Welcome address by Albir hazrat Krganov, Mufti of Moscow, head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia (DSMR), at the opening of the Second St. Petersburg International Religious Forum “Religious Values in the Modern World”, September 13-14, 2023.
Dear Drozdenko Alexander Yurievich, dear Mufti Ravil hazrat Pancheev, High Dignity Muftis, Your Eminences, ladies and gentlemen, participants of the forum.
Assalam ealaykum wa rahmat allahi wa barakatuh! Peace be upon you, mercy of the Most High and His blessing.
I would like to start my address by remembering the victims of the devastating earthquake in Morocco and the disaster in Libya. I extend my most sincere condolences to the people of these beautiful countries. Today our prayers and thoughts are with our brothers and sisters, we share their grief and sorrow. This tragedy reminds us of the words of the Almighty we find in the Quran: مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَمَن يُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ “No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah, He will guide his heart along the Right Path. Allah is Knowing of all things” (Quran, al-Taghabun:11). We should be patient and rely on the mercy of the Almighty even in hard times, for He knows best what is good for us.
Today this hall of hospitable St. Petersburg has gathered the leading theologians, reputable clergy and public figures: in short, all those who daily carry the great mission of ministry to the Most High on their shoulders; who feel a unique spiritual calling to serve on the pastoral path; who need to seek and find answers to the most difficult questions from ordinary people, their parishioners, no matter how challenging from the religious or moral point of view the questions may be, to speak words of encouragement, consolation and support to each and every one. The true beauty of the human soul is revealed only through service to God and neighbors. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The best among you are those who are most beneficial to people.” It is our common duty to bring the light of faith and love into this challenging world.
All this has a direct bearing upon the theme of our conference. A very impressive composition of the respected participants of the forum – and we have representatives of more than forty countries of the world – will allow us to fully and comprehensively discuss theoretical and practical issues related to the role of religious values in the modern world, exchange opinions and accumulated experience.
I am confident that religious values in today's world are still extremely important, fundamental and have the same great moral guidance as they did for generations of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, whose heirs and descendants we all are.
Over the past two decades alone, humanity has gone through a stage of enormous transformation – the explosion in new technologies, unprecedented opportunities for communication and cooperation, strengthening friendship, good-neighborly relations and strong mutually beneficial ties between countries and peoples, which have become an undoubted blessing on the one hand, have exacerbated conflicts on the other. The traditional institutions of humanity – the family, notions of good and evil and, as a consequence, religion – have been exposed to the most severe attack. It is our common duty as shepherds and mentors in the face of all these challenges to give a clear moral assessment, to form a positive, forward-looking agenda, to inspire faith and hope for the best in our people. As Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other.” Religious values, especially the Islamic teaching of mercy, tolerance and brotherhood, are our beacon in the era of uncertainty.
I would like to highlight a historic event that took place this year in the Islamic world. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been a significant event for the entire Middle East. Russia welcomes this rapprochement of the two key states of the Islamic world. We hope that it will serve to a stronger stability and co-operation in the region.
Russia’s Muslim organizations are ready to provide comprehensive support to the settlement of relations between Sunni and Shia brothers. Our scholarly and theological community can offer its venues for dialogue and the development of joint approaches.
We are sure that overcoming differences for the sake of common interests will serve to consolidate peace and unity among the entire Ummah. We are ready to contribute to this noble cause and provide necessary resources.
Now, permit me a few words about the most pressing issues. Throughout this year, we have repeatedly witnessed blasphemous acts in a number of European countries against the Quran, which have caused a storm of fair protests and outrage throughout the Muslim world. The flames of burning Quran in Europe not only burned the souls of believers, but also spotlighted the falsity of pseudo-values and the ambiguity of the points of law! Such actions have a very specific purpose, namely to increase the onslaught on Islam as a world religion and tradition, to cause rift and further division between countries and peoples. As the eminent Muslim thinker Ibn Rushd (Averroes) said, “Truth does not contradict truth, it only contradicts lies”. Let us look for concepts that all religions have in common, not for things that divide them.
Obviously, all these actions had paymasters, patrons and support.
Strongly condemning such excesses, we should draw clear lines between those who advocate dialogue among people of different cultures and civilizations and those who, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said, seek to hold on to their neo-colonial practices at all costs in order to preserve their status of a privileged minority.
Globalization through information and communication technologies, and now by means of artificial intelligence (AI) is another undoubted challenge. Naturally, we cannot ignore the openness of the new digital world which offers new opportunities for the Muslim world. New channels for dialogue and mutual understanding with representatives of other cultures and religions are emerging. Muslim communities are actively integrating into global processes while preserving their identity and values.
