Current Religious Issues Consultation Meeting- I. (Final Communiqué) May 18, 2002 İstanbul
The Presidency of Religious Affairs whose essential duty is to enlighten the public on religious matters, has until now tried to fulfill this mission to the best of its ability starting from the day it was established.
Social changes which have been expedited by the developments in scientific and technological areas have deeply influenced the traditional understanding of the religion and in turn necessitated new discussions over many issues, and caused the emergence of new problems which are in need of urgent solutions.
The open discussion of these problems, which should be solved through scientific methods, not only hamper reaching sound solutions but also results in mental confusion and offends the religious sentiments of our nation.
In order that religious matters do not result in tension, and that the proposed solutions convince and satisfy our faithful people to the religion, it is necessary to adopt methods taking into consideration both traditional experiences and modern developments instead of making declarations leading to speculations.
Basing opinions on a scientific method while expressing views on religious matters will not only avoid the use of religious sources as a means for legalization but also enable us to reach solutions which will convince the majority of the people and render marginal tendencies inactive on religious issues.
The accumulation of knowledge and experience in our Faculties of Theology which examine the nature of religion, the historic experience of Muslims and modern religious issues within the framework of academic disciplines are sufficient to overcome these problems and constitute a role model for other Islamic countries.
The Presidency of Religious Affairs has found it necessary to benefit from this accumulation of knowledge by organizing a consultation meeting. Members of the Higher Council of Religious Affairs and Academicians met for solution to the current religious issues at a forum which was held in the Istanbul Grand Tarabya Hotel on 15-18 May 2002.
Four separate commissions were established at this meeting and the following subjects were discussed:
1. Traditional and modern approaches in understanding and the interpretation of religious texts and their reflections on society,
2. Religious discussions regarding womens problems in the modern world,
3. Discussions over pilgrimage (hacc),
4. Current discussions on acts of worship (ibadat),
Certain practical solutions were found for certain problems and important steps were taken for the solution of others. These decisions which were discussed and accepted by the General Board of the Meeting demonstrate that there is no essential conflict between religion and universal values and it is possible to solve the problems created by social change through a sound perspective.
We hope that these decisions will eliminate the mental confusions on religious matters, and contribute to the continuation of social compromise and peace.
The following decisions were prepared by sub-commissions and accepted by the General Board:
1. It can be misleading to classify the methods of interpreting and understanding religious texts (Koran and Hadiths) into categories as traditional and modern. In addition to the classical methods developed by Islamic Scholars since the early stages of Islam, modern methods should also be used in understanding and interpreting religious texts.
2. Taking into consideration that understanding and interpreting religious texts is a multidimensional activity, a special project should be carried out and expert meetings should be held where different points of views are discussed. It will be beneficial if a second consultation meeting is held after the first.
It is considered appropriate to discuss the following issues after preparations are made for the presentation of papers and for the delivering of talks:
a) Understanding and interpretation,
d) The problems of classical methods,
e) The difference between accepting and obeying Gods commands and assingment of cause and its limits,
f) The Prophet Mohammads position in religion,
g) The relationship between the intellect (aql) and revelation (wahy),
h) The relationship between religion and society,
i) The relationship between religion and science.
3. In a certain degree albeit subjectivity may be unavoidable in understanding and interpreting religious texts, the literal cannotation of texts, historic experience of Islamic societies and the understanding of Ijma (consensus) which forms the main body of this experience can be viewed as the factors which reduce this subjectivity to a minimal.
4. The following issues should be taken into consideration especially during public discussions and in statements made concerning religious matters:
a) Abiding by the principle of dependence on text while interpreting the Koran and Hadiths.
b) Stating that the proposals and views made to find solutions for the Islamic issues are personal comments and that other views can be correct theoretically; avoiding styles of writing and expressions indicating that any comment is as an absolute reality and thus giving the people the chance of preference.
c) Avoiding any expressions, which may denote that the basic source of Islam is only the Koran and the Sunnah is not regarded as a source.
5. Classical religious sources reflect a rich accumulation developed by the Muslim concerning religious texts and issues during the historical process. These are of great importance since they reflect the intellectual heritage of the period and the points of view of the authors, and they constitute a section of the historical experience of Islam. In addition, these classical sources are not sufficient as being merely a determinative source for the solution of religious problems, but if they are completely ignored, a direct solution gotten from the Koran and Hadiths can also have some negative points from the theoretical and practical standpoints.
6. The religious solutions and judgements in the classical sources concerning daily practices of that time are the result of the intellectual and cultural heritage of the period during which they were mostly composed. It will be incorrect either to perceive them as part of the basic teachings of Islam or to negate them in advance by comparing certain selected negative examples with the contemporary level of information and understanding.
7. Change in religious rules (ahkam) from the standpoint of time and space cannot occur in the clear and absolute rules of religious texts concerning basic creed and moral issues and worship. Generally, changes can occur in the performance of the details and conditions of worship, open to ijtihad (original thinking), and in formal legal regulations. In this field, different trends may be arised due to the methods used and the effect of contemporary understanding and practices.
8. With regard to the religion and change, making general assessments depending on some individual examples lead to the impression that there are clashes between religion and contemporary values. This attitude also prevents correct comprehension of the Koran and Sunnah and overshadows their basic features as a source of guidance to a greate extent.
9. The distinction between the aim and the means (maqasid and wasail) in religious rules, the proper cause behind them, thought of the public interest, the methods of ijtihad, the criteria concerning whether or not the reason of these religious stipulations can be known and historical and textual context may contribute to discussions held as to what extent and how religious rules can be altered.
10. It will be very useful to establish a research center within the Presidency of Religious Affairs which will create a database and statistics reports in order to determine the religious problems of the society and which will constitute the basis for new interpretations meeting contemporary requirements.
11. Problems related to women still exist today, as they have been throughout the history of mankind. In essence, religions have come up with important regulations for solving these problems within the framework of rights and justice. In this respect, Islamic principles have special importance. However, it was difficult for the patriarchal communities to adopt these improvements which religions have achieved and in the course of time they sought ways to reverse this process. Even, the anti-female ideology has come under the guise of religion from time to time.
12. According to the basic sources of Islam (the Koran and Sunnah), men and women are equal; they complete each other. In terms of ontology, as well as religious responsibility, legal capacity, basic rights and freedoms, discrimination between men and women according to basic principles is out of the question. However, besides these basic principles, a social and cultural environment in which Islam emerged and developed, particularly the patriarchal family structure has been effective in the determination of the status of women. This situation is the reason why different concepts of women have emerged in Islamic communities.
13. In understanding and interpreting the verses of the Koran concerning women, the process of social-cultural occasions of the verses and literal meanings, as well as the aims that were taken as a basis should be taken into consideration. In addition, taking further steps concerning the social and legal status of women are not against the spirit of the Koran. In addition, in the light of the Korans basic principles and the Prophet Mohammads general attitude and principles concerning women, it should be regarded that all narrations and information, as if they were associated with sexual discrimination and despised woman for being woman and deprived of their basic rights and freedoms, are either distorted, or untrue. Because of above mentioned narrations and information falsely attributed to the Prophet, accusing Islam and the Prophet Mohammad is neither scientific nor ethical.
14. The removal of all the above-mentioned falsities concerning women depends on a proper education. As a matter of fact, one of the basic aims of our Republic and its modernization concept is to improve the status of women within the family and society. Attaining this goal depends on guaranteeing the rights of education and employment of females, providing them with equal opportunities, and encouraging them by means of positive discrimination. Therefore, perspectives and applications, which limit, restrict or have the possibility of limiting or restricting girls and womens opportunities for education and employment should be rescrutinized and necessary regulations should be implemented to this end.
15. In Islamic culture, marriage is regulated as an agreement between two parties depending on their free will. There is no special ceremony performed other than the presence of witnesses. The practice, which is known as a religious marriage, is the product of historic, religious and legal conditions peculiar to Turkey. However, in view of spouses whom they have the rights by means of marriage may not be lost, it is important to recommend that religious marriage must be fulfilled after official marriage.
16. Although the continuity of the marriage is the basic aim, the Islamic religion accepts the right to end this marriage when there is conflict between the two spouses and divorce is to be neccessary. Divorce is permitted, taking into consideration the aims and legal procedures of the Koran and the Prophet which have been upheld.
17. The issue of Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men will be discussed in detail in the next consultation meeting.
18. The issue of witnessing, as mentioned in the verse concerning debts and, the difference resulting from a womans passive role in commercial activities under the conditions of that period would not include a general arrangement. The other related verses clearly indicate this matter. Therefore, the difference in the verse regarding debts cannot be accepted as an intellectual shortcoming of women.
19. In general, the regulation of womens shares differently in inheritances have a direct relation with the fact that men have more financial resposibility in different areas compared to the womens. On the other hand, this stipulation can be changed with the consent of both sides in case that women have more needs and that men would have less financial responsibilities.
20. Women being exempt from rituals under special conditions (in menstruation period) is not because of their being unclean, but to relieve them of their psychological and physiological burdens. However women, in these situations, may read the Koran, and may also enter mosques (masajid). Although many scholars oppose it, some scholars have stated that women may walk around the Kabah (tawaf).
21. Women may attend daily congregational prayers, in addition to feast prayers, (Eidhul-Fitr and Eidhul-Adha) Friday prayer and funerals. The attendance of women and children at Friday and feast prayers should be encouraged since it was a practice during the time of the Prophet.
22. The word kawwamun which is mentioned in the 34th verse of Surah Nisa gives rights and responsibilities to men. Although there are different opinions on the literal meaning of the verse in question, it cannot be considered as basis for violence within family which is widespread today. On the contrary, the practices of the Prophet should be taken as a role model in determining how to treat women.
23. When we take the integrity of the related verses and the Prophets Sunnah into consideration, pilgrimage (hajj) is a sort of ritual worship during certain months namely Shawwal, Dhul Kada and Dhul-Hijja and waqfah (standing before Allah) at Arafat is to perform on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijja.
