International Inaugural Conference launching the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an”

International Inaugural Conference launching the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an”

Under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Turkey H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: International Inaugural Conference launching the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an”
Istanbul, 5 September 2010

An International Inaugural Conference was organised by IRCICA to launch a commemoration program of the passage of fourteen centuries AD since the beginning of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. The commemoration activities will take place during the year 2010-2011 and will be organised by the relevant authorities and institutions of the OIC-IRCICA Member States, Observer States and Muslims’ unions and associations across the world.

The inaugural conference was held under the patronage and in the presence of the Prime Minister of Turkey H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Prime Minister delivered a comprehensive address at the opening ceremony.

H.E. Maître Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal, Chairman of the 11th Islamic Summit Conference, and Chairman of the OIC Standing Committee for Information and Cultural Affairs (COMIAC), sent a Message to the conference which was read at the opening ceremony by H.E. Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye, Minister of Religious Affairs of Senegal.

The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu delivered an address at the opening ceremony. Prof. Ali Bardakoğlu, Head of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, gave a comprehensive address.

With more than 100 delegates from the OIC Member States and Observer States and representatives of Muslim communities around the world, the conference marked an auspicious launch for the commemoration program of the 1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Quran.

Background
The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference at its 37th session (Dushanbe, Tajikistan, May 2010) had approved the proposal of IRCICA on declaring the year 2010-2011 as a year for the Commemoration of the passage of fourteen centuries on the revelation of the Holy Qur’an( ) (Resolution no. 37/6-C). The Council of Foreign Ministers invited the Member States and the OIC subsidiary and affiliated institutions to commemorate this anniversary with all means.

Launching of the program
In conformity with the OIC Foreign Ministers’ decision, the commemoration program, titled “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an”, was launched under the patronage and in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Mr. Recep Tayip Erdoğan, with an International Inaugural Conference convened in Istanbul on Sunday 26 Ramadan 1431H / 5 September 2010, date corresponding to the Laylat al-Qadr.

The conference brought together ministers from the OIC Member States and Observer States together with specialists from universities, heads and members of governmental and non-governmental organisations, and representatives of Muslim communities all over the world. The conference was at the same time the first activity organised in the context of the program. Statements were given by the participating  ministers, heads of institutions, representatives of Muslim communities.

The working paper presented by IRCICA defined the objectives of the Year taking into consideration suggestions by institutions and specialists from around the Muslim world engaged in research, educational and cultural activities in the study of the Holy Qur’an and the experiences of IRCICA through its own research and publications relating to copies of the Quran, translations and exegeses of the Quran, history of the printing of the Quran, its monitoring Qur’anic studies all over the world, and other activities in this area that are part of its mandate.

Objectives
In the conducive environment created from the beginning of the Qur’anic revelation 1400 years ago, the civilization of Islam developed and spread across four continents with concentrations mainly in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Iberian peninsula, and eastern Europe. Mergers and interactions of this civilization with local cultures created a diversity of traditions, developments of urban centers, sciences and know-how, languages and arts that made the richness of its living heritage.

The Qur’an’s message of peace, compassion and tolerance and its emphasis on learning, knowledge and science, are necessary for entire humanity at all times. World peace depends on understanding and achieving these eternal values and principles. Explaining them to believers and to non-believers, making them part of public knowledge, contributing to their application, filling knowledge gaps, correcting misunderstandings and erroneous opinions about Islam and about Muslims, are duties to be fulfilled in the service of the Qur’an.

“1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an” aims to contribute in this direction by way of scholarly, educational, cultural and artistic activities that would highlight the meanings of the Qur’an on various subjects and disseminate the results of these and other similar existing activities worldwide. The Year’s program is conceived at international level, for the 2010-2011 period. Some activities, depending on their nature, would continue beyond that.

The Year is given a multi-disciplinary scope engaging efforts not only from the fields of Qur’anic sciences, related to the contents and the meanings of the Qur’an, but also from other areas concerning the history of the dissemination and the learning of the Qur’an by means of its copies, its translations in world’s languages and dialects, and through the arts and techniques which evolved around it.

