July 11, 2020

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"One Foot in al-Andalus and Another in China"


By Daphne Anson


Three weeks ago, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, since 2010 grand imam of Egypt’s leading Islamic scholarly institution,  Al-Azhar, and portrayed as a voice of moderation, responded forcefully to a speech by Professor Mohamed Othman Elkhosht, president of Cairo University.

To quote the uploader and translator, Memri TV:

‘Professor Mohamed Othman Elkhosht, the President of Cairo University, said at a January 28, 2020 conference that was streamed live on Al-Azhar University’s YouTube channel that the religious sciences are in a state of stagnation, and he criticized the fact that critical analysis, scientific analysis, and methodologies from the humanities and social sciences are not used in this field.

 He said that Islamic scholarship has failed to enter a new era and called for interdisciplinarity.

 Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, responded that shari’a law, Islamic jurisprudence, and the Islamic heritage that Professor Elkhosht criticized were the same things that united a bunch of warring Arab tribes that “couldn’t tell right from left” and enabled them to expand as far as Al-Andalus and China.

 Sheikh Al-Tayyeb also said that Islamic heritage barely plays a role in people’s lives today and that the Arab and Muslim identity is meaningless.

 He further argued that Western leaders such as Trump and Netanyahu make all the decisions for the Arab world, that the conflict between modernity and the Islamic heritage is made up by the West in order to hold the Muslim world back, and that there is an “accursed and vicious machine” directing the way people view Islam.’

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