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Middle East and Africa

A new round in the match between al-Azhar and the Brothers

During the crisis in Egypt an important role is been played by al-Azhar, the mosque-university which has been a traditional reference point for Egyptian Muslims, and in particular by its current Shaykh, Ahmad at-Tayyeb. This is not something new.



After the revolution of 25 January 2011, indeed, al-Azhar produced a series of documents agreed upon by a number of ulama and an ‘elite’ of intellectuals: on the future of Egypt, on fundamental freedoms, on national concord and, lastly, a few days ago, on the rights of women. The logic that guided them was always the same: to bring to the same table exponents of different sensibilities and to look for shared points on which to build.



But it was precisely these and other stances that generated the break with the Brothers who were launched on the attainment of power. In truth, from the outset the positions were far from each other because the Shaykh, who was appointed at the time of Mubarak, was always diffident towards the hegemonic aims of the Brothers. These last tried in various ways to apply pressure, also through some members of al-Azhar, to the point of raising the possibility of the resignation of the Shaykh, something almost unprecedented since the appointment is for life. Two examples of arm wrestling opposed at-Tayyeb and the Brothers on the occasion of the appointment of the Mufti of the Republic and the Minister for Religious Affairs (with the victory of al-Azhar on the more important front, that of the Mufti), but incidents along the way were always present. For example when the Morsi government began the ‘Islamic’ government bonds and al-Azhar answered by declaring that the adjective ‘Islamic’ had no foundation. Moreover the Shaykh interpreted in a very bland way the function of the control of religious legitimacy which the Constitution of 2012 had given him, though in a confused way.


A defender of the role and the prerogatives of the institution of al-Azhar, it was no surprise to see him in the front row when the communiqué of the army, which decreed the end of the government of the Brotherhood, was read out.


The document of al-Azhar on fundamental freedoms translated by Oasis here