The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, called for ‘Failure to sanctify the jurisprudential heritage, or equate it with Sharia ‘In a statement that seemed to some a reversal from a previous position.
The Sheikh of Al-Azhar made the remarks during his Ramadan TV program “The Good Imam”, which is broadcast on a number of digital channels and platforms.
The sheikh made a series of statements that opened again the debate on the concept of renewing religious discourse.
The Sheikh’s account on Twitter has also been publishing summaries of his television episodes, which sparked a lot of discussion and prompted the tweeters to offer different interpretations of his words.
In the 18th episode of his program, Al-Tayyib said: “The call to sanctify the jurisprudential heritage and equating it with the Sharia leads to the rigidity of contemporary Islamic jurisprudence, as a result of some adherence to the literal adherence to what was mentioned of fatwas or old jurisprudential rulings that represented renewal and keeping pace with their issues in their time.” .
In episode 19, the Sheikh touched on “obstacles to renewal” and warned about what he called “outdated fatwas,” or about promoting lascivious fatwas.
“A gender shift or a recurring speech?”
During the past hours, a sensation was raised over the Sheikh’s statements among those interested in the issue of religious reform and criticism of heritage.
Some have praised the Sheikh of Al-Azhar’s statements as carrying a kind of “types of change and revision.”
While Others contested those statements. Among the commentators are those who believe that the Sheikh “turned against his previous positions in which he expressed desperation in defending the Ash’ari school and the heritage texts.”
On the other hand, another stream of commentators was surprised by the uproar surrounding the Sheikh’s recent statements.
Some of them questioned Al-Azhar’s intention to engage in any real project to renew religious discourse or revise heritage.
While some refuted the rumors about Al-Azhar’s refusal to renew. They point out that “Al-Azhar adopts the idea of renewal based on the texts of religion and the nature of Sharia.” .
Others cited the debate that took place last year between Al-Tayyib and the President of Cairo University, Muhammad Al-Khasht, on “renewing the religious discourse” during an international conference organized by Al-Azhar, whose theme was “Renewal in Islamic Thought.”
At the time, Al-Khasht, who was a professor of philosophy, indicated that the renewal he sought “cannot come through traditional religious institutions.”
He also criticized the attempts to revive the religious sciences, calling for “the necessity to develop them and dismantle the mental structure that promotes the traditional religious discourse to establish a new discourse in line with the requirements of the age.”
In response, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar at the time stressed the importance of the heritage that “created a whole nation,” warning that “the current strife is political and not heritage.”
Tweeters: “Are we witnessing an attempt to form a religious discourse?”
In parallel, the interview conducted by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, continues to provoke widespread reactions, which resonated with Egypt.
Some Egyptian tweeters even linked Al-Tayeb’s recent episodes with bin Salman’s statements.
Bin Salman said, in an interview on Rotana Channel, that the interpretation of Islam in his country is no longer limited to the teachings of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab.
He added that Saudi Arabia is committed to applying the texts of the Qur’an and frequent hadiths.
He elaborated on the legal texts and laws, noting that the government “considers the hadiths of Sundays according to their validity, weakness and status.”
The mutawater hadith is the one narrated on the authority of a large number of narrators, while the hadith of the Sundays is the unconfirmed hadith that does not combine the terms of the mutawater hadith.
There are those who view the statements of the Saudi prince as a call to “abandon the texts of heritage.”
And there are those who believe that the content of Bin Salman’s words was in harmony with the call of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to renew the religious discourse.
Many media professionals and researchers rushed to praise the Saudi crown prince. Among them is the Egyptian researcher, Islam Beheiry.
Some commentators welcomed these statements and considered them “the beginning of the implementation of an integrated strategy for the renewal of religious thought and discourse in the region.”
However, another group who is interested in the issue of religious reform, sees these statements as a debate that belongs to a political context.
They exclude the “success of any project led by Arab leaders for modernization and enlightenment, in the absence of the most prominent foundations and rules of the renaissance represented in the freedom of expression and criticism, and the allowance for diversity of knowledge.”
While others describe these projects as attempts to “flirt with the West more than its preoccupation with reforming internal affairs.”