Al-Azhar scholars welcome Egypt's 19th Grand Mufti

Scholars from Al-Azhar, one of the oldest Islamic institutions, elected a new Grand Mufti on Monday. [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Scholars from Al-Azhar, one of the oldest Islamic institutions, elected a new Grand Mufti on Monday. [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

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Top Al-Azhar scholars on Monday (February 11th) elected Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel Karim Allam as Egypt's 19th Grand Mufti, in a move they say will help propagate moderate Islam.

Allam, who will succeed Ali Gomaa as Grand Mufti, received the majority of votes cast by the 40 members of the Al-Azhar Senior Scholars Authority.

He is the first elected mufti in Egyptian history. Ever since the founding of Dar al-Iftaa, headed by the Grand Mufti, in 1895, the state customarily appointed the senior scholar.

However, after the January 25th Revolution, Al-Azhar bylaws were amended to allow for the mufti's selection via secret ballot by members of the Authority. Following the election, Authority members present the results to the president for his endorsement.

Mufti candidates must be graduates of Al-Azhar University, have served in the institution as professors, have authored jurisprudential and scholarly works, and be under 60 years of age.

Allam ascribes to 'Al-Azhar's moderate stance'

Authority member Abdullah al-Husseini described the election as "completely transparent" and said most Authority members have no prior relationship with Allam.

"Allam received the majority of votes because he meets two essential requirements: his views fall in line with Al-Azhar's moderate stance, and he does not have any political or partisan affiliations or inclinations," he said.

The Authority studied all the nominations it received from various Al-Azhar University branches and found Allam has a good reputation, has conducted considerable research on jurisprudence and contemporary issues and their relationship with Islam, and has a strong capacity to absorb the issues of the day with an open mind, al-Husseini said.

Mohammed Raafat Othman, also an Authority member, said the new mufti will have to shoulder heavy tasks, including firmly establishing the principles of moderation that are characteristic of Islam.

Among the challenges he will face is the "chaos of fatwas that have spread throughout Egypt recently and harmed Islam and its tolerant principles", Othman said.

"Dar al-Iftaa is a large institution and has an army of scholars and researchers who are capable of responding to such fatwas or any extremist ideas," he added.

'Important step' for Al-Azhar

With the new mufti's election, Al-Azhar took an important step towards achieving full independence from the executive authority, according to Mahmoud Ashour, former undersecretary at Al-Azhar.

"Allam's selection is appropriate, as he is known as a moderate thinker who renounces fanaticism, and this will affect how the followers of the various jurisprudential schools come together," he told Al-Shorfa, adding that the new mufti is qualified to do so as he conducted extensive research on fatwas and sharia law.

Allam is taking office under difficult circumstances and amid on-going struggle between moderate and extremist currents, Ashour said.

He said he hopes Dar al-Iftaa will play an important role in propagating moderate Islamic thought, particularly as the new mufti has no discernible political leanings.

The Egyptian Grand Mufti issues fatwas for Muslims in all countries of the world in accordance with Islamic sharia. He supervises Dar al-Iftaa's fatwa secretariat, which comprises a large team of jurisprudence and sharia scholars and researchers.

Dar al-Iftaa also has co-operation protocols with numerous academic bodies and research centres in Egypt that assist in issuing fatwas.

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    محمدالسقا

    2013-3-4

    May Allah grant leadership to the one who seeks reform. O Lord, protect our country, amen.

  • على عمران

    2013-2-25

    Not only Al Azhar scholars should welcome the new Mufti of the Republic, but also all Egyptians must celebrate him, because he will not benefit Al Azhar scholars only. All Egypt must celebrate this good move, because we will be able to decide Egypt's next step; and we must not allow these events to happen in Egypt, because the Fatwas increase and spread in Egypt. We must maintain the Fatwas; we must not consider everything in Egypt to be corrupt or neglected. On the contrary, everyone was concerned with choosing the new Mufti in Mohamed Morsi's era at the beginning of next March. This step was very essential, because the former Mufti had reached the age of retirement and we can't deny his achievements, and I don't forget his strong opposition to female circumcision. This issue is still being argued, and its solution must be for the good of the people of Egypt. The Mufti must be concerned with all issues that interest all Egyptians. As long as this is the case in Egypt, we all must do our duty to help the poor, weak Egyptians. All the graduates of Al Azhar must not participate in causing any chaos by issuing Fatwas, as long as the Mufti was chosen by the majority; so we must respect his decisions before anything else.

