Letter of the Baha'i International Community to Al-Azhar University
28 April 2006
His Excellency Sheikh Ibrahim Atta Al Fayyumi,
General Secretary, Islamic Research Council, Al-Azhar
His Excellency Imam Dr. Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi,
Director, Islamic Research Council, Al-Azhar
The Bahá’í International Community has learned through an article published in the 26 April issue of Al-Ahram newspaper, of a study being carried out by the Islamic Research Council on “all matters” that concern the Bahá’í Faith, its principles, and beliefs, “so as to reach a decision over the extent of its legitimacy or otherwise”.
The foregoing article indicates that this study has been prompted by a request from the Ministry of Justice. We assume that this is related to the recent verdict of the Egyptian Administrative Court that “declares null and void” the refusal of the Administration to issue identity cards to members of Bahá’í Faith “on which the Bahá’í Faith is recorded”.
In handing down its decision, the Egyptian Administrative Court made it clear that it was not commenting on the question of the legitimacy of the Bahá’í Faith from a doctrinal or theological perspective, but rather that it was confining itself solely to the question of the identification of the plaintiffs as Bahá’ís in government-issued identity documents. The court was ruling on a civil matter: the necessity of Bahá’ís who are Egyptian citizens to be issued with identification that has been mandated for all citizens by the government, in a manner that does not require them to deny their faith. Furthermore, the judgment noted: “It is not inconsistent with Islamic tenets to mention the religion on this card even though it may be a religion whose rites are not recognized for open practice”. The court’s verdict is not about whether what Bahá’ís believe is true; it is about respect for the law and fundamental human rights.
Should the Council find it necessary to make a statement about Bahá’í doctrine, we trust that it would be based on facts obtained from trustworthy sources uninfluenced by the misconceptions spread about the Bahá’í religion and its stance with respect to other divine religions, including Islam. In this respect, the following extract taken from a summary statement on the Bahá’í Faith, issued by Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, then Head of the Faith summarizes Bahá’í belief:
The Bahá’í Faith upholds the unity of God, recognizes the unity of His Prophets, and inculcates the principle of the oneness and wholeness of the entire human race. It proclaims the necessity and the inevitability of the unification of mankind, asserts that it is gradually approaching, and claims that nothing short of the transmuting spirit of God, working through His chosen Mouthpiece in this day, can ultimately succeed in bringing it about. It, moreover, enjoins upon its followers the primary duty of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all manner of prejudice and superstition, declares the purpose of religion to be the promotion of amity and concord, proclaims its essential harmony with science, and recognizes it as the foremost agency for the pacification and the orderly progress of human society. It unequivocally maintains the principle of equal rights, opportunities and privileges for men and women, insists on compulsory education, eliminates extremes of poverty and wealth, abolishes the institution of priesthood, prohibits slavery, asceticism, mendicancy and monasticism, prescribes monogamy, discourages divorce, emphasizes the necessity of strict obedience to one’s government, exalts any work performed in the spirit of service to the level of worship, urges either the creation or the selection of an auxiliary international language, and delineates the outlines of those institutions that must establish and perpetuate the general peace of mankind.
The Bahá’í International Community wishes to take this opportunity to offer to make a brief presentation on the Bahá’í Faith to the Islamic Research Council to facilitate its study, which we trust will reflect the standard of fairness that is demanded of religious jurisprudence and expected of institutions of high reputation such as Al-Azhar University and its Islamic Research Council.
It is our hope that our offer to cooperate with your Council and to participate in this study will be received in the spirit of reciprocal respect and cordiality in which it has been extended and which is to characterize the relationship between religious organizations around the world.
Please accept, Excellencies, the assurance of our highest consideration.
Principal Representative to the United Nations
cc: The President of Egypt Mr. Hosni Mubarak
Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif