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MUSLIM WORLD LEAGUE. Founded in All 1381/1962 CE at the height of the Egyptian-Saudi political crisis, the Muslim World League (Rabitat al-`Alam al-Islam!) was the product of a meeting of III Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and politicians held in Mecca on the occasion of that year’s pilgrimage. They convened to discuss the affairs of the Islamic ummah in view of the threats posed to it by “communism” in general and the “irreligious” Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in particular. On 18 May 1962 they inaugurated the Muslim World League as a new transnational Islamic organization, describing it as a “Muslim cultural organization” and an “Islamic peoples’ organization,” “serving the whole ummah and not acting as an agent of any government.”

With its head office in Mecca, the League was at first represented by a constituent council (al-majlis al-ta’sisi) only. The conference at Mecca chose twenty-one scholars, intellectuals, and notables as members of the council, which met for the first time in December 1962. The number rose to some sixty members in the early 1990s. From the start, the composition of the council demonstrated that the League was trying to bring together four mainstreams of contemporary Islamic ideology and theology: the council was headed by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh (d. 1969), ensuring a minimum of Wahhabi control; eight scholars, among others Abulhasan ‘Ali al-Nadvi from Lucknow in India represented the classical Salafiyah; Said Ramadan (Egypt), Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (Pakistan), and `Allal al-Fasi (Morocco) were among the partisans of the divergent currents of the neo-Salafiyah; and finally, the first secretary-general, the Meccan merchant Muhammad Surur al-Sabban (1898/99-1972) spoke in the name of the Hijazi neo-Wahhabiyah. Nearly half of the members of the council had already been in contact with the General Islamic Conference founded in Jerusalem in 1953 (a reservoir of Muslim Brotherhood tendencies). This general proportional representation has been maintained since the League’s founding. Correspondingly, the Wahhabi scholar `Abd al-`Aziz ibn `Abdallah Ibn Baz took over the presidency of the constituent council after the grand mufti’s death, and Hijazian intellectuals have been in control of the administration of the League.

The Muslim World League, on the one hand, has acted as a mouthpiece of the Saudi Arabian Government, which has financed the organization since its inception. On the other hand, the different currents represented by the League have been able to develop an identity of their own so that the activities of the League have sometimes been directed against Saudi interests.

Nevertheless, according to statute, the League’s secretariat is headed by a Saudi Arabian citizen (Muhammad Surur al-Sabban, 1962-1972; Muhammad salih alQazzaz, 1972-1976; Muhammad `Ali al-Harkan, 19761983; and `Abd Allah `Umar Nasif [Abdullah Omar Nasseef], since 1983). During the early phase of its history, the Muslim World League succeeded in subjecting to its control other competing transnational organizations, such as the General Islamic Conference of Jerusalem, the Islamic World Congress (Karachi), and the International Islamic Organization (Jakarta). In its covenant of December 1962, the League stated its intention to promote the message of Islam, to fight conspiracies against Islam, and to discuss all problems relevant to Islam. In addition, in article four of the covenant and in accordance with the politics of Islamic solidarity heralded by King Faysal, the League promised to work for the cooperation of all Islamic states and argued in favor of an Islamic bloc taking a stand against pro-Nasserist and Ba’thist regimes.

After the end of the Arab cold war-a term coined by Malcolm Kerr to characterize the political split between Egypt and Saudi Arabia from 1957 to 1967-the Muslim World League gradually changed its objectives. Following the foundation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1968-1972, the League stressed its supranational, independent identity and concentrated on establishing a network of Islamic cultural and political organizations.

The League upgraded the role of the constituent council and abolished the so-called General Islamic Conference (which met in 1962, 1965, and, exceptionally, in 1987). It founded twenty-two branch offices and bureaus in countries where Muslims constitute a minority (primarily in Africa) and affiliated itself with local Islamic organizations and agencies.

During the 1970s, the League gradually expanded its activities in the fields of coordination (tansiq), da’wah, jurisprudence, and social welfare. In 1974, it invited 140 delegations to a conference of Islamic organizations and decided to establish continental councils (in 1985, five), local Islamic councils in twenty-eight Muslim minority communities, and a coordination committee. One year later, in 1975, the League set up a World Council of Mosques, which specialized in the coordination of da`wah activities; it controls several regional and numerous local mosque councils. Since the League’s beginnings, the faction of Wahhabi scholars has argued for the establishment of a jurisprudence council entrusted with the elaboration and control of internationally accepted standards of Islamic law. Internal disputes postponed this project; in 1976, however, the League opened the Islamic Fiqh Academy with which other academies in Europe and in other parts of the world were associated. The decisions taken at the annual meetings of the fiqh council have acquired some authority. Finally, the International Islamic Relief Organization was made responsible for the League’s activities in the field of social welfare. Together with several Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf states, the League’s training center for da`is (missionaries) supervizes the education of official or semiofficial da’wah workers. From 1973 to 1990, the number of da’wah workers increased from 49 to 816.


The League has gradually developed a publication program: in 1963, the headquarters began to publish the monthly journal Majallat Rabitat al-`Alam al-Islami, called Al-rabitah since 1987. After several disappointing attempts, the League in 1973 succeeded in editing an English-language journal called journal of the Muslim World League; in addition, the press office has published a weekly called Akhbar al-`Alam al-Islami (after 1991, named Al-`Alam al-Islami). After the death of the secretary-general in 1976, the former Saudi Arabian minister of justice and new secretary-general al-Harkan, who had stressed the League’s activities in the field of jurisprudence, and his successor in office, Naslf, himself an academic (rector of King `Abdal’aziz University in Jeddah in 1981), both emphasized the importance of media and of education.

[See also Da`wah, articles on Institutionalization and Modern Usage; Organization of the Islamic Conference; Saudi Arabia.]


Landau, Jacob. The Politics of Pan-Islam: Ideology and Organization. Oxford, 1990.

Schulze, Reinhard. Islamischer Internationalismus im 20. jahrhundert: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Islamischen Weltliga. Leiden, 1990.

Sharipova, Raisa M. Panislamiza Segodnia: Ideologia i praktika Ligi Islamskogo Mira. Moscow, 1986.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/muslim-world-league/

  • writerPosted On: October 1, 2014
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