  • احمد برغش

    2013-2-25

    Frankly, I'm glad because the Constitution has served us. The Mufti was chosen through an election instead of being appointed. Sheikh Morsi would have brought us another Brotherhood Mufti who would have issued one Fatwa that would have forced us to go to sleep at sunset. Congratulations to the esteemed man, Mr. Shawki Abdul Karim, the new Mufti who is recommended by all scholars and Imams. I hope that God guides him during the next period and helps him to bring stability in our Egyptian homes. I hope he stops this number of unnecessary Fatwas, because each satellite channel nowadays brings sheikhs who allow and prohibit to the degree that one does not know if his life is right or wrong. I'm certain that if this respectable Mufti said that no sheikh is allowed to issue a Fatwa without a document from the Fatwa committee, it will be approved. This will give us relief from this sheikh and sheikh so and so, who disgusted us to the utmost, and another one who appears and says, “Bring me one man,” and he goes on screaming and shouting. They have disgraced us as Muslims. Islam is known for its tolerance, forgiveness and tranquility, but this way we are really losing a lot. But, God willing, I am truly optimistic about the presence of Sheikh Shawki Abdul Karim, because he is a centrist and he has nothing to do with politics. Therefore, he will serve religion for the sake of religion, not for the good of the Guide or Amir, God willing!

  • كامل أبو محروس

    2013-2-24

    I really hope from my heart that the new Mufti of Egypt will be a title of goodness and prosperity for Egypt. There is no need for Egypt to remain forever as it is now. There should be some important factors which help the Egyptian people to do their jobs to achieve progress. We all know that the situation in Egypt has gotten mixed up in a lot of things. For example, we find that the situation in Egypt is full of many opinions and sedition. Each of us has his own motto in life, and each of us has a particular sheikh with whom he feels comfortable. This leads to a lot of sectarian strife in Egypt. I want everything good and I want safety in Egypt. I hope to say a word to the new Mufti and tell him to be of help to the Egyptian people, to take care of President Mohamed Morsi, not to leave his position until Egypt returns to its full religious activities, and to protect the Egyptian Copts even ahead of the Muslims, so that there may not be any sectarian strife among the Egyptian people. May God Almighty respond to the calls of the Egyptians for you to be the best one for Egypt. It is enough for me what we have already seen over thirty years, waiting for all goodness, but we always found the opposite. We want goodness and life in order to reform the Egyptians' status and to stop the violence in which we are living. As long as the situation in Egypt is on its way to being reformed, this is a call from me to be optimistic about Egypt's coming future.

  • كمال حسين

    2013-2-24

    The Egyptian people have to rejoice over their leader, because in his way, they have gained something important from the revolution. One important thing that no one has paid attention to is the fact that the constitution, which everyone cursed, is actually the first democratic decision to be made. When Mr. Ali Goma'a, the Mufti, finished his term, the president should have appointed someone else, according to the old constitution or law, but the new constitution states that there should be elections inside Al-Azhar to choose a new Mufti. Is this the revolution, those of you who fan the flames? Is this the constitution, those of you who said no to the constitution? The people need to understand this well, so they can detect those who fight against the good when it's time to elect the parliament members. There are those who want to oppose anything that is done by the Brotherhood, just for the sake of opposing. Everything is now very clear to everyone. I, just like the Al-Azhar scholars, congratulate Professor Shawki Abd El Karim, the new Mufti. May God pave the way for him in his first decision, which is to look into the ruling of the twenty-one people who were sentenced to death in the Port Said stadium incident. May God be with him and assist him with what is good for us everyone.