The International Inaugural Conference held on 5 September launched the program of the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an” in a functional manner as it constituted itself a joint platform of reflection and consultation on the ways of commemorating the Year in the most appropriate, useful and efficient manner. The activities to be devoted to the Year by countries and by organisations will altogether form the first program in its field to involve the OIC members, observers and the Muslim communities across the world.

Following the opening ceremony, the conference continued with its working session, under the chairmanship of Mr. Faruk Çelik, Minister of State of the Republic of Turkey. The working session deliberated on the following subjects:
a. Principles, scope, perspective and guidelines of the Year’s program
b. Possible events and activities
c. Activities that are already implemented, planned and proposed by the Member States, national, regional and international organizations
d. Modalities of organisation, implementation, cooperation, communication and highlighting of the results of the Year’s activities.

A total of 25 presentations and statements were delivered during the working session on behalf of the Member States and Muslim communities. Eight ministers took the floor, representing Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Macedonia, Mauritania, Palestine, Senegal, Sudan, and Turkey; high officials from the ministries, state departments for religious affairs, of the Member States also took the floor. An outline of the proceedings is given below, where the presentations are arranged according to the alphabetical order of the countries.

Mr. Ramiz Zekaj, Director General, Albanian Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, Tirana, pointed out that today Albanians are settled not only in Albania but also in Macedonia, Kosovo and even Serbia. “Albanians have been interested in Qur’anic studies since they adopted Islam; they rendered considerable services to Qur’anic sciences. Until the beginning of 20th century the Qur’an was not translated into Albanian. Interest in reading the Qur’an is stil growing today. … Speaking of Qur’anic studies, I would like to underline that the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an is an important institution. It renders significant services to Qur’anic studies. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank IRCICA here for its studies in this area.”

Mr. Bouzeid Boumedienne, Director of Culture, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Awqaf of Algeria, gave information to the audience on the activities being carried out in Algeria. An international competition for the memorization of the Qur’an is ongoing, with the participation of 53 children. “We are trying to keep alive the tradition of memorizing and reciting the Holy Qur’an. We are trying to match old traditions with new technologies. This synthesis of old and new offers us a new model, one that is advanced with respect to form and content.” Mr. Boumedienne then touched upon the question of the differences observed in the recitation and explanation of the Qur’an. “In certain countries we see excesses in the reading, whereby some are trying to develop local methods; this is not advisable. We should underscore and benefit from the richness of our past. Variations in reciting the Qur’an must be preserved; in Africa, in Morocco, in Turkey, this diversity is preserved.” Mr. Bouzeid Boumedienne also referred to the aesthetical dimension of Qur’an copies; “Achievements in calligraphy in copying the Qur’an must be underlined. The successes recorded in Turkey in this field since Ottoman times are praiseworthy.”

H.E. Mr. Hidayat Orujov, Chairman, State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Work with Religious Associations, underlined the significance of the conference in bringing all Muslim countries together which would help strengthen their solidarity. He said “As was pointed out by late President Heydar Aliyev in 1994, the religion of Islam has for centuries formed the basis of the spiritual existence of Muslim peoples and enabled them to acquire a place in the world. In Azerbaijan, the Holy Qur’an is our guide towards progress in the path of God; this path we followed until now and this path we shall follow in future. Perhaps one of the main reasons, maybe the first reason why we are facing problems today is that we have not been able to fully understand and accurately make known to others the contents and the principles of our religion, particularly of our Holy Book. Though Muslims are divided into a number of sects the Qur’an as the sole divine source unites them. Today we have to understand and make known our Holy Book at least as precisely as fourteen hundred years ago. … In order that brotherhood is strengthened and confidence is built in the Muslim world, we must give importance to wider diffusion of the truth of Islam. In this regard, we consider the Organisation of the Islamic Conference as a significant step and a great opportunity in this direction.” Mr. Orujov recommended that “For the Holy Qur’an be understood and learnt correctly, there is a need to promote scholarly publications to be prepared by specialists from the Muslim countries. For that, no doubt, a big task is incumbent upon the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and its institutions.” Mr. Orujov presented to IRCICA a beautiful edition of the Holy Qur’an copied in artistic calligraphy under the direction of the President of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, as a souvenir of the conference.

H.E. Mr. Shahjahan Miah, Minister of State for Religious Affairs, Bangladesh, expressed his sincere thanks, on behalf of the government and the people of Bangladesh and himself, to the Prime Minister of Turkey H.E. Mr. Recep Tayip Erdoğan who gave his patronage to the event and to IRCICA which organised the meeting. The Minister said that the 1400th anniversary of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an is significant not only for Muslims but for all humanity. “For 1400 years now peoples and countries are enlightened by the light of the Qur’an. In Bangladesh which won its independence in 1971 after a revolution, 85 % of the population are Muslims. We have 300 000 mosques and tens of thousands of madrasas. The Government of Bangladesh provides all kind of support to these institutions. Around 3800 copies of the Qur’an and books on Qur’anic subjects have been published until now in Bangladesh comprising Qur’an exegeses, books on hadith, encyclopedias and biographies of Islamic scholars. Thousands of madrasas offer courses on recitation, interpretation and memorization of the Qur’an. Most of our universities and all Islamic universities have undergraduate and graduate programs in Qur’anic studies. They also offer PhD programs to study the Qur’an under its different aspects. The information media broadcast special programs relating to Qur’an exegesis. The people of Bangladesh are entirely ready to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. We have planned to publish books and journals, organise seminars, prepare radio and TV programs that highlight this anniversary. I should also mention that on the occasion of the 1400th year of the revelation of the Qur’an, Islamic Publishing institution will publish a three-volume Encyclopedia of the Holy Qur’an.

Mr. Şabanali Ahmet, Head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Bulgaria, said that in Bulgaria, similarly to many other Balkan countries, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire Muslims entered into an effort to maintain their faith and preserve their identity. “This was not possible until the 1990s; in socialist times the people had difficulties even in finding copies of the Qur’an to read. At present, services relating to the Qur’an are being established in Bulgaria drawing from the experiences of other countries, in particular Turkey.” The speaker then gave data on these services: 600 course programs were instituted last summer to teach the Qur’an. A school for the memorization of the Qur’an has been active for some years. “Among countries of the European Union, Bulgaria has the largest Muslim population. However in a country which has become full member of the European Union, Muslims’ problems grow day by day. Taking the opportunity of our participation in this international platform, I would like to give you the following information: especially during the last three to four months, there have been problems between state authorities and our Council.”

Sheikh Ahmed Issa Hassan Elmasarawy from al-Azhar University, Egypt, spoke of the methods of memorizing the Qur’an. He recommended that the “Rabbani” method be followed, this being the method taught by Angel Gabriel to Prophet Mohammed. The Qur’an was recited before it was copied in writing, therefore the method of its recitation is important.

Mr. Alhaj Muhammad L. Touray, President of the Supreme Islamic Council of The Gambia, pointed to the importance of the conference as a platform of cooperation for the development of new strategies. “Islam expanded rapidly in a short period of time, grew with the contributions of peoples from different nationalities and with different languages, and founded one of the world’s greatest civilizations. The formation of such a great civilization was made possible by the Qur’an, it is a miracle of the Qur’an. From a small community, there grew a large community and a great civilization. This reality must be underlined and its meanings must be researched. … We must try to understand the policies applied by our Prophet, follow the key to his strategies; this key was the Holy Qur’an. The Prophet invited everybody to adopt Islam and while doing so he was inspired by the Qur’an. What we need today is to understand the Qur’an in the way the companions the Prophet understood it. We need to grasp how the Qur’an was perceived at that time, and our future depends on our understanding of the Qur’an.”

Mr. Ahmet Hacıosman, Deputy in the Greek Parliament, representing the Turkish Muslim Community in Greece, said that the conference was going to leave an indelible trace in the memories of the participants and expressed his appreciation to IRCICA for having convened it. “Today the Prime Minister of Turkey gave an important message to us, to the Muslim world. We have to be cautious and question ourselves: are we fulfilling our duty towards the Holy Book? Allah’s blessings are numerous. Are we using them properly, as is due? … Surely the messages given here today will illuminate our path towards the future. Today in this conference we are two colleagues representing the Turks in the Greek Parliament. Our distinguished Mufti is also with us. In Western Thrace there are 150 000 Muslim Turks. Teaching of the Holy Qur’an is done by our elected Muftis, in mosques.”

H.E. Mr. Muhammed Ali Taskhiri, Secretary General, World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, Islamic Republic of Iran, evoked the fundamental universal aspects of the Qur’anic message as the last message sent by Allah to his servants. Thus the Holy Qur’an completes the message of Allah as the ultimate message to human beings.

Mr. Ammar Mousa Taher al-Mosawi, Director General, Religious Education Office in Diwan of Sheii Waqf, Iraq, said that fourteen centuries the Qur’an is being read in homes and in mosques. “We live around these verses, which guide our lives. At the beginning of some Souras there are some letters the meaning of which is not known to us; scholars say there are profound meanings to them. … In order to know the secrets of the Qur’an, we have to fully observe its orders in our lives. This Holy Book will be preserved eternally. This Book leads all humanity to Allah and to Paradise. While speaking of the Qur’an, we should refer not only to the past; it does not speak of the past only but speaks at the same time of the present and the future. Therefore we should benefit from the Qur’an in building the future.”

Mr. Salih Samarrai, Chairman of the Islamic Center Japan, expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OIC Member States for their decision to commemorate the 1400th year of the revelation of the Qur’an; he also thanked IRCICA for having made the suggestion in that direction. He gave information on the activities that the Islamic Center of Japan is organising in Japan and also in Korea. Mr. Samarrai pointed to the difficulty in organising such programs in countries where Muslims are in minority. He said that publishing translations and exegeses and promoting Qur’anic education in such countries would be a great service rendered. Mr. Samarrai also gave information on the Muslim community in their region; he said that Islam spreads from the North to the South and that Japan has around 400 mosques.
Mr. Abd al-Karim Salim al-Khasawnah, Mufti of Jordan, pointed to the universal principles and teachings of the Holy Qur’an. He said that the Holy Qur’an brings peoples together as exemplified in the present conference. “From the statements made until now, I can speak of a revival in Islam. … As we all belong to the same Ummah, we must not distinguish between members of this Ummah. … Just as each nation and each person is being subjected to a test since the earlier times, we are all being subjected to tests today as well. Only in this way can we distinguish good evil ….”

H.E. Mr. Mutlaq Rashid al-Qarawi, Assistant Undersecretary of External Relations, Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs of Kuwait, spoke on behalf of H.E. Mr. Rashid Abdulmuhsin Al-Hamad, Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs, Minister of Justice and Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Kuwait. Recalling, on one hand, the attacks being directed against the Holy Qur’an and Islam at different places of the world and, observing, on the other, that in many places there is a decadence in the understanding of the Holy Qur’an whereby people perceive it as a text and do not make efforts to grasp its meanings and apply its orders, he said that the Muslim world has to renew its commitment to its duties and responsibilities towards the Holy Qur’an. “We must understand and obey to the Qur’an in the senses it was sent by Allah and understood and practiced by our Prophet.” Mr. Qarawi spoke of the activities being carried out in Kuwait. “The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs makes all efforts possible in the country towards the printing of the Qur’an and diffusion of its message worldwide. At the Ministry we are working continuously to institute new venues where the Qur’an would be recited and explained. We have developed a project for the youth in particular to come together and read the Qur’an. We will benefit from any effort we make to better understand the Qur’an. The Qur’an will be read, understood correctly, and with the strengthening of Islamic thought Islam will regain its original status. This is the main goal of our institutions. I would like to mention that in the field of Qur’anic education, 80 course programs have recently been opened where over 2000 students have learnt to read the Qur’an. This year our Ministry has established a Centre for Qur’anic Studies which is also in charge of printing copies of the Qur’an.”

H.E. Mr. Hadi Nezir, Minister of State of Macedonia, said that all Muslims are brothers and thanked IRCICA Director General Dr. Eren for convening the meeting. H.E. the Minister told the audience the following anecdote: “an American professor studied the Holy Qur’an for 25 years and then converted to Islam; telling his story to his students, he said ‘I adopted Islam after reading the Qur’an; had I looked at Muslims only I would never do so.’ That is to say, reading and understanding the Qur’an is not sufficient; we have to apply the Qur’an’s principles in our life and thus serve as example to other peoples. Though we lived under communism for fifty years the call for prayers from our minarets never stopped. We never failed to read the Qur’an in our mosques, we will never fail to do so in future and will obey to it until eternity.”

