Remarks by His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar mni, CFR, Sultan of Sokoto and President-General Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, at the opening ceremony of NASFAT conference on Islam and Peaceful Co-Existence in a Contemporary and Multi-Religious Society, held at Abuja on Thursday, May 10, 2012.
It is with utmost thanks and gratitude to Allah (SWT), our Lord and Creator, that I stand before to say a few words at this august occasion, the Opening Ceremony of the National Conference on Islam and Peaceful Co-existence in a Contemporary and Multi-Religious Society. We must express our deep appreciation to the President of NASFAT and his Executive Council, the Chairman of the Organising Committee and indeed to the entire membership of NASFAT, for having the vision and the foresight to organise this timely and strategic conference. NASFAT, as an Islamic organisation, has grown from strength to strength in the past few decades. May Allah (SWT) continue to strengthen your efforts to better serve the Muslim Ummah and the entire nation. May Allah (SWT), in His infinite mercy, reward you abundantly for these noble efforts.
My brothers and sisters, our distinguished guests, the search for peace and mutual co-existence remains one of the greatest challenges that beset our society today. Impunity has become the order of the day. The values of tolerance and moderation which had provided the bedrock of our religious and collective existence are being trampled on, without let or hindrance. Much worse, the disregard for human life has not only become rampant but increasingly glamorised. These unfortunate events are not only confined to our society but extend to the industrialised world which usually preaches equality and the rule of law. The recent happenings in Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and other European countries give one much to worry about. It is for this reason that our gathering here today takes an added significance, not only to explore the relationship between Islam and Peaceful Co-existence but also to proffer cogent and realistic solutions which would help the Ummah to overcome its current challenges and to assist in the realisation of its developmental goals and objectives. Your excellencies, our distinguished guests, it also with this in mind that I wish to share few of my thoughts on the subject matter.
Firstly, the task of peace-building and of making peace among our people is an imperative which has been imposed upon the Ummah. As Allah (SWT) states in Surat ul – Nisa, verse 144,
“There is no good in most of their secret counsels save in him who orders charity (Sadaqa) or Goodness (ma‘ruf) or conciliation between mankind.”
The promotion of understanding and conciliation is a noble task which Allah (SWT) Himself has placed on us. We must therefore strive as an Ummah to discharge this onerous responsibility seriously and effectively. We must promote moderation and toleration in our society. We must equally open effective channels of dialogue with all segments of society, including those who hold contrary opinions to that of our own.
Our distinguished brothers and sisters, the second point I wish to raise is that the Muslim Ummah is necessarily a knowledge society. The pride of the Ummah has always been and remains the cultivation of knowledge in all its ramifications. Islamic civilisation, both here and elsewhere, had been predicated on the promotion of learning not only in the religions sciences but also in Science and Technology. The conflict between Faith and Science did not originate in the Muslim world. Muslim Civilisation bequeathed to the world the Study of Science and Technology. The time has come for Muslims to strive harder to reclaim this golden legacy.
The third point I wish to raise is that peace cannot be fully established without an unflinching commitment to equity and justice. We must strive to promote these pivotal values in our society. Injustice and Inequity invariably leads to corruption which in turn breed poverty and dissension. No society can thrive and prosper when afflicted with these deadly vices. It is undoubtedly for this reason that Shehu Uthman Ibn Fodio, of blessed memory, had to admonish leaders in the following words,
“Seeing to the welfare of the people is more effective than the use of force. It has been said that the crown of a leader is his integrity, his stronghold is his impartiality and his wealth is [the welfare of] his people.”
Fourthly, I must also point out that for the purposes of peace –building in our society, leaders on all sides of the religious divide, must act responsibly, and exercise utmost caution in both their actions and their utterances. We must endeavor to resist the urge for exhibitionism and brinkmanship. We must as a nation develop a collective consciousness where the pain of any member of our society, regardless of creed and ethnic origin, shall be the collective pain of all of us. And we must all work together to ensure that we remove the cause of this point. Those who take to the pulpit to issue threats and ultimatums should be held entirely responsible for the dastardly consequences of their actions.
Your excellencies, our distinguished guests, May I, once again, thank the leadership of NASFAT for its painstaking efforts at organizing this important conference on peaceful co-existence in our society. The activities of NASFAT in the mobilisation of the Muslim Ummah, its revenue–generation and extensive socio – economic development programmes, its laudable education activities and its sterling efforts at institution–building, go to show what Muslim communities and organizations could achieve when they remain purposeful, united and focused. The NASFAT Success Story also demonstrates that communities and organisations, with the help and assistance of Allah (SWT), can positively change the condition of the society when their members act together and co–operate with one another for the betterment of all.
With these words, I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you successful deliberations.