  • نافع عمر

    2013-2-21

    I am preparing myself to congratulate the new Mufti of the Republic, Mr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdul Karim, and I hope he benefits Egypt, God willing, because it is known that in Egypt, we lack the moderate Islamic approach, although it is the religion of the majority. But the opposing opinions, especially on the Nile Sat television channels, confuse the issues. So, choosing the Mufti is very important, but I thank Almighty God that the Mufti of Egypt was elected. The election was fair and done with integrity by the scholars of the honored Azhar. He was also chosen by the biggest elite, because he abides by the approach of moderate Islam, and any other Fatwa must be studied and discussed by the top scholars. Lately, we have had many Fatwas; most of them are correct and others are totally wrong. Unfortunately, there are many people who follow their personal desires, and there should be no trust in any Fatwa except in those issued by the new Mufti of the Republic. I wish there were hope for a moderate, easy life in Egypt, away from any personal interests. By way of this site, I salute the new Mufti of the Republic, and I ask Almighty God to support him and lead him to all welfare and goodness for the Egyptian people. He must remember that God Almighty is above us all, and that we must all fear God, and we must gain God's satisfaction and please God.

  • سمير وليد

    2013-2-21

    This phase has been accomplished, thanks to the Revolution and thanks to the new Constitution, and above all, thanks to God Almighty. He guided everyone to this, and it is a very important step in the history of Islam in general in the next phase, because the independence of Al-Azhar from politics and governance will give Azhar authority and power. It will be independent in its decisions, without any restrictions. The right word and religion will come to stay in the country. The fact that the Mufti was elected by its members makes us realize that it could have easily been done before; but the president used to appoint the mufti, and because of this, it was possible for politics to play a major role. Also, the provisions issued by the Mufti might have been politicized to some extent. But in this matter, the Mufti is fully free. He makes the appropriate decision without fear of losing the chair or his prestige or displeasing the Sultan. His allegiance is only to religion and to God. From this perspective, we would like to share with our esteemed scholars in the joy of this constitutional decision, which resulted in this and in the fact that, through the election, Mr. Shawki Allam has become the first elected mufti during the term of the first elected president of Egypt. On this basis, we feel that Egypt has done away with politicization and mediation, and that the most worthy and the most useful people must be in the right places, in order to benefit the Islamic nation and all Egyptians. The days are going by quickly, and soon there will be parliamentary elections. We hope that they will be carried out with integrity and transparency, like the election of the Mufti, which was done in a transparent and respectable manner.

  • احمد سويدان

    2013-2-21

    A thousand greetings to the esteemed Egyptian scholar, Professor Shawqi Abdel Karim Allam, the new Mufti of Egypt who came through the elections held by the scholars of al-Azhar and won the majority. I add my voice to all the scholars of Al-Azhar who salute Professor Shawqi, because in fact he deserves the position. He is a man who goes by nature; he is not politicized, nor does he belong to any political party. He has been endowed with wisdom and brilliance that enabled him to earn the love of his colleagues. There is another thing which makes this man deserve to stay in this position of Mufti: We all know that Morsi's son will be appointed in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and the daughter of Al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, will also be appointed. The thing that makes you feel that this man, Shawqi Abdel Karim, is a really respectable man, is the way he raised his children. His esteemed son was about to take the test of the Imams. After he applied for the test, his father won the elections, so he withdrew his application in order not cause his father any embarrassment. Do you see the big difference between this man and that man? There is a very big difference, and this makes us really respect Professor Shawqi for his decency and religion. I'm not saying that he is greater than God, but things are recognized when compared with their opposites, and we must know who loves his country and his religion and who is deceiving us. We thank God and praise Him for His blessings, because we did not fall into the disaster of the Mufti of the Brotherhood. That would have been a real mess. I thank each scholar in Al-Azhar who voted for Professor Shawqi Abdel Karim Allam, because they redeemed Egypt and did not sell Al-Azhar to the Brotherhood, like other people who sold the whole country to the Brotherhood. May God forgive them for wasting the country! I ask God to guide the new Mufti of Egypt and enable him to calm the Egyptian street in order to save the blood of the people who would die. May God reward us and all Egyptians with all goodness to compensate them for what they are suffering from!

