Reis-Ulema “Grand-Mufti” Dr. Mustafa Ceric
Earlier this month I did a post titled “Muslim scholars write letter to Pope” in which I had mentioned that I knew one of the signatories and over Wa Salaam’s there is a post where I had mentioned that I would write up a post about this Imam. I had even started it, but decided that I had wanted to track down Dr. Ceric’s e-mail address or phone number to do an interview with him but found myself often long on the to-do’s and short on time. It was finally over at Smart and Final Isis’s post Isis’ Guide to Sensible Islam posting in which I had found myself once again mentioning Reis-Ulema Mustafa Ceric. I have decided that it is time to do just write this up and do the interview at another time.
Dr. Mustafa Ceric graduated from Sarajevo’s Gazi-Husrefbeg’s Maddrassah and went on to pursue a degree at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. In 1981, Dr. Mustafa Ceric accepted the position of Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center in Northbrook, Illinois. It is at this mosque that Dr. Ceric would be my teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies. It is at this mosque that I remember a man who was a mediator, peacekeeper and unit-er among a critical congregation. I remember his sense of humor and how he made me laugh every time he told us that “It doesn’t count as charity unless it hurts when you give it.”
Today, he is no longer greeted with Selam Aleyk “effendija” (Bosnian term for Imam), he is greeted with Selam Aleyk “Reis”! Dr. Mustafa Ceric is now Reis-Ulema of Bosnia and what that means is that he is “the supreme authority” of all Muslims and Clerics in Bosnia. Possibly even more important is that he is known as “One of Europe’s top Islamic thinkers” and “a mediator between Islam and Christianity”. It is because of his inter-faith work that he was recipient of the 2003 UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny peace prize along with Monsignor Etchegaray.
But, beyond all of that, Reis-Ulema Mustafa Ceric is a man that calls for Muslims to be responsible. He calls for integration within an immigrants respective community. He also calls for Muslims to use reason instead of violence to voice their concerns. He is a man that understands that reform needs to take place not in Islam itself, but rather with Muslims themselves:
“Moments of history Dr Ceric says there have been two major historical moments when Islam and Western civilisation have met and changed each other. During the first, Islam’s early Baghdad philosophers preserved and developed the learning of the Greeks. During the second, these ideas and more were sent back to Europe via Islamic Spain, sowing some of the seeds for the Renaissance. But this third meeting is different because it has the potential to change the nature of Islam itself. If European-born Muslims look inside their faith for what are presented as Western notions of human rights and individual freedom, they will find them, he argues. The challenge will be to convince other Muslims that these ideas are universal – and then western Muslims can export them back to the heart of Islamic society. “They cannot do it at the moment, but if they are given this freedom [from fear and poverty], they will succeed. “It’s difficult to admit but Muslims [in the Middle East] now need to learn from Muslims in the West. “The wise men of the Islamic East and the rational men of the West must meet – and then we will have moral men.””
It was this summer during the Israeli/Lebanon conflict that Reis-Ulema Mustafa Ceric had delivered a sermon in which he called upon the world to stop what was going on, not just in Lebanon, but to stop the rockets that are fired upon Israel:
“Even as the entire civilized world, aside from the United States and Tony Blair, is appalled by the massive Israeli crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, the Bosnia-Hercegovina reisu-l-ulema “led the prayers at the Gazi Husrevbegova mosque in Sarajevo”, after which he gave a sermon. In it, according to Dnevni avaz, he “called on the world to stop the war in the Middle East” and to “end the suffering of innocent civilians in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel”. He then expressed to the assembled worshippers his disappointment with the “lethargic conscience of humanity”, which cannot be awakened even by “the hundreds of bombs dropped on Lebanon and Gaza, nor by the hundreds of rockets fired at Israel”.
Ceric also explained to the worshippers “no one has a greater right, or obligation, than we in Sarajevo to raise our voices against the bombardment of Beirut and the rocket attacks against Haifa, because we know best what it means to live in a city under siege, without water and food, without electricity and defences against shells”.”
Go ahead, take a look at that source – it’s biased against him, but it couldn’t do more justice to what I am trying to tell you.
Well, I hope I did him justice. He’s not the only one out there that holds these opinions or views, he is one that I knew of, one that I chose to highlight. It’s not that they aren’t out there, it is just that they aren’t as “newsworthy” as let’s say when Hamas makes a statement about wanting to drive Jews into the sea.