Two-day International Seminar
“Peace and Progress: Role of Religions”
February 11-12, 2012
Kennedy Hall, AMU, Aligarh
Institute of Objective Studies
Faculty of Theology, AMU, Aligarh
L-R: Prof M. Saud Alam Qasmi, Dean Faculty of Sunni Theology, AMU, Aligarh; Prof. Syed Ali Mohammad Naqvi, Dean, Faculty of Shia Theology, AMU, Aligarh; Dr. M.D. Thomas, National Director, Commission for Religious Harmony, C.B.C.I. New Delhi; Swami Sarwanand Saraswati, Mahashakti Peeth, New Delhi; Dr. Mustafa Sairfi, Visiting Professor, Doha, Qatar; Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman, IOS; Mr. K. Rahman Khan, Deputy Speaker, Rajya Sabha, New Delhi; Prof. Sibghatullah Farooqui, Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh; Shaikh Gamaluddin Kotb, Chairman, Fatwa Committee, Al-Azhar University, Eygypt; Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, General Secretary, Islamic Fiqh Academy (India); Swami Dharmananda, Director, Adhyatma Sadhna Kendra, New Delhi; Mr. Geshe Dorji Damdul, Director, Tibbat House, New Delhi; Prof. Mohammed Muquim, former Head, Deptt. of Philosphy, AMU, Aligarh and Coordinator, IOS Aligarh Chapter
Aligarh, Feb. 11: A two-day international seminar on “Peace and Progress: Role of Religions” began here at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) today with recitation from the holy Quran by Qari Hamid Mian. The seminar was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies in collaboration with Faculty of Theology, AMU.
Speaker: Prof M. Saud Alam Qasmi, Dean Faculty of Sunni Theology, AMU, Aligarh
In his welcome address Prof. Ali Mohammad Naqvi, Dean Faculty of Theology, described IOS as a think tank and lauded its Chairman Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam’s tireless efforts in the field of study and research.
The theme of the seminar, he said, was “fundamental, thought-provoking and contested.” Western discourse understood progress primarily in a material, unidimensional and technical sense. “Might comes from science, but right comes only from religion,” he remarked.
Religion, however, had not always been a force for the good. Pre-Renaissance Europe, as also other regions and societies, saw oppression in the name of religion, which had often been used as a foil to power, Prof. Naqvi remarked.
Speaker: Prof. Syed Ali Mohammad Naqvi, Dean, Faculty of Shia Theology, AMU, Aligarh
In his introductory remarks former head of Deptt. of Philosophy, AMU, Prof. Mohammad Muqim introduced the IOS Aligarh Chapter, which he heads. He also made some comments on “peace” and “progress,” trying to put them in a proper logical and philosophical perspective.
Speaker: Prof. Mohammed Muquim, former Head, Deptt. of Philosphy, AMU, Aligarh and Coordinator, IOS Aligarh Chapter
The Chairman of IOS, Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam, in his address introduced the year-long IOS Silver Jubilee celebrations under which 14 seminars were to be held at different locations in India under the broad theme of “Knowledge, Peace and Development.” Twelve of them (including this seminar) had already been organised on sub-themes emanating from the above.
Speaker: Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman, IOS
Regarding “Peace and Progress: Role of Religions” he raised four issues and asked the audience and participants to mull over them. The following were the points raised:
- All religions should strive for moral leadership of the world, offer an alternative model of life to the rampant consumerism and pursuit of power which characterises the Western-dominated modernity.
- The gap among religions keeps growing, a systemic bias and prejudice has been increasing, mistrust among different religions has been accelerated.
- The endemic problem is the tendency to “play to the gallery”, so to speak, among leaders of religions being engaged more in posturing rather than real conversation or dialogue.
- Another fundamental problem is intellectuals from different religions (especially Muslims) either living in the West, or educated from the West, are no longer marginal outcasts or outside spectators in the central debates of the times, i.e.,
a) Religious issues and wider human concerns
b) Equality and untouchability
c) Poverty and unlimited affluence
d) Understanding religious history and current political problems
e) Creation of wealth and income and equitable distribution of it
f) Shackle of slavery and exploitation and emancipation from it.
In his inaugural address Sheikh Gamaluddin Mohammad Kotb, head of the Fatwa Committee of al-Azhar, Egypt and a member of IIIT Washington, said that in Islam “one of the names of God is al-Salam (Peace). It is not without reason that Islam derives from the same word that means peace, and the name of the final abode in heaven is Darus-Salam (home of peace).
Speaker: Shaikh Gamaluddin Kotb, Chairman, Fatwa Committee, Al-Azhar University, Eygypt
He congratulated IOS for its efforts to bring peace between religions and thanked Dr Alam for his taking the trouble to organise the seminar in collaboration with Faculty of Theology, AMU. He quoted a Hadith that says, “One who does not thank humans does not thank God.”
In his address Dr Mustafa Hussein Sairfi from Doha, Qatar, said that no progress was possible without peace and no peace was possible in a stagnant society. Peace is the key idea in Islam. Quoting scripture he said peace lay in the remembrance of God. He referred to the Islamic precept that the “entire creation is God’s family.” Peace must prevail in the family.
Speaker: Dr. Mustafa Sairfi, Visiting Professor, Doha, Qatar
Justice, economic and social, and freedom of thought and action, speech and expression, were vital for peace, he asserted.
Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani said “peace and progress are central to Islam”. Ideas of racial supremacy, inequality and injustice, he said, undermined peace.
Speaker: Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, General Secretary, Islamic Fiqh Academy (India)
Church leader Dr M D Thomas said peace was known by many names: Salam, Shalom, Shanti, Aman, etc. “People have different ideas of peace: it is absence of war, inner (personal) tranquility, tolerance and, even inaction. Some take it as a personal state of mind, others relate it to God. Yet others see it in the way human affairs are transacted. Peace, in fact, is life,” he remarked.
Speaker: Dr. M.D. Thomas, National Director, Commission for Religious Harmony, C.B.C.I. New Delhi
He said peace had to be a holistic, a forward movement on all sides––material progress, spiritual enlightenment, personal tranquility and social peace, peace within nations and between nations. Religion, he said, helped it, and quoted Pope John Paul XXIII, “We have to look for things that unite people, not things that divide them.”
Jain guru Swami Dharmanand a congratulated the IOS for holding such a meaningful seminar with the collaboration of Faculty of Theology, AMU. He said the 20th century had witnessed a great deal of material progress, to the effect that today millions of people lived the life of kings of earlier ages. Yet, the 20th century had also witnessed two World Wars that killed millions of people.
Speaker: Swami Dharmananda, Director, Adhyatma Sadhna Kendra, New Delhi
“Wars are born in the minds of men, and it is the mind that must be at peace with itself to prevent wars”, he asserted. Among the enemies of peace were “growing consumerism and loss of control over ourselves, as well as inequity.”
Discipline, the Swamiji said, would lead to internal peace and wide access to education, jobs and health services would provide external peace.
Buddhist intellectual and director of Tibet House in Delhi, Genshe Dorji Damdul, said that there was no mind-body dichotomy about peace or progress. “The mind experiences peace and progress through the body. Mind and matter together constitute material and spiritual progress.”
Speaker: Mr. Geshe Dorji Damdul, Director, Tibbat House, New Delhi
Lack of harmony between the two led to conflict and suffering and in harmony dissolved all pain. He said it was a dynamic process that had to be happily accepted.
“The world is like a single living body today, each part dependent on the other. Such interdependence leads us to care for each other. In this scenario divisions and differences are bound to occur. The role of religion is to make us appreciate and celebrate that diversity,” he philosophised.
