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Making things happen. Gathered for change.

One Location, Three Days, Thirty Great Minds, One Purpose


Foreword. The Declaration celebrates the historic role that Africa has played in creating peace and prosperity in the world. It promises to build on its traditions of toleration in the face of religious and other forms of chauvinism. Firmly rooted in the great problems of the age, it expresses our faith’s commitment to the eradication of poverty, disease and illiteracy.

Islam’s Lion by Fuad Nahdi It is time for Africa to be heard with a lion’s roar in the Islamic world. This is the only continent with a Muslim majority. Her 450 million Muslims represent more than a third of our global community. Yet, their views have, in recent times, often seemed marginalised. They have so much more to offer the Ummah, as it debates the nature and soul of Islam in the modern age. That is why we gathered ulemas, scholars and community leaders, representing more than 150 million people, in Mali, in Timbuktu - the Timbuktu. For nearly a week in March 2009, we worked together in the shadows of centuries-old mud-mosques and among the ancient manuscripts and tombs of scholars and saints. With wisdom and knowledge, the distinguished delegates tackled the challenges of global political stability and economic justice, violent extremism, environmental crises, gender relations and co-existence. Africa is a place for Islamic answers. The first Muslim asylum seekers sought refuge here. At least two of the leading schools of thought were developed on the continent. Now, at the start of a new millennium, we looked again for insights into how to go forward. The summit was convened by the Radical Middle Way to enhance the understanding of our faith, grounded in scholarship, civilisation and tradition. The Timbuktu Declaration was the result, Africa’s leading Islamic thinkers offering clear thinking to our brothers and sisters across the world. It is an historic document both in the breadth and depth of its engagement and in the seriousness of its response to issues faced by the whole of humanity.

Highlighting Africa’s role in providing asylum from the first exodus, the Declaration condemns violence and extremism of any kind. Indeed, the 16 point manifesto is the first contemporary Muslim document to reject hostage taking and kidnapping, without reservation. It calls for greater transparency among those who rule us, for accountable governance. It champions the rights of women and children and calls for respect of difference between peoples. Gathering in Timbuktu was an exercise in symbolism - heralding the triumph of peace over war, humanity over barbarism, love over hatred, learning over ignorance. The Timbuktu Declaration manifests not only the willingness and desire to confront real issues. It demonstrates the moral, spiritual and intellectual clarity needed to respond positively and pragmatically to the pertinent issues of our times. Our challenge now is to harness the insights and energy of the gathering and take forward the Summit’s messages to every corner of the Muslim world. Global communications mean - like the old trade routes that ran through Timbuktu - that conversation is international and that Islam can benefit from the riches and insights of all its peoples. In Europe, Islam is finding its way as a minority faith, confronted daily with the challenges of modernity, secularism and diversity. In the Arab world, Islam is examining its role amid political change. In Africa, life and death issues of existence demand their place in Islamic thinking. The Timbuktu Summit was one piece of the jigsaw, one part of the global picture. Africa roared. It is our job to make sure that the world listens.

One Location, Three Days, Thirty Great Minds, One Purpose


Those who see the change emerging at first hand are the leaders entrusted with the guidance of millions across Africa.

The Radical Middle Way

Historic Timbuktu

The Radical Middle Way gathers the voices of Muslims from across the world to articulate a mainstream understanding of Islam. Our messages are about peaceful co-existence, civic participation, public service and mercy. Our vision provides a context in which people can answer the Islamic call to ‘enjoin good and forbid evil’.

Here in the heart of Africa princes and paupers, tradesmen and nomads, teachers and students, warriors and priests - created a civilization that has outlived time and history: the fame and wonder of which is now eternal.