  • فريدة سيف الدين

    2013-2-21

    You must behave like the Prophet. Those people could abandon anything but not their religion. They love the Creator and they are happy to worship Him. Likewise, they love their Prophet and owe him respect and reverence. They sacrifice their lives for the sake of this religion, let alone their money. They give their life and death in religion. They are fit for God’s words: (Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.) [Al-Anaam: 162]. This nation is based on the pure monotheism and the full loyalty to this religion. This nation, called the nation of Islam, could not be saved without this religion.

  • عبد الله العمروسى

    2013-2-21

    The controversy over the nomination of the Grand Mufti was concluded. The President of the Republic, by the new Constitution, does not have the power to appoint the Mufti. The Constitutional article aroused unrivaled debates in the Squares of all the Egyptian Governorates. The Egyptian people are now reaping the first “fruit” of the new Constitution. Mr. Shawki Allam succeeded to the position of the Grand Mufti through the vote. The elections were fair and fully transparent. The voters elected the Imams and al-Azhar scholars with integrity. Thus, the Fatwa in the future will be issued without any pressure from the authorities, namely the President of the Republic. The Mufti will issue the Fatwa in the future, God willing. Everything will depend on the free will of the Grand Mufti. His Fatwas will be implemented right away. The President of the Republic could not influence the Mufti. Most importantly, the Mufti does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling party at present time, though he received their support. For this reason, the citizens did not demonstrate in streets against the new Grand Mufti. In fact, the Muslim Egyptians people accept only the moderate scholars who conform to their mainstream approach. They do not want the partisan scholars who belong to the Brotherhood in particular. Indeed, the Egyptians are still skeptical about the real thought of this group. For this reason, we support Mr. Shawki Allam who is a moderate intellectual. Mr. Shawki is rather independent from any political or ideological trend. I hope that the new Grand Mufti will spread the fear of God and help the Muslims. In this respect, I call on Mr. Shawki to establish a website to respond to the religion-linked questions. We are really tired of the so called “special Fatwas” which are prevalent on TV channels. I strongly believe that these Fatwas fanned the religious strife. It is noteworthy that insignificant clergy appear on the television channels to issue Fatwas. They do not even have canonical references such “Sahih Muslim”, “Sahih Al-Bukhari” and the prophetic jurisprudence. They issue Fatwas depending on their own desire only. They permit some practices and forbid others. I do not think that this is the appropriate approach.

  • احمد عز

    2013-2-20

    No one denies the importance of the position of Mufti of the Republic in Egypt, because through this position, one knows what is going on around Egypt, away from any inclinations or partisan affiliations to which the people are exposed. The Egyptian people suffered a lot during the former regime of Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, that regime which was famous for its corruption and greed. Even the corrupt media was among this circle of corruption. They couldn't say a word, because they wanted to stay in their positions, but these media people never dared to abuse the former president, because they surely knew his ways and his attitudes. Nowadays, the media does not respect President Mohamed Morsi; he has become the laughingstock of the media. When President Morsi uses force and uses the corrupt regime, nobody can say a word; but with this great achievement which was made by the Brotherhood government in Egypt, the media will never dare to say a word of thanks or appreciation to President Mohamed Morsi. They spent no time on good news nor on President Morsi's achievement, rather they say they were forced to broadcast the news. We barely saw a minute on the new Mufti being appointed. But if there is a news story that is against or beyond the will of the president, such as the dragging of the citizen Hamada Saber, we notice that it was under focus and drew all the attention of the media. O God, support the President and help him against all those who want to destroy Egypt!