H.E. Mr. Ahmed Ould Neini, Minister of Islamic Affairs and Education, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, reaffirmed Mauritania’s readiness to endeavour in the service of the Holy Qur’an and the Islamic civilization. The Minister pointed out that the Qur’anic message must be diffused further, lecture and recitation of the Qur’an must be given emphasis. “In my country, children of very young age succeed in memorizing the Qur’an. We have a radio station that broadcasts recitations of the Qur’an on 24-hour basis. Whenever we see belief in the Qur’an weaken in hearts and minds, we should pay attention to it and multiply our efforts. I would like to thank Turkey for its efforts in this direction.“

H.E. Mr. Mahmoud al-Habbash, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, Palestine, referred to the devoted and self-sacrificing struggle Palestinians are leading for the cause of Al-Quds, the cause of Islam. “Under the hard conditions imposed by occupation, embargo and oppression, we have been able to publish a new edition of the Beit al-Makdis Qur’an copy. Thus efforts to reproduce a facsimile edition of the Beit al-Makdis copy have enabled us to prepare it for printing.”

Mr. Murat Yusuf, Mufti of the Muslims in Romania, on behalf of the Muslim community in Romania and himself, thanked IRCICA for having convened the conference in the sacred Laylat al-Qadr of Ramadan. “Thus the Muslim countries on one hand, and the Muslims living in minorities elsewhere on the other, all came together in the Otoman capital which in my opinion corresponds very well to the order of Allah in the Holy Qur’an that reads ‘And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.’” [Al-i Imran, 3/103]

Mr. Muhammed Salim bin Shedid al-Aoufi, Secretary General, King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said that the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, located in Medina, the place of origin of Islam, endeavours in the service of the Holy Qur’an with the support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah Bin Abdulaziz. “We instituted faculty departments, established programs, organised competitions at national and international levels, the most noteworthy among them being the King Abdulaziz Competition. Many competitions were held at national level. We have a 24-hour radio station and a TV channel for the Qur’an: In addition, we have a TV channel that broadcasts programs relating to the Suna (tradition) of the Prophet. … The copies of the Qur’an and translations of the Qur’an published at the Medina Complex are distributed worldwide; tens of millions of copies are distributed in Muslim countries every year; a total of 260 million Qur’an copies were distributed until now. Scholars from various part of the world cooperate in this complex. …. In a few months we shall organise a conference in our Complex...” Referring to the differences in the recitation and the orthography of the Qur’an, “As the Minister in the Sudanese delegation has mentioned, the differences in the recitation and the orthography of copies of the Qur’an must be preserved...”

Mr. Haroon Kala, President, Board of Trustees, AwqafSA, South Africa, recalled that the 300th anniversary of Islam in South Africa was commemorated recently, and that the experience gained in that commemoration would now serve in commemorating the 1400th anniversary of the beginning of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. Mr. Kalla formulated two suggestions of the delegation of South Africa to IRCICA: first, that an institute be established by OIC and IRCICA to work in the area of Qur’an exegesis, and that this institute coordinate the editing of a new exegesis of the Qur’an which would take into consideration the difficulties and problems facing Muslims in our time and which would be arranged according to thematic headings such as social justice, economy, environment, etc. The second suggestion was that efforts be intensified to promote the teaching of Arabic in non- Arabic speaking countries.