Our messages are about peaceful co-existence, civic participation, public service and mercy. This is a safe but intriguing place for young people. Here they find robust programmes where they can explore their identities as Muslims in the modern world. They find the space and encouragement to work towards a tolerant and just society. We offer young people the chance to think, learn and talk, rather than being seduced by the rhetoric of theological or political extremes. We work with leading and respected Islamic scholars towards an understanding of faith grounded in scholarship, civilisation and tradition. We seek to revive our faith’s long-established science of adab al-ikhtilaf (etiquettes of difference). By honouring our tradition of mutual understanding, we hope to encourage the harmonious co-existence of communities in an atmosphere of respect, peace and tolerance. We stay true to Islamic culture, but make it accessible to the real lives of our people today.

Timbuktu has always been a city of learned people and saints. The town is littered with tombs of pious people who are viewed as patrons of the city and witnesses to its past greatness. Visiting a graveyard is a recommended act in Islam. Graves are more than just markers of where the dead are buried. They are also places of introspection. Perhaps it is here - among its most righteous former inhabitants that one can really get an insight to the glory of ancient Timbuktu. Stories of the saints are only matched by surviving manuscripts in keeping the magic memory of the once great centre of knowledge and wisdom alive. Now poverty-stricken Timbuktu was once one of the richest cities in the world - a bustling metropolis full of markets, madrassahs and coffee houses. It was the Oxford of its time - hosting thousands of students and professors - all exploring subjects ranging from astronomy to theology, law and history. Traces of Timbuktu’s magnificence are still there for an imaginative mind to discern but the once city of light is today a shadow of itself - thanks to encroaching desert, changing trade patterns and vacillations of history. The glamour and grandeur might have long departed from its small alleys and roads but Timbuktu still emanates a kind of sublime majesty - through its unique architecture, sounds and smells.


This conference aimed to harness the scholarship, experience and wisdom of the participating Shuyukh for the benefit of all the Ummah and that of humanity, as a whole.

The Timbuktu Summit In an effort to help address these issues in March 2009, the Radical Middle Way brought together a community of scholars bound together in common faith and adherence to the ideals of Islamic leadership. They included Imam Tidiane Cisse of Senegal leader of the Tijaniyya order, Shaykh Qaribullah of Nigeria, leader of the Qadiriyya order, Shaykh Gharibullah of Sudan, leader of the Sammaniya order - combined they guide in excess of 150 million people. The conference built on these newly created relationships to draft and agreed a declaration that aims to serve as a common starting point to address the underlying issues that make the ideology of extremism an attractive option for a growing number of Africans. This declaration will lay the foundations for further steps by Muslim leaders in Africa who bear the responsibility of safeguarding their spiritual, educational and physical wellbeing of their followers.

Conference sessions focussed on the significance of political stability and economic justice, the dangers of extremism and neighbourly misunderstanding, environmental issues, challenges of gender relations and reiterating the Islamic message of co-existence, mercy and the struggle for justice and peace. A special session was held looking at lessons that can be drawn from the history and experience of Islam in Africa for Muslims living in the West, especially those in Europe.

ng di ica a le fr er st A The conference was given major coverage h et Ea in the The Daily Telegraph, the BBC og nd t t a and VOA. gh est u o W r , e b rth c o en N er m f on s fro c e ar Th hol sc

“RMW put together a fascinating programme, chaired a vibrant discussion and gave many participants a unique opportunity to visit a city with a long tradition of Islamic learning. At the end of the meeting they issued a Timbuktu declaration - which made a valuable contribution to debate in West Africa. I hope they will continue their work, building links between communities in this important part of the world and beyond� Ambassador Christopher Trott

Ah th isto e w ri or c ga ld of ther i th e n ng a atu im re ed a of Af t rem ric an indi Isl ng am


Justice, compassion, education and moderation were key messages in presentations to the Summit by scholars, who emphasised the links between learning, coexistence and prosperity.

Summit Sessions Habib Umar We should learn from the Messenger (saw) and not seek revenge. Instead we should apply justice compassionately, said Habib Umar. He stated that Islam demands justice and compassion, adding that no one was better at applying these principles than the Prophet (saw). These principles, he concluded, were for all people, not just for Muslims.

