IIIT hosted Dr. Amr Abdalla, Professor of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution and Vice Rector at the University of Peace, the United Nations, on Friday, February 1, 2013. Dr. Abdalla made a compelling case for an Islamic perspective to conflict resolution and peacemaking based on an enlightened and Maqasid-based approach to understanding Qur’anic verses and hadiths of the Prophet dealing with conflict and issues of war and peace.
He introduced the topic by observing that the entire Muslim world, including communities of Muslims living in the West, has been confronted by the challenge of reforming Islamic thought and scholarship in order to address numerous political, social, and cultural challenges. He identified the area of conflict resolution and peace as the one that caught the attention of both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and policy makers because of the wide and intense conflicts which implicated Muslims and Islam in the last decades. These conflicts, he observed, ranged from international violent confrontations between states and with non-state actors, to regional and national sectarian conflicts, and domestic conflicts with gender and family elements.
Dr. Amr then made the critical observation that the rise to political power of groups upholding Islamic slogans as a consequence of the transformation emanating from the Arab Spring is an inevitable historical and civilizational moment for Muslims worldwide. That rise to political power, he said, has been preceded by persistent transformations on the social and cultural map of the Muslim world for the last few decades which asserted the strength of Islamic values within individuals and communities. Then he raised the question: To what extent will the Muslim world, with its new political leadership in the Arab Spring countries, capture this historical and civilizational moment? How will scholars, policy makers, and religious leaders cope with these changes?
The presentation then explored how scholars and professionals of peace and conflict resolution, with focus and interest in Islamic principles and applications, will continue to produce models which are suitable for the challenges of the day. Like other scholars concerned with reforming Islamic thought in the 21st century, those working in the area of peace and conflict resolution have been confronted with the challenges posed by the degree to which existing scholarship (Fiqh) is relevant for various aspects of modern life. Dr. Amr said that Islamic scholarship in the 21st century, especially after the transformations witnessed before and after the Arab Spring, must recognize the shortcomings of existing scholarship due to its historical and cultural limitations. He asked for developing models of conflict resolution and peacemaking in an Islamic context that represent the strong adherence and attachment to Islamic principles and Maqased al Shari’a (intentions or objectives of Shari’a), without reinforcing history- and culture-specific models. This is not an easy task, he maintained, as all those who have embarked on Islamic scholarship reform know. Yet, he maintained, it is a historical and civilizational duty for Muslim scholars and policy makers to address such matters and to provide to their communities and to the world models which reflect the Islamic principles of compassion, justice, and peace.
The presentation addressed venues that scholars may explore in order to develop relevant models of conflict resolution and peacemaking based on Quranic and Sunna sources. Dr. Amr explained that Islamic scholarship in the field of conflict resolution and peace must encompass comprehensive multidisciplinary tools of interpretations beyond the highly legal approaches used in classic Fiqh. He mentioned that techniques of cross- and multi-cultural interpretations are necessary to navigate our understanding of history and culture-specific text and context in Islamic sources and history.
Finally, Dr. Amr asserted that an Islamic model of conflict resolution and peace does not pretend to offer principles or methods which vary sharply from those used within other cultural and religious contexts. He argued that Islam’s emphasis on communities, families, and adherence to “Sabil Allah” (the way of Allah) in our actions, dictate that Islamic models of conflict resolution and peacemaking respond to such values; and to that extent depart from dominant models of conflict resolution and peacemaking in the West with their strong interest-based and individualistic underpinning.
Dr. Amr Abdalla's Bio