H.E. Mr. Azhar al-Tigani, Minister of Awqaf of Sudan, said that in order to protect their societies from violence and extremism, Muslim countries’ best guide is their religion, Islam. “Islam is a religion of moderation. We see that Islam calls us to moderation in all aspects of our life. Especially in the present time, when globalization carries a number of negative elements in it, we have to keep the dynamism of our youth by advising them on the basis of the Qur’an. We must benefit from the activities of institutions such as IRCICA.” The Minister said that the Qur’an has to made known to all humanity, and made recommendations on activities to be undertaken during the Year and afterwards. “The message of the Qur’an must be understood wholeheartedly; states must make an effort to promote the lecture of the Qur,an; competitions for the recitation and understanding of the Qur’an must be multiplied at national and international levels. Furthermore, an effort must be devoted to preserving the different recitation methods developed in different regions. Qur’anic studies must be promoted by setting up departments with specially designed curricula in universities. Academic programs must be established, seminars must be instituted. I would like to invite IRCICA to direct a research project on the universality of the Qur’an’s message. For example, an analysis of this message from the point of view of the psychology of Qur’an readers can be undertaken, and this psychological analysis can become part of modern scholarship in Qur’anic studies. IRCICA can guide such works with the support of the Member States. … I would like to thank Turkey for playing a central role in promoting the Islamic civilisation.”

Mr. Ahmed al-Mofti, a calligrapher from Syria, praised the project undertaken by IRCICA whereby the Centre publishes editions of the Qur’an copies dating from the time of Caliph Othman. He said that this reminds us of the Qur’anic studies that were done at that time. He suggested that a council be formed to examine existing exegeses and correct distorted and incorrect interpretations they might contain.

Mr. Faruk Çelik, Minister of State of Turkey, informed the participants of the activities of commemoration undertaken in Turkey to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the revelation of the Qur’an. “Until now 500.000 copies of the Qur’an and its Turkish translation were distributed free. Messages highlighting the Qur’an Year were publicized on 2.500 billboards, with 500.000 posters. Seventeen symposia, twenty panels, and 1.227 lectures were organised in different cities. 1.650 programs of Qur’an recitation were broadcast, 959 competitions and 804 other programs were shown on TV channels. 27.147 Qur’an recitation programs were done, among others. These activities will continue in the coming months.” Mr. Çelik expressed his appreciation to all representatives of the states and associations participating in the conference for their contributions.

Mr. Nevzat Yalçıntaş, former deputy in the Turkish Parliament, suggested that a conference as this one could be repeated each year, or at least once every two years. Then he emphasized the importance of the mosque as a place to learn to read the Qur’an. “The mosque and the teaching of the Qur’an are inseparable from each other. … Today there are mosques in all major capitals; however there is none in Athens, where live hundreds of thousands of Muslims. … This has been an excellent meeting where everybody has been able to make suggestions. I hope it will be renewed in the coming years.”

Mr. Ahmet Şişman, from the Holy Qur’an 1400 Platform, Turkey, gave information on the activities being held within the framework of the commemoration program launched under the supervision of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey. He expressed thanks to IRCICA for carrying the commemoration initiative to international level. Mr. Şişman pointed out that an important aspect of the activities organised in Turkey is the participation of NGOs, and that therefore, all authorities and institutions concerned and pertinent NGOs came together to form the Holy Qur’an 1400 Platform. As to the international aspect of the commemoration, it aims to enlarge it to the entire Muslim world. “The 1400th year is one year among the others, but what we aim by this is to make a new beginning, a good beginning, a regular and strong beginning.”

Mr. İbrahim Şerifi, the Mufti of Muslims of Western Thrace, said that the importance his community attaches to this conference was evident in the wide composition of the delegation attending it. “We are 150.000 Muslims living in Western Thrace for more than eighty years in full attachment to our values. I can say with confidence that we are living in conformity with the Qur’an. 70% of Western Thrace population are able to read the Qur’an from its original Arabic. Our customs and traditions continue in a way that is conform to the traditions of the Prophet. In the Komotini province where I work, we are teaching the Qur’an to 3000 primary school pupils in 95 course programs.” 

The conference, having heard the statements and presentations made and taken note of the Working Paper presented by IRCICA, formulated suggestions on scholarly, artistic, educational, and other activities that can take place at national, regional and global levels. These are outlined below.
Organisational modalities: authorities and institutions

The authorities and institutions to collaborate in the program of the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an” are: the pertinent Ministries and religious authorities in OIC Member States and Observer States; religious representations and associations of Muslim communities in non member states; universities’ departments of Islamic studies, faculties of letters, faculties of fine arts, research institutions and NGOs involved in these areas, the press and public media, specialists of the sciences and the various arts connected with the study and the diffusion of the Qur’an. Engagement and cooperation of civil society, information media, cultural and artistic publications as well as TV channels, is a necessary condition to help widen the audience and the impact of the activities. It was suggested that countries designate their focal points to communicate with IRCICA so that information on their events and activities be included in IRCICA’s archive/records and consequently, in the report of the program.