24. Those who under obligation to fulfill the pilgrimage can perform this worship in any year they wish. Unless there is a danger to life and property, pilgrimage should not be prevented. If the danger to life and property continues to exist pilgrimage may be delayed.
25. If one goes directly to Mecca with the intention of pilgrimage and umrah, entering the state of ihram cannot be taken place in the Hill region in Jeddah.
26. Taking into consideration the different views of Islamic scholars concerning the violation of the ihram prohibitions, the principle of easeness must be obeyed.
27. The view has been accepted that waqfah at Muzdalifah might be practiced after half of the night of feast day (Eidhul Adha) until dawn.
28. One should be aware that stoning of jamarat is one of the obligations of the pilgrimage. One should consult the views of Islamic scholars on the day and time of the practice of throwing stones, which make the application easy.
29. The verses clearly express that during the pilgrimage (hajj) and umrah, animals should be sacrificed (hady) in the Haram region. Therefore, if the intended pilgrimage necessitates sacrifice of an animal, these animals should be slaughtered only within the region of Haram.
30. Visiting the grave of the Prophet Mohammad in Medina before or after the pilgrimage and prayers forty times in the Prophets Masjid (al-Masjid al-Nabawi) are not part of the specific rites of pilgrimage. However, it is an appropriate behaviour for pilgrims to visit the grave of the Prophet Mohammad, and pray at the Prophets Masjid.
31. In addition to the pilgrimage, the view that Umrah is also a religious obligation, once in life, has not been accepted; but it is considered as a confirmed tradition (Sunnah) of the Prophet.
32. The duties of pilgrimage should be completed in the shortest time possible. This would both reduce the cost of the the pilgrimage and encourage the practice of Ifrad Pilgrimage which do not necessitate the sacrifice of an animal.
33. Two separate books must be prepared by a commission of scholars, which will include theoretical and practical information on canonical jurisprudence of a pilgrimage as well as its historical, moral and cultural aspects. The books must aim at reducing conflicts on issues concerning the practices involved in pilgrimages and must be supplemented by photographs, maps and sketches. CD and videocassette versions of these books should also be prepared.
34. The view has been accepted that a consultative meeting on pilgrimage to be attended by representatives of Islamic countries should be held in order to solve problems that might arise during the pilgrimage.
35. There is a great necessity to translate the Koran into other languages and prepare its comprehensible exegesis (tafsir). However, one should bear in mind that no translation can substitute the original. Islamic scholars have agreed that translations should not be called the Koran and neither should they have the same status as the Koran.
Reciting the Koran (qiraat) in a proper manner while praying is a definite, permanent religious duty according to what is written in the Koran and the Prophet Mohammads explanations and examples. It is a practice which might be properly carried out when the Koran is recited in its original language. It is clear that many conflicts and divisions will arise when everybody recites the Koran in their own language while praying.
Such practices may also be harmful since they may damage social unity and deviate from the main target. But considering that salah (praying) cannot be neglected nor postponed, those who have no capability of reciting the original language of the Koran, may pray in their own language untill they learn.
Since duah (suplication to Allah) means asking God for his blessings, one can perform this in his own language.
36. The adhan (call to prayer) symbolizes the presence of Islam throughout the world. There is a consensus and a tradition of 15 centuries that it should be recited in its original language. Since the main aim of adhan is to remind Muslims that it is prayer time, the adhan has to be recited in its original language in order to reach all Muslims who speak various tongues.
37. Praying five times in a day is confirmed by the Koran, the Sunnah and with the agreement of all Muslims. However, the Prophet Muhammads some actions demonstrate that the noon and afternoon prayers as well as the evening and night prayers can be unified (Jam) (to unify the prayers within a time) in the form of preceding (taqdim) and postponing (takhir) in case of journey. Regarding all together some narrations about Muhammads unifying the salah (prayers) when he was resident, and the interpretation of the companions (sahabah) it is ascertained that it depends on justified reasons only and not to be ordinary habit.
38. The worship of sacrifice is wajib (something necessary, slightly lesser degree than fard) according to Ebu Hanifah, while it is a Sunnah for many Muslim scholars.
But, if a worship is not obligatory, it does not mean that it is not a worship, therefore to change the ways of its practice is not allowed. For this reason, performing a sacrifice is not to be replaced by a fee.
Animals should be sacrificed according to the basic rules of Islam and one should refrain from polluting the environment when sacrificing an animal. If necessary, while sacrificing an animal there is no prohibition to use appropriate technical methods for making animal unconcious. But the animals should be alive in that case.
39. The amount of zakah of fitrah is set according to the basic daily requirements of a person.
The amount of zakah (alms) is determined by the definition made by the Prophet Mohammad or with respect to the minimum wage for an individual or other kinds of indexes. But since the topic is broad and has many dimensions, it has been decided that it should be discussed later at a comprehensive meeting.
By regards to public attention.