Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appointed Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, 64, as the new head of Al Azhar on Friday, nine days after the former head Dr. Mohammed Sayyed al Tantawi passed away during a visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Sources at Al Azhar expressed strong support for the nomination of El Tayeb to fill this position that is considered the highest religious authority in the country.
Circles within Al Azhar celebrated the appointment of El Tayeb, who has become the 48th head of Al Azhar.
In his first statement following the news of his appointment, Dr. El Tayeb described the decision as a “big surprise”. He was in his village of Al Qurna in Luxor, Upper Egypt, where he usually spends his weekends with his family. As soon as he received the news that he had been appointed the new head of Al Azhar, celebrations broke out in the village and he received congratulations from local residents.
Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, the former deputy of Al Azhar and member of the Islamic Research Center expressed his hope that God will help Dr. El Tayeb raise Al Azhar and that the hopes of Muslims will be fulfilled by him, stressing that Dr. El Tayeb is of prominent scientific standing and has great pride in Al Azhar.
In a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. El Tayeb expressed his deep appreciation of the trust that President Hosni Mubarak has shown to him by appointing him the new Sheikh of Al Azhar. He wished President Mubarak a speedy recovery [after undergoing surgery in Germany] and good health.