Shaykh Babikir Education is vital and life enhancing, said Shaykh Babikir. It makes a major contribution to humanity, learning and understanding Islam. Calling for the better-off to share their wealth, he stressed the importance of providing shelter for those in need.

Shaykh Naser Qaribullah Allah (swt) demands that justice is applied to all mankind, regardless of religion, said Shaykh Naser Qaribullah. Through His Messenger (saw) this justice is to be extended to all aspects of life. He highlighted how prosperity spread throughout the Songhai Empire, thanks to the justice of its ruler, Mohammed Askia, and he heralded the scholars who helped establish Islam in Nigeria.

Imam Tidiane Cisse Timbuktu and Kanu have played an historic role in spreading knowledge and in developing trade, recalled Imam Tidiane Cisse. He singled out scholars such as Ahmed Baba and Al-Mukhtar Al-Kunti and reiterated that Islam’s message is about peace and unity.

Shaykh Mohamed Gharibullah He discussed the principles of religious dialogue, faith in Allah (swt) and respect for all parties. He stressed that Allah (swt) had advocated the concept of dialogue that the Church now uses.

Khalid Saqi Education and the elimination of illiteracy are important issues in the Ummah, said Khalid Saqi. Providing examples from the Quran and Sunnah, he highlighted the connection between learning and prosperity.

Shaykh Oulefki Djafar Speaking about linguistic and mental illiteracy, Shaykh Oulefki Djafar recalled how Islam pioneered a system of working with non-Muslims on education, religion and economics. He stressed the importance of co-existence, dialogue and discussion.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad He looked at how the concept of monotheism is key to Islam and how new immigrants from African nations should carry on delivering this message. Highlighting Africa’s many contributions to the world, he gave examples of its influence on the British economy and to music.

Shaykh Abdul Qadir The Quran is a pivot of Islamic life and we should not lose contact with it, said Shaykh Abdul Qadir, who stressed the importance of unity.

Ambassador Christopher Trott The ambassador stated that his government was pleased to support the event. He said that those gathered and their respective Tarika’s represented a beacon of hope in the battle against religious extremism.

Mahmoud Dicko Timbuktu is a centre for Islam in the Western Sahara, said Mahmoud Dicko. He stressed the importance of the conference achieving its goal of identifying Islam as a religion of moderation.

General Kone On behalf of the President of Mali, General Kone welcomed scholars and diplomats to Timbuktu. He echoed the key message of the conference, namely that Islam is a religion which promotes co-existence and advocates the rights of its people.


The great minds making things happen.

The Timbuktu Speakers

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Abdul Aziz Kebe: Senegal Murad: United Kingdom

Justice, compassion, education and moderation were key messages in presentations to the Summit by scholars, who emphasised the links between learning, co-existence and prosperity.

