In Conversation with Syrian Grand Mufti

Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin Mohammad Adib Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syriainfo-icon during his maiden but brief visit to Kashmirinfo-icon cautioned Muslims against falling prey to extremism and religious bigotry and stressed on unity of Muslims and universal message of Islam.

Mufti Hassoun once said, "I follow all sects of Islam. I am Sunni in practice, Shiainfo-icon in allegiance. My roots are Salafi, and my purity is Sufi."

Highly learned Mufti from the most modern but now warinfo-icon ravaged Arab country was born in Aleppo (Halab) in Syria. His father, Muhammad Adeeb Hassoun, was also a well known Sheikh. 

Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin Hassoun studied at the University of Islamic Studies, where he graduated as Doctor in Shafi'i fiqh. Hassoun took office as Grand Mufti of Syria in July 2005, six years before war broke out and after the death of Mufti Ahmed Kuftaro.

During his stay in Srinagar Dr. Ahmad Bader Eddin spoke to Trans Asia Newsinfo-icon Editor-in-Chief Sajjad Haiderinfo-icon about the situation in the Arab Worldinfo-icon especially Syria, issues facing the Musliminfo-icon world and need for Ijma of Muslim clergy on extremism and sectarianism.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation.

Q) Please explain what actually is happening in Syria?

Before I speak on Syria, I would like to speak on Kashmir. It is for the first time I am visiting here and I think no Aalim (Scholar) from Syria has visited Kashmir before. We get to know about the Kashmir situation from the Western mediainfo-icon and what they had projected about Kashmir is that this is only a place of strife and unrest, that there is no value for human life, people don't have a normal life here. That is what we had in mind before we came to Kashmir. But this is heaven on earthinfo-icon and media has distorted facts and really the time I arrived in Kashmir, I felt we are not doing enough for Kashmir.

Regarding Indiainfo-icon I know it was once the centre of knowledge for Islam and before colonisation of India, Ulama from Kashmir and India used to come to Syria and other countries for religious studies. If you visit my library in Syria, you can see a lot of booksinfo-icon written by scholars from India and responsibility lies on my shoulders to tell the world the situation in India and Kashmir. And I wish peace should prevail in Kashmir.

I believe people of Indian Sub-continent, India, Pakistaninfo-icon, and Bangladeshinfo-icon, Myanmarinfo-icon, and Sri-Lanka should unite and become one powerful subcontinent. They can become a great nation. If European countries can unite and from one European Unioninfo-icon why can't South Asiainfo-icon  be one? Europe has one single parliament now and I was invited to deliver a speech there and was surprised to notice that they speak 14 different languages yet they are under one roof. I stressed them to maintain the unity. 

There in Europe, they had two world wars and lost millions of human lives but still they made up and have one single parliament for all Europeans.

Before 70 or 80 years, British and French came and divided one Arab nation in Levant into four nations, Lebanoninfo-icon, Syria, Jordon and Palestineinfo-icon. They politically divided usinfo-icon and the work was accomplished by just two foreign ministers Sykes and Picot. Now, people want to reunite and Syria has been always calling for the reunification. That is the reason we are being punished. They want to divide us on the basis of religioninfo-icon and sects. Syria has always been opposing their plots and we stood against them. When Syrian Armyinfo-icon went into Lebanon, the country was divided into four entities, Sunni, Shia, Druze and Christian and when we withdraw our Army, Lebanon was one and united. 

They went to divide people of Iraqinfo-icon and at the time Syria refused to give spaceinfo-icon for aircraft to the United Statesinfo-icon and that is also one of the reasons we are being punished because we refused to bow down before them.

Whatever is happening in Syria now, is the execution of punishment by the United States and its allies because we stood against them always. We didn't bow down to religious extremism which they want to promote to weaken Islam. They try to split us in different doctrinal divisions like Hanafi's, Jafa'ris or Sunnis and Shia so that we remain busy fighting each other. The fact is when we didn't bow down to any of the so called superpowers then they gathered fighters from all over the world and made them fight against us in our own country.

Q: So do you mean to say that whatever is happening in Syria is a proxy war imposed by US and its allies not a legitimate popular uprising against a brutal dictatorship?

