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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Introduction to " Al-Azhar Declarations"

In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful the Most Compassionate

All praise is due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

       Throughout the history, Al-Azhar has been the platform of national leadership in Egypt. It is the conscience of the Muslim Nation that feels its pain, expresses its ambitions and defends its rights. It is the solid foundation of the Arab and Muslim culture with its rich heritage and authentic moderate beacon at the national, regional and international levels.

       Based on all these considerations, Al-Azhar has called for a civilized dialogue between the Muslim Nation and all the other nations of the world in order to achieve mutual benefit and supreme human interests. The dialogue also aims to accomplish the international acquaintance stated in Sūrat Al-Hujurāt "O humankind, surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you races and tribes so that you may get mutually acquainted. Indeed, the most honorable of you are the most pious. Allah is All Knowing, All Aware" (Qur᾿ān, 49: 13). Meanwhile, Al-Azhar rejects anything that violates, in any way, the rights of the Muslim Nation or contradicts the Sharia. In addition, Al-Azhar works on correcting non-constructive practices by means of pursuing dialogue with the various parties.

       Consequently, Al-Azhar reviewed, corrected and redrafted all of the above-mentioned dialogue agreements made with some groups in the light of these criteria.

       In its new era, Al-Azhar has started to change its vision of dialogue and parties, conditions, and principles thereof. It has initially focused on Al-Azhar dialogue at all levels, Egyptian-Egyptian, Arab-Arab and Muslim-Muslim. Currently, the dialogue has become an initiative launched by Al-Azhar instead of being just a form of action imposed by external conditions and criteria. It stems from an established dialogue background based on the Qur᾿ān, the Sunnah, and the contexts of the Muslim civilization in its eras of boom and prosperity.

       Education is the core of Al-Azhar message, so it started, two years ago, a process of curricular reform. Moreover, it established a branch of Islamic and Arabic studies in the high schools of Al-Azhar to qualify students for the faculties concerned with Islamic and Arabic studies. The study of this branch is based on Al-Azhar curricula characterized with moderation and objectivity that have contributed in forming its outstanding figures and scholars including, for example, Shaltout, Marāghi, Dirāz, ‛Abdul-Rāzik, ‛Abdel-Ḥalīm, Sha‛rawi and Muḩammad  El-Ghazāli, may God rest their souls in peace.

       This was just before the breakout of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, 2011. Thereafter, the revolutionary climate helped to achieve further reforms and advancements. Hence, the scope of work has expanded and the roles have multiplied, but all are directed to accomplish two main objectives. The first objective is reforming Al-Azhar internally through the reform of the university and the pre-university curricula. This is a primary and top-priority objective for Azhar scholars and all the Egyptians in general. The second objective is the realization of the general national and Islamic role that all the people working for Al-Azhar are expected to play nationally, regionally, and internationally through their remarkable institution.

       Al-Azhar Headquarter has welcomed this feeling reflected by the public opinion. So, it set aside the widespread controversy and invited a group of the elite of Egyptian intellectuals, representing the intellectual spectrums of the Egyptian community, to work with a prominent group of Al-Azhar scholars to study the current situation, follow up with the developments and needs of the Revolution and agree on the legitimate principles that are acceptable to those intellectuals. Such principles should respond to the requirements of the Egyptian situation and form a model to be followed by some Muslim communities in accordance with their will and local conditions.

       Untimely, these joint scientific and intellectual efforts and in-depth and ongoing dialogues that continued for several months resulted in the issuance of these statements, which we present today to the Arab reader as follows:

       First, The statement of Basic Law of the State. It regulates the relationship between the ruler and the governed people, determines the rights and duties, and organizes the popular democratic participation in governance. In addition, it illustrates the fundamental legitimate features of the state that are acceptable to our nation, responding to the contemporary needs.

