16. Statement by the Azhar and intellectuals on the future of Egypt

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Al-Azhar al-Sharīf

Office of the Grand Shaykh

Statement by the Azhar and intellectuals on the future of Egypt

Thanks to an initiative by Grand Shaykh of the Azhar Dr. Ahmad al-Tayīb a group of Egyptian intellectuals from different affiliations, secular and religious, met with several senior ulema and thinkers of the Azhar to discuss current historic juncture Egypt is experiencing after the January 25 revolution.

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They also exchanged views on the importance of this revolution in steering Egypt's future towards the noble objective of maintaining the rights of the people to freedom, dignity, equality and social justice.

The conferees agreed on the need to build the nation on comprehensive principles and rules to be discussed by the powers within the Egyptian society, seeking rational routes to eventually come up with ideological frameworks that would govern the society's ideal approach.

Recognizing the Azhar's leading role in forging the optimal moderate Islamic thinking, all the conferees underlined the importance of the top Sunni institution, to which everyone must have recourse when shaping the relationship between the religion and the state, building on its scholarly and cultural history that stands on the following:

1 – The jurisprudence dimension in reviving and rejuvenating the sciences of Islam in accordance with doctrine of Ahl al-Sunnah Wa al-Jamā'ah (People of the Sunnah and the Community), which involves observance of the books in a rational way of thinking and detects the standard rules of interpretation of holy texts.

2 – The historical role of the Azhar in leading the national activities towards freedom and independence.

3 – The cultural role of reviving all natural sciences, literature and arts with all their fertile variations.

4 – The practical role in leading the society's movement and formation of opinion leaders in Egyptian life.

5 – The dimension that brings together science, pioneering, progress and culture in the Arab nation and the Muslim world.

The conferees showed keenness during their discussions to be inspired by the spirit of the heritage of symbols of intellect, advancement and reform in the Azhar, like Sheikh Hassan al-'Attār, his student Sheikh Rifā'ah al-Tahtāwī, Imam Muhammad 'Abduh and his followers and scholars like al-Marāghī, Muhammad 'Abd Allāh Darāz, Mustafá 'Abd al-Rāziq Shaltūt and others.

They were also inspired by renowned Egyptian intellectuals who contributed to the development of knowledge and human heritage and helped shaping the modern Egyptian and Arab minds in the fields of philosophy, law, literature and art.

Those figures have focused on laying common denominators among them in order for everyone to attain the sublime objective sought by wide people in the society, which envisages the following:

- Defining the principles governing the relationship between Islam and the state at this current critical stage within a strategy of accord. This strategy would shape the aspired modern state and its ruling system, give the nation a boost on the road to progress so as to achieve democratic transformation and guarantee social justice and help Egypt usher into an era of knowledge, history, welfare and peace.

- Preserving the spiritual and human values and cultural heritage so as to protect Islamic precepts that became inherent in the nation and the conscience of scholars and thinkers against distortion, extremism or misinterpretation.

- Protecting those precepts from attempts by deluded groups that might act under sectarian or ideological banners conflicting with the established common principles, swerving from the path of moderation and contradicting with the core of Islam in freedom, justice and equality.

Accordingly, we the conferees announce our agreement on the following principles to determine the nature of enlightened Islamic frame of reference that are mainly represented in overall issues taken from indisputable religious texts that alone express the right understanding of the faith. They are as follows:

1 – Support for the establishment of a modern, national, democratic and constitutional state that would rely on a constitution accepted by the nation as a whole, one that would separate between the state powers and its governing legal institutions while in the same time would clearly outline the rights and duties of each and every individual on equal footing.

This should be in line with the notion that the power of legislation in that state must be solely up to the representatives of the people (in parliament) and also with the right Islamic concept.

Islamic texts, civilization or history have never experienced what is known in other cultures as "theocratic religious state" that practiced despotism against the people and from which humanity has suffered in some stages of history.

The people were left free to run their own communities, select the mechanisms and institutions that would achