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EMOMALI RAHMON

THE GREAT IMAM AND DIALOGUE OF CIVILIZATIONS

Having gained national independence, the Tajik people found new prospective in their life: they found anew their national idea, based on historical identity and revival of national traditions.

This concurrently led to Tajikistan’s people broadening their ties with other peoples of the world, their getting familiar with universal values and their perception. The development of these ties and the transformations that occur in the world have made the independent Tajikistan considerably dependant on economic, socio-political and cultural processes of the modern world. The rise of national self-conscience, being a fruit of our country’s independence, having confronted with the processes of the modern world, leads to strengthening of Tajikistan’s positions on the international area. In this connection, our interests, along with the rise of our national self-consciousness, urge that we foster our contacts with various countries of the modern world, join to values of the civilized world and broaden our ties with other civilizations.

It should be noted here that the dialogue of civilizations has become the most pressing question for our world these days. It would be impossible to imagine the course of our modern life without the powerful impact of various civilizations, as well as without the internationalization of economic and political processes. Any self-isolation or baseless confrontation would not answer the interests of our country’s political life and development, but rather lead to separatism and political and economic crisis, hindering our republic’s progress.

Common historical process of human society demands cooperation and use of all mankind’s achievements and values. These days this process is widening and strengthening. So, in these circumstances we should bolster mechanisms of cooperation and process of using the modern world’s values, concurrently preserving our spiritual identity and national peculiarities, and simultaneously raising our national self-cognizance.

Among our national interests, religious self-cognizance of the Tajik people acquires great significance, as well. Its correct orientation will also assist to the dialogue of faiths, which are the main component of all civilizations, and to strengthening Tajikistan’s international positions. To correctly form up the religious self-cognizance of the Tajik people, we should make use of our rich religious heritage. The religious legacy of the Great Imam, particularly in the fields of fiqht (Islamic jurisprudence) and

kalam (scholastic philosophy), could be seen as a brilliant example of the dialogue of civilizations.

There is no doubt that religious values are of great significance in forming up and developing national self-cognizance. Yet, unfortunately, at the initial stage of our country’s independence a correct balance between religious and national values was lost, which put our nation on strenuous test. One of the most serious causes was that the position of the rich culture and religious legacy of the Tajik nation’s outstanding figures in Islamic culture and civilization was not taken into consideration.

Certainly, such a trend in the process of religious and national self-cognizance, as well as the fact that, basing on this, political parties and movements took an incorrect position, while some radical religious forces made the Tajik nation’s fate dependent on religious-disguised ant-national principles, was the main cause of a political and ideological crisis in this country. Happily, thanks to the strengthening of our sovereign national state, incessant efforts of our Republic’s Government, and particularly thanks to the support of Tajikistan’s noble people’s faithfulness to the principles of the policy aimed at national unity and the revival of historic values of our ancient land, stability and security of Tajikistan’s society had been preserved, which allowed our people to resume their constructive and creative activities.

Over many thousand years the human civilization has been developing in the frameworks of religious commandments, and cultural values, gaining the universal recognition under the impact of religious factor, have become a firm base for society’s culture. Following this thesis, many scholars connect this or that civilization with religion, thinking that societal spiritual image consists only of it. It is quite natural that religion fostered human society’s progress, creating the traditions and institutes that helped develop human civilization. Solid cultural traditions and values, formed up in the shape of religious beliefs, made a firm ground for culture.

It is obvious from Islamic holy sources that equality, social justice, peace and brotherhood, being basic ideals of cultural values, occupy a firm place in the religion of Islam, as well. This was repeatedly reflected in words and deeds of this religion’s great representatives. Thus, the ground layer of the Hanafi madhhab, the Great Imam showed an example of humanism with his life and teaching. Suffice to cite his relation to his Judean neighbor. That Judean was so impressed by his provident attitude that he converted into Abu Hanifa’s faith. Such a kind attitude springs from the verse 2 of the surah “The Table”, verse 83 of the surah “The Table”, verse 86 of the surah “The Women”, verse 41 of the surah “Yunus” and other verses of the Holy Koran.

Islam’s attitude towards followers of other faiths has been forming up on the base of tolerance. That is why getting familiar with real teachings of Islam, particularly with Abu Hanifa’s madhhab, will be an important step towards developing the dialogue of Islam and other religions and civilizations.

The Muslim community (ummah) has a great and invaluable cultural heritage. In the historical process, common Islamic culture, preserving religious identity and essence of monotheism, has embraced all achievements and accomplishments of various nations and peoples. In that sense, the Islamic community consists of Muslim nations, every one of which joined the religion of Islam on the basis of preserving its cultural and political identity. The Muslim community formed up on the basis of religious monotheistic unity and cultural diversity, which promoted the development of Muslim nations. Basing on the principle of monotheism, Islam has determined the unified direction in what regards self-cognizance and self-organization of Muslim nations, connecting the solution of various aspects in the framework of the principle of diversity of multiple forms of fiqh and madhhabs.

In the surah “Al-Hujurat” the Most High has been presripning: ‘O people! We created you from one man and one woman and made you branches and tribes that you may recognize one another. Undoubtedly, the most respected among you in the sight of Allah is he who is more pious, verily, Allah is omniscient.’

In the cognizance of the essence and truth of this great monotheistic religion, the Tajik people could be considered by Lord as one of the most pious.

All humankind recognizes the great role of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him!). The Prophet’s predictions proved true both as regards his companions and followers. In a true hadith, related on the words of the Imam Bukhari, the Imam Muslim and Abu Hurayrah, it is narrated the following: “Even if science (in another text – faith, and in Muslim’s narration – religion) would be on the vault of heaven, in the constellation of Pleiades, people from Persia would have brought it back to Earth”. Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuty, on of compilers of the Tafsir-i Jalalyn, states in his book that the hadith means the Great Imam Abu Hanifa, since no one could match with him in sciences.

In fact, this prediction of the Prophet, that proved to be true indeed, was related to His followers. We should be proud that the above-mentioned scholars perceived this hadith as a prediction concerning the outstanding of the Tajik people – the Great Imam Abu Hanifa.

The main thing for us is that the brilliant religion of Islam and its mankind-recognized principles had laid favorable circumstances for forming-up great historical figures, belonging to various peoples, which led to creating the world-famous cultural heritage. One of those figures was a notable faqih (Islamic jurist), the Great Imam.

It is worthy to mention that Nu’man is the name of both Abu Hanifa himself and his grandfather, as well. According to a narration, one day, when it was the feast of Mehrgan, Nu’man, Abu Hanifa’s grandfather, presented the Leader of believers; Ali bin Abu Talib with a gift of sweets (honey), pon which the ruler offered up a grateful prayer that Nu’man’s issue world have “the feast of Mehrgan every day”. According to another narration, the event happened during observing the feast of Nowruz. It is supposed that hence the famous colloquialisms “Let there be Mehrgan every day” and “Let there be Nowruz every day” originate. This all happened at the time when some radicals of the period had a strong distaste towards Persian-Tajik values, particularly as regards the feasts of Nowruz and Mehrgan, which stance can be seen even these days.

The real stance of the bright religion of Islam towards cultures of Muslim nations is based on the principle of tolerance. Belonging to Islam in no way means rejecting belonging to other Islamic nation’s cultures. And this should be the case. The Most High Lord had from the onset created his worshippers as being diverse. The denial of this principle, according to one Korans verses, mean denying the truth of the Creation.

Along with broadening its territory, the Islamic Caliphate was coming in touch cultures of the peoples of subjugated regions. There were cases, when, the sharpening of purely political problems, particularly in connection of new rule with the principle of Arabization, self-conscience of other peoples, dwelling on the territory of the Caliphate, was getting stronger on the basis of their authentic cultures. At that period many movements emerged, struggle against oppression and subjection was liven up, popular uprisings occurred and discontent with the Umayyad Caliphate grew. The powerful movement, called shu’ubiyyah, and having cultural character as well, was spread over all the territory of the Caliphate. It was precisely under the pressure of that movement that the Umayyad Caliphat fell, and the Abbasid dynasty came to power. Yet, not even the Abbasid Caliphat could justify popular hopes and therefore – win their support. The Great Imam, who had an understanding stance towards the movement of shu’ubiyya and witnessed all injustices of the Abbasid Caliphate, did not swear for allegiance to an Abbasid Caliph and refused from all high posts proposed to him.

There was a kind of vacuum in the field of religion, so other peoples, removed from political power and governance, to preserve their national pride and strengthen their ethnic self-conscience, preferred sciences and culture, and especially the realm of religion. An Arabic jurist and Islamic researcher, the sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra tells concerning this the following: “During the Umayyad Caliphate Arabs hold in their hands the reins of government and waged wars. Being occupied with these affairs, they did aspired after deep scientific studies. Their mawlas, particular from among representatives of Ajam, used that vacuum to fill it in their researches and studies. Having understood that they had lost influence, those decided to gain glory by other ways. Those ways were sciences and illumination. It is true to say that some time deprivations lead to perfection and great accomplishments. It is right concerning the mawlas who led the Arab Islamic thought, while in material sense Arabs preserved their dominance.”

It is worthy to mention that in the avanguard of those mawlas were peoples of Persian origin who were led the outstanding son of the Tajik people Abu Hanifa. Besides, it should be noted that the Prophet’s predictions were related, first of all, to non-Arabs, including Tajiks. Great representatives of the Tajik people, particularly the Great Imam, who deeply cognized the Divine Wisdom and used Tajik-Persian cultural values, justified the verity of the above-mentioned hadith and proved that the highest religious and secular perfection may be reached only by cognizing contemporary sciences, refraining from making politics and other power and ostentation ambitions.

The personality of the Great Imam is the embodiment of the sad truth. Studies of Abu Hanifa’s teaching show that he had a great respect to sciences and cultural legacy of ancient Iran and Greece. Using of the principle of qiyas (judgment by analogy), close to Aristotle’s logic, and tradition, as a source of jurisprudence, tells of the Imam’s attention to sciences and culture of Iran and ancient Greece. It is known from the history of Islam that the principle of qiyas was resorted to by the Prophet’s companions and followers, yet they made basing on comparison with the Prophet’s deeda and actions, while in Abu Hanifa’s fiqh the qiyas was based on an independent judgment, just like in Aristotle’s logic. It was precisely thanks to these efforts that in the Islamic fiqh methods of deduction and independent reasoning were developed, and a period in the Islamic fiqh began which was later called “the philosophic period” by the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun.

Abu Hanifa’s jurisprudential outlook, reflected, particularly, in his worf The Great Fiqh, was based on texts passed on from word of mouth, as well as on speculative judgments. This attention to culture and sciences of his time allowed Abu Hanifa to take his distinguished place in the vanguard of his epoch’s scholars. Yet, he chose, as the main sphere of his occupations, jurisprudence, because, according to him, “it contains a great benefit and no harm”. Tolerance was one of his teaching’s main provisions, which is testified by that construed some of his judgments basing on other religions’ postulates.

For example, it so happened that somebody was complaining to him that someone, pretending to be a Muslim, was not observing the prescriptions of Islam and even sharing views of Christians and Judeans concerning faith. Replying to this, the Great Imam proved with indisputable arguments that the latter are also in their right, since they, too, respect monotheism. Indeed, the main credo for all the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – is the belief in the Only God, his Prophet and resurrection.

Spread of the bright religion of Islam, gradual introduction of its juridical and basic concepts, as well as its various ideological and political trends, into the official ideology of the Caliphate, together with the strengthening of a united civilization Arab-Islamic process, could not completely exclude the interaction between cultures and civilizations. And contrarily, ethnic, religious, partisan and caste prejudices, combined with civilization’s peculiarities, led to new religious, political and ideological conflicts. Such contradictions are the causes of social unrest, which may put a society to the brink of disappearance.

From the legal point of view, non-Arab population (particularly mawlas descending from Ajam tribes), that fell under brute oppression, relying on its cultural identity, made a great contribution to the struggle against the tyranny of the non-Tajik rulers of the time. Conflict of cultures and civilizations once again transgressed the boundaries of the territory where Islam was spread. Muslim ummah was in a craze, when a Muslim declared another Muslim an infidel. A great variety religious sects and parties emerged, and each one claimed that its opponent is “infidel”.

It was in these circumstances that the first man who had put a question of the dialogue of cultures and civilizations was the Great Imam Abu Hanifa. He laid grounds for such a jurisprudential school (madhhab) that helped ease tensions between civilizations in the legal framework of the common Islamic civilization’s development. The principle of tolerance towards different cultures and civilizations, formulated by the Hanafi madhhab, was the base for preserving the variety of peoples inside Islam, which. In turn led to widening of its sphere of influence. In all, we can say that the diversity of jurisprudential schools in Islam is the result of dialogue of cultures and civilizations of the Islamic world, which, in turn, provides a legal ground for this.

The truth of life is such that if you don’t learn lessons from it, life’s tragedies may be repeated. These days many tell of a conflict of civilizations as a global phenomenon. Yet, this is an intra-Islamic problem, as well. Both Islamic culture and Islamic civilization are facing a serious test. To not let this problem be aggravated even more, we should have more respect for all jurisprudential schools (madhhabs) adopted in the Islamic fiqh.

Unfortunately, recently some radicalism trends emerged, that think the lack of madhdhabs could be a ground for Islamic unity. To our mind, this idea is an erroneous and unripe one. Quite contrarily, precisely the dialogue of madhhabs, on a qualitatively new level of relations Islamic peoples and states, is the base for preserving cultural and civilization’s peculiarities of Islamic nations, being the only way for solving this problem.