  • حسنى حسان

    2013-2-20

    Finally, after a long absence, the new Mufti of the Republic in Egypt was elected. Nobody believed this big accomplishment, which has happened for the first time; we had forgotten that there were elections among the scholars of Azhar to elect a new Mufti for the Republic, and because Doctor Ali Jumaa reached retirement, it was necessary to elect a new Mufti. The strange matter is that President Mohamed Morsi authorized Azhar to elect him, although the former ousted President used to choose the Mufti himself, in order to make him cater to his own interests. This is considered an achievement in favor of Mohamed Morsi; but will they tell him or not? Or what is supposed to happen? Egypt must celebrate this accomplishment because it has never happened before! We really need to present a bouquet of flowers to the new Mufti of the Republic, even though flowers are very humble; but sir, you know the circumstances of the people, and we can do nothing but congratulate you on your new post, and we hope you fulfill the trust that the scholars have put in you. We need you to be fair in all your Fatwas. Don't issue Fatwas from your own mind. We know that you are a great scholar with considerable knowledge, but the Shura is also required among you, so that we can follow the Fatwa as we get from you. We get so many Fatwas because we watch a lot of non-Egyptian religious television channels, so the Fatwas differ according to the country. We ask God to help and support you in this hard mission, because it is extremely difficult and people don't think that it is really a very difficult job.

  • مريم الاحمدى

    2013-2-20

    I welcome Dr. Shawki Abd-El Karim, the new Mufti for the republic, and I hope he brings us all that is good, because we are truly fed up with everything that we're seeing around us. How can one of the respected scholars go around on television and release Fatwas whenever he pleases? If he's really a well-rounded scholar, than he should consult others as well; we can't have a new fatwa every single day. They're fighting each other with Fatwas now. One of them says that something is allowed, another one forbids it, and a third one says it's preferable. Whom are we supposed to listen to or ask? Or are we supposed to find a better solution by issuing our own Fatwas? Now that Professor Abd-El Karim has been selected, I am certainly relieved; especially since he admitted that these channels on which they release their Fatwas should definitely consult first. Of course, the Sheikhs of Al-Azhar should help him with that, because we'll find some of them who agree and others who don't. But I see no reason for there to be a war between these scholars, because there are supposed to be sources for legislation that we have to follow, and the first and most important one is the Quran. Thank God, those scholars issue their Fatwas based on it. And there is also the Sunnah, and the last source is unanimity; all of the scholars have to agree on one opinion, and even if one of them disagrees, the important thing is the opinion of the rest of them. I hope God preserves Egypt from any pretense, and we have to preserve Egypt ourselves, because every one of us is responsible and has to take that responsibility seriously.

  • فهد مصعب

    2013-2-20

    The most important thing is that this man is moderate, i.e. he does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or even the salafists. Hence, he is an Azharite knowledgeable scholar who was chosen by some respectable Azharite scholars. Hence, this is good and we must realize that the mufti of Egypt is not for Egypt only, but he is the source of light to all Muslims. I really felt relieved because the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate did not succeed, because we saw that anyone against them is automatically accused of disbelief and he must be punished. I swear that this would be a disaster that is worse than the crisis of June. This should not be taken as evidence of my hatred towards the Muslim Brothers, but defending themselves in this way frightened me. The success of the candidate of the Muslim Brothers would have meant that they would receive religious support whether it was right or wrong and the Egyptians would hear religious arguments all the time, which exploits the innate religious nature of the Egyptians, who never dare to violate the opinions of the imams. I am assured because Sheikh Shawqi Abd Al-Karim was chosen by the majority of the Azharite scholars without any favoritism or partisan calculations. Al-Azhar is the last place where we need to see partisan calculations. Honestly, I wish that the new mufti would prevent the individual fatwas that became widely spread in Egypt. Anyone with some hairs in his chin can legalize and prohibit as he wishes. This is prohibited in the Quran and the Sunnah and I call on the Egyptian people to listen to the fatwas only from the scholars of al-Azhar to make sure they are valid.