Types and themes of activities
Scholarly, artistic, educational, and other activities to be devoted to the Holy Qur’an on the 1400th year of the beginning of its revelation, and which can be organised at national, regional and global levels, can include the following.

1. Types of activities:
1 Symposiums, conferences and lectures to be held in the Muslim world and beyond, including the major European, Asian and American capitals. These events would be organised in cooperation with major media and TV organs and with universities (their departments of theology, letters, history, their divisions of Islamic studies, comparative religions, Middle Eastern/ African/Asian studies, among others)

2 Additions to the contents of lectures and course materials in the relevant departments of universities to highlight the special occasion of the Year

3 Posting highlights on the Year in websites about Islam and the Muslim world; establishing a special website on this occasion.

4 Holding exhibitions in major museums and libraries

5 Broadcasting TV-radio program series, publishing special issues of major cultural periodicals

6 Promoting the recitation of the Qur’an by various activities including:
i. enhancing recitation courses already conducted in the Member States by special lectures highlighting the 1400th year of the beginning of the revelation
ii. expanding the competitions for the recitation of the Qur’an existing at national and international levels in order to highlight this occasion
iii. organising Qur’an recitation sessions by teams to travel to different venues within and outside the Muslim world; holding sessions for non Muslim audiences at cultural centers and enriching them with lectures/interpretations by scholars

7 Examining the translations of the Holy Qur’an, organising congresses with this aim

8 Instituting award competitions to acknowledge remarkable individual and institutional contributions in:
i. studies (through publications) and audio-visual media products and services (such as documentaries, archives), especially on themes of universal relevance in our time, such as ensuring correct understanding of the meanings of the Qur’an, inter-faith dialogue, etc.
ii. arts and skills developed around the copying of the Qur’an (such as calligraphy, gilding, illumination, binding, inscriptions and applications of verses on various materials)
iii. other achievements in all areas that serve and celebrate the meanings of the Qur’an

9 Promoting the Qur’an museum, by
i. raising awareness and increasing public knowledge about the Qur’an museum, making better known the existing Qur’an museums and other museums and libraries/archives holding collections of copies of the Qur’an
ii. drawing a roster or a guide to these institutions
iii. supporting the establishment of such museums or library departments at places they do not exist which would help to bring together and preserve the Qur’an copies found at those places
iv. working towards establishing a virtual Qur’an museum on Internet for the reference of all those interested

10 Diffusing programs on major international TV channels and in cooperation with academic institutions in order to generate long distance interactive dialogue and question-and-answer sessions addressing various groups of society – faith communities, students, etc. with the aim of correcting misunderstandings and misinformation about the Qur’an

2. Themes of the activities:
The themes are to be selected from a vast field of knowledge and experience. Examples are:

1 On Qur’anic concepts and teachings and their eternal significance: The Holy Qur’an and the Prophet; The Holy Qur’an as source of civilization; The human being, human rights and tolerance in the Qur’an; Science and learning in the Qur’an; The Qur’an as a source of solutions to present day problems; Misunderstandings and misinformation about the meanings of the Qur’an

2 On the history of the spread of the Qur’an across the world: The oldest and old copies of the Holy Qur’an, making them better known through studies and publications; studying and teaching the history of the printing of the Qur’an; History of translations and exegeses of the Qur’an (bibliographic studies)

3 Relating to fields of studies about the Qur’an: Records and rosters of institutions engaged in the printing and diffusion of the Qur’an, in the study and teaching of the Qur’an, in the conservation of its copies, and other work in the service of the Qur’an

4 On the arts related to the copies of the Qur’an: History of development and significance of the arts related to the Qur’an; Case studies, regional cases, etc. in the history of arts related to the Qur’an; Inscriptions of Qur’anic verses in architecture and archaeology.

