RECENTLY, peace-loving people of the world have started thinking about how to heal the scars created after the 9/11 incidents in the United States. They are thinking how religion can play a role to solve some of the crucial political, economic, social and environmental issues facing the world through the joint and coordinated efforts of the followers of the world religions.
Recently, two international centers have been established to realize these goals: Global Center for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG) and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in the United Kingdom. Introducing the Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance, it was registered last year as a charity organization in the United Kingdom. Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, Chairman of the Centre, told me in an interview, “About two/three years ago we felt the need to improve our curriculum in our universities, as we found that the quality of graduates coming out of Shariah and other religious institutions in the Muslim world, was not up to the mark, they don’t have the inclusive and comprehensive perception of Islam.”
“Islam is comprehensive and includes every aspect of life. We thought about Islamization of knowledge and Islam as a curriculum,” said Dr. Naseef and mentioned the Islamization of Knowledge movement which was initiated from Makkah Al-Mukarramah in 1977 through the First World Conference of Muslim Education followed by five or six World Conferences on Muslim Education.
“But nothing much has been accomplished as yet. So we thought that we start the process of educating people by the establishment of an institute in Britain. We realized after studies that the scheme would be very expensive and needed contribution from the government which is not possible,” said Dr. Naseef.
Dr. Naseef said, “We thought that we should start courses in training of the imams, impart to our students the values of the Middle Way of Islam; the balanced religion and also train them on the schools of thought. The students may be all regions of the world who could study and live together. The first meeting was held in Wales last year, in 2007. We brought people from America mainly with some from Britain of different backgrounds, who stayed together for three or four days, and we succeeded in teaching them that we all could work together in harmony.”
Elaborating, Dr. Naseef said, “When we study the outcome of our experiment in Wales we found that we were going in the right direction. So we thought we should register our institution and try to prepare our courses. After long discussions, we thought that it was worth while to set up institution of this kind to undertake research and training courses; publication of books to help in understanding the greatness of Islam and its comprehensiveness.
Sheikh Abdallah, one of the core members of our team, has produced the book on “The Manufacturing of Fatwa.” How does one make Fatwa? What are the conditions? The courses delivered in Wales were concentrated on that. The Center has been officially opened here in the United Kingdom.”
Dr. Naseef said, “We are getting together for a noble cause to bring law and order, to bring people to wisdom and peace, to compassion and virtues, for which Prophets were sent. God has sent down Prophets with the clear message and Mizan. There is a balance which keeps the things in order. People should learn from that; they should come to the virtue; the virtue that will make them better human beings, bring them together to a coherent society in a global village.”
Speaking about the Center’s objectives, Dr. Naseef said, “The main objective of the Center is to do research and train people and give the true, authentic image of the Middle Way of Islam and the Straight Path which it is to eliminate the narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism which is not wise and not in anyone’s interest. But there is nothing new; it is all from the Qur’an and Sunnah and it is all from the life story of the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him). We are not claiming that we are introducing new ideas outside of Islam. It really originates from the deep Islamic thought and the Sirah of the Sahaba. This is the renewal. We can bring back the things which have became dormant in our society, to make people aware. This is the work of renewal and awareness.”
About the executive body of the Centre Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef informed that according to the charity commission’s rules and regulations, the Centre has a Board of Trustees composed of four or five Trustees. At present, among the Trustees, there are Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, Sheikh Salman Al-Oudah, myself and Hamza Yusuf.”
“Sheikh Abdallah is the most knowledgeable scholar of today. He highlights the positive side of Islam. We have people of different backgrounds. The idea is to sit together, and to work to project the middle way of thinking and how to renew our way of teaching and make people aware of the real Islam, the great Faith which was instrumental in changing societies of Makkah and Madina and of the whole world,” said Dr. Naseef.