Shaykh Abdal Qadir Mustafa: Ethiopia

Shaykh Ahmed Babikir: United Kingdom

Christopher Trott: United Kingdom

Fuad Nahdi: United Kingdom

making Halle Usman Cisse: Mali

General Kafagoune Kone: Mali

Khalid Saqi: Morocco

Shaykh Mohamed Al Haj Ibrahim Al Hasan: Ethiopia

Mahmoud Dicko: Mali

Mohamed Mahmoud Hammou: Mali

Shaykh Naser Qaribullah: Nigeria

things Shaykh Mohamed Gharibullah: Sudan

Baba Mahmoud Hasseye: Mali

Oulefki Djafar: Algeria

happen Paul Hardy: United States Of America

Salem Ould Elhaj: Mali

Sedou Temana Camara: Mali

Imam Tidiane Cisse: Senegal

Habib Umar Bin Hafiz: Yemen


We made it happen: The Timbuktu Declaration IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, MOST COMPASSIONATE AND MERCIFUL MAY ALLAH GRANT BLESSINGS AND ABUNDANT PEACE AND SALUTATIONS UPON OUR MASTER MUHAMMAD, AND ON HIS FAMILY AND COMPANIONS! We, the assembled Delegates to the Forum, held in the scholarly City of Timbuktu, Republic of Mali, being gathered in the true spirit of Islamic brotherhood and in the framework of Islam’s historic mission as the Faith of Mercy and Justice, affirm the following: 1 The historical relationship of Islam, being the spiritual descendent of Ishmael and his African mother Hagar, to Africa and the African peoples, is established in ancient times, contributing to the protection of Muslims since the first exodus. 2 Despite narrow and ignorant claims to the contrary, that aim at depreciating the continent’s contributions to Islam, Africa is a homeland to vibrant and sophisticated traditions of scholarship, represented in the diverse spiritual and legal literatures of her many Muslim peoples, and incarnated in the great libraries of the City of Timbuktu. 3 We are faithful heirs to that great African legacy, which we aim to restore, preserve and share with the world and seek to live in fidelity to the inclusive spirit of Ishmael our father. 4 Recalling Hagar, we commit ourselves to Islam’s solidarity with women, and with single women who struggle alone with the joys and responsibilities of motherhood in harsh circumstances. 5 The interest of Islam to children, namely orphans and to their education, makes us devote a great deal of our daily concerns. Recalling Ishmael, whose name means ‘God heard’, we know that the Almighty Lord of the Worlds enjoins solidarity with weak children, who find themselves far from the comforts and security of home. 6 Recalling Ishmael and Hagar’s story with Zamzam and the importance granted by the Holy Qur’an to the blessing of water, we stress the need to protect and improve the water supply in areas threatened by desertification and competition for resources. 7 Just as Allah has affirmed, through Ishmael, the need to respect the Other, and the duties of hospitality and protection, we affirm the timeless Islamic virtue of hospitality to strangers, and respect for those who are different from ourselves. 8 We commit ourselves to the struggle to eradicate illiteracy among all our peoples. 9 We pledge ourselves to the struggles against diseases which devastate our people such as Malaria and the HIV/Aids pandemic. 10 In a world of extreme disparities of income, we pledge ourselves to work alongside people of all faiths in challenging global poverty and working to eradicate its causes. 11 Acknowledging with thanks the Middle Way of the glorious Islamic revelation, we reject all forms of terrorism and the unjust taking of civilian life, both by governments and militias, in Africa and around the world. 12 Our religion is based on peace and security. We categorically condemn all efforts to justify violence and extremism through religious teachings. 13 We also affirm that the taking of hostages and kidnapping are actions that have no basis in Islam: we find such actions completely reprehensible and unacceptable. 14 We celebrate the historic tolerance of the African continent, and pledge ourselves to defending and enhancing this toleration, between races, peoples, and faiths, in the face of religious and other forms of chauvinism and hatred. 15 We affirm the Holy Prophetic Teaching that calls for respect for everyone who pronounces the Two Shahadas. We reject the ideology of takfir, and all forms of narrowness and ungenerousity in religion. 16 We call for the highest ideals of Allah’s Laws to guide our peoples as they search for more representative and accountable government, under which all peoples and faith communities can thrive in equal measure.

Visit www.timbuktu-summit.com to watch the 3 day conference and read the declaration available in Arabic, English and French.


The Timbuktu Summit held in Mali in March 2009 (Rabi-al-Thani 1430), is an effort to rediscover and reclaim the major contribution Africa has made towards Islamic civilisation. It brings together some of the continent’s leading Shuyukh and scholars in an alliance of the Middle Way. The Summit is a reminder - particularly during the chaotic times we live in - of the need to be united and to re-affirm the pristine message of Islam: that of peace, co-existence, tolerance and justice. In this historic and legendary city of wisdom and knowledge all have gathered for change.

If you would like more information on how we can help you make it happen please contact: info@radicalmiddleway.co.uk www.radicalmiddleway.co.uk Fight Fear and Ignorance, Have Faith


Timbuktu Summit