The Aal Al-Bayt Institute undertook in its basic law (article 4F) to “deepen the dialogue and reinforce cooperation between the seven Islamic schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, Hanbali, Ja‘fari, Zaydi and the Ibadi with the aim of unifying them to achieve the maximum degree of affinity among them”.
The Institute’s view is that many of the ideas of the followers of a particular Islamic school of jurisprudence are lacking in clarity owing to many reasons, among which are: ignorance of the texts of those schools of jurisprudence and the orientations and opinions of their scholars and jurists, as well as fanaticism regarding outdated issues. Moreover, the Institute has noted that the distance between the schools of jurisprudence intensifies the gap between Muslims, while the only means for removing this gap is to convene successive meetings through which each side is exposed to the opinions of the other, which matter will engender mutual understanding which will by necessity lead to the conclusion that Islam is one, and that all Muslims, irrespective of differences in the interpretation of Islamic law (in terms of secondary issues) resulting from different eras and locations or events, are in agreement regarding the fundamentals.
A series of academic symposia was held with the participation of scholars from all the Islamic schools of jurisprudence mentioned above. In each symposium, studies and papers on a specific topic dealing with the opinions of scholars representing each school of jurisprudence (regarding such topic) are to be presented, as well as indicating the sources and references of the scholars of the school. Then, a dialogue about the papers presented takes place between the scholars participating in the symposium. The outcome will be a book containing the preceding.
These seven symposia were held in Amman, London, Rabat and Muscat. The first symposium was convened in Amman, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on: “Rights in Islam” (21-22 July, 1992) wherein seven elements were discussed by the participants.
Because the topic of “Rights in Islam” was not sufficiently covered, in a single symposium, a second symposium was convened, also in Amman (4-5 May 1993), to which six papers were presented.
The third symposium was convened on in Amman, (12-14 July 1994), on the theme: “Zakat (alms) and Social Solidarity in Islam”. Eleven papers were presented thereto.
The fourth symposium was convened in London, UK, with the participation and hospitality of the Al Khoei Institute (30 June-2 July 1996). The theme of the symposium was: “The Importance of Waqfs (Islamic Endowments) in the Modern World”.
The participants in the symposium discussed nine papers. They likewise listened to a presentation on an Islamic endowment document entitled: Waqf of the Isma‘ili School and Mosque (The Shari‘a Court, Aleppo 1255 H. 1839-1840 C.E.).
They also were presented with two additional papers.
In the course of a special session of the symposium, the participants discussed the project relating to the “basic law of the International Institute of Zakat (alms) and solidarity” which is a project implemented by a committee of specialists in accordance with the recommendations of the participants in the third symposium of the Muslim dialogue convened in Amman (the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) in the period from (12-14 July 1994), on the theme of: “Zakat and Social Solidarity In Islam”. The participants emphasized their agreement with the idea of establishing the International Institute of Zakat and Solidarity, and reviewed and discussed it in detail.
The fifth symposium was held in Rabat, the Kingdom of Morocco with the participation and hospitality of the Islamic, Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) during the period (20-22 October 1997). The topic of the symposium was: “Human Rights in Islam: Between Particularity and Universality”. Thirteen papers were discussed by the participants in the symposium.
The sixth symposium was held in Muscat, Oman with the participation and hospitality of the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs, during 12-14 December 1998. The theme of the symposium was “Ijtihad in Islam” (independent legal reasoning), thus, the participants discussed eighteen research papers.
Four research papers were distributed to the participants of the symposium either because the authors could not attend, or time was lacking for their presentation.