Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the oldest religious institutions in the Islamic world, as it was established about a thousand years ago by the Fatimids who entered Egypt in 969 AD. Al-Azhar is not only an ordinary mosque for the establishment of Islamic rituals, but it is also a scientific edifice that students from all parts of the Islamic world come to in order to learn various Islamic studies, so its weight and influence exceed the Egyptian society in order to reach various Arab and Muslim countries.
Since its inception, Al-Azhar has enjoyed a wide degree of independence from political power, as a result of its reliance on its financial resources that came from various endowments that enabled it not to rely on the state in its budget, and since the establishment of the position of Sheikh of Al-Azhar in the Ottoman era, it is chosen by election.
The importance of the Sheikh of Al-Azhar is not only due to his religious and spiritual standing among Muslims, but also to his indirect political role as a link between the state and the people.
Historically, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar was a member of the ruling court in Cairo, which was held under the leadership of the governor every week to discuss the political, economic and administrative conditions of Egypt, and when the governor was dismissed and a qaimaqam was appointed in his place, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar had to approve the dismissal.
With the French entering Cairo in 1798, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar was the most important political figure in Egypt after the withdrawal of the Mamluks, and the leaders of Al-Azhar Sheikhs played an important role in the resistance of the French, and they played a pivotal role in installing Muhammad Ali as governor of Egypt in the early 19 th century.
However, since the emergence of the modern state in Egypt, the independence of Al-Azhar declined, as the appointment of the Sheikh of Al-Azhar became one of the powers of the ruler, from the time of Muhammad Ali until the present time.
Despite attempts to change this situation at some point between the two world wars, Al-Azhar remained subordinate to the royal establishment, and the situation worsened after independence and the military assumed management of the country’s affairs.
In 1961, the reorganization law of Al-Azhar was passed, which ended its independence. The Council of Senior Scholars, which used to choose the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, was canceled. The authority of the Sheikh of Al-Azhar in managing his affairs was reduced, and some powers were transferred to the Minister of Endowments, which increased tensions between Al-Azhar and the state. During the reigns of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, and during the Mubarak era, Al-Azhar came under the complete control of the state.
After the January 2011 revolution, Al-Azhar succeeded in regaining some of its independence, when the military council that was running the country at the time issued a decree to amend the 1961 law that gave some independence to Al-Azhar as an “independent body”, and for the Sheikh of Al-Azhar to be chosen – when his position became vacant – by way of election. Among the members of the Council of Senior Scholars in Al-Azhar by secret ballot in a secret session attended by two-thirds of its members, then the commission elects the Sheikh of Al-Azhar from among the three candidates in the same session by direct secret ballot, and he becomes the sheikh of Al-Azhar if he obtains the absolute majority of the number of votes present, and the imam is elected The elder is appointed by the Council of Senior Scholars of Al-Azhar, and is formally appointed by the president for life, and the president does not have the power to dismiss him.
Perhaps this amendment gave the Sheikh of Al-Azhar independence from the executive authority, and perhaps this is one of the reasons for the tension in the relationship between the current Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Although Al-Tayyib agreed to the July 3, 2013 coup, he rejected many From Sisi’s policies, such as the bloody dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in, which killed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in support of the late President Mohamed Morsi, as well as the rejection of Sisi’s religious views on issues such as divorce, inheritance, fighting terrorism, and others, which led to the strained relationship between the two parties over the past seven years .
Article 7 of the Egyptian constitution, which was approved in 2014, states that “Al-Azhar is an independent, scholarly, Islamic organization that is exclusively competent to undertake all its affairs. It is the main reference in religious sciences and Islamic affairs, and is responsible for preaching and disseminating the sciences of religion and the Arabic language in Egypt and the world. The state shall provide sufficient financial funds to achieve his objectives. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar is independent and cannot be dismissed. The law shall regulate the method of his selection from among the members of the Council of Senior Scholars.
This article raises controversy in the corridors of power, as the Sisi regime has sought more than once to amend it in order to reduce the independence of Al-Azhar and ensure control over it, as it was before the January revolution, and perhaps this is what put it in a direct confrontation with the good Sheikh, a confrontation that will remain open to all possibilities .
Source: بوابة الحرية والعدالة by fj-p.com.
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