Al-Azhar Grand Imams

Al-Azhar Mosque/Al-Azhar Grand Imams
Al-Azhar Grand Imams

Saturday, August 29, 2020

ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Ash-Sherbīnī (1323 AH / 1905 CE - 1324 AH / 1907 CE)

Grand Imam ˁAbdur-Raḥ​mān Ash-Sherbīnī

Office assumption date

1323 AH / 1905 CE

Retirement date

1324 AH / 1907 CE


Muḥammad ˁAli and his family

A Note about the Grand Imam

     ˁAbdr-Raḥmān Ibn Muḥammad Ash-Sherbīnī was known for his abundant knowledge, modesty and asceticism. He was fond of delving into the study of old sources and heritage books.  Ash-Sherbīnī took over the Sheikhdom in 1323 AH / 1905 CE, and was a proponent of limiting Al-Azhar curricula to the study of religious disciplines; fearing that the Azharites would abandon the religious disciplines and indulge in the study of modern science. He resigned in 1324 AH / 1907 CE because of his disagreement with Khedive ˁAbbas Hilmi II, who wanted to intervene in the affairs of Al-Azhar, the case which was refused by Ash-Sherbīnī. Ash-Sherbini died in 1334 AH / 1926 CE.

Brief Biographical Notes

     No enough references are available to know much about the life of Sheikh ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Ash-Sherbīnī in his upbringing and youth. He joined the honorable Al-Azhar, and he was smart and clever, acquiring knowledge and Science voraciously with much love. So, his professors loved him, brought him close to their gatherings, and invited him to attend their held sessions. He was known for piety, goodness, reverence and respect for his scholars. He was also famous for his love of delving into ancient studies.

     During the era of Sheikh Ash-Sherbīnī, the scholars of Al-Azhar were divided into two groups: one that sticked to old knowledge and defended it, resisting every renewal movement, such as Sheikh Ash-Sherbini himself; and the second that called for reform and renewal to keep pace with development movements locally and internationally, seen as natural to life circumstances.

     The rulers of his time tended to support the first team that adhered to old legacies in order to preserve their positions from renewal and openness to issues that might shake their authority and limit their power. That was especially the case since the reform movement was inspired by supporters of the ˁOrabi Revolution, notably the pioneer Sheikh Muḥammad ˁAbdu. Thus, they solidified with Sheikh Ash-Sherbīnī, who hated renewal and reform movements. He was one of the proponents of limiting Al-Azhar curriculum to studying religious disciplines, lest the Azharites may abandon their religious disciplines and indulge into studying secular sciences, the case that would make Al-Azhar Schools become like other schools of the Ministry of Education.

     Fearful of students' preoccupation with politics leaving knowledge learning aside, Khedive ˁAbbas thought that Sheikh Ash-Sherbīnī was the best person to implement his policy in controlling Al-Azhar. So he offered him the position of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar more than once, but Ash-Sherbini rejected it every time it was offered in his reluctance from so much indulging into this world's affairs, and trying to stay at a distance from assuming political positions.

     Khedive ˁAbbas then continued his insistence until Ash-Sherbīnī finally reluctantly agreed; so the Khedive issued his resolution to appoint Sheikh Ash-Sherbini as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on Muḥarram 12, 1323 AH / 18 March 1905 CE. Yet, Ash-Sherbini refused Khedive’s interference in the affairs of Al-Azhar from behind his back, and meanwhile continued his policy to resist the movement of renewal and reform. Ultimately, he submitted his resignation on Ḍhul-Hijjah 26, 1324 AH / 9 February 1907 CE.

Notable Contributions and Events

  • His opposition to the renewal movement in Al-Azhar, lest the Azharites would forsake Shariˁah and linguistic sciences.
  • His response to the attempts by Khedive ˁAbbas Hilmi II to intervene in Al-Azhar affairs.


Categories: Grand Imams
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