When I was asked to attend a conference in Abu Dhabi on "Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies" this week, I was reluctant. How many more times will we Muslims reiterate Islam is peace, I thought. The invitation, however, came from a man who has no contemporary rival. From Bill Gates to Barack Obama's White House to millions of ordinary Muslims around the world have sought his advice: when Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah calls, 250 renowned Muslim scholars and thinkers from across the globe respond.
Outside of Mecca, I have not seen so many Muslim thought leaders gathered in one place. Imams and muftis from Morocco to India to Bosnia to Chechnya to Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to war-torn Syria – Shia, Sunni, Salafi, Sufi and others. Not only was the convening power of the 78-year-old Mauritanian Sheikh bin Bayyah on display as a popular senior scholar, but the emerging importance of the UAE as a potential home for moderate Muslim scholarship.