In his address Swami Sarwananda Sarswati congratulated the IOS for presenting “such a beautiful bouquet of flowers of all religions” at the seminar. He said there was a simple mantra for peace: “Remove hatred from amongst us and peace will follow.”
Speaker: Swami Sarwanand Saraswati, Mahashakti Peeth, New Delhi
The chief Guest K Rahman Khan, Deputy Speaker of Rajya Sabha, said lack of interaction among faiths bred suspicion and conflict. “No religion teaches violence. It is lack of dialogue that promotes animosity.”
Speaker: Mr. K. Rahman Khan, Deputy Speaker, Rajya Sabha, New Delhi
He pleaded for greater equality and justice as these were the foundations on which peace stood.
Business Session I
In the first business session Jain intellectual Dr Reeta Bagchi spoke on “The Role of Jainism in Shaping Global Ethics for Peace and Progress.” She emphasised the role of non-violence and non-possession in establishing a climate conducive for peace and progress.
L-R: Mr. Cemil (Jamil) Kutluturk, Turkey; Dr. Reeta Bagchi; Prof. Sudip K. Jain; Swami Omkar Chaitanya; Dr. M.M. Verma
The presidium consisted of Prof. Sudip K. Jain and Swami Omkar Chaitanya. The session was anchored by Dr Touqueer Alam Falahi.
Prof. M M Verma, speaking on “Islam and Other Religions: Inter-relatedness for Peace and Progress” said, from his study of Islamic scriptures he had come to the conclusion that it accepted religious diversity. “Islam accepts that God sent 124,000 propehts to the different areas of the earth at different times. That showed Islam recognised and celebrated diversity, he asserted.
Speaker: Dr. M.M. Verma, President, Interfaith Foundation for India, New Delhi
Dr Raziul Islam Nadvi said that among Muslim ulema there were two opposite opinions currently on attacking non-combatants and acquiring nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. To one group “the two are absolutely haraam (prohibited), while to the other they are permissible in rare circumstances.”
Speaker: Dr. Raziul Islam Nadvi
Former Dean Faculty of Theology, AMU, Prof. Farman Hussain was of the opinion that religion had often been the cause of conflict. Diversity of sects and interpretations within Islam had led to great strife.
Speaker: Prof. Farman Hussain, Former Dean Faculty of Theology, AMU, Aligarh
“Religion has not always been a source of peace,” he asserted. “Israeli aggression against Palestinians and America’s war against Muslim countries are driven by religious differences,” he opined. Prof. Hussain pleaded for a better understanding of religion.
Associate Professor of Sociology at Agra University, Dr Mohammad Arshad, presented a sociological understanding of religion in the framework of Durkheim’s, Marx’s and Weber’s theories of religion.
A Turkish scholar from Banaras Hindu University, Cemil (Jamil) Kutluturk, presented a paper on “Peace and Non-Violence: Islamic and Gandhian Perspective.”
In his presidential remarks Swami Omkar Chaitanya said that religion had become a source of confusion instead of enlightenment “because we have not understood it.”
Speaker: Swami Omkar Chaitanya
Business Session II
Dr Ambreen Jamali said “peace is the central theme of Islam: as the word draws from salam (peace).”
Dr Latif Hussain Kazmi spoke on “Islam on Peace, Human Equality and Racial Harmony” and emphasised justice and equality, tolerance and goodwill.
Prof. Sudeep Jain said mere material progress was not enough and it had to be augmented with spiritual growth as well. Acceptance of, and agreement to do, one’s duty towards others was essential for peace, he opined.
Speaker: Prof. Sudeep Jain
Prof. Tejinder Singh Lamba, a member of the session’s presidium, chose to spoke, not on war or peace, but on “just war”, which often preceded peace.
A war against aggression, “as waged by Guru Tegh Bahadur, is a just war.” Martyrdom was part of a just war, which was fought not merely to end suffering but to advance the cause of justice, he asserted.
Speaker: Prof. Tejinder Singh Lamba
This session was anchored by Dr Muhibbul Haque of Deptt. of Political Science, AMU.
Business Session III
In his paper on “Islam ka Nazariya-e-Amn w Traqqi” (Islam’s concept of peace and progress) Dr Ehsanullah Fahd examined the issues in the light of writings of Shah Waliullah Dehlavi and Syed Qutb.
Speaker: Dr. Ehsanullah Fahd
Dr Shaista Parveen in her paper on “Hindu Mazhab mein Amn ka Tasawwur” (The concept of peace in Hindu religion) extensively quoted Hindu scriptures to indicate that “shanti (peace) is a core value in Hinduism.”
Speaker: Dr. Shaista Parveen
Dr Muhibbul Haque’s paper was on the “Deconstruction of the Contemporary Discourse on Terrorism: A Pre-requisite for Peace and Prosperity.”
Condensing the paper (for shortage of time) into some major points, he said that the Western powers did not want a clear-cut definition of terrorism. That is why all efforts at a consensus on the definition of “terrorism” going on in the UN since 1970s had failed to produce any result.
Speaker: Dr. Mohibul Haque
The present Western discourse on terrorism, he said, was “actor-centric.” In this scheme of things the acts of terror of individuals and private groups only were regarded as terror while the acts of state terror were ignored.
He referred to Samuel P. Huntington’s remark, “You cannot have true friends without having true enemies”, and made the point that the current Western discourse on terrorism branded the violent acts of enemies as terrorism while the violent acts of friends were seen differently.
This discourse on terrorism, Dr Haque said, was caught in a “definitional dilemma.” Facile descriptions like “Catholic feudalism” and “Protestant capitalism” had their equivalents in the Western discourse on terror as well: “Islamic terror” and “Islamo-fascism”, for instance.
The penchant for labelling ended up maligning a particular religious group trying to resist occupation and misappropriation of its natural resources, Dr Haque asserted, and asked for correction of the discourse wedded to Western hegemonic agenda.
Prof. Salahuddin Qureishi talked on “Socio-economic and Environmental Aspects of Religion vis-a-vis Civilisation.” He said, “Civilisation is the product of religion through the establishment of norms like morality, social organisation, perseverance...”. He lamented the decline of moral values as indicated by the falling sex ratio in India.
Speaker: Prof. Salahuddin Qureishi
Church leader Dr Dominic Emanuel said, “Peace in Christianity hinges on justice”, as God is just. Thus, justice should not only be done, but seen to be done. Like justice and peace, progress too is part of the Christian vision as “Christianity has allowed the use of free thinking”, a basic pre-requisite for progress.
Speaker: Prof. Dr. Dominic Emanuel
Dr Emanuel said the right to have a dissenting opinion, recognised in Christianity, led to independent thinking, which helped Christian nations progress. The habit of organising and investing intellectual, material and spiritual resources led to progress. Those who were not capable of it did not progress, he concluded.
Dr Obaidullah Fahd’s paper was on “Sectarianism and Peace-building Process: A Case History of Syed M. Ashraf Kachochavi.” He said growing sectarianism among Muslims (in this case, Sunni Muslims) was not a good omen for peace among them.
Speaker: Dr. Obaidullah Fahad
Prof. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqui said progress was possible only in a situation of peace. Humans, he elaborated, possessed both animal and angelic traits. Islam sought to suppress the animal side and sharpen the angelic aspects, which among other things, helped peace.
Speaker: Prof. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqui
Islam did not want peace for Muslims alone, but for everyone, he said. After the conquest of Makkah no one was coerced to accept Islam and social justice was ensured, which led to growth of art and culture, he explained.
Dr Sameena Khan, associate professor of English, AMU, talked about the affinity between religion and literature.
