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The Commongrounds Convened an International Seminar "Islamic Peace Perspectives and Role of Madrassas" at Sheraton National Hotel, VA

“Islamic Peace Perspectives and Role of Madrassas”

Islam Religion of Peace, Madressas Play Pivotal Role in Reformation of Society: say Visiting Religious Scholars


 WASHINGTON, February 21,2009: Visiting Pakistani Islamic religious scholars at a seminar on ‘Islamic Peace Perspectives and Role of Madrassas’, organized by ‘The COMMONGROUNDS,’ Saturday highlighted role of religious seminaries in providing education and promoting cause of character-building of children hailing from poor and middle class population of Pakistan. This interanational Seminar took place at Sheraton National Hotel, VA (Washington Metro Area)

The guest speakers were: Hafiz Abdul Wahab Ropari, Principal, Jamia Ahl-e-Hadith; and Allama Rai Zafar Ali, Principal, Jamia Baqir ul Uloom, both from Lahore, Pakistan. Shaikh Abdul Hameed Asghar, Principal, ‘Al-Qalam’, Darul Huda, Springfield, Virginia, also joined the discussion, held at a private hotel in Arlington, attended by a select audience.

The speakers said, Islam was religion of peace and Madrassas have always played a pivotal role in respect of promoting true religious aspirations of peace and development. They stated that Islam opposed feelings of sectarianism, dissension, intolerance, militancy, arrogance and suicide attacks. They stated that, “In fact, such sort of baser and negative conduct was alien to the teachings of true Islam, which was universal in approach and conduct.”

The scholars impressed the vital need for continuous inter-religious dialogue, and were of the view that it was imperative for bringing the followers of divine religions so as to attain the common objective of global peace, harmony and well-being.

Shaikh Abdul Hameed Asghar of  ‘Al-Qalam’ school said, his institution followed the curricula set by the U.S. government, while in addition, it imparted classes in Islamic teachings, based on Quran and jurisprudence, such as knowledge of ‘Hadis’, ‘Fiqah’, ‘Tafseer’ and ‘Hifz’ for character-building of the enrolled students. He viewed that religious teachings equipped the tender minds adherence to traits of dignified conduct.

Dilating on aspect of ‘difference of opinion,’ he quoted a saying by Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him), in which He stated that difference of opinion was a blessing for the believers.

Allama Rai Zafar Ali said, his Madrassa imparted modern education along with religious curriculum. ‘Our objective is to make students useful citizens. God Almighty had undertaken to provide sustenance to human beings, hence, it was obligatory upon believers to concentrate more on task of acquisition of knowledge, which helps overcome clouds of darkness.

He regretted that news media is used to paint seminaries in a negative fashion, whenever there was socio-political unrest in Pakistan. Hence, the dissemination of reports based on alleged insinuation about Madrassas becomes all the more gruesome once it reaches the readers in the West-- where awareness about the role of a seminary in an Islamic society was already scant, negligible or inadequate.

Rai Zafar said, the fact that students of 13,450 seminaries in Pakistan come from poor sections of the society or were orphans whose food and shelter was a problem for their kith and kin. He questioned as to why this fact is easily forgotten that “very often, these young students are drop-outs, dejected or rejected ones. They need counseling and help to become acceptable citizens. Not only that, but the fact is that seminaries are often run on finances based on donations, ‘sadeqat’ and ‘khairat’.”

He said all the Madrassas were not bad or non-standard.

“Yester years, when the West required freedom fighters, they patronized seminaries. Hence conscious efforts were made to introduce, imbibe and inculcate Jihadi culture. Food for thought is as to why students educated from the same Madrassas are today not willing to follow the appeals of pursuing cause of peace and tranquility, while yesterday they were willing to accept task of becoming Jihadis? The matter is amply clear: one can find a lost article at the place it’s lost.”

He said majority of Madrassas in Pakistan work for promotion of peace and dissemination of standard education, depending on their financial health. He urged that it was imperative to extend financial help to those in need, so that they are capable of providing modern education to pupils along with religious teachings.

Maulana Abdul Wahab Ropari said it was virtuous conduct to promote tolerance, respect and pursuit of excellence.   

He said Madrassas were acting as largest non-governmental organization in a developing country like Pakistan. “These institutions are performing a worthy task, which basically is an undertaking of governments. But, unfortunately, the well-deserved words of appreciation are, often, missing.”

Ahl e Hadees scholar said, Madarssas in Pakistan have of late been instrumental in producing religious luminaries, who propounded moderate thinking and promoted cause of modern education. He said the seminaries in the country were doing its best to promote tolerance and acted over and above ethnic and sectarian lines, and rejected negative nuances attached to Madressas.

About suicide attacks, he said those indulging “in these nefarious acts” were not doing any religious service, since act of suicide was ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam. In this behalf, he referred to a ‘fatwa’ (religious edict) given by majority of Pakistani religious scholars, including hiself.

He said Islam was protagonist of truth which was bound to prevail. In his words, “once the common sight of social turmoil witnessed in many societies today was over, the truth in religion would prevail.”

The Maulana on his first visit to the United States said, it was encouraging to find worthy efforts underway in this country for promoting inter-faith dialogue for a better understanding of religious moorings of the three main divine religions.

Founder and Director of ‘The COMMONGROUNDS,’ Dr. Zulfiqar A. Kazmi, in his welcoming remarks said there were over 13,000 Madrassas in Pakistan, who were performing role of a large NGO, which provides food, shelter and education to youngsters hailing from poor and middle class sections of the society, though there were many reservations about these institutions in the West.

