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.
Published in: The New Straits Times, 19 December 2019
The key to happiness could be as simple as being “respectful towards the sanctity of life” and practising mindfulness, according to Thakur S. Powdyel.
The former education minister of Bhutan, the country which sparked worldwide interest in its unique index, the Gross National Happiness (GNH), was recently at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) as a guest speaker.
Thakur is recognised for his dedication to education and has been awarded with, among others, the Coronation Gold Medal in 2008, the Gusi Peace Prize for Life-time Contribution to Education (2011), Global Education Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education (2012) and the Institutional Award: The Honour of Druk Thuksey (2012).
His philosophical approach to education, as written in his book My Green School, has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, Vietnamese, Japanese, Kannada and German, with translations in several other languages under way.
He is instrumental in the development of the GNH concept, inspired by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wang-chuck.
GNH AS YARDSTICK OF PEOPLE’S WELLBEING
“Some people said to me: ‘The Bhutanese must be the happiest people on earth.’
“Well, the world ranking says otherwise,” Thakur said in his lecture at IIUM recently.
He said instead of being pressured to compete, the Bhutanese government was focused on achieving balance between the material and non-material.
This, he said, was done by adhering to the four pillars of GNH, namely sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion, and good governance.
“Culture, for instance, gives us identity. It gives us a sense of who we are. It gives us a sense of belonging. It is the core of human beings, fundamentals of a meaningful life, if you may.”
He said most countries were focused on the gross domestic product (GDP), which meant everything was based on the market value of goods and services.
“GNH is founded on a broader base, the major factor that contributed to the wellbeing of the people.”
He said while GDP growth was important, it “is not everything”.
“GDP is important, we need it, but it is not everything. What is important is GNH and developing with values.”
INVESTING IN THE LEADERS OF TOMORROW
Thakur said children and youth were a nation’s most precious segment, and the right investments in the next generation of leaders would determine the future and direction of a nation.
“We were innocent and life was simpler. Then Bhutan opened up to the world, received more tourists. And, as they learnt more, the youth became arrogant,” he said, explaining what life in Bhutan was like prior to modernisation.
This, he said, was where green schools played a role in nurturing the next generation of leaders, who were well balanced as individuals and worked well in a community.
Thakur’s green school concept espoused a holistic idea of education, which went beyond academic achievements.
“With all the good that it has done, modern education leaves much to be desired.”
Thakur, who was an educator, said it produced successful young people who excelled in academics and got ahead of their peers, but often felt isolated from themselves and others.
“A wise person once described education as the ‘Noble Sector’ and called upon others to help children and youth cultivate the nobility of the mind and the nobility of the heart, which would lead to the cultivation of the nobility of action.
“As things stand, there is an urgent need to restore education to its core function as the ‘Noble Sector’ that seeks to harmonise the gift of the head, the heart and the hands, thereby enabling young men and women, children and youth to develop into well-integrated individuals who are at peace with themselves and at peace with the world around them.
“We learn to live together and learn together, respecting our uniqueness and our commonality. We learn to care and to share and to succeed together.
“Life is to be celebrated. If somebody is lagging behind and feeling down, we give them courage and bring them along. If somebody has reasons for joy, we celebrate it together.”
He said these virtues must be developed and shared in schools as they were crucial for the unity and strength of the country and the world.
“As you look around the world, there’s so much going on in the name of education, but not much of it is educational.
“Education is such a large engagement for any society, for any country. It engages the largest number of young people around the world, and it keeps them in institutions of learning for a long time.
“Education must be meaningful. Today, most education efforts are, at best, limited to the intellectual element of human beings. Most parents would like their children to excel and succeed in life, and that they must score high marks, get good jobs; that is important.
“But what is more important is what happens to their lives as a result of spending long years learning different subjects in institutions of learning.
“I look at education from a different perspective, or (rather) planes or dimensions.
“Today, education looks only at the intellectual dimension. But we are more than the mind or the intellect.”
He said humans were not just social, but also cultural, emotional and spiritual beings.
“We have aesthetic sensibilities and ethical dimensions to our lives.”
He said the green school concept began with the obvious and most fundamental of the elements, which was natural greenery.
The other elements, he said, were academics, aesthetics, culture, intellect, morality, society and spirituality.
“Being able to appreciate this earth on which we walk is a great education because we depend on the earth.
“Green is more than a colour; it is a metaphor for everything that support and sustain life.”
Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 18 September 2019