“Like religion, literature sensitises us to the suffering of others.” Putting things into a feminist perspective, she said that a re-reading of texts from the side of women was required to correct our understanding of women’s creativity and their role in keeping the world peaceful and happy.
Speaker: Dr. Sameena Khan
For instance, by asking Adam to eat the forebidden fruit, Eve was not initiating sex but starting creativity. Women with their writing and film-making (besides other forms of creativity) had established a higher standard of morality and quality of life. She mentioned Meera Bai, Qurratulain Hyder, Arundhati Roy, Teesta Setalvad and several others – women from different times and climes, writing in different genres and languages – who had created so much value.
She mentioned Nargis in the film Mother India, a young widow representing the highest values of the motherland. Her character represented great fortitude, integrity, sacrifice and foregiveness. Of her two sons one becomes an engineer who heralds progress, the other she kills for trying to rape the daughter of the man who had tried to molest her.
Women’s writing, she said, had the power to move and change societies. For instance, she quoted Pakistani author Qaisra Shahrnaz’s novel The Holy Woman. It is on the theme of “Shahzadi Ibadat,” young women “married to the Quran” in Pakistan’s tribal areas. This custom had been used as a cunning device by landlords to prevent the marriage of their daughters and forestall the division of their lands. After the publication of this novel Pakistan government moved to curb the practice.
She recited the poem of an Israeli poet, Ida Ahroni, a woman. The poem says, “Peace is a woman and a mother / How do you say peace is a woman? / I met her...” The woman, Peace, happens to be a mother mourning her children slain in Hiroshima, Bosnia, Israel Palestine...
Business Session IV-V
In this combined session Syed Atiqur Rahim talked on Islam’s way of establishing peace while Komal J B Singh presented the salient features of Sikhism.
Speaker: Komal J.B. Singh
Ms Singh said simran (self-realisation) and seva (selfless service) were crucial to the faith. Sikhism envisages a casteless society, religious tolerance, living truthfully “rather than just believing in truth”, charity, providing food and shelter to the needy. The four doors of Harmandir Sahab, she said, represented four great religions. The institution of offering food and shelter to everyone had some interesting aspects to it. When Emperor Akbar visited Golden Temple he too was offered food from the langar.
Faizan Kabir Qasmi spoke on the role of religion in promoting harmony, which led to peace.
In his presidential address Prof. Masood Ahmad, Dean Faculty of Science, AMU, said Islam looked at humans as vice-regents of God on earth. This high position made it incumbent on humans to run the affairs of the world with a great sense of responsibility. Religion, he said, gives “a moral order which integrates society for harmony, peace and progress.”
Speaker: Prof. Masood Ahmad, Dean Faculty of Science, AMU, Aligarh
This session was chaired by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam and the introductory remarks were made by Prof. Saud Alam Qasmi.
L-R: Prof M. Saud Alam Qasmi, Dean Faculty of Sunni Theology, AMU, Aligarh; Prof. Syed Ali Mohammad Naqvi, Dean, Faculty of Shia Theology, AMU, Aligarh; Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman, IOS; Prof. Abdul Haq Ansari, former Ameer Jamaat Islami Hind; Dr. Mustafa Sairfi, Visiting Professor, Doha, Qatar; Dr. Touqueer Alam Falahi
Special guest Prof. Abdul Haq Ansari, former Ameer Jamaat Islami Hind, observed that humans were made khalifah (vice-regent) of God, a position of great honour and greater responsibility. That, he said, demanded holistic progress.
Speaker: Prof. Abdul Haq Ansari, former Ameer Jamaat Islami Hind
In his valedictory address Dr Mustafa Hussein Saifi congratulated IOS on the completion of 25 years in promotion of knowledge and peace. “The people here should convey this message of peace to others who are not here,” he said.
He said that Islam did not spread through violence as alleged by some people. “The Quran says all humans are from Adam and Eve.” Being the children of a single pair of parents people must learn to accommodate each other and live in peace, he concluded.
