The 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation Summit which was held recently in Istanbul is still hitting the headlines. This meeting was special in many ways such as the significance of the host city, Istanbul, which has been the house of the caliphate for more than five centuries. For the first time since its foundation was established in 1969, this was marked as the highest attendance at the level of presidents. Even though the organization has not brought any significant solutions to the issues faced by Muslims, this was at least a promising union in the midst of the blazing conflicts in the Islamic world. It gives a hope that this time this assembly will make a necessary change to prevent the loss of even one innocent life.
No doubt, among the participants, President Rouhani and King Salman attracted a great deal of attention by the media due to recent disagreements between the two powerful Islamic countries. So much so that in the opening speech President Erdogan gave messages of unity and made remarks on the risks sectarian conflicts may cause among Muslims, a covert reference to the dissent between the two states. Apart from this summit, President Erdogan, who will be the chair for the next two years held official meetings with both leaders resulting in very fruitful outcomes.
Primarily, these were some of the topics discussed with the leaders during the conference. Everyone is very well aware that the most threatening issues encountered by the Islamic countries are terror and the sectarian differences; therefore, President Erdogan stressed that it is always Muslims who suffer the most due to these conflicts and it is our responsibility to resolve this within ourselves without awaiting any support from external powers. As already implied, the Islamic world is on fire and the first reasonable thing to do is to put out this fire to prevent any more damage instead of dealing with secondary issues. Division among Islamic countries is the greatest cause of this tribulation since God warns us in the Quran that if we do not unite, there will be great strife and turmoil (8:73). Regrettably, this is exactly what we are experiencing today. Thus, we should put aside all the other disagreements and focus on unity based on our real identity: Islam. It is a grave error to be deceived by differences while we have a lot in common. The situation of Muslims is similar to a school. For example, a school might have a diverse demographic mix of students from all backgrounds that attend but the students share and learn the same curriculum. Similarly Muslims who embrace different sects are all students belonging to the same school, i.e. the school of Islam. How could there be any division or separation because we believe in the same God, same Book, same Prophet and we turn to the same qibla when we pray. If there is one thing we should compete on, it should be racing in attaining more taqwa (fear of God). Above all else, it is forbidden (haram) for Muslims to be fragmented and it is obligatory (fardh) for them to act in unity and be brothers. This unity is of vital importance for us who hear of our brothers’ cries of death from the regions of conflicts that seem to be escalating to the skies. This unity will be different than the existing ones since states will act liberally as to their own internal affairs, and there will be no interference to their borders or local affairs. Yet, when a threat occurs, they will act as one body and become a deterrent force against any imminent threats. Currently, the Islamic world is prone to all kinds of threats and attacks but when they unite those who plot or plan such attacks will be afraid to confront such a powerful unity. As a result, strife will immediately end if we manage to establish such a unity. For instance, if even a single Muslim’s finger is hurt in any part of the world, the entire Muslim countries will act collectively and matter would be halted at once. However today since we are fragmented among ourselves, the external powers easily set plots, intervene and destroy our homelands. On the contrary, if we act as one united strong power, then they would not be able to swallow us up as they have in the past. Thus, it is our duty to fulfill this obligation. We can start doing this through OIC and embrace all Muslims from every sect seeing that some Sunni Muslims seem to isolate our Shia brothers and do not show the necessary compassion they deserve. It would be a great sin to behave in such a way because our Shia brothers are devout Muslims who are in love with ahl al-bayt. Sunni Muslims should embrace them by only using the Qur’an as a model, and only through this platform can the bonds be strengthened and the problems resolved. Regarding this matter, President Erdogan attracted attention to the sectarianism plague by saying the following during the OIC meeting, “I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam. We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only Muslims suffer.”
A beautiful step taken to achieve such a goal is President Erdogan and President Rouhani’s meeting succeeding the summit. The outcome was inspiring as we can tell from the message of the joint press conference the leaders gave as Rouhani stated: “We established a series of deals and partnerships in terms of extremism and counter terrorism. We should tell the world ‘our identity is Islam’. Our identity is not Shia, Sunni or any other sect. Our identity is Islam, which embraces love and brotherhood. Hopefully, we will reach our goal with Turkey in this.”
It is promising to hear that both leaders agreed to do whatever it takes to develop our relations, which have been unsatisfactory and substandard in the recent years in just about every aspect.
As both leaders of Iran and Turkey are cognizant of the power they can have when united, they are aware of the responsibility they bear to end terrorism and bloodshed within the region. Knowing the destructive effect that sectarian conflicts cause in the world, Iran and Turkey are ready to work on joint projects, which put forth our real identity which is Islam. The wisest thing to do for the sake of the Islamic world is to put aside the differences and focus mostly on our commonalities. Rouhani pointed out recently in his visit to Pakistan: Enemies want the tree of Islam to be fruitless. Muslims need to revive true Islam. We will do our best to spoil their game and show the entire world the productivity of Islam by promoting the teachings of the Qur’an.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Tehran Times: