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Egypt: New Mufti Awaits Mursi Approval | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-In a secret ballot, Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority chose Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim as Egypt’s new Grand Mufti, succeeding Dr. Ali Gomaa as the country’s top Islamic jurist. Abdel-Karim is the chairman of the Department of Jurisprudence at the School of Sharia at Al-Azhar University’s Tanta branch.

The Senior Scholars Authority’s choice for Grand Mufti is awaiting approval from president of Egypt, Mohamed Mursi.

Abdel-Karim is known for his moderation and political non-affiliation. In his first official comments following his election, Abdel-Karim told Asharq Al-Awsat “My position is religious, and I will not speak about politics.” This is the first time that Egypt’s Grand Mufti has been chosen in this manner; prior to this the position had been filled by presidential fiat. However following the ouster of former president Mubarak, Egypt’s interim military rulers’ amended Al-Azhar’s bylaws. Members of Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority chose Abdel-Karim as Egypt’s new Grand Mufti from among three candidates on Monday in a secret ballot to succeed current Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa whose term expires in March after he reached retirement age.

Al-Azhar Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyeb-who is also member of Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority-revealed, “The Senior Scholars Authority nominated nine names from the eligible candidates for the position of Mufti, and of those three names were chosen; Dr. Attiya Al-Sayed Fayyad, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University Cairo, Dr. Farahat Abdel Aati Saad, a professor of jurisprudence at Al-Azhar’s School of Sharia in Cairo, and Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim.” Dr. el-Tayyeb announced that the Senior Scholars Authority’s choice will be put forward to Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi who is expected to approve Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim as Egypt’s new Grand Mufti. This would see Egypt’s new Grand Mufti being appointed in accordance to Article 32 of the al-Azhar bylaws, prior to March. Dr. Ali Gomaa reached the legal age of retirement (60 years old) from this position last year, but was granted an additional year as Mufti by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAf) in February 2012.

In his first official comments as Egypt’s presumptive new Grand Mufti, Dr. Abdel-Karim said, “I want to express my thanks to the Senior Scholars Authority and to Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyeb on this choice, and this great confidence in me, and I pray to God that I am appointed in this regard.” He added, “I will put forward my future plans and visions for this position after I meet with President Mohamed Mursi and he appoints me to this position”, adding “all of this information will be very clear.” He emphasized, “I am well aware of what Egypt is going through, but my position in the Dar al-Ifta (Fatwa Council) will be solely religious and I will not talk about politics.” Sources close to Egypt’s new mufti stressed, “He (Abdel-Karim) has no political affiliation and he is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he has good relations with his colleagues and students and is known for his efficiency.” This was the first election of Egypt’s Grand Mufti following the January 25 revolution, and following the amendment of Al-Azhar by-law 103 by SCAF and the subsequent approval of this by President Mursi. This saw the formation of the Senior Scholars Authority headed by Al-Azhar Grand Imam Dr. al-Tayyeb. This Authority is made up of 26 members, most prominently Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president of the World Federation of Muslim Scholars. Al-Qaradawi taking part in Monday’s meeting to elect the country’s next Grand Mufti represents the first time he has attended a Senior Scholars Authority meeting.

The Senior Scholars Authority is tasked with ensuring that Egypt’s new mufti is well versed in Islamic fiqh and Sharia law, is known for his piety and devotion, and follows the moderate al-Azhar school of thought. A potential Grand Mufti must also have obtained a PhD, demonstrated commitment to the al-Azhar approach, and have no political and partisan affiliation.

Article IV of Egypt’s new constitution grants Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority-formed in July 2012-the task of nominating the country’s Grand Mufti.

The Senior Scholars Authority did not nominate any of its own members due to age considerations, with all of its members being above the age of 60, the age that Grand Mufti’s must retire.

Current Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa was responsible for counting the votes for his successor in his capacity as chairman of the Senior Scholars Authority’s screening committee, under the supervision of Justice Mohamed Abdel-Salam, legal adviser to Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh.

These elections were the first of their kind in Al-Azhar’s long history.

Prior to this, Egypt’s Grand Mufti had been appointed directly by the president, with the Sheikh of Al-Azhar putting forward a single name which would then be appointed by the president.

Sources within al-Azhar told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Dr. al-Tayyeb did not participate in the vote for the Mufti, and this was to ensure that he did not influence the Senior Scholars Authority. He also refused to participate in the work of the committee previously formed by the Senior Scholars Authority to discuss mufti nominees, preferring to receive the final names only.” The source added “Dr. Abdel-Rahman al-Barr, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, did not receive enough votes to compete in the final round. 25 candidates were included in the penultimate round, with this being reduced to 9 names, which did not include al-Barr.” The source asserted “The Senior Scholars Authority is of the view that one of the conditions previously agreed on for any potential Grand mufti is non-affiliation to any political party, which al-Barr does not comply with.” The new mufti will be Egypt’s 19th Grand Mufti to head the Dar al-Ifta which was formed in 1895.

Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim: In Brief – Born in 1961 in Kom Hamada, Beira Governorate.

– Married with 4 children.

– Chairman of the Department of Jurisprudence at the School of Sharia at Al-Azhar University’s Tanta branch.

– Worked in Al-Azhar’s Department of Jurisprudence, before obtaining a PhD and becoming head of this department.

– Obtained PhD from Al-Azhar College of Jurisprudence and Sharia.

– Authored book on political rights of women in Islam.