Several meetings were held between a group of Egyptian educated elite despite their different opinions religious and their beliefs with a number of senior scholars and intellectuals from Al-Azhar. The meeting was held due to an initiative made by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Prof Dr. Ahmad El Tayeib. During such several meetings, lots of issues were discussed relating to such critical historical stage in Egypt following the 25th January revolution. The purposes of the meeting were to help in directing the future of Egypt to its prosperity and Egyptians to have the rights in freedom, dignity, equality and social justice.
The participants agreed on the necessity of helping in paving the way of the future of the country according to comprehensive principles and rules discussed by different parties of the Egyptian society. Such rules and principles will help in finding the right path for the whole society.
As a part of the understanding and the realization of the important role played by Al-Azhar in guiding toward right moderate Islamic thinking, all the participants in the meetings stressed the importance of Al-Azhar and its role in determining the relation between the state and religion and clarifying the basics of a correct sharaitic policy that need to be followed. The role played by Al-Azhar is based on its great and wide experience and its scientific and cultural history which can be summarized as the following:
1. Theological aspect focusing on reviving the science of religion according to the Sunna and Gamaa principles, which integrate between those who refer to the reason and those who refer to the Quran and tradition and which reveal the required rules of interpreting religious texts.
2. Historical aspect of helping in leading the national movement toward freedom and independence.
3. Cultural aspect to revive various natural science, literature and arts including their several fields.
4. Scientific aspect helping in leading and guiding the Egyptians leaders and the whole Egyptian society.
5. Comprehensive aspect which is a mixture between science, renaissance and culture in the Arab and the Islamic worlds.
The participants were inspired by the great sheikhs of Al-Azhar; Sheikh Hassan Al Attar and his great student, Sheikh Refaa' El Tantawi, the Imam Mohmmad Abdou and his students such as Al maraghi, Mohammad Abdullah Daraz, Mostafa Abdel Razik and Shaltout. Meanwhile they were also inspired by the senior Egyptian intellectuals, the achievements and the contributions to human and knowledge development, as well as the philosophers, law makers, people of literature, arts and others. The participants stressed out the importance of making common principles upon which they agreed on and which are acceptable by the country's intellectuals and thinkers.
The common principles can be summarized as the following: determining the governing principles to realize the relation between Islam and state at the current critical stage according to an acceptable strategy shaping the desired modern state and the ruling system in it. Such principles should help in achieving cultural development, ensure democracy and social justice and provide prosperity and peace with respect to human and spiritual values and cultural heritages. These principles should be protected from distortion or misinterpretation and as a protection from making use of them by deviant parties which use religion according to their needs and desires, violate the moderate ways and Islamic principles of freedom, justice and equality and violate the tolerance of all the heavenly religions.
So hereby we, the meeting participants, agreed on the following principles in determining the features of the Islamic reference represented in several issues extracted from the religious texts which are definite and accurate and they are:
First: Al-Azhar supports establishing a modern and democratic state according to a constitution upon which Egyptian agreed on and which separates between the state authorities and its governing legal institutions. Such constitution should establish rules, guarantee the rights and the duties of all the citizens equally and give the legislation power to the people's representatives in accordance with the true Islamic aspects. Islamic states whether culturally or historically differ from other states which rule by oppressing its people and from which we human suffer a lot in the past. Islamic state let people manage their societies and choose their ways and techniques to achieve their interests provided that the Islamic jurisprudence is the main source for the legislation and in a way that guarantee for other divine religions' followers to appeal to their religions in their personal issues.
Second: Al-Azhar embraces on democracy based on free and direct voting which represents the modern formula to achieve the Islamic precepts of "Shura" (consultation). Islamic precepts include pluralism, rotation of power, determining specializations, monitoring performance, seeking people's public interests in all legislations and decisions, ruling the state in accordance with its laws, tracking corruptions and ensuring the accountability of all people.
Third: the commitment to freedom of thoughts and opinions with a full respect of humans, women and children's rights, to multi-pluralism, full respect of divine religions and to consider citizenship as the basis of responsibility in the society.
Fourth: full respect of counter opinions and the manner of dialogue, avoid labeling people as believers or traitors, making use of religion to disunite citizens and pit them against each other and consider acts of instigating religious discrimination, sectarianism and/or racism as crimes against the state; Al-Azhar supports dialogue and mutual respect between citizens based on equality in terms of rights and duties.
Fifth: the commitment to all international convention, resolutions and achievements consists with the tolerant Arab and Islamic culture along with the long experience of Egyptians throughout the ages and the good examples that Egyptians set of peaceful co-existence and seeking the interests of all humanity.
Sixth: Al-Azhar is committed to preserve the dignity of Egyptians, to defend their national pride, to protect and fully respect the places of worships of the followers of the three heavenly religions, to safeguard the free and unrestricted practices of all religious rites. Al-Azhar also is keen on upholding freedom of artistic and literary expression and creativity within the context of our fixed cultural values.
Seventh: Al-Azhar views education and scientific research as the main way of cultural in Egypt and so there is a need to dedicate all efforts to compensate what we missed in such fields, to exert all efforts needed eliminate illiteracy and to invest all human resources in achieving great future projects.
Eighth: Achieving development and social justice, fighting oppression, corruption and eliminating unemployment and developing the society (economy, society, culture and media) should be the country's top priority adopted by all people provided that health care should be the state's duty towards all citizens.
Ninth: Egypt should rebuild relations with the Arab, Islamic and African countries and with the rest of the world, to support the rights of Palestinian people, protect the independence of Egypt, regaining the leading historical role according to cooperation for the common good of all and to maintain people's interests and benefits. Egypt also should contribute to human's noble efforts towards advancing humanity, to protect the environment and to achieve peace and justice among all nations.
Tenth: Al-Azhar supports the proposed independence of its institutions and the nomination and the election by the board of senior scholars of the Grand Imam. Al-Azhar also supports renewing the syllabuses taught in Al-Azhar schools to regain its intellectual primary role and its influence on the whole world.
Eleventh: Al-Azhar considers itself as the main authority of reference on all Islamic affairs, science, heritage and thought without depriving people of the right of expressing their opinions as long as they committed to the requirements and respect to the manner of dialogue and Islamic consensus.
Al-Azhar scholars and intellectuals who participated in making this statement urge all parties and political organizations to work on improving Egypt in political, economic and social fields in accordance with what had been mentioned in this statement.
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