A call for a nevitalized role for Muslim ulama in overcoming the Zionist menace sounded in Beirut in late December, when about 130 senior ulama from around the world descended on the Lebanese capital to attend a two-day conference on “Saving Jerusalem and Supporting the Palestinian People.” Leaders of resistance and Islamic movements from Lebanon and Palestine joined them in stressing the role of the ulama in supporting the Palestinian cause.
During the conference, the ulama and resistance leaders took the podium in turn to drive home the message that, despite its formidable military hardware, the Zionist project could be rolled into oblivion by unrelenting resistance. Speaking at the opening session, Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said that Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements have been widely recognised as “groups qualified for victory,” citing the “unimaginable capacity to tolerate pain” that firm belief and trust in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala instills in the mujahideen of the resistance movements. He went on to denounce “voices hired by leading news, television and satellite channels [who] say that martyrdom-seeking operations contravene deen, that they are not a form of martyrdom, and that standing in the face of Israel under the prevailing circumstances will lead to the destruction of the ummah,” accusing these “voices” of working to “shake the belief of the resistance fighters.”
Nasrallah warned of the danger of “killing the spirit of the resistance,” saying: “The most dangerous weapon that can be pointed in the face of the resistance is the weapon of religion, fiqh and fatawah; any other weapon is defeatable.” This danger brings to the fore “the need for sincere fatawah,” Nasrallah said. “We are not asking for political fatawah that justify the strategic decisions that we have already adopted. We are only asking for honest fatawah.”
This was repeated by Khaled Misha’al, the head of the politburo of the Islamic Resistance Movement in Palestine (HAMAS), who called on Muslim ulama around the world to “arouse the ummah” and support the Palestinian resistance, adding “As the Muslim Lebanese resistance arrived at the shoreline of victory under the leadership of Hizbullah, Palestine’s resistance will, insha’Allah, arrive at the shoreline of victory.” He underlined the importance of discussing martyrdom-seeking operations and their status vis-a-vis the concept of jihad. He also called for a Muslim definition of terrorism “in the face of the American and Zionist definition of the term.”
In analysing the effects of the now-defunct “peace process,” which he said has effectively turned many in the political leadership of the Palestinian people into “professional beggars,” Misha’al stated that the process “has torn our people apart, destroyed our national unity, and turned a part of our people into servants of Israel’s security.” He added: “The [peace] settlement stabbed the resistance in the back, sapped its strength, took away its weapons ... I therefore say that the time has come for ... its proponents to acknowledge the truth and join the ranks of the resistance.”
Senior Shi’a scholar Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah appealed to the ulama to educate the Muslims about the essence of the Palestinian cause, because “the Islamic world lacks awareness and cultural appreciation of this issue.” He said that the main problem with the Arabs has been their tendency to content themselves with reacting to developments, instead of concentrating on proactive planning. He also lamented the Arabs’ lack of organisation in the face of the Zionist project, and their preference for working in small circles, which drew them into vicious cycles of internecine fighting.
Shaykh Yahia Islam’il Ahmad, secretary-general of the Azhar Ulama, called on Muslims and Arabs to join forces, and criticised Washington’s pro-Israeli bias on Palestine. He pointed to the irony that while many Palestinian mothers find nobody to weep with them over the loss of their children, former US president Bill Clinton recently issued a statement lamenting the loss of his dog!
Former Iranian interior minister Sayyid Ali Akbar Mohtashemi described the “option of martyrdom-seeking operations against the occupying army” as the “only weapon” the Palestinian people have at the moment and called for a fund to be established to support Palestine. He pointed to Washington’s support for Israel in the international arena, saying: “Many countries and organisations have since the beginning of the intifada been urging the United Nations and the Security Council to send supervisors to the occupied territories and to put an end to the massacres taking place there. This has been repeatedly vetoed by the United States.”
At the end of the meeting the ulama issued a communiqué emphasising that: “Palestine in its entirety, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea and from its northernmost to its southernmost, with all its cities and villages and its capital Jerusalem, is an Arab-Islamic land and the homeland of all its Palestinian progeny, whether those living under occupation or those rendered refugees forcibly and compulsorily, and it must be given back to them and they must return to it unconditionally” (Article 1). The declaration rejected every kind of agreement with Israel as “null and void” because the Zionist state represents “an illegitimate and illegal presence that stems from invasion, usurpation and occupation” (Article 2).
The statement further underlined that “the Palestinian people’s resistance to occupation and aggression, in all its forms, is a legitimate right that has been made a duty in Islam and emphasised by the monotheistic religions, natural laws and human values” (Article 4). It went on to sanction “martyrdom-seeking operations,” saying: “Martyrdom-seeking operations carried out by the mujahideen against the Zionist enemy are legitimate operations, are based on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of his Prophet (pbuh) and are in the loftiest ranks of martyrdom and a pathway to the contentment of Allah and His paradise. Martyrdom-seeking motivated by belief, faith and [the desire to attain] the contentment of Allah is an act carried out by the mujahid consciously, freely and willfully, and is one of the most important strategic weapons of the resistance, which enabled it to achieve moral superiority over the enemy and to impose a new equation amid asymmetric balances of power” (Article 5).
On Jerusalem, the statement said that the Holy City “with its known historic boundaries is an Arab-Islamic city subject to neither division nor partition. It is the duty of all Muslims to liberate it, defend it, and protect it from Judaization and the changing of its landmarks” (Article 3).
Underlining the importance of unity, the ulama called on “governments, peoples and political parties in the Arab and Muslim world to cooperate in order to take the ummah out of a state of divisiveness based on nationalistic, nation-state, sectarian or political considerations, into dialogue, conciliation and solidarity, leading to achieving the unity of the ummah.” They also expressed their “confidence that considering the cause of Palestine and Jerusalem as the central cause for the ummah and making it the priority of the priorities is the right gateway toward beginning to build up the factors of power, strength and unity of the Arabs and Muslims” (Article 10).
The communiqué also expressed “praise for the contents of the speech of [Saudi crown] prince Abdallah bin ’Abd al-’Aziz at the [recent] Gulf Cooperation Council’s summit, and valued the stances of the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting the Palestinian people and the resistance” (Article 13). It also praised the “distinguished role of Lebanon, government and people, in confronting the Israeli occupation, embracing the resistance and supporting the intifada” (Article 14).
In a series of recommendations, the participants proposed the introduction in school curricula of lessons about Jerusalem to “keep the issue of the Holy City alive in the minds of future generations”; declared the permissibility of channeling funds allocated for zakah, khums and sadaqah to the intifada; advocated a boycott of Israeli goods; and called for resistance to ‘normalisation’ with Israel at the economic, political, diplomatic and trade levels. They also proclaimed the “prohibition of offering aid for American-led aggression against any country around the world.”