Diffusion and conservation of the results of the program:

1 “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an” is expected to contribute to promoting religious and spiritual life, public and formal education, social solidarity and cooperation among peoples in the Muslim world and beyond and to inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. The “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an” thus promises to bear a wealth of products in the form of publications, documentary, audio-visual recordings, artworks, etc. Part of which would be additions to sections in libraries, archives and museums. Other results expected to be of long-term benefit include:
i. greater awareness of the public as well as professionals concerned on the institutions of scholarly research and education engaged in various types of activities in the study and diffusion of the Holy Qur’an
ii. exchanges and collaboration among the institutions engaged in research, teaching and other activities in the service of the Holy Qur’an
iii. promotion and encouragement of the studies, authorship, education, arts, etc. relating to the Holy Qur’an, among others.

2 Diffusion and conservation of these results and their mobilization for continued benefit in the service of the Holy Qur’an require that all parties participating in the program provide a regular inflow of information to the archive at IRCICA about their activities and also publicise them in their relevant websites and by other means in order to increase their impact. Regular exchange of information and regular contacts will help to ensure the permanence and continuity of the outcomes of the Year, because in this way international cooperation can be deployed to publish them, to co-organise their expansion into larger projects, to build partnerships in institutionalizing them in the form of long-term research and activity programs, among countless other potential benefits that can thus continue to serve the objectives of the Year even well after its commemoration.

Concluding remarks
State Minister of Turkey Mr. Faruk Çelik, who chaired the working session of the conference, and Dr. Halit Eren, Director General of IRCICA, gave concluding remarks.

Mr. Faruk Çelik, Minister of State of Turkey, Chairman of the working session, said that what was being done to commemorate the Year was described during the session, and that future events to be organized during the Year had to be determined. “In our country we have 90 thousand mosques; over 100 thousand permanent staff are serving in them; these figures alone indicate the density of activity in this domain”. The Minister said that the speakers at the session had made important recommendations. “In these recommendations I took note of two points: the activities must be planned in a way to have a strong impact. Everybody must know about the Qur’an. Everybody must feel it. The Qur’an is not addressed to the Muslim world alone; it addresses whole humankind. Therefore, I consider it as a duty in the service of the Qur’an to make known the Qur’an to the entire world, instead of limiting ourselves to certain regions. I believe we must see the matter from this angle. Secondly, in these activities we must make use of new means as well.”

IRCICA Director General Dr. Halit Eren said: “Today, a torch has been lit here; a torch that illuminates the international side of the activities to be held in the coming year. His Excellency the Minister proposed that activities of high impact be organized. Actually this morning after the opening, we had a talk with the Head of Religious Affairs of Turkey and agreed on the principle of holding an international conference on the Holy Qur’an, not a one-day conference like this one but a conference which can perhaps look into all aspects of the Qur’an. We shall begin the related preparations as of next week. As to the present one, I would like to recall its background process, which I could not describe earlier due to time limitations. About six months ago, when the Presidency of Religious Affairs launched the Qur’an Year program, some colleagues came to us and asked what IRCICA could do. I said that we could extend an invitation to the Muslim world and raise the matter to international level. Then our suggestion was met positively by the Council of Foreign Ministers. The Council decided that the Year be commemorated in all Muslim countries.” Dr. Eren affirmed IRCICA’s readiness to cooperate with states, their authorities and institutions and the Muslim communities to organise events and activities during the coming period of one year. “As indicated by His Excellency the Minister, we are expecting to receive suggestions on the activities to be held during the Year, to receive proposals for joint activities, upon which we shall look into the possibility of realising them and also submit these proposals to the forthcoming OIC conferences.

Studies on the orthography of copies of the Quran
Taking into consideration the need felt, among scholarly circles in Quranic studies, to study the copies of the Quran printed in different places with respect to differences sometimes occurring in their orthography, and, taking the opportunity of the presence of scholars in Qur’anic studies at the conference of the “1400th Year of the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an”, IRCICA convened a meeting of experts at the sidelines of the conference where views were exchanged on the aims and modalities of studies that can be undertaken on the orthography of copies of the Holy Qur’an. The project will continue, in coordination with the authorities concerned and specialists of the Member States.