       The intellectual debate has concluded that the state is "democratic, constitutional, and modern." Modernity means to preserve the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The Statement was issued on Rajab 17, 1432 AH (May 19, 2011 CE) and it found great echo by the various scientific and political circles, being very optimistic that the constitutional bodies consider this Statement when drafting the constitution of the state.

       The Second Statement followed an urgent need in the Egyptian community for a reference statement to be issued by the Al-Azhar in order to ensure the fundamental freedoms that regulate the affairs of the free society in which the Egyptians wish to live. It also regulates the duties associated with these freedoms and the legal framework that stems from the purposes and objectives of the Sharia. Therefore, the Second Statement was issued two months later to meet the needs of the revolutionary climate in Egypt after the unprecedented response to the First Statement.

       The Second Statement included legal, philosophical, and constitutional authentication of the freedoms of belief, scientific research, and literary and artistic creativity.

       Additionally, it involved all the matters that ensure such freedoms, including the freedom of opinion and expression which is the essence of the various aspects of responsible freedom.

       Thereafter, new conditions have emerged in conjunction with the spread of the "Arab Spring" and the intensification of the political movement in other Arab countries besides Egypt and Tunisia, such as Yemen, Libya and Syria. The entire Arab region responded to the sufferings of the peoples due to the stubbornness of the ruling regimes. Hence, it was necessary that Al-Azhar announces its support of the revolutionary peoples. So, the intelligentsia and scholars come again to draft the Third Statement to support the people's will. In this statement, Al-Azhar declared that the legitimacy of any ruler should be deemed invalid if he unrightfully sheds the blood of his people. It stated that the revolution should be in a peaceful way representing the aspirations of the peoples, not the ambitions of foreign forces scheming maliciously to damage the Arabs and Muslims. That statement was issued on Dhu al-Hijjah 3, 1432 AH (December 30, 2011 CE).

       When the discussions intensified and sharp polarization emerged among the Egyptian national forces, and when the Revolution was about to fall into violence as a result of intervention by irresponsible elements, Al-Azhar issued an important statement regarding "Completing the Objectives of the Revolution and Restoring its Peaceful Spirit". The statement was prepared jointly by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Pope Shenouda -the late Pope of Alexandria- the Prime Minister, and representatives of all religious, intellectual, and political parties and groups on Ṣafar 17, 1433 AH (January 11, 2012 CE). Consequently, the tensions lessened and the national community managed to skip the dilemma of dispersion and the dangers of falling into violence.

       Al-Azhar issued the Fifth (and last) Statement regarding "Al-Quds Al-Sharif" when the usurping enemy escalated its illegal Judaization of the holy city and the sanctuary that has always represented the first Muslim Qiblah (prayer direction), the third of the holy mosques, and the site of Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey. It affirmed that Al-Quds has been an Arab country since sixty centuries. In addition, the Statement shed light on the aggressions that the holy city has been subjected to and how the Arabs and the Muslims were keen to defend and keep it open to other religions and doctrines under Arab and Islamic sovereignty. Moreover, the Statement indicated that the Zionists are risking the fate of their oppressive state, imposed on the region by armed force, as a result of their aggressive policies toward the holy city. The statement was issued on Dhul-Hijjah 24, 1433 AH (November 20, 2011 CE).

       Al-Azhar Headquarter believes that documenting these five statements will preserve the heritage of the Egyptian Revolution on the one hand, and benefit the generation of the Revolution who did not participate in its issuance, on the other hand. It may also be beneficial to the Arab reader who hopes for real reform that establishes the pillars and components of the community and preserves its cultural and religious identity. Such reform should respond to the spirit prevailing in the whole world, and it must be convenient to the Nation of Monotheism in the first third of the fifteenth century AH.

"Allah always prevails in whatever His purpose may be, but most people do not know [that]" (The Qur᾿ān, 12:21).


Al-Azhar Headquarter

Jumadal-᾿Úla 4, 1433 AH (March 27, 2012 CE)

Aḩmad Aṭ-Ṭayyeb

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

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