Prayer apps, online broadcasts of worship services, religious education courses, all this allows us to practice religion in new ways. However, it is important to remember that technology is only a tool that should not replace traditional practices and distract us from the true essence of faith. The wise words of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) should guide us: “Actions are judged according to their intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.”
However, with all the opportunities of modern times, we must remember the main thing, the simple truth, tested by centuries: reliance on our cultural and civilizational foundation, basic spiritual and moral values, traditional religion and lifestyle determines our spiritual sovereignty, guarantees the stability, continuity and dynamics of sovereign social and national development. Religion with its high mission of serving society is assigned one of the key roles.
In this regard, the focus should be on the younger generation, the youth. Let us remember ourselves. It is when we look at the world with young eyes, we all tend to question figures of authority and willy-nilly become non-resistant to those who take advantage of the callowness and gullibility of young people and prompt them to go down the crooked path of destruction of centuries-long traditions and values. This problem is not a rare phenomenon. It is no coincidence that prominent Muslim theologians say, “If we fail not teach young people to value religion, they will value everything else”. Our sacred duty is not to judge, but to understand young people and go towards them with an open heart. We must be fully aware that young people, their spiritual, moral, cultural and intellectual state is our future.
In this regard, it is extremely important for all of us to join our efforts and develop a shared strategy of the state, religious organizations and civil society institutions. This strategy should be aimed at resolving current acute problems of social development, preserving and strengthening religious, spiritual, and moral values. Successful projects in this area and best practices should be made available to the public. I hope that all these tasks will be a subject matter of constructive and interesting discussion among the delegates of the forum.
I emphasize that the universal traditional religions contain accumulated powerful spiritual and moral potential for strengthening peace, consolidating the spiritual foundations, traditions of people’s lifestyle, and the unity of society. We resonate with the words of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia that “the Church has always attested to the importance of following the traditional, God-given moral ideals, for it is these ideals that ensure spiritual immunity, resilience and vitality for the entire society.” In this regard, dear friends, I would like to draw your attention to the conceptual papers presented by Patriarch on May 19th and 20th in Kazan and in Bulgari, which are included in the handouts.
The mission of Islam today is in the promotion of education and enlightenment of believers on the basis of long-standing traditional values of Russian Muslims, in the formation of motivation base on spiritual values for a comprehensive development of believers and the Muslim community under modern conditions, in strengthening the unity and cohesion of Russian society.
The Holy Quran says: فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا “So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. Adhere to the fiṭrah [upright nature] of Allah upon which He has created all people.” (Quran. ar-Rum: 30). This is very important because the man of pure faith, following the canons and values of Islam, treats a person of other faith or ethnicity with respect. Islam forms the spiritual world, world outlook, behavior and lifestyle of a Muslim incompatible with xenophobia, extremism and discrimination of people.
A national institute of religious journalism which is to play a vital role, must be formed within a short period of time, for it is to promote and strengthen religious values and religious culture in the public realm. There is a need for journalists who are able to cover with quality and responsibility the problems of religious life of society, promote religious values and religious culture in the public space. And this is a common task for the authorities and religious organizations.
It is gratifying to note that the country's higher education institutions have begun teaching a course on the Fundamentals of Russian Statehood since September 1. We hope that the role of religious values in spiritual and moral development, in consolidating Russian statehood, in strengthening the unity and cohesion of society will also be covered in the relevant section of this course.
We, Russian Muslims, are deeply convinced that we should strengthen faith and our values, affirm humanity, justice and compassion for people through dialogue and cooperation backed by our canonical, social, educational and cultural activities. We are confident that it is necessary to protect human dignity absolutely everywhere without discrimination on the basis of religion or nationality, to promote peace and harmonize interreligious and interfaith relations, and to consolidate society. Almighty Allah urges in the Quran: وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and enmity.” (Quran, al-Ma'idah:2 ayat)
Dear brothers and sisters!
I believe that by relying on religious wisdom embedded in the holy scriptures, mankind is able to overcome any trials and build an equitable world order. A hadith said: “Verily, Allah sustains this community (ummah) because of the weak among them; because of their prayers, their submission and their supplications!”
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us remember that Islam calls us to peace, justice and good neighborly relations. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “O Allah! Make religion easy for me, and make the world a beloved and desirable place for me.” Let us strive to make this world a little better with our good deeds and thoughts.
May Allah Almighty bless us and lead us to success in all good endeavors!