By Datuk Dr Nasharudin Mat Isa
The Quran has long foretold of the excesses of past civilisations, their deeds and spirits, and the woe befalling them.
Thus, in the bid for peace and prosperity, the rise of living conditions and pinnacles of progress must always be tempered with the spirit of humanism and education.
This serves to provide proper equilibrium, lest we corrupt ourselves and others, therein speeding up one’s civilisational destruction.
Civilisations of the past, at their peak, have always concentrated on knowledge. The advancement of moderation encapsulates knowledge, and moderation cannot suffice without knowledge. In this regard, I have oft-talked and promoted the concept, or the reclaiming, of the La Convivencia (The Coexistence), the celebration of knowledge, culture and traditions among Muslims, Christians and Jews of Andalusian Spain.
The practices of peaceful coexistence were much visible. The intertwining of cultures, knowledge and humanity was prevalent. So much so, it practiced and lived upon the word of peace – to you your religion, and to me mine. This is what Islamic moderation, or wasatiyyah, aspires, explicating upon the idea of a middle nation, a community of people – throughout the history of mankind – who are just, and considered the best of people.
The practice renders placing things in its rightful place, of taking the middle path between two extremes in the best of manner and full of justice, and to not transgress as per the prescriptions of Islam. Thus, to stay upon the path of wasatiyyah, acting as the ummatan wasatha (moderate community) would inevitably require one to be knowledgeable – and in continuous pursuit of excellence. This is to enable him to distinguish between fallacy and fact, being just (al-adl) and acting in moderation (wasat), thus, combating the various forms of extremism (al-ghuluw) and discrimination.
This would resonate with the Quranic injunction of, “…thus we have made you a community justly balanced that you might be witnesses over the people and the Messenger a witness over yourselves”. Being witnesses to truth, for, ummatan wasatha is conditional upon the ummah’s commitment to moderation and the truth, as the testimonies of extremists and transgressors are deemed inadmissible.
It is high time Asean seeks to recreate its own La Convivencia – the Asean Way. The world, moreover in its current climate, needs more of such bridges – civilisational bridges – to be constructed for the people to cross it; and to build these bridges, there must be true, proper direction and guidance. Thus, it is the duty of the scholars, of the educated among the people of present time, to not only build these bridges, but to guide the masses onto the right sense of directions. The failure to provide this right guidance will only lead to the wrong guidance – of intolerance and violent extremism.
The Global Movement of Moderates (GMMF) signifies one such civilisational bridge, towards peaceful coexistence between the people and faiths of the world. Throughout its existence, especially of more recent times – since its endorsement as an Asean initiative – it has strived to advocate moderation at the national, regional and international levels.
GMMF endeavours have led to closer bonds of cooperation with Thailand’s Wasatiyyah Institute for Peace & Development, as well as the Philippines’ Bishop-Ulama Conference, just to name a few.
These institutions or associations are most exemplary in their aims and objectives, for they realise that the path of moderation is not an option, rather, it is a prerequisite in attaining peace and prosperity.
Stemming from this reality, GMMF seeks to further its initiatives, and in creating critical mass, by way of its latest endeavour, namely the creation of an alliance of researchers on moderation.
However, this requires the participation and engagement of scholars who yearn for peace and progress to take place. In short, this initiative of GMMF needs you, your engagement, i.e. the participation of scholars and the ever-willing array of volunteers who wish to play a part towards peaceful coexistence.
It remains my sincere and fervent hope that such conferences held in Chulalongkorn, in addition to the agreement for greater cooperation signed between GMMF and the Institute of Asian Studies as well as the Scholars for Peace, will be the start of successful bridging of civilisations, cultures and faiths. All of which are based upon the precepts of knowledge and moderation, so that the pursuit of peace, progress and prosperity will prevail.
This is from a speech delivered by the writer, who is Global Movement of Moderates Foundation executive chairman and chief executive officer at the International Conference on Moderation – An Islamic Approach to Face the Global Transition on Asean at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand on Wednesday.