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Muslim World League

Reinhard Schulze, Gabriele Tecchiato
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Muslim World League

Founded in AH 1381/1962 CE,the Muslim World League (Rābiṭat al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī), presently the most important non governmental international Islamic organization, was the product of a meeting of 111 Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and politicians held in Mecca on the occasion of that year 's pilgrimage. They convened to discuss the affairs of the Islamic Ummah in view of the threats posed to it by “communism” in general and the “irreligious” Egyptian president Nasser in particular. On May 18, 1962, they inaugurated the Muslim World League as a new transnational Islamic organization, describing it as a “Muslim cultural organization” and an “Islamic peoples ’ organization,”  “serving the whole Ummah and not acting as an agent of any government.”

With its head office in Mecca, the League was at first represented by a constituent council (al-Majlis al-Taʿsīsī) only. The conference at Mecca chose twenty-one scholars, intellectuals, and notables as members of the council, which met for the first time in December 1962. The number rose to some sixty members in the early 1990s. From the start, the composition of the council demonstrated that the League was trying to bring together mainstreams of contemporary Islamic ideology and theology: the council, was seeking to represent within itself some contemporary mainstreams of Islamic thought, as, for example, the wahhābīs and the Salafīyah, and was headed by the grand muftī of Saudi Arabia, Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm Āl al-Shaykh (d. 1969).

In the council were seated personages such as Abūl Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Nadvī, Saʿīd Ramaḍān and Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī. The first secretary-general was the Meccan merchant Muḥammad Surūr al-Ṣabbān (1898/99–1972). Nearly half of the members of the council had already been in contact with the General Islamic Conference founded in Jerusalem in 1953 (a reservoir of Muslim Brotherhood tendencies). Although it was largely financed by Saudi Arabia, the Muslim World League has been able to develop an identity of its own, through various thought mainstreams that animate it. Nevertheless, according to statute, the League 's secretariat is headed by a Saudi Arabian citizen (Muḥammad Surūr al-Ṣabbān, 1962–1972; Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ al-Qazzāz, 1972–1976; Muḥammad ʿAlī al-Ḥarkān, 1976–1983; ʿAbdallāh ʿUmar Nāṣīf, 1983–1994; Aḥmad Muḥmmad ʿAlī, 1994–1995; ʿAbdallāh bin Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUbayd, 1996–2000; ʿAbdallāh bin ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-Turkī, since 2000).

During the early phase of its history, the Muslim World League succeeded in subjecting to its control other competing transnational organizations, such as the General Islamic Conference of Jerusalem, the Islamic World Congress (Karachi), and the International Islamic Organization (Jakarta). In its covenant of December 1962, the League stated its intention to promote the message of Islam, to fight conspiracies against Islam, and to discuss all problems relevant to Islam. In addition, in article four of the covenant and in accordance with the politics of Islamic solidarity heralded by King Fayṣal, the League promised to work for the cooperation of all Islamic states and argued in favor of an Islamic bloc taking a stand against Bathist regimes.

After the end of the Arab cold war—a term coined by Malcolm Kerr to characterize the political split between Egypt and Saudi Arabia from 1957 to 1967—the Muslim World League gradually changed its objectives. Following the foundation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1968–1972, the League stressed its supranational, independent identity and concentrated on establishing a network of Islamic cultural and political organizations. The League upgraded the role of the constituent council and abolished the so-called General Islamic Conference (which met in 1962, 1965, and, exceptionally, in 1987). It founded about thirty-five branch offices and bureaus in countries where Muslims constitute a minority (primarily in Africa, but during the last years the League started paying a growing attention to the former Soviet countries and to the countries of Eastern Europe) and affiliated itself with local Islamic organizations and agencies.

During the 1970s, the League gradually expanded its activities in the fields of coordination (tansīq), daʿwah, jurisprudence, and social welfare. In 1974, it invited 140 delegations to a conference of Islamic organizations and decided to establish continental councils (in 1985, five), local Islamic councils in twenty-eight Muslim minority communities, and a coordination committee. One year later, in 1975, the League set up a World Council of Mosques, which specialized in the coordination of daʿwah activities; it controls several regional and numerous local mosque councils.

Since the League 's beginnings, the faction of Wahhābī scholars has argued for the establishment of a jurisprudence council entrusted with the elaboration and control of internationally accepted standards of Islamic law. Internal disputes postponed this project; in 1976, however, the League opened the Islamic Fiqh Academy with which other academies in Europe and in other parts of the world were associated. The decisions taken at the annual meetings of the fiqh council have acquired some authority. Finally, the International Islamic Relief Organization was made responsible for the League  's activities in the field of social welfare. Together with several Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf states, the League 's training center for dāʿīs (missionaries) supervises the education of official or semiofficial daʿwah workers.

Starting in the 1990s, the Muslim World League, staying faithful to its inspiring principles, has, successfully, continued carrying forward its programs, even through a broader ramification and structuring, creating, in addition to the organizations mentioned earlier, other new institutions, including: The Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) Council; Holy Quran Memorization International Organization; Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah; International Islamic Organization for Education; The International Association for New Muslims; The International Muslim Organization for Women and Family; Al-Haramain and Al-Aqsa Mosque Foundation; Makkah Al-Mukarramah Charity Foundation; The World Organization for Presenting Islam.

The changed world scenario, from the first Gulf War to September 11, 2001, has again catapulted Islam and the whole Muslim world into being protagonists of the international chessboard. Islam often has been subject to a misinformation campaign, intent on giving it a violent and negative image, and that is based on accusations of terrorism and human rights violations turned on Islam and Muslims. This scenario has seen the Muslim World League actively and massively involved, on the one hand, in reestablishing the correct image of Islam, trying to protect the truth and the good will of its message of faith, and, on the other hand, in protecting its dignity. The League lavished itself with assisting the Muslim populations that are victims of persecutions (Bosnia and not only). This is the scenario in which the last two General Secretaries had to act. Under the leadership of al-ʿUbayd, the League took a very clear and strong position on the subject of human rights (Rome declaration on “Human Rights in Islam,” May 1999). Under the guidance of al-Turkī, the League clearly took a position against any kind of terrorism (the Declaration of the Sixteenth session of the Supreme Islamic Fiqh Council, Mecca, January 5–10, 2002). The same al-Turkī, not only as the General Secretary of the League, but also as a religious man and a man of culture, has intensified his efforts in the service of Islam even through a series of unremitting travels that brought him to visit the majority of countries that give hospitality to Muslim minorities.

With awareness of the strategic importance of mass-media and of the publications as a means of education, cultivation, and information, the Muslim World League pays particular attention to editorial activity, developing it through various publications. Since 1963, it has published the monthly journal Majallat Rābiṭat al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī (called al-Rābiṭat since 1987); in 1973, it began to publish the English monthly Journal of the Muslim World League; there is also a weekly called Akhbār al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī (al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī since 1991). Among the scientific and monographic publications, Daʿwat al-Ḥaqq hosts monographic essays on religious, legal, and historical topics. Moreover, every organization of the League has its own periodical publication, combined with an Internet site.

The Muslim World League is represented in a number of international organizations such as the United Nations, where it enjoys the status of observer as a nongovernmental organization with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is also a member of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organization (UNESCO) and the UN International Children 's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).



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