People should not believe whatever Western media and their propaganda machinery dishes out. We welcome all to come to Syria and see for themselves the real situation.Like in the case of Kashmir, they (Western media) portrayed negative things about Kashmir. They propagated that Kashmiris are killing each other and are violent but when we came here we were pleasantly surprised to see such a beautiful place and a warm-hearted people.

When I came to Kashmir I found it a piece of heaven. It was very nice to hear the Azan (Call for Prayers) all over coming from the mosques. It was nice to see the Mosques, Temples and other religious places standing side by side.

Syria has more than 23 different sects but we don't consider any sect to be a minority. We believe all sects are equal. Every citizen of Syria has equal rights. We don't have any differences on the basis of religion and sects but unfortunately some Western powers didn't want to see a prosperous and united Syria and they played a big game against us. But Alhamdulillah (Thanks to God) they failed in their sinister design. 

They tried hard to divide Syria into a number of smaller entities in order to weaken it as Syria is the only Arab country which has remained steadfast against Israelinfo-icon.

Q: The perception prevalent among a large section of Muslims is that Jihadists flocking to Syria were truly trying to establish a Khilafah there?

Syria is a democratic society where different religious groups coexist - Christians, the Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslims. Those who call their wars religious, do so in order to provoke radicalism among Muslims.

I am telling you that after you publish your interviewinfo-icon, you will get resentment, backlash from the public as they have been fed false propaganda by Western media, but I appeal them to come to Syria and see for themselves what actually is happening and who is doing what.

A large number of people from different countries came to Syria to to establish a so called Khilafah when Prophet Muhammad (saw) centuries ago said, Islam in Syria will never go down. I have a question for those people: Why they did not establish Islamic caliphate in their own countries first? Why did not they fight against Israel and liberate the first qibla Al-Aqsa Mosque all these years? They were misled and lured by the United States and its allies. Many of these fighters in Syria don't even know why they are fighting there and for whom.

Islam is a religion of peace and had never waged a war against anyone, and gives shelter to others. We are standing at the gate of victory in Syria and soon we will announce "Syria is free from foreign fighters".

There is still American presence in some pockets of Syria and they came to support Daesh. There are credible reports that they are these days busy evacuating leaders of Daesh to safer places. What type of Khilafah they want to establish with American support?

Q) Nowadays people easily fall prey to extremist thoughts. Isn't it the failure of Ulama? Do Ulama need to change their approach?

It is the three-sided problem. First most of our Ulama remain trapped in the past. They have failed to look at the future. I am a Shafi'i scholar and my Ph.D. thesis was about Imam Abu Hanifa. What I see when the Imam was in Iraq he laid some foundation of his fiqh (jurisprudence) there. After 10 years he went to Egyptinfo-icon and there he changed his approach and fiqh. He said to the people there don't follow what I said in Iraq, follow what I said in Egypt (according to latest, what I reached to). You can just imagine within just 10 years he changed his way of looking at Islam. He didn't change Islam he changed his approach, the way he looked at Islam. Islam is belief and doctrine. Belief you can't change but we can make a better understanding of Islam. So we have to understand Islam in the different perspective. (Ijtihad)

The 2nd one is our Ulama need to leave their homes and reach out to the people. It is their responsibility to approach people not the other way round. Our Prophet (Pbuh) didn't keep himself confined to a particular place. He reached to people all over to propagate Islam. He traveled far and wide with the message from Hejaz to Yemeninfo-icon and to Syria. 

I was very disappointed when I was not allowed to meet the students in some madrassas in India. On the contrary when I travelinfo-icon to Europe there they invite all students for interaction with me. Our Ulama should come out from the narrow-mindedness.

Our Ulama of different schools of thought during their Friday Khutbah differentiate people on the basis of sects and this confuses and disturbs the common people. I urge these Ulama don't preach hate and bigotry. Don't gather just Muslims gather whole humanity because our prophet is not mercy for Muslims alone he is Rahmatal-lil Aalamaien (Mercy for the Worlds) so why confine his message to Muslims that too a particular sect.

The third one is the outside effect. Like the United States whose ultimate goal is to weaken Muslims. Who had divided India? It were Britishers who did it and now you see you have a Kashmir conflictinfo-icon. It was their wish that India and Pakistan should remain at loggerheads over this piece of beautiful land.