The grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb urges the renewal of religious discourse during a conference dubbed “Al-Azhar International Conference on Renovation of Islamic Thought” – Egypt Today/Amr Mostafa
CAIRO – 27 January 2020: The grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, on Monday urged the renewal of religious discourse, calling it a “pure Quranic law,” which prominent scholars saw as necessary to cope with political and social developments.
El-Tayyeb’s remarks echo President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s calls for the renovation of Islamic thought since he took post in 2014 as president, amid a resurgence in terrorist attacks in the name of Islam.
The situation of Muslims, without renovation, will inevitably see a rapid deterioration and a change toward the worse in the various fields of life, El-Tayyeb, who has served as the grand Imam for 10 years, said, during his speech at a conference for Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top religious authority, dubbed “Al-Azhar International Conference on Renovation of Islamic Thought.”
The conference was attended by a number of top leaders; prominent political and religious figures; and representatives of the Awqaf (Endowments) Ministry; Dar Al-Iftaa, Egypt’s religious authority authorized with issuing religious fatwas (opinions); and Islamic councils from 41 Arab and Islamic countries.
El-Tayyeb noted that the reformist Islamic scholars are the only party responsible for such renewal, to which the nation aspires, adding that renewing the religious discourse should not distort the religion or cancel parts of it. Instead, it should only dismiss, according to religious instructions, what was valid for an earlier historical period but became inappropriate for this time.
He slammed religious extremism, saying that calls for extremist thought do not represent Islam. He also shed light on the groups of westernization and modernity who he said are devoted to distorting the image of Islamic symbolic figures, staining their reputation and mocking their heritage. Between extremism and modernity calls, many Muslim youth found themselves obliged to choose between closure, intolerance, hatred and rejection of the other, and emptiness, wandering and “cultural suicide,” he added.
During the conference, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli gave remarks, on behalf of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, saying that the Egyptian leader calls on religious institutions to attach great importance to the renewal of religious discourse.
President Sisi urges accelerating efforts to renovate religious discourse, warning that procrastination would give the opportunity to those who claim knowledge to brainwash youth into adopting wrong beliefs and misconception of religion, Madbouli said.
The prime minister added that the president hopes that this conference will be followed by other annual conferences calling for the renovation of religious thought.
Explaining the mechanism of renovation, Madbouli said the renovation does not target the constants of religion. It instead aims at renovating behaviors and dealings, the prime minister said, adding that Fatwas (religious opinions) change from a country to another and from time to another.
The main themes of the conference include innovation concepts and mechanisms, the dismantling of misconceptions, women's and family issues and the role of international, religious and academic institutions in renewing Islamic thought.
The conference discusses the renewal conditions, causes and factors, and will treat misconceptions related to Jihad (the sacred fight of Muslims to defend Islam, with force if required).
President Sisi, since taking office in 2014, has called for developing religious discourse, especially that of Islam, and addressing religious misconceptions used by some extremist groups to justify their terrorist acts and deceive the youth.
The calls for renewing religious discourse, endorsed by the Ministry of Endowments (Awaqf Ministry), are believed to be part of the state’s war against terrorism.
At the ceremony of Muslim’s Laylat al-Qadr at the headquarters of the Ministry of Endowments in June, Sisi said that people’s behaviors could affect the image of their religion negatively or positively in other nations’ points of views.
“Strong religion could be weakened by its believers’ behaviors,” said Sisi, adding that Muslims should represent Islam in a good way through their practices.