KUALA LUMPUR: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al Mustafa Billah Shah called upon Muslim countries to broaden their efforts to benefit the wider spectrum of the ummah.
The ruler, in his royal address at the opening of the fifth Kuala Lumpur Summit today, said it was imperative for Muslim nations to band together to improve their collective wellbeing, and this should be done even as the ummah were facing severe challenges in many parts of the world.
He said this could be done through open dialogue among Muslim nations, while also stressing the importance of each Muslim nation to maintain good governance.
“Perhaps the time has come for us to broaden our individual efforts to transcend towards the wider ummah (community).
“Let us all join together and pledge our commitment to practice what we perform five times a day in our global personas, to improve the lives of our ummah and rebuild the Islamic civilisation to where it was before. For today, collectively, Islamic countries have come a long way, with great achievements.
“Yet, we are confronted by some of the most difficult challenges of the developing world. Many segments of our communities are still victims of poverty and underdevelopment. Basic necessities of food and shelter remain elusive to many," Sultan Abdullah said in a speech in front an audience of hundreds who included three heads of states from the Islamic world.
The summit is themed "The Role of Development in Achieving National Soverieignty."
The king, who is the country's head of the Islamic religion, said that the concept of Hiwar, which means dialogue in Arabic, was crucial in efforts to achieve development in accordance with the principles of Islam.
The concept should also be adopted when clarifying misconceptions about the religion, he said.
“Dialogue should be further promoted to correct misunderstandings about Islam, and as a way to understand one another, to cooperate despite our differences and to engage in the healthy pursuit for excellence.
"The Quran maintains that the primary goal of dialogue is to promote the common good – al-khayra – for the whole of humankind.
“It remains the ideal basis for interaction among people from different backgrounds. Through the use of dialogue, Muslims will have a powerful platform to correct the misconceptions of their faith among people of other religions and ideologies, allowing us to improve our interactions and relationships with other cultures and civilisations."
In this regard, he said the KL Summit was an important platform for Islamic leaders, scholars and others to meet and signify unity.
"By doing so, we will discover that despite our apparent differences, the challenges that we all face are similar.
“As the prosperity and development of one country can be shared within our greater ummah, it is appropriate that the theme of this conference emphasises on development and national sovereignty.”
He said charity and zakat were key principles in the religion, and adhering to these practices would help Muslims to overcome challenges facing the ummah.
He said the charity among Muslims in the past was well known as exemplified by the royal women of the Qajar and Ottomon courts, who were known for establishing public kitchens and hospitals for the poor.
Sultan Abdullah also urged each Muslim to acquire a stronger understanding of the religion as that was the foundation of their identity.
“When we accomplish this, we will create a new generation of Muslims who can perform their role with wisdom, courage, fairness, and justice."
When talking about domestic issues within different Muslim nations, the king said the respective governments needed to uphold integrity at all times in order to protect the rights of their people.
"There is a growing consensus among experts and scholars that development, when coupled with good governance, would reduce the many problems of the Muslim world."
When speaking about this, he cited the prosperity that was enjoyed during the peak of the Islamic civilisations of the past. He said the Ottoman Empire, for one, upheld the law based on Islamic principles and its capital in Istanbul became a centre for trade and commerce with an emphasis on science and technology while also harnessing culture and art.
He said under the leadership of Suleiman the Magnificent, Istanbul became not just a centre of Islamic culture, but of trade, commerce, and exchange, literally bridging East and West.
“Known as “the lawgiver”, he codified Quranic law and established the rights of his citizens according to Islamic principles, creating a distinct, pious and orderly society. We are blessed to have such a rich past that can guide us in the present.
“Our rich past forms an important part of the wider history of the world and can help guide us today. Let us not forget, all across history, our Islamic philosophers have been pioneers in expanding the boundaries of human knowledge."
Sultan Abdullah also paid tribute to the younger generation of dynamic Muslim youths who continued to contribute to the world.
“With the combination of positive values, access to information and communication technology, the ability to embrace differences and other faiths, this new generation of Muslims has great potential to revive Islamic civilisation and usher in a new golden age of Islam,” he said.
The king said that despite people living in a divisive world, there was still hope if the Muslim nations upheld the teachings of the religion.
"Hatred and intolerance have reached alarming levels. Nonetheless, I strongly feel that this need not be so, and that we can look to ourselves to seek a peaceful path, for Islam is a religion that encourages rationality, scientific thinking and strong ethics."
“While the impact of globalisation has both been positive and negative, I like to suggest that we can bring this globalised world to our side. After all, as Muslims we are already familiar with being global.”
Sultan Abdullah, in thanking state leaders and delegates, said their presence at the summit reflected their personal belief and conviction towards the strengthening the ummah.
“I would like to especially acknowledge the contribution of my dear prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his stewardship (as chairman) in organising this summit.
“The presence of notable leaders of the Islamic world here today is testimony to your stature as a global and Muslim statesman.
"There are many challenges facing us in this highly complex world we live in today. To me, the need for unity of our ummah as well as to bring development to our communities are the two most important ways to meet those challenges," he said.