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Dispute Plagues Egypt on Amending Al-Azhar Law | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi (centre), the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, (right) and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, (left) pray on the first day of Eid ul-Fitr, AP

Cairo – Despite intensifying controversy within Egypt’s parliament, demands urged the amendment of Al-Azhar law on diversifying the highest committee members.

The amendment orders that specialists not exclusive to religious subject material are incorporated within al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars.

“Our body is not in need for change, all life-related disciplines needed by the community exist within the body, even psychology,” a member of the Egyptian Council of Senior Scholars Dr. Mahmoud Muhanna told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The new amendment, currently drafted by MP Mohammed Abu Hamed a Member of the People’s Assembly of Egypt, includes rules to elect al-Azhar’s top Sheikh when the post is vacant–the same goes for the post of the national Grand Mufti.

Regulating the nature of ties shared between al-Azhar chieftain, al-Azhar University and al-Azhar institutes has also been broached by the amendment.

Hamed confirmed working on meetings with leading religious figures to render their perception on the amendment, preparing the draft for submission to the House of Representatives in upcoming weeks.

“I have contacted president of al-Azhar University Dr. Usama al-Abd two days ago, and told him that al-Azhar and the Council of Senior Scholars are entrusted to his guardianship — he reassured me that it (the amendment) would not affect a single al-Azhar member,” al-Azhar’s Dr.Muhanna said.

“Egypt is nothing without al-Azhar,” Muhanna cited Dr.Abd saying.

Furthermore, Muhanna stated that a crackdown targeting al-Azhar bodies and affiliated institutions is in effect.

Al-Azhar University is in Cairo–associated with al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo, it is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as “Islam’s most prestigious university.”

In addition to higher education, al-Azhar oversees a national network of schools with approximately two million students. As of 1996, over 4000 teaching institutes in Egypt were affiliated with the University.

Al-Azhar University’s Council of Senior Scholars was founded in 1911 but was replaced in 1961 by the Center for Islamic Research. In July 2012, after the law restricting al-Azhar University’s autonomy, the Council was reformed.