, ISIS, and Sunnite-Shiite strife and war.

 

Secondly:

 The schedule activities of the conference began on Thursday morning 10th March by two sessions. The first session presided by Dr. Hannah Azzem, assistant professor of Islamic studies in Department of Middle-East Studies at the University of Taxes at Austin. Speakers in this session included the following:

1- Dr. Ingrid Matson, an American-Canadian, talked about how the Quran formed the Sunnite community. She is a researcher in Islamic studies and an activist in the field of interfaith dialogue, working at several universities in the USA and Jordan.

2- Dr. Sajjad Rizvi, assistant professor of intellectual history of Muslims at Exeter University, UK, who studied at Cambridge University, a British of Indian origin who was born in the UAE, and he talked about memories of  Twelver Shiites living with the Quran.

3- Dr. Ali Asani, professor specializing in Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and culture, at Harvard University, an American of Indian origin, born in Kenya, and he talked about the relation of Ismaili Shiites with the Quran in South Asia.

4- We were the fourth speaker, and our delivered speech was about Quranists as the solution.            

 The second session presided by Dr. David Cook, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Rice University. Speakers in this session included the following:

1- Dr. Amina Wadud, former professor of Islamic studies, famous for being the first female imam in the USA, and the world, in Friday congregational prayers that included men and women in one hall, causing hot debate, and she talked about ''responsibility of men: the Quran and the topic of male and female''. When she became an imam of the Friday congregational prayers, we wrote a supportive article about the topic of the right of qualified women to become imams in congregational prayers.

2- Pakistani lawyer Mr. Mujib Al-Rahman, who has gained renown for legally defending the creed of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, when Pakistani government and law declared them as non-Muslims, but they consider themselves as Muslims. He talked about the relation between Ahmadiyya community and the Quran. He memorized the Quran by heart, and we heard of him for the very first time when we attended a Congress session, and heard his speech there delivered about persecution of Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. We admired his courage in defending Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, and felt overjoyed to meet him at last in this conference to discover that he has recognized us and that he has read our book about refuting apostasy punishment. We met with him a lot and enjoyed his company within slots of free time in the conference schedule.  

3- Dr. Todd Lewiston, who talked about the stance of Baha'is toward the Quran, is not a Baha'i, but he was sent by the Baha'i community to speak on their behalf. He is a former professor of Islamic thought at Toronto University, Canada. He used to teach about Islam, the Quran, the Sufi creed, and the Shiite creed.

4- Dr. Aminah McCloud, professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University, Chicago, and she talked about the relation between the Quran and African-American Muslims.

 Each speaker had only 15 minutes to deliver his/her speech, in English only, followed by another 15 minutes of discussion.

 

Thirdly:

 We have already sent our paper in English before our coming to attend the conference, to be among the research papers of the conference. This paper is an article published here in Arabic on our website titled: "The Quran Is the Solution for Religious Civil Wars among the Muhammadans". Yet, we discarded this paper from our speech and decided to improvise a response to what we have heard from all speakers. Here is a summary of what we have talked about in our 15 minutes.

1- Our Quranist faith: we, Quranists, believe in the Quran as the only discourse in Islam. Prophet Muhammad used to follow the Quran and nothing else. God commands us in several verses to make the Quran the only discourse in Islam. We perform acts of worship to God alone. We believe that Islam is the religion of peace, justice, absolute religious freedom, mercy, and dignity. Because we, Quranists, believe in Allah as the One and Only God, we reject the worship, sanctification, and deification of Prophet Muhammad. We deny and reject notions such as all hadiths (sayings, deeds, and traditions) attributed to Muhammad after his death, the so-called Muhammad's intercession or mediation on behalf of those condemned to Hell in the Hereafter, and the polytheistic practice of visiting, in a pilgrimage-like ritual, the tomb ascribed to Muhammad to worship at it. we deny and reject preferring, distinguishing, and differentiation between Muhammad and the rest of the prophets and messengers. We deny and reject notions and traditions that glorify, sanctify, and deify the so-called companions/contemporaries of Muhammad and the so-called caliphs. We believe that Arab conquests of neighboring countries around Arabia in the 7th century have nothing to do with Islam. Such conquests were crimes committed by caliphs Abou Bakr, Omar, and Othman as they conquered and occupied lands and countries and looted their money and wealth, raped their women, enslaved their natives, and destroyed their possessions and culture and attributed their crimes to Islam. God has sent Muhammad as a mercy to humankind, not as a source of terrorism to humankind. Heinous crimes committed by ISIS terrorists are repetitions of crimes perpetrated by caliphs Abou Bakr, Omar, and Othman. We deny and reject sanctifying any books beside the Quran, like volumes and tomes of Al-Bokhary and any other 'holy' books, which reflect the mentalities of its authors and their culture pertaining to certain eras, and such books have nothing to do with Islam.

2- Our scientific methodology: we, Quranists, understand the Quran within its special terminology that differ from Arabic terms used and defined by the Sufis, the Shiites, and the Sunnites. There are, of course, countless differences among lexicography books and dictionaries of Arabic language, as language is an organism undergoing changes with the passage of centuries. Even terms differ in ancient history books and accounts; the style of writing of the famous historian, Al-Tabari, in his history books written during the 3rd century A.H. differs a great deal in comparison to that of the historian M. Ibn Iyas whose books were written in the 10th century A.H. Hence, no researcher can understand true tenets of real Islam, found exclusively in the Quran, and facts about history, heritage, and traditions of Muslims without a deep understanding of Arabic terminologies, not just mere knowledge or grasp of the Arabic tongue. Quranists pinpoint a clear barrier between Islam and Muslim; Islam consists of commands and prohibitions and faith tenets found ONLY in the Quran. An example of commands is what we call the Quranic Ten Commandments in 6:151-153. As for Muslims, they are human beings with human history, heritage, traditions, and civilization; they have good and bad deeds. Their worst deed was to deify, sanctify, and worship historical figures, such as early pre-Umayyad caliphs, among others, and to revere and sanctify fiqh and hadiths (theology and jurisprudence and traditions) books authored by forefathers among scholars and theologians, as if such books were divinely revealed, and such books turned into part of divine sharia gradually with the passage of time. That was a grave error.

3- Our first mission, as Quranists, is to peacefully reform Muslims using the Quran, and the second one is to face, expose, and refute Wahabism and its terrorism by evidence and proofs from within Islam. The rules to which we stick are as follows: 1) we never impose ourselves and our views on anyone, 2) we never assume to own the absolute truth; rather, we wait God's judgment of us and others, and 3) we never demand any reward from anyone, and we forgive those who harm and attack us verbally.

4- About Quranists as the solution: Quranists have the expertise of more than 30 years in intellectually facing and refuting terrorism caused by Wahabism. Despite being impecunious and having modest means as well as being persecuted until this very moment everywhere, Quranists have created a huge difference and a positive influence. Weapons and arms can never kill ideas; old ideas vanish if they cannot stand against counter ideas that are innovative and creative within the same culture and milieu of the old ideas. Hence, even if all Wahabi terrorists around the globe are exterminated without putting to question, discussing, and refuting of their Wahabi creed, millions of new terrorists will emerge with a vengeance and will be more savage and brutal than ever. So far, we, Quranists, face terrorists intellectually despite our modest means; no one cares about us until this very moment.

 

Lastly:

1- As we did not approve of some speeches of this conference attendees, our speech was frowned upon by some of them. Yet, our delivered speech was admired immensely by some audience among non-Muslim Americans. As for audience's comments and our responses to them, it was clear that those who opposed our speech were shocked by all comments and responses. The same shock they received during the next day, when some Quranic verses were discussed during the sessions.

2- It was clear in this conference that a huge gap exists between ourselves and the rest of invitees; their knowledge scope was superficial and shallow in a disgraceful manner. This might not be harmful, but it is harmful for anyone to be ignorant and yet take pride of and feel happy with such ignorance to the extent that one sticks steadfastly to it.                  


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