Our attention to this issue does not mean that we tend to prove the superiority of only our madhhab. We pay attention to the Hanafi madhhab, first of all, because it is precisely by means of that very madhhab, as a cultural phenomenon, we will be able to give a direct orientation to national self-cognizance and take religious tolerance toward cultural identity of other peoples dwelling in Tajikistan as a basis for the strategy of the national unity. Along with this, in our state policy we are categorically following the principle of secularism, which means that we see the religious belonging of citizens as their private affair and support principles of freedom of conscience. Indeed, religious rights and freedoms are among great and main values of civilized society. The Republic of Tajikistan’s Constitution guarantees and protects rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen. Yet, no one should abuse these rights and freedoms to harm national interests or principles of national self-cognizance. Building of several thousand mosques and non-Muslim houses of prayer is a real prove of the practical implementation of the principles of the freedom of conscience, which, no doubt, serves as an example of our constructive strategy of national unity. At present, there more than three thousand registered mosques in our country. One may wonder at this quantity, considering the number of population in our small Islamic country. At the same time, we should be grateful for those to our gaining independence. No secret that that before independence the Muslim people of Tajikistan could not even dream of guarantees preserving such religious rights and freedoms. All the same, it would be a great mistake to imagine those mosques’ activities outside the framework of national values. There should be reared such personalities of our nation that would be able, as it was in the past, to represent the Tajik nation in the face of other Muslim peoples by their refraining from any fanaticism and by their respect for national values and national state. Although mosque is a place for God-worshipping, it may also make a significant contribution to the formation of self-cognizance in people. In the sermons of mosques’ preachers the main attention should be given to the issues of national culture, mality, patriotism, propagation of national and Islamic values. It is expedient to create libraries at mosques which would foster cooperation of mosques with educational and cultural establishments with the aim of propagating cultural and scientific values among the population. At the same time, we should not forget that Tajikistanis a secular state. This is the core of our national state system. Religion is a private affair of a citizen, and everyone’s attitude to it is connected with the freedom of conscience. A religion cannot be imposed by force.

It is to note that in the Holy Koran the issue of the voluntary choice of a religion is the main question in what regards man’s relation with the Most High. In the 256th verse of the surah  Cow”, Lord tells that “there should be no compulsion in faith”. We see that the freedom of a believer is the main principle. God is almighty, so He has no need that anyone should converted to a faith by compulsion. The principle of secularism should be also understood as a neutral attitude of the state regarding a citizen’s choice of a religion or a faith.

Unfortunately, some understand the principle of secularism as non-religiousness or even anti-religiousness. I must stress in this connection that the principle of secularist character of our state is constitutional in its essence and therefore is irreversible. This postulate was three times approved in the course of all-nation referendums. Without this principle, we cannot imagine our state system. Relying upon this principle, we have a real possibility to secure societal stability, national independence and security, providing a solid ground for the further development of Tajikistan.

In the context societal order, political stability and national security, the principle of secularism gains a particular significance. A person who worships God (individually or together with others) should not forget his responsibility before society and humankind. Likewise, religious associations and political parties should not abuse religious rights and freedoms of citizens. Making religion a slogan and banner of political and ideological struggle means to act against the Constitution, against the nation and even against the sari’ah. Islam considers societal stability and security of each Muslim nation as a high national value. The Muslim community has been witnessing that in some Islamic countries various religious and confessional factions and groupings, political parties and movements, abusing religious sentiments of people and having support from extraneous sponsors, are destabilizing societal order and provoking civil wars, which they are calling “the wars against infidels”. Such a civil war was a cause of suffering of the Tajik people. Yet our national culture of peace, having deep historical and popular roots, preserved our nation from a great disaster. That is why respect for national culture, correct understanding of our historical identity, revering of cultural heritage of our great ancestors make the basis of the formation and self-cognizance of our nation. We do not say that the past of the Tajik nation is better than the past of other nations. It is evident that our present day should richer in cultural relation than our past days.

The religion of Islam, human in its core, has historically laid grounds for inter-ethnic synthesis of cultures. A bright of this is exactly the Great Imam Abu Hanifa. Made a great contribution to spreading of Islam among non-Arab tribes and peoples. No doubt that it was precisely thanks to his jurisprudential school that the idea of tolerance prevailed in Islam. So we may justly say the Great Imam turned “the sword of Islam” into Islamic culture, which helped to that various peoples had converted into Islam in a comparatively easy way.