Cairo - Interviewed for Albawaba News Portal, Dr. Ibrahim Negm, Egypt’s Grand Mufti’s top adviser, delves into real issues that Egypt’s Fatwa House or ‘Dar al-Ifta’ is up to during this critical time in Egypt’s history.
Dr. Negm pointed out that Dar al-Ifta is now considered the most active religious authority on Islamic affairs since its religious conclusions and opinions are founded on extensive expertise and analogical reasoning. This body, though traditional, plays a vital role in presenting the true version of Islam and reflecting the spirit of the Islamic law, Shar’ia, for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
The authority, being concerned with making and passing religious edicts on almost all Islamic issues, has to face a whole range of concerns whose solutions have become a crying need for Egypt and the Arab/Islamic world.
Hereunder we highlight part of the interview on the issue of “renewal of religious discourse”.
On behalf of the Dar al-Ifta, what does the concept of “renewal” mean from your standpoint?
Well, “Religious Discourse” is not a newly-born theme within Islamic circles of knowledge, but rather it had always been there, preoccupying scholars of every where and when.
By and large, “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 human beings who were not far from error or misguidance.
What is the top-priority issue on Dar al-Ifta’s agenda for this year (2017)?
One of the major issues that Dar al-Ifta is committed to address is the issue of “renewal of religious discourse” which particularly came to the fore in the aftermath of the political upheavals and turmoil that have swamped the Middle East recently.
Many scholars understood that the existing ‘discourse’ in the form of forceful counterblasts and declamations, and imbued with demonization and intolerance is utterly un-Islamic, to say the least. A chorus of scholars has sounded the alarm to awake their fellow Muslims from the profound dormancy engulfing them. Alarmed , for instance, by Friday’s sermons delivered by mediocre preachers or ill-informed individuals in front of the public, scholars or Ulema along with any like-minded intellectual called out such alien trends as well as called for urgent action to salvage the situation before it exacerbates any further.
We, in Dar al-Ifta, are doing everything within our capabilities to find the proper solution to this issue in the light of our Islamic teachings, values and ideals as well as learning from past experiences.
Do you view President al-Sisi’s repeated calls in the media to immediately ‘renew religious discourse’ as blaming the concerned religious institutions for failure to act?
In all honesty, it is nothing of the sort! Because facts prove the opposites and belie such a claim. President Sisi has repeatedly commended the religious institution for its efforts. On many occasions, the President also expressed his respect and appreciation for Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
However, given the tough period we are going through, the president tends to mention these pressing issues on every occasion for the sake of galvanizing a speedy action to tackle them. Likewise, it might seem that the President’s speech is ‘blaming’ the religious institutions for any mishap or failure in the pursuit, yet it is the complete opposite. The President’s constant calls for action regarding this issue whenever he meets up with the religious intelligentsia just serve as salutary reminders to them not the vice versa.
The President respects al-Azhar and always praises them. He just wanted by his recent remarks to deliver a specific message to the religious specialists in order to make sure that they are on top of those matters.
To go to the second segment of this exclusive interview, please click here.