Muḥammad ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Bīṣār
Office assumption date
1398 AH/1979 CE.
1402 AH / 1982 CE.
The First Egyptian Republic (1952-2011) CE.
A Note about the Grand Imam
Grand Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Bīṣār was born in 1328 AH/1910 CE in As-Sālimiyah, Kafr Ash-Sheikh, Egypt. He joined Al-Azhar Institutes/schools in Desouq, Tanta and Alexandria. Then, he joined the Faculty of Uṣūl ud-Dīn (Islamic Theology), where he graduated with excellence in 1939 CE. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in 1945 CE. He was appointed as a lecturer in his college, then he travelled on a scholarship in England to obtain his Ph.D. degree. Sheikh Bīṣār held some important Azhari positions inside and outside Egypt. He became the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in January 1979 CE. He proved himself a distinguished thinker, especially in the philosophical aspects of knowledge. He died in 1402 AH/1982 CE.
Brief Biographical Notes
Sheikh Bīṣār joined Al-Azhar Institute in Desouq, where he completed his study with excellence. HHHis father got him enrolled at Al-Azhar Institute in Tanta to complete his high school studies, then he moved to the Alexandria Azhari Institute. After that, he joined the Faculty of Islamic Theology, Al-Azhar University. In 1939, he graduated with excellence. In 1945, he obtained his Bachelor's degree, then he was appointed as a lecturer in his college in 1946. He attracted both his students' and professors’ attention. In 1949, he travelled on a scholarship in England and moved among universities there. Finally, he settled at the Faculty of Arts, Edinburgh University, where he obtained his Ph.D. with excellence in General Philosophy. His Ph.D. thesis topic was “Imam Al-Ghazālī and Philosopher Descartes”.
In 1955, he was appointed as the Director of the Islamic Center in Washington. With his intelligence, knowledge and awareness of different beliefs and creeds, he was able to gain the respect and appreciation of all sects there. He kept running the Islamic Center for four years. When he returned to Egypt, he worked again as a professor at the Faculty of Islamic Theology. In 1383 AH/1963 CE, Al-Azhar appointed him the Head of the Educational Mission to Libya. With his wide knowledge and righteous behavior, he continued his efforts in promoting Islamic teachings. The scholarly experience he acquired qualified him to understand peoples' different traditions and deep psychological tendencies. He was successful in all stages of life.
In 1388 AH/1968 CE, he was appointed as the Secretary General of Al-Azhar. This position enabled him to participate in administrative and directive work therein. In 1390 AH/1970 CE, he took office as the Secretary General of Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy. During that position, he was able to achieve a major academic renaissance.
In 1394 AH / 1974 CE, he was appointed as Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s Deputy. He was a good assistant for Prof. Dr. ˁAbdul-Ḥalῑm Maḥmūd who relied on him, took his opinions into consideration and trusted both his knowledge and morals. He remained like that until he was appointed, by a republican decision, as the Minister of Endowments and Al-Azhar Affairs in 1398 AH/1978 CE. In the same year, he took office as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. When he assumed his new position, he rolled up his sleeves, and took every means towards reforming Al-Azhar and raising its esteem.
Grand Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Bīṣār left a great heritage of knowledge. He died on Jumādā l-ˀOula 12, 1402 AH/March 7, 1982 CE.
Notable Contributions and Events
• After the 1967 Arab–Israeli War, Muḥammad ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Bīṣār participated in religious convoys carried out by Al-Azhar scholars to motivate awareness of army officers and soldiers.
• He called for reforming the Personal Status Law and called for the rights that women had not previously obtained.
• In 1396 AH/1977 CE, strikes by terrorist groups intensified against the state and policemen. Terrorists also began to harass Egyptian Christians, while waves of religious extremism appeared. So, Grand Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Bīṣār called for confronting secular extremism, culture alienation and social moral decay.
• The Grand Imam was keen to recommend that Al-Azhar scholars acquire foreign languages. That was not only meant for them to speak or communicate with others in those foreign languages, but rather to help create systems in Al-Azhar to be closely related to what is alleged against Islam in the Muslim world. He meant to get such allegations refuted, as well as promote Al-Azhar moderate cultural attitude abroad.