Besides, Madrassas were also present in other countries around the globe, and they were performing a valuable role in the spread of quality education.


He said it was high time for our men of letters to come forth and assail the misgivings and misperceptions prevalent in the minds of people in the West.

On the occasion, he introduced the guests from Pakistan, besides discussing Role of Religious Seminaries “Madrassas” in Pakistan. Dr. Kazmi dwelt at length over the worthy work being done in the domain of inter-faith dialogue in the United States. He said, the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were finding a better appraisal and understanding, which was a valuable and worth appreciation work.

For the United States, he said it was a beautiful land of abundance where religious liberty and harmony were order of the day. The country offered equal opportunities to all cultures and religions. He told the audience that during Eid festivals, the Muslims received full and wiling cooperation from the Christian faith citizens in respect of logistics and offering of prayers.   

He called upon the touring religious scholars to visit Churches and synagogues while in the United States, to know of the sentiments of moderation, accommodation and mutual respect.

About selection of the topic for the seminar, he said it was imperative to assail reservations in the minds of the people of the West about religious seminaries in Pakistan, which often were a topic of discussi

A Symposium : Global Crises and Sufism

GLOBAL CRISES AND SUFISM

By Fida Shah, Woodbridge VA 

The Commongrounds, a non-profit Inter-Faith Religious Organization, situated in Northern Virginia, hosted a Symposium on Global Crises and Sufism on March 4, 2008, organized by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Kazmi, Executive Director of the Commongrounds. Dr. Kazmi is a well known Islamic Scholar who has contributed extensively on peaceful co-existence between the three Abraham faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His efforts have culminated in the establishment of a Peace Embassy in Lahore, Pakistan holding several seminars to promote inter-faith harmony. 

The symposium was held at the tastefully decorated banquet hall of the Chutney Restaurant – a famous Pakistani restaurant in Springfield, VA, frequented by the Indo-Pakistani community and public at large. The invitees were Muslim scholars and intellectuals from a cross section of Sunnite and Shiite schools of thoughts, academia, including two priests representing Christianity and journalists from Pakistan Media and Voice of America (VOA). However, some of the invitees could not come due to a violent rain storm raging in the Washington Metropolitan Area causing a deluge and flooding in some parts of the Metro area.

The keynote address was delivered by Hadhrat Allama Muhammad Maqsood Qadri, ‘Khateeb of Data Darbar Lahore, Pakistan, a renowned Islamic Scholar and Sufi of the Qadria Sufi Order. ‘Data Darbar’ is a distinguished Sufi Shrine on the outskirts of the City of Lahore. Millions of people pay homage to this renowned saint, Syed Ali Hajweri, including the President, Prime Minister of Pakistan and other high government dignitaries. Hadhrat message throughout his short sermon was nothing but love and peace around the world.  

Hadhrat Allama Maqsood Qdri was among a large number of Muslim Religious Scholars throughout the world at a conference in New York in October, 2001 – right after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Hadhrat Sahib condemned in unequivocal terms terrorism in all shape and form and delivered a message of peace and love, the underlying philosophy of Sufism.

At the conclusion, the invitees were glowing in the atmosphere of love and tranquility and hugging each other keeping their entire so-called differences aside and pledged to promote for reconciliation and betterment of humanity.

This beautiful gathering was then shifted to a reserved area of the Chutney Restaurant where a sumptuous buffet dinner awaited the guests; comprising of Rice Pilaf (Biryani), succulent grilled lamb, chicken, and beef  kabobs, delicious curries and  crisp Tandoori Nans (baked bread) followed by dessert and tea/coffee.

I earnestly hope that the Commongrounds would continue to provide a platform for meaningful dialogues between different faiths to augment reconciliation and promote peaceful coexistence around the world.

A Short Introduction of Sufism 

Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that through devotion transcends a human being into the realism of absolute and is considered the right path to God Almighty by cleansing ones soul of all the worldly pollutants of hate, greed and unfairness that reside in the human subconscious. There are many stages of this devotion and quite a few transcend to the realism of absolute.

History is full of famous Sufis of different Orders throughout the world. ‘Maulana Rum’ – Rumi – is one of the most read about Sufis (Mystics) by the Western reader.

 I quote below a passage from Rumi – Reference “Essential Sufism”, edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager:

“Every form that you see has its original in the divine world. If the form passes away, it is of no consequence, because its origin was from eternity… The fountainhead is always bringing forth water. Since neither ceases, why should you complain? Keep regret out of your thought, and keep on drinking from the rivulet. Do not be afraid. The water is limitless…”

Another Sufi – Jami - says:

“When you see beauty and perfection in this world, it is nothing but a sign of Him. A beautiful creature is merely a single blossom from the vast garden of God. But remember that a picture fades, a flower dies, and the reflection in the mirror is eclipsed by the real Light. It is God who is real and remains so forever. So why waste your time over something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Go directly to Source without delay.

About the Author: The Author is an experienced travel writer having lived in various parts of the world; interacting with people of different beliefs, cultures and ethnic background.

   

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To promote a better understanding of Islam in America, to improve relations with all Religions and to foster a climate that would encourage acceptance and the positive reception of the Islamic truth

 

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A Message from THE COMMONGROUNDS

May Allah disperse his peace and love upon all Humanity May Allah enlighten our hearts and minds with true message of Islam and bring us mercy, compassion, forgiveness, charity, generosity, solidarity, sharing, giving, contemplation, repentance, patience, resolution and self-improvement. Let us Work together to empower Humanity with Love and Peace for a better future