Cairo - In a prolonged interview with Mohammed Al-Gharieb from Al-Bawaba News Portal, Grand Mufti of Egypt talks about renewal of religious discourse and what Al-Azhar and other moderate Islamic schools can present to counter extremist thoughts and terror acts under the name of Islam.
Hereunder some highlights from the interview:- How do Dar al-Ifta’s officials, under your auspices, view the issue of “renewal of religious discourse”?
In Dar al-Ifta, we are fully aware of the enormity of the task to take up this major challenge that had been taken up before by earlier scholars. As we are on the threshold of the third decade of the 21st century, our role is to find ways to deal with this real challenge of the new millennium.
- What does the concept of “renewal” mean from the standpoint of the fatwa apparatus?
By and large, “Renewal” basically means providing a new reading of the rich legacy and treasure troves of knowledge left behind by our fore-scholars.
“Renewal” is a timeless rule that has always been there. In the past, our scholars have shouldered this task, and performed it well through publishing counterarguments to destructive scholarships of their times, embarking on novel scholarships relevant to the time and space, redacting and refining older books, and critiquing previous books in order to separate the wheat from the chaff therein.
We are fully aware that our intellectual ‘heritage’ is nothing but human contributions to the overall human experience. While their works sometimes verged on brilliance, other times they were only ordinary. Renewal is not a change per se, but it is based on new approaches to the classical literature. Our legacy is not sacred simply because it was the by-product of by human beings who were not far from error or misguidance.
We are very privileged to inherit such a legacy which stood the test of time. A nation that never cherishes and cares for its legacy will never prosper. Yet what is true that any legacy should be treated with caution and meticulousness. Our traditions abound with invitations of thinking and using one’s mental faculty for discerning and reasoning, but also we can find inaccuracies, fabrications, and errors in its overall body.
Thus the main problem lies in the kind of approach to the legacy, not the legacy itself. I mean that when it comes to dealing with the ‘literature’ of the past we have two extreme reactions; one is the ‘blind reception’ upheld by the ‘ultra-conservatives who consider the legacy in its entirety as perfect as the Qur’an. Another is ‘utter rejection’ upheld by ultra-modernists who tend to recoil from probing into issues of the past.
The fact of the matter is that both are wrong. We need to study our legacy, examine it and benefit from it, not just regurgitate it without due process of scrutiny. That’s how we will be respecting our traditions, and paying tribute to our forefathers.
- Is there any measures advanced to counteract extremist ideology on your top agenda in this stage?
- Yes, besides the two affiliate observatories that were launched two years back one is for monitoring extremist opinions and another is for spotting hardline ideologies, we are establishing the center for militant and extremist studies, which will be centered on providing rebuttals with cogency and force to arguments raised by extremists.
The center will offer an-easy-to-navigate guides to tackle extremism in order to advise both the lay readership as well as the decision-makers of the optimal counteraction strategies.
In the interview, Dr. Allam offered his insights on some other pressing issues which he described as ‘priorities of Dar al-Ifta for the time being ‘such as the verbal marriage controversy, telling the truth about some alien, detrimental trends and last but not least the scourge of ISIS and its satellite in the region.
To have more on this story, follow the news thread in Arabic on Albawaba here.