  • مريم رؤوف

    2013-2-19

    This is the nineteenth mufti indeed, but he will be the first of his kind, as this is the first time a mufti comes through election by the scholars not according to the whims of the president. I wish that this would be a good choice and I am sure it would be because the man came with a good intention form the beginning. He intends to clean the satellite channels form those who sit without any purpose. However, I wonder whether there would be disagreements between Dr. Shawki Abd Al-Karim and the presidency? What I know honestly is that the Muslim Brotherhood are always in disagreement with Al-Azhar on some issues. This man does not belong to any party or group, but he is a moderate Azharite man. The problem is that if the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds, everything permissible in the life in Egypt would be prohibited and doubts might affect all the prohibited and unlawful things. What do you want more than the fact they welcomed the songstress Dolly Shahine and her colleague Helmi Al-Jazzar in Hurghada at a party that was organized under the patronage of the Muslim Brotherhood? If this man had been the candidate to the mufti office, the situation would have been like a maze. They might have said that some artists are allowed and other are not. We also have other things like oil and sugar that they distribute during the elections. I think that an official fatwa would have been issued allowing this if the Mufti was Brotherhood. I think that Morsi is really doing more that his obligation in that regard.

  • محمود

    2013-2-18

    Praise be to God, and blessings and peace be upon the Prophet Mohamed and his family, companions and allies. These are some of the words and stories spoken by the Sheikh who owns the kiosk; words that are wonderful speeches for the pulpit: We are in a state of wonder…I'm telling you frankly…we do not need to build factories…but we need to build souls…the drinking water…becomes polluted after the conscience has been polluted…listen to what Omar Bin El Khattab said to his companions one day. "What does he want?” ... Someone said: “Each one of you make a wish.”…One of them said, “I wish I had a mountain of gold, like Ohhud, so I could spend it for the sake of God.” The second one said ... “And I wish I had a city full of horses, so I could invade in the way of God.” The third one said ... “And I wish I had a thousand slaves, and I would set them free, seeking the approval of God.” They said: “What do you wish, Omar?” Omar, the Emir of the faithful, said, "As for me, I wish this mosque were full of men such as Abu Bakr." We need men…we need to build. We do not need to tear down. The tearing down among us is too severe. We do not need you to give us dictionary definitions, as Lenin said … We do not need you to come to us to put in the systems of Monsieur Tito … We need to appeal to the Book of God... Happiness is all in the book of God... We need to build souls... Nothing builds souls but Islam. The Sheikh said, speaking about the media: "Oh, the media is polite and decent with God... O, organizers of the media, resign and may God bless you ... Resign and may God bless you... You have corrupted the morals of the nation... Farces from one dawn to the next... Endless discotheques... Words that are not acceptable to our virtues... And the Book of God is a stranger among us... We cannot find a helper for it... and cannot find a supporter. Oh, Nation: How long will you be neglected? How long will there be negligence? Islam is shouting and calling us."

  • ليلى نافع

    2013-2-17

    No one can deny that Egyptians are following the centrist Islamic ideology. Thus, the Mufti of Egypt has been elected for the first time in history which is frankly the first gain of the new constitution. For this reason, we pray Allah to grant Professor Shawki Abdel Karim success in office. In fact, I am confident that as long as he does not belong to any political party but to the centrist Azhar school, he will succeed, God willing, since he will be spared from politicians and political regimes and his decisions will not be influenced by political instructions. Therefore, I strongly approve of putting an end to the bulk of fatwas which appear on satellite TV from Al Azhar and other sheikhs since these fatwas represent only those who issue them. The latter will bear the rightness and wrongness of these fatwas. Accordingly, Fatwas must be based on knowledge and studies unlike the quick responses to fatwas without any careful study and knowledge. As a result, confusion and differences arose and they call it mercy. Yet, they are completely merciless since they should be conducted in a better way. Generally speaking, Egypt will develop in all fields. In this respect, I am really happy that the beginning has been by the election of the Mufti in a democratic way. The election has been based on merit rather than on political choices. As a result, Egyptians will feel the difference since the Mufti will not be indebted to the president or any minister given that he has been chosen according to his Al Azhar scholars colleagues. Consequently, his Fatwas and Islamic explanations will be excellent and will benefit the entire Muslim Nation, God willing.