Speaker: Dr. Mustafa Sairfi, Visiting Professor, Doha, Qatar
Prof. Naqvi said that the seminar had left an enduring impact. He pleaded for the establishment of “an Interfaith and Intrafaith Dialogue Centre” at Aligarh by the IOS.
In his presidential address Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam said that the two-day seminar had provided him with a great learning experience. He said he would think of establishing an IOS Centre for Interfaith Dialogue at Aligarh if he got enough local support.
He said, “The IOS does not belong to Dr Manzoor Alam. It belongs to all of you, the entire nation, especially the youth.”
In that vien he asked the young people to work for change, change for a better, more equitable and prosperous order.
Prof. Saud Alam Qasmi proposed a vote of thanks.
The following were honoured during the two-day proceedings:
- Dr. M.D. Thomas
National Director, Commission for Religious Harmony, New Delhi
- Rev Dr. Dominic Emanuel SVD
Spokesperson & Director, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, New Delhi
- Swami Dharmananda
Director, Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra, New Delhi
- Prof B S Sindhu
Former Professor Department of Religious studies
Punjab University Chandigarh
- Mr. Geshe Dorji Damdul
Director, Tibet House (Culture Centre for HH Dalai Lama), New Delhi
- H.H. Swami Sarvanand Saraswati
Maha Shakti Peeth, New Delhi
- Dr. M.M. Verma
President, Interfaith Foundation for India, New Delhi
- Dr. M. Abdul Haq Ansari
Former, Ameer, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, New Delhi
- Dr. Amanullah Khan
Renowned Surgeon, Aligarh
- Prof. I.H. Siddiqui
Former Chariman, Department of History, AMU, Aligarh
- Mr. Mohammed Muquim
Chairman, Deptt. of Philosphy, AMU, Aligarh and Coordinator,
IOS Aligarh Chapter
- Prof. Syed Ali Mohammad Naqvi
Department to Shia Theology, AMU, Aligarh
- Prof. M. Saud Alam Qasmi
Department of Sunni Theology, AMU, Aligarh
- Religions have their important role in establishing peace at the country level as well as at the international level. All religions of the world teach us love of the Creator and love of humanity, to shun hatred and violence, and to have good moral conduct in dealing with each other. Therefore, it is the responsibility of religious leaders to propagate universal values fully well.
- All religions have taught mankind to base their dealings with each other on principles of justice and equality. Further, man is taught to be compassionate in dealing with women, children, the aged and the minorities, enjoining justice, peace and tranquility. These can’t be established unless human dealings are unbiased. This Seminar, therefore, urges the governments to ensure justice sans any discrimination whatsoever. Further, they should also ensure freedom of expression, productive economic activity for betterment and to ensure citizens’ rights to everyone without any discrimination.
- It is wrong to say that religion is a hurdle to progress. The fact is that religion encourages and supports all those activities which are in harmony with humanity and morality with benefits to man. Every religion appreciates all those activities which are beneficial to human development, and goes to encourage spirituality in man.
- For human welfare and maintenance of peace not only the material development, but moral development, and revival of humane values are also essential. Therefore, this Seminar urges upon the governments not to merely reckon scientific technological and economic development only as standard of development, but also to give importance to improvement and enrichment of educational system and developments of social and economic enactments, so that all individuals and groups of the people attain high moral standards in all our spheres of their activities giving due importance to humane and moral values. Without these, our development shall remain scanty.
- Lastly, the IOS is requested to establish such an organization, which shall work for understanding between people of different faiths and religions, giving consideration to each other‘s views and to jointly work for establishing brotherhood among the people. It is envisaged that this organization shall hold regular InterFaith Discussions; shall publish literature concerning these, and shall hold meetings on common human and social problems to remove misunderstandings from our midst, so that establishment of a social order be made possible, based on brotherhood, mutual understanding, non-violence and on principles of peace and tranquility.