Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein (1371 AH/1952 CE-1373 AH/1954 CE)

Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein

Office assumption date

1371 AH/1952 CE.

Retirement date

1373 AH/1954 CE.


The First Egyptian Republic (1952-2011).

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein At-Tūnusī was born in Tunisia. He was of Algerian origin extended to an ancient family in the Islamic history. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Az-Zaytūna University. He visited several countries such as Turkey, Syria and Egypt; thus, he met many scholars of his time and made friends with them. Due to his intellectual excellence, he held some positions in judiciary and teaching in Tunisia. He took over Al-Azhar Sheikhdom as Grand Imam after the Egyptian Revolution of July 23, 1952. He had prominent scholarly, Islamic and political activities. He died on Rajab 13, 1377 AH/February 22, 1958 CE.

Brief Biographical Notes

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein was born in Nefṭa, Tunisia, on Rajab 29, 1293 AH/August 19, 1876 CE. He was taught the principles of Arabic Language and Islamic Sharīˁa disciplines by his maternal uncle, Al-Makkī Ibn ˀAzzouz. Afterwards, he moved to the Tunisian capital in 1305 AH/1888 CE. There, he joined Az-Zaytūna Mosque in 1307 AH/1889 CE. He was educated by senior scholars there, including ˀUmar Ibn Ash-Sheikh, Muḥammad An-Najjār and other scholars who greatly influenced his scholarly personality.

     Then, he moved to Egypt and joined Al-Azhar Mosque. Later on, he became a member of the Senior Scholars Council for his research thesis Al-Qiyas fi-llughatil ˀArabiyyah (Analogy in Arabic Language). After the Egyptian Revolution of July 23, 1952, it became a necessity that an Arab struggler, one of the great Muslim scholars, should have taken over Al-Azhar leadership; thus, a consensus agreement chose Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein to be Al-Azhar Grand Imam. On Tuesday, Dhul-Hijjah 26, 1371 AH/September 16, 1952 CE, during one of the Egyptian cabinet sessions, three ministers headed for the house in which Sheikh Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein lived.  They met the Grand Imam and offered him, in the name of the Revolution, to take over Al-Azhar Sheikhdom as Grand Imam. He did not expect to take over such a leading position; so he later said to his loyalists: “The sheikhdom has fallen into my lap from where I did not expect.”

     After assuming the position, he began his reform program through which he intended to improve this ancient institution. He wanted to make the institution a means to revive the great Islamic renaissance that every Muslim in the various continents of the world aspires to. It is reported that he asked for resignation from his position several times, and finally he insisted when the double-system judiciary [civilian and religious] was mingled into only [civilian] one. He believed that civil judiciary could be merged into Islamic judiciary, not vice versa, as the Islamic Sharīˁa should remain the main source of laws.

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Al-Khiḍr Ḥussein was never a prisoner of the high position. His chastity was a model to be emulated, and he often said, “A cup of milk and a piece of bread are sufficient for me; life does not much matter to me”. He resigned from his position on Jumādā Al-ˁŪlā 2, 1373 AH/January 7, 1954 CE, and devoted himself to writing, research and teaching till he died on Sunday evening, Rajab 13, 1377 AH/February 22, 1958 CE.

Notable Contributions and Events

• He established As-Saˁādatu l-ˀUẓmā Magazine in 1321 AH/1904 CE. This magazine is considered the first academic literary Arabic magazine in North Africa.  Using his pen, he contributed to the Arabic renaissance and attracted people’s attention to it.

• With his pen, he supported the Ottoman armies in their war against the Italian armies in Tripoli.  In his magazine, he published articles and poems supporting his sense of patriotism towards the Islamic cause.

• He Founded the North African Communities Cooperation Association, and enacted a law for it.

• He contributed to the establishment of the Muslim Youth Association.

• He established the Islamic Guidance Association.

• He was one of the senior scholars who played a leading role in defending Islam.



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