Government approves draft law for the election of Al-Azhar sheikh

The Egyptian cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft law on the election of the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world.

The draft stipulates that the grand sheikh will not be appointed by the president but elected by the Senior Scholars Authority, which will be reinstated to include scholars from Egypt and the Islamic community.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abouelnaga said in a press conference after the cabinet meeting that the grand sheikh will be elected by secret ballot after the senior scholars nominate three of the authority’s members for the position.

The draft law will be submitted to the ruling military council, which retains the right to endorse it or amend it and return it for discussion.

Grand sheikhs were elected by the Senior Scholars Authority until 1961. The position was first created in 1690 (1101 Hijri). So far, 43 sheikhs have held the post.

After the 1952 revolution, it was decided that Al-Azhar’s role should be diminished, and in 1961, new legislation was created to limit the grand sheikh’s powers. Subsequently, the Senior Scholars Authority was abolished.

Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb told reporters in March that he had decided to re-establish the Senior Scholars Authority.

Some believe the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak used Al-Azhar as a tool to guide public opinion and serve its own interests.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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