Prague, October 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) — The 10-point Mecca Charter issued on October 20 was drafted by four clerics under the auspices of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It draws on Koranic verses and sayings by the Prophet Muhammad.
The document calls for an end to sectarian violence and attacks on places of worship. It calls for safeguarding the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq; releasing all innocent detainees; and allowing displaced persons to return to their homes. In addition, it urges Iraqis to “work together to end foreign occupation and rebuild the country’s economic, political, and military capabilities.”
Iraqi Religious Leaders Hail the Signing
Religious leaders overwhelmingly praised the charter, saying that it was positive step for Iraq and it represented a powerful message that the Shi’ite and Sunni religious communities supported Iraqi unity and rejected sectarian violence.
Salah Salim Abd al-Razzaq, a Shi’ite participant, said the document was significant because it was signed by both Shi’ite and Sunni religious authorities.
“The Mecca document will yield positive results and will have a great impact on the course of events in the Iraqi street now that it has been signed by Sunni and Shi’ite scholars and now that it has gained the blessing of Shi’ite religious authorities,” he said, the Saudi-based newspaper Ukaz reported on October 21.
Abd al-Salim al-Qubaysi, a Sunni cleric and a member of the Muslim Scholars Association (MSA) stressed that the charter succeeded in fulfilling its objectives and now needed to be implemented.
“The Mecca document included significant points that tackled practical issues such as condemning killings based on sectarian identity, considering it an act of fragmentation,” al-Qubaysi said during an October 21 interview with Al-Jazeera satellite television.
Meanwhile, Al-Iraqiyah television reported on October 22 that several Iraqi cities witnessed large demonstrations in support of the Mecca Charter and Iraqi national unity — an indication the Iraqi public has hopes the charter will end the bloody cycle of sectarian attacks.
While many Iraqi religious leaders expressed optimism, the absence of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, or representatives from their respective movements, from the conference was a significant development. Although both men issued statements in support of the conference and the charter, their decision not to attend or to send representatives speaks volumes.
Al-Sistani called on all sides to accept the charter, but his absence may have weakened its potential impact among his Shi’ite followers, who may question its legitimacy. Al-Sistani is the most revered Shi’ite cleric in Iraq and if he had sent a representative to sign the charter on his behalf, it would have most certainly given it greater weight and legitimacy not only among his followers, but throughout Iraq’s religious establishment.
Al-Sadr’s decision to stay away from the Mecca conference places him further at odds with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government, which has been trying to reign in militias, particularly, al-Sadr’s Imam al-Mahdi Army. That militia has been widely blamed for much of the sectarian violence.
Furthermore, al-Sadr’s absence sends a conflicting message as to whether he actually wants to halt the sectarian strife. Earlier he urged his followers to stop carrying out sectarian attacks and vowed to go after his militiamen who have been accused of being involved in death squads. His absence from the conference, like al-Sistani’s, weakens the Mecca Charter.
Will It Make A Difference?
The gathering of Shi’ite and Sunni religious leaders and the signing of the charter sends a powerful message that Iraqi religious leaders are serious about preserving nation’s unity and halting sectarian violence. For a nation that has had difficulty in agreeing on just about everything since the overthrow of the Hussein regime, the unanimous acceptance of the charter undoubtedly represents hope for Iraqis.
Furthermore, the optimism generated by the signing of the Mecca Charter has created momentum for the OIC to organize a follow-up meeting. A high-level OIC source indicated the organization plans to hold a reconciliation conference of Iraqi political leaders in Mecca during the upcoming Hajj season at the end of the year, the Jeddah-based Arab News reported October 23.
However, Iraqis have heard these statements before only to be disillusioned by them. During the reconciliation conference held in Cairo under the auspices of the Arab League in 2005, delegates rejected divisions along ethnic and religious lines and stressed Iraq’s unity. However, three months later Iraq plunged into its current state of sectarian violence after the bombing of the Al-Askari (Golden) mosque in Samarra.
Several Iraqi politicians have expressed doubts that the Mecca Charter can have any effect on the security situation in the country. Iyad Jamal al-Din, a lawmaker and a member of the Iraqi List, told Baghdad Satellite Television on October 21 that “those who murder, blow up, and deem spilling of Iraqi blood permissible do not believe in religion nor do they follow a religious scholar and will therefore continue on their path.”
Similarly, there have been reports that some militia members have left to form freelance death squads that have been linked to sectarian violence, indicating that religious authorities have little influence over them. The U.S. military said there is evidence that rogue fighters from Muqtada al- Sadr’s Imam al-Mahdi Army were involved in some of these attacks, demonstrating that al-Sadr may be losing control of some of his militiamen.
Although the Mecca Charter declares a strong commitment to ending sectarian violence and maintaining Iraq’s unity, there is no indication of how this agenda would be implemented on the ground. The sectarian violence has engulfed the nation since February and Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government has so far been unable to stop it. It seems unlikely that this charter — built on lofty proclamations, but without any concrete mechanisms to implement them — will put an end to the bloodshed.
Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahimi
In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
MAKKAH AL-MUKARRAMAH DECLARATION
ON THE IRAQI SITUATION
Praise and Glory be to Almighty God, and May His Peace and Blessings be Upon His Prophet Mohamed and all his Kin and Companions
In view of the present situation in Iraq, where bloodshed is widespread, and where aggression on assets and property, perpetrated under the guise of Islam, is daily occurrence, and in response to the invitation of the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and under the umbrella of the OIC International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA),
We the scholars of Iraq, from both the Sunnis and the Shiites, having met in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in Ramadan of the Lunar Hijra year of 1427H (2006) and deliberated on the situation in Iraq and the disastrous plight of the Iraqi people, issue and proclaim the following Declaration:
I. The Muslim is he who professes his faith by bearing witness that there is no God but Allah and that Mohamed is His Prophet. These fundamental principles apply equally to the Sunnis and the Shiites without exception. The common grounds between the two schools of thought are many times more than areas of difference and their causes. Any difference between them are merely differences of opinion and interpretation and not essential differences of faith or on the substance of the Pillars of Islam. From the Islamic Shari’a viewpoint, no one follower of either schools may excommunicate, hereticate, or in any other way cast aspersions on the faith and fidelity of a follower of the other school, on the grounds that God’s Prophet (PBUH) said:
“If ever one of you calls his brother: You infidel, one of them shall come out the infidel and bear the onus thereof!”.
II. The blood, property, honor, and reputation of Muslims is sacrosanct on the grounds of the noble verses of the Holy Quran, in which Almighty God says:
“And whoever deliberately and with premeditation kills a believer, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the Wrath and the Curse of God are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him”;
and the Immaculate Tradition of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), which says:
“Everything pertaining to the Muslim is sacrosanct, including his blood, property, honor, and reputation”.
Therefore, no Muslim, whether he or she is Shiite or Sunni, may be subject to murder or any harm, intimidation, terrorization, or aggression on his property; incitement thereto; or forcible displacement, deportation, or kidnapping. Moreover, no member of his family may be held hostage on grounds of religious or sectarian belonging. Whoever perpetrates such acts shall fall from the fold and grace of the whole Ummah, including all Muslim authorities, scholars, and all believers.
III. All houses of worship are sacrosanct, including mosques and the non-Muslim houses of worship of all faiths and religions. Therefore, these places of worship may not be attacked, appropriated, or in any other way used as a haven to perpetrate acts in contravention of our Magnanimous Shari’a. Instead, they should remain entirely at the disposal of their owners who should regain total and unfettered access to them in application of the Muslim jurisprudential rule adopted by all Islamic schools that:
“All religious endowments and Awqaf shall be subject to the terms and conditions established by their owners”
“a condition stipulated by the Donor shall be treated just as a Shari’a rule”;
“That which is part of practice and custom shall be deemed as a contractual provision”.
IV. The crimes committed on sight on grounds of sectarian identity or belonging, such as those now being perpetrated in Iraq, fall within the ambit of “wickedness, and mischief on the earth”, which was prohibited and proscribed by Almighty God when He said:
“When he turns his back, His aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But God loveth not mischief.”
The espousal of a school of thought, whatever it may be, is not a justification for killing or aggression, even if some followers of that school commit a punishable act since:
“A bearer of burdens cannot bear another’s burdens”.
V. Any provocation of sensitivities or sectarian, ethnic, geographical, or linguistic strife should be shunned and averted. Similarly, any name-calling, abuse, or vilification and invectives uttered by any one party in attack on another should be avoided in view of the express prohibition by the Holy Quran, which labeled such conduct as “blasphemy”:
“Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by offensive nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness used of one after he has believed: And those who do not desist are indeed wrong doers”.
VI. Certain things and principles should never be forfeited, including in particular the unity, cohesion, cooperation, and solidarity in piety and righteousness, which should all be preserved and protected against any attempt to tear them asunder, for Almighty God said:
“The Believers are but a single Brotherhood” and He also said:
“Truly! This Ummah of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord, therefore worship Me”.
Necessarily therefore, it is incumbent upon all Muslims to adopt caution and vigilance against all attempts to sow division among them, break their ranks, or incite sedition, strife, and hate to corrupt their divine spiritual bonds with each other.
VII. Muslims, both Sunnis and the Shiites all in unison champion the cause of the persecuted and unite against the oppressor and the unjust, as they act in application of Almighty God’s words:
“Verily, God enjoins justice, righteousness and good deeds, charity and assistance to kith and kin and He forbids all shameful deeds, injustice, and oppression. He admonishes you, that you may take heed”.
Accordingly, our endeavors should seek to put an end to all injustices, including most particularly by ensuring the release of all innocent prisoners and hostages, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, and the return of the displaced to their original homes.
VIII. The scholars remind the Iraqi Government of its duty to provide security, protection and means of decent livelihood to all categories and sections of the Iraqi people and to uphold justice among them, principally, by ensuring the release of innocent detainees, by bringing to speedy and fair trial, and executing the ruling against, those indicted of crime, while observing strictly the principle of equality among all citizens.
IX. The Sunnite and Shiite scholars support all efforts aimed at achieving comprehensive national reconciliation in Iraq in accordance with the words of the Almighty God:
“Reconciliation is best” and “Help ye one another in righteousness and piety”.
X. Muslims, whether Sunnite or Shiite, will thus stand united in protecting the independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Iraq; realizing and consecrating the free will of the Iraqi people, contributing to the military, economic, and political capacity-building of their country in order to put an end to occupation and restore and reinstate Iraq’s Arab-Islamic and human cultural and civilizational role.
The scholars who have signed this Declaration appeal to all Muslim scholars to support its provisions and urge the Muslims of Iraq to pledge adherence to it. They pray to Almighty God, on this sacred soil and blessed grounds, to protect and preserve the faith of all Muslims, ensure the safety of their homeland, and bring the Arab-Muslim country of Iraq out of its plight, end its trials and tribulations and reinstate Iraq as a fortre
ss and pillar of the Muslim Ummah in the face of its enemies.
Our final and eternal prayer is always that Praise and Glory be to Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe and all worlds therein.
© 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. for the article. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
© 2006 Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for the Charter.