Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Monday, September 7, 2020

Muḥammad Maˀmoun Ash-Shinnāwī (1367 AH/1948 CE-1369 AH/1950 CE)

Muḥammad Maˀmoun Ibn Aḥmad Ash-Shinnāwī

Office assumption date

1367 AH/1948 CE.

Retirement date

1369 AH/1950 CE.


Muḥammad ˁAlī and his family

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Maˀmoun Ibn Aḥmad Ash-Shinnāwī was born on August 10, 1878, in the village of Az-Zarqā, As-Sinbillāwīn, Ad-Daqahliyya, Egypt. He was raised in a household known for knowledge and righteousness. He assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position on Rabīˁul-ˀAwwal 2, 1367 AH/January 18, 1948 CE.  He was keen to help Al-Azhar enjoy independency, thus preventing it from being affected by any politics or partisanship. He was also keen to increase Al-Azhar budget and to expand establishing Azhari institutes. During his tenure, Al-Azhar made major strides towards closer relations with the Muslim nations, as well as increasing Azhari scholarships in Europe.

Brief Biographical Notes

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Maˀmoun Ibn Aḥmad Ash-Shinnāwī was born on August 10, 1878 in the village of Az-Zarqā, As-Sinbillāwīn, Daqahliyya, Egypt. He was raised in a household known for knowledge and righteousness. His father was a Muslim jurist and a righteous scholar. His brother had worked in the Islamic judiciary until he became the Chief of the Islamic Court. Muḥammad Ash-Shinnāwī was educated in Al-Azhar and was characterized by his abundant knowledge, erudition and sanity. He had a genuine poetic talent; he composed poems, appreciated poets, and enjoyed a supreme mystical tendency.

     He obtained his Ph. D. in 1324 AH/1906 CE, and was appointed as a teacher at the Alexandria Azhari Institute. Later, he was chosen for the Islamic judiciary and then became the Dean of the Faculty of Sharīˁa. He became a member of Al-Azhar Senior Scholars Council. He was also appointed as Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s Deputy and Head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee.

     Ash-Shinnāwī became Al-Azhar Grand Imam on Rabīˁul-Awwal 2, 1367 AH/January 18, 1948 CE after the death of Grand Imam Mouṣṭafā ˁAbdur-Rāziq. Grand Imam Ash-Shinnāwī contributed to reforming and promoting Al-Azhar.  He eliminated fanaticism there and prevented partisan ideologies from which he personally suffered. When political parties began to interfere in Al-Azhar affairs by nominating [easily-controlled] sheikhs to pervade [by teaching] there. Hence, with his leadership, Al-Azhar became an active dynamo thanks to Ash-Shinnāwī’s activities in establishing Azhari institutes and due to the attention he paid to Al-Azhar University and its faculties, the matter which resulted in increasing Al-Azhar budget.

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Ash-Shinnāwī was interested in sending scholarly missions to various parts all over the Muslim World in Asia and Africa to study Muslims’ affairs and find out about their problems and needs. Such missions would also study how Egypt and Al-Azhar could help them! He created strong bonds between Al-Azhar and the Islamic institutes in Pakistan, India, Malay and other countries. He also admitted international students coming from Islamic capitals to study at Al-Azhar; thus, they exceeded two thousand in his time. In addition, he was interested in granting scholarships to Azhari students in various European countries.

     Grand Imam Ash-Shinnāwī wrote only a few books and research papers at long intervals. It took him most of his time to work on developing Al-Azhar. He continued working hard and giving Al-Azhar all his time until illness overtook him. He passed away on the morning of Dhul-Qiˁdah 21, 1369 AH/September 4, 1950 CE. He was succeeded by Grand Imam ˁAbdul-Majīd Salīm.

Notable Contributions and Events

•  During his tenure, Al-Azhar budget was increased to more than one million Egyptian pounds.

• He managed to eliminate fanaticism and violent partisan ideologies that had prevailed at Al-Azhar before his assumption to the Grand Imam’s position.

• He strengthened scholarly and spiritual ties between Al-Azhar and the Muslim World by sending various scholarly missions to the various Muslim World regions.

• He granted a scholarship to distinguished scholars to England to study English as a prelude to send them to several Muslim countries that could only communicate in that language.

• He linked Al-Azhar with the Islamic institutes abroad.

• He admitted international Muslim students to study at Al-Azhar. He established classrooms and hostels for them. During his tenure, the number of international students reached more than two thousand.

• He worked on increasing the number of Azhari institutes all over Egypt. During his tenure, five large Azhari educational institutes were established, including the institutes of Mansoura, Minyā, Samannoud, Minouf, and Jerjā.

• He allowed Al-Azhar graduates to teach at the Egyptian Ministry of Education.

• He succeeded in his endeavor to ban prostitution which was officially allowed at that time, as a new legislation was issued in this regard.

• He paid great attention to the faculties of Al-Azhar University. He transferred the Faculty of Arabic Language from Aṣ-Ṣalība Street. to Al-Baramounī Street. He also transferred the Faculty of Sharīˁa to the new campus of Al-Azhar University buildings.



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