(Surat al-Hujuraat: 13)
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.
The Qur’an acknowledges the diversity of the human race and states that the purpose of such diversity is so we may get to know each other. There are many examples of peaceful and productive interactions between peoples of different races, religions and cultures. There are also, sadly, examples of violent and destructive interactions. Especially when there are forces that aim to divide people, often violently, those who believe in peaceful coexistence must double their efforts for taqreeb - to bridge the divides so that people may be brought closer together.
“Taqreeb” is an Arabic word from the root q-r-b and is defined as the effort to bring closer. This word is familiar even to people who speak Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu because all these languages have espoused the Arabic word qareeb.
In a meeting with Syedna Taher Saifuddin, a prominent Muslim of Mumbai, Sir Ibrahim Rahimatullah said to him that the disunity and disharmony within the Muslims is disheartening. Sir Ibrahim suggested hosting all the notable scholars (‘ulamaa’) of the Islamic Ummah for two to three weeks and asking them to come up with a common view uniting all Muslims. Syedna Taher Saifuddin always encouraged peaceful coexistence and harmony but he was also very pragmatic and realistic. He told Sir Ibrahim that the differences are centuries old and it is unrealistic that they could suddenly be set aside. Instead, Syedna Taher Saifuddin said, it is important to recognize and respect the differences and focus on that which unites us.
Syedna Taher Saifuddin was firmly grounded in his faith and conviction and at the same time approached all other Muslim communities and also people of other faiths with a focus on the common ground. His writings and activism are a shining example of taqreeb.
Inspired by the example of Syedna Taher Saifuddin and that of his successors, the Qutbi Jubilee Scholarship Program (QJSP) in collaboration with the University of Calcutta, organized a two-day conference on “Taqreeb – Propagation of Harmonious Relations in Mughal, British and Independent India: The Writings and Activism of Syedna Taher Saifuddin, Emperor Akbar, Prince Dara Shikoh, Allama Iqbal, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other Religious and Political Muslim Leaders". With Syedna Fakhruddin’s doa Mubarak, the first “Taqreeb” conference was a resounding success (see News & Events section for further details) and was widely reported on in the local press (see Media section for further details).
The conference was a first step in an effort to encourage dialogue between scholars to understand differences and in doing so, finding common ground -finding the common denominator. “Man is the enemy of what he is ignorant about” (al-mar’u aduwwu ma jahil). Engagement with intellectuals is essential in bridge-building efforts. Insha’allah these efforts will continue.
It was Syedna Qutbuddin’s wish when he established QJSP on his Golden Jubilee as the Mazoon of Syedna Burhanuddin that the organization would 1) promote higher education for distinguished boys and girls and 2) promote academic scholarship that strengthens communal and societal harmony.
May Allah Ta’ala grant us the inspiration and strength to fulfill Syedna Qutbuddin’s wishes for this organization, to follow the example of our Hudaat Kiraam and the guidance of our Dai-z-Zamaan TUS and build bridges with those who are of the mindset of taqreeb. By these efforts and by the united voice of those who believe in taqreeb, we will stand up to the voices of division and violence.