Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Mouṣṭafā Al-Marāghī (1354 AH/1935 CE-1364 AH/1945 CE)

Muḥammad Mouṣṭafā Al-Marāghī

First office assumption date

1346 AH/1928 CE

First retirement date

1347 AH/1929 CE

Second office assumption date

1354 AH/1935 CE

Second retirement date

1364 AH/1945 CE


Muḥammad ˁAlī’s Family

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Mouṣṭafā Al-Marāghī was born on Rabīˁul-ˀĀkhar 7, 1298 AH/March 9, 1881 CE in Marāgha, Upper Egypt. He memorized the Noble Qurˀān, then joined Al-Azhar and obtained the secondary Azhari certificate. He worked as a teacher for a short period, then was appointed as a judge in the Sudan. After his return, he continued to be promoted in several positions until he was appointed as Al-Azhar Grand Imam on May 22, 1928. Al-Marāghī was concerned with reforming Al-Azhar. When he was impeded from implementing what he aimed to achieve, he resigned from his position on Jumādā Al-ˀŪlā 7, 1348 AH/October 10, 1929 CE. In April 1935, he was reassigned as the Grand Imam to achieve the reforms he had called for. He died on Ramadan 14, 1364 AH/August 22, 1945 CE.

Brief Biographical Notes

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Ibn Mouṣṭafā Ibn Muḥammad Ibn ˁAbdul-Munˁim Al-Marāghī was born on Rabīˁul-ˀĀkhar 7, 1298 AH/March 9, 1881 CE in Marāgha, Suhāg, Upper Egypt. He memorized the Noble Qurˀān at the kuttāb (a preschool Qurˀānic class), then joined Al-Azhar at the age of eleven. Circumstances in which he lived led him to intellectual excellence. He was close to Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdu. Al-Marāghī’s mental talents were greatly developed through attending Sheikh Muḥammad ˁAbdu’s classes on Qurˀān Exegesis, Monotheism and Rhetoric. He remained very close to Muḥammad ˁAbdu, thus following his approach in renewal and reform.

     After his graduation from Al-Azhar, he worked as a teacher for six months. In 1322 AH/1904 CE, after being nominated by Sheikh Muḥammad ˁAbdu, he became the Judge of Dongola, the Sudan. Shortly after, in 1325 AH/1907 CE, he became the Judge of Khartoum Governorate. Due to a dispute with the Chief Justice and the Judicial Secretary about the way of nominating judicial inspectors in the Islamic courts in the Sudan, Al-Marāghī decided to resign and return to Egypt in the same year he adopted this position.

     On Shaˁbān 2, 1325 AH/September 9, 1907 CE, Al-Marāghī was appointed as an Inspector for Religious Instruction at the Ministry of Endowments. Meanwhile, he worked as a teacher at Al-Azhar; thus, his good reputation widely spread among the students who flocked to attend his classes. In 1326 AH/1908 CE, the Deputy of the Sudanese Governor, Salāṭīn Pasha, asked Sheikh Al-Marāghī to return as the Chief Justice. Thus, a decree was issued by the Khedive of Egypt appointing him as the Sudan Chief Justice on Rajab 4, 1326 AH/August 1, 1908 CE.

     He stayed in the Sudan till the 1919 Egyptian Revolution, then he returned to Egypt. He continued to be promoted in judicial positions until he was appointed as the President of the Supreme Islamic Court in December 1923. While assuming these positions, he made several significant reforms in the Islamic courts.

     On Rabīˁul-Awwal 7, 1343 AH/October 16, 1924 CE, Sheikh Al-Marāghī became a member of Al-Azhar Senior Scholars Council. In 1346 AH/1928 CE, he was appointed as Al-Azhar Grand Imam; soon, he endeavored to reform Al-Azhar. When he was impeded from implementing what he aimed to achieve, he resigned from his position in 1347 AH/1929 CE.

     On Muḥarram 24, 1354 AH/April 27, 1935 CE, Al-Marāghī was reassigned as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in response to calls from the Azhari scholars and students in order to achieve what the reforms had called for. He continued to work on improving Al-Azhar, and strived to reform, organize and help it enjoy its independency until he passed away on Ramadan 14, 1364 AH/August 22, 1945 CE.

Notable Contributions and Events

• During the 1919 Egyptian Revolution, he led demonstrations against the British occupation of the Sudan. The ruler of the Sudan then wrote, “Sheikh Al-Marāghī is one of the world’s wise men.” The British Times magazine noted about him, “Keep this man away, because he is more dangerous to our country and our lives than the scourge of war.”

• He opposed Egypt's involvement in the World War II (1939-1945), and made his well-known statement, “We ask Allah to spare us the scourge of a war that does not at all matter to us.”

• He made reforms in the Islamic Judiciary in both the Sudan and Egypt. The most important of such reforms was forming a committee under his chairmanship to regulate a Personal Status Law. He directed the committee not to firmly abide by Imam Abū Ḥanīfah’s School of jurisprudence if they found in another school a more suitable verdict to serve the public interest of society.

• He called the Muslim scholars for Ijtihad[1], and called that the Islamic Schools of jurisprudence be as unified as possible. He also tried to bridge the jurist gaps among the Islamic Schools of jurisprudence.

• He developed the Azhari curricula in a way that combines originality and renewal, as well as reformulating the content of ancient books in a contemporary style and a modern approach.

• He established the Department of Preaching and Guidance at Al-Azhar Mosque in 1928.

• He formed a Fatwa Committee in 1935.

• He changed the title of 'The Senior Scholars Council' to 'The Board of Senior Scholars', and made amendments in terms of its authorities in order for it to achieve its desired objectives.

• During his tenure, he increased the number of Azhari students sent on scholarships in Europe. During his tenure, Al-Azhar directed several missions to study the Muslim affairs in remote countries.

• Before his death, he established a special committee for monitoring Islamic missions and knowledge.

• When King Fārouq divorced his wife, Queen Farīda, he asked Sheikh Al-Marāghī to issue a fatwa forbidding her from marrying another man after him, but Al-Marāghī categorically refused to carry out the King’s illegal request.



[1] Ijtihād, (Arabic: effort) in the Islamic law denotes independent and/or original interpretation of recent jurist problems not explicitly covered by the Qurˀān, Hadīth (traditions concerning the Prophet Muḥammad’s life and utterances), or ijmāˁ (scholarly consensus).

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