From April 9th to 12th Meridyen Association and lastprophet.info hosted the Muslim American academic Jonathan A.C. Brown, scholar Joe Bradford, and one of the most popular Muslim intellectuals of our time, Professor Tariq Ramadan, for the International Seerah Symposium.
At the opening of the symposium on April 9th The Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoğlu's wife Sare Davutoğlu, Professor Hayrettin Karaman, Professor Mustafa Fayda, Dr. Jonathan Brown, and Joe Bradford gave speeches about the challenge of presenting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to worldwide audiences.
Dr. Jonathan Brown touched upon the particular characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad’s role as the founder and leader of the Muslim community and how they should be understood for a sound presentation of the Prophet: “The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) does not fit the [odd set of expectations that people have in the global West]. His legacy cannot be placed in neat boxes. First of all, he was much more than a religious leader. He was a man who called for a totally renewed vision of human society and its relationship to truth. He didn’t just found a religion; he birthed the civilizational impulse. Because of this, an honest and truthful presentation of his legacy will never please people who are only interested in the benefit or power of their particular society or civilization. He will please those who are willing to look more broadly and follow principles regardless of whether these principles mean the loss or challenge to a particular tribe or country.”
Scholar Joe Bradford talked about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the immediate implications that his example has for the average Muslim today.
The panel sessions of the International Seerah Symposium started on April 10th and 16 academics from Turkey and Syria presented their papers. On the following day papers about Seerah literature were presented, with a number of Azeri academics present. Tariq Ramadan, professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, addressed a large audience on the same day and laid emphasis on the centrality of presenting the Prophet Muhammad correctly to ourselves before seeking to address other audiences and the futility of trying to shape his image to attract and please other people. Professor Ramadan said: “Islam and the Prophet do not need a PR exercise. They don’t need publicity. They need us to understand the message, to understand who he was, and to try to follow him because this is what the Quran tells us about him, that he is the best model we have to follow.” He also mentioned that spirituality and meaning should take center stage in our efforts to communicate the message of the Prophet to the world, rather than an undue emphasis on facts and matters of the mind. Saliha Büyükdeniz, the president of Meridyen Association, presented a painting of the Prophet’s name to Professor Ramadan after his lecture.
On the third and last day of the Symposium, topics from the Seerah were discussed with regards to their relationship with sociology, communication, and literature.