The Opening Session

The Eighth Commemoration of the Death of Imam Abdessalam Yassine – A Report on the Online Plenary Session

On the occasion of the commemoration of the death of its founder Imam Abdessalam Yassine, the Justice and Spirituality Movement in Morocco annually holds an academic event that summons scholars from around the world to debate and reflect on Imam Yassine’s intellectual project, which he bequeathed in more than thirty books. Given the exceptional circumstances that we are going through this year – may God the Almighty rid humanity of this pandemic – the eighth commemoration is held online on 18-19 December, 2020 under the theme “The Humanist Dimension in the Writings of Imam Abdessalam Yassine.”

The inaugural session opened with a beautiful recitation of the Qur’ān, followed by two short speeches by Dr. Omar Amkassou, the Chair of The Foundation of Imam Abdessalam Yassine and Mr. Mohammed Abbadi, the secretary general of the Justice and Spirituality Movement. Dr. Amkassou reminds the audience of the previous international scholarly conferences about the thought of the Imam, two of which were held in Turkey in 2012 and 2014. The theme of the present conference, he adds, could not be more timely as it is held in an international context that is infiltrated by consumerism, materialism and egoism. Constantly asking in all his writings about that which makes us human beings, Imam Yassine believes that the message of Islam – a humanist and humane message par excellence – presents the antidote to the wretchedness of modern society.

Mr. Abbadi opens his speech by raising questions about the ongoing degradation of the Islamic world: despotism, war-mongering, wealth-plundering, and campaigns of desacralization. The last episode of such degradation is the slippery slope of the normalization of the relations between the despotic Arab regimes and Israel, a nefarious state that occupies the Palestinians’ land, destroys their wealth, and suppresses their voices in all possible ways. As for the present event of the commemoration, Mr. states that it is meant to meet three objectives: reflect on the legacy of a righteous scholar who revived the message of Islam; seek God’s mercy which descends upon mentioning righteous people; and make a thankful gesture for the person who showed us the path to truth and light.

In the interval between the opening speeches and the keynote lectures, the organizers presented a video, aptly titled “The Junction of Two Seas”, about a youth who wrote a reminiscent letter of beauty and gratitude to the spirit of the Imam, recounting how the latter’s thought, teaching and companionship marked a turning point in his life.

The plenary sessions began with two keynote speeches. The first lecture was delivered by Dr Ahmed Lfrrak, professor of philosophy and Islamic thought, under the title “The Humanist Dimension in the Theory of the Prophetic Method: the Foundations, the Motives, and the Aims.” The lecturer divided his topic into three sections. In the first section, he spoke about the two foundations that underpin Imam Yassine’s thought: the Quran, which stands as a divine source of guidance and a book that addresses the human being regardless of her nation, ethnicity and gender; and the prophetic tradition which stands as an exemplary source of morals and judgment and practical wisdom. With regards to these two sources, the lecturer draws attention to two points in particular: the moral impetus that underpins the divine rulings and judgments; their guidance to reason. In the section section, the lecturer argues that Imam Yassine’s theory of the prophetic method is driven by two motives. The first of these motives is the purification of the human being through a moral and spiritual education which transposes the individual from the darkness of bestiality and materialism into the realms of Iman (faith) and the heights Ihssan. The second aim which informs Yassine’s thought and actions is the liberation of the human being from the shackles of despotism, rampant materialism and the culture of consumerism. This liberation, the lecturer adds, could only be culminated through the cooperation with peoples who aspire for dignity, liberty and meaningful life. In the last section of his lecture, Dr. Lfrrak’s addresses what he calls “the value of values” in Imam’s thought: the “unity of justice and ihssan”. These two interlaced values defend the human being’s right to a just and dignified life while living a meaningful life as a genuine servant of God the Almighty.

The second key note lecture, delivered in English by Dr. Mohammad Sanaullah al-Nadawi, Professor of Arabic in Aligarh Muslim University in India, addresses the theme of the conference under the title “Human Dimensions in Imam Yassine’s Thought: A Prolusion.” Dr. Nadawi places Imam Yassine among a constellation of thinkers from the East and West who emphasized the centrality of the human being in the ontological quest of meaning. Imam Yassine’s paradigm of al-Minhāj Al-Nabawī [the prophetic method] and Shu’ab al-Imān [branches of faith] outlines what the lecturer calls “transcendental anthropology” within the “orbit of [the] Qur’ān’s centrality in full details.” Under the section “thought-structure”, Dr. Nadawi argues that the thought of Imam Yassine should be positioned in light of  both the guiding principle of “commanding the good and forbidding the evil” and the duality of the individual and society. In the second section “human dimensions”, the lecturer argues that Imam Yassine’s vision aims to reconstruct Muslim thought on “Prophetic parameters . . . between Islam, Imān and Ihsān in a beautiful trajectory of individual and collective salvation of humankind” as antidotes to the creeping positivism and hedonism. On different occasions, Dr. Nadawi stresses the inclusive nature of Yassine’s project: social justice and dignity on one hand, and ihssan, with all its spiritual, social, moral and humane dimensions on the other hand. It is the weaving of these two overall values, the lecturer thinks, that will, hopefully, salvage the modern human being from the clutches of a fierce and meaningless hedonistic culture.

The first plenary session ended around midday. The two keynote lectures were rich and dense, and they lay the ground for the coming presentations during this conference.