(MENAFN - Arab News) It was the blessed night, a night when the Muslim world's leaders assembled in the vicinity of the Holy Kaaba. They discussed the challenges facing the Ummah. Inside the Grand Mosque and outside, there were hundreds of thousands of Muslims beseeching Allah to unite the ranks of Muslims around the globe. The imam, leading the Taraweeh prayers, burst into tears frequently while reciting the verses from the Holy Quran.
Inside the Al-Safa Palace, the Muslim leaders were received with traditional warmth by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. All leaders shook hands with the king and took their places. It was such a pleasant sight to see them all in one place at such an important juncture in the history of Muslims.
Turkey's Abdullah Gul, Egypt's Muhammad Mursi, Jordan's King Abdallah, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Yemen's Abdo Rabbi Mansour Hadi, Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas, Malaysia's Najib Razak, Sudan's Omar Bashir, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, Tunisia's Moncef Al-Marzouki, Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari, Bangladesh's Mohammad Zillur Rahman, all of them were there. What caught everyone's eye was the special attention that King Abdullah accorded to Ahmadinejad.
They shook hands for a long time and exchanged salutations. Both smiled. And then the king gestured Ahmadinejad to sit next to him. He did. He sat on the king's left side and on the right was Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
King Abdullah and Ahmadinejad spoke frequently. All the leaders who came later met the king first and then shook hands with the Iranian president. The picture that came out of the summit was one of reconciliation and large-heartedness. A picture is worth more than a thousand words. That was indeed the case last night.
The summit started with the recitation of the Holy Qur'an. And then King Abdullah addressed the galaxy of Muslim leaders - all of whom came at his invitation. The king's address will go down as one of the finest by him. It was to the point and came straight from the heart. King Abdullah is not known for mincing words or oblique references. He did not mention Syria nor did he refer to any political issues. He came straight to the point. That of the disunity in the Muslim world.
Every word of his speech can be measured in gold. He spoke eloquently and with a firmness that is his hallmark. One could feel the pain in his voice when he spoke about the killings of Muslims at the hands of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan. At the end of his address, he called for the creation of a center to promote harmony among the different sects of Islam to be headquartered in Riyadh. There was instant response from the assembled guests. All of them put their hands together and gave a sound round of applause.
For those who were watching the scene from the press gallery, it was a breathtaking moment. "Wow, fantastic proposal," gushed a journalist from Iraq. "It is unbelievable, and the timing is amazing." He was obviously referring to the Sunni-Shia divide that has torn apart the Muslim society and is at the heart of many a current political problem.
The Iraqi journalist recalled the meeting that was held a couple of years in Makkah. That meeting, which I covered for my television channel, was also hosted by Saudi Arabia and was attended by the leading Sunni an Shia politicians of Iraq. The journalist felt that much of what was said and agreed at that meeting can become the template for the new Muslim unity that King Abdullah called for on the blessed night of Lailtul Qadr in the blessed city of Makkah.
What the Iraqi journalist said was an interesting perspective. So what was said in that meeting and how can that be relevant to what King Abdullah suggested today?
There was a pact that was issued during that meeting that clearly forbade Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other. Among the eight points of the Sunni-Shia agreement it was pointed out that the most important element is "The Muslim is he who professes his faith by proclaiming 'Lailaha Illallah Muhammad Rasulullah' (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet). By this statement, the Muslim embraces and accepts the five pillars of Islam and the central tenets of its faith, thus rendering his blood and property inviolable."
"These fundamental principles," the pact said, "apply equally to the Sunni and the Shia without exception. The differences between the two schools of thought are merely differences of opinion and interpretation and not essential differences of faith."
It was stated that no follower of either school may expel or declare another an unbeliever or in any other way cast aspersions on the faith of a follower of a different school. The grounds for the ruling were based on a statement by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "If ever one of you calls his brother: You infidel, one of them shall come out the infidel and bear the onus thereof."
The Sunni-Shia pact ruled that certain things and principles should never be forfeited, including, in particular, unity, cohesion, cooperation and solidarity in piety and righteousness. "It is incumbent upon all Muslims to adopt caution and vigilance against all attempts to sow division among them, break their ranks, or incite sedition, strife, and hatred in order to corrupt their divine and spiritual bonds with each other."
The entire focus of King Abdullah's address last night was on common minimum denominators and to avoid sedition and spreading what he called fitna. The king's proposal is now being widely discussed and appreciated in various blogs and media outlets.
In the media, there has been skepticism about the summit. What will this summit lead to was a frequent question that was being asked of us journalists and columnists. The one simple answer to that was sitting and watching the killings was no option for King Abdullah. As custodian of the two holy mosques, he rightly felt it was his moral duty to step in and put a stop to the fires of sectarianism that is raging in the Muslim world. He took the lead and succeeded in lowering the temperature that was and still is threatening to incinerate some Muslim nations.
Among the many people who watched and listened to King Abdullah's historic address was ardent Arab News reader and longtime Riyadh-based expatriate from Sri Lanka. He remembered the Islamic summit of 1981. "It was little over 30 years ago an Islamic Summit was held in the same venue under the patronage of late King Khaled. It is still very fresh in my mind how late King Khaled wept when the then imam of Makkah recited a powerful 'dua' seeking Almighty Allah's blessings to unite the Muslim nation.
His tears, which were visibly seen, really touched everyone's heart who watched the proceedings on the Saudi TV," he wrote in an email to this correspondent. "Keeping with the tradition of rising to the occasion, when the Muslim nation is in real danger, King Abdullah too has called for this summit in this holy month of Ramadan and choosing the same venue. May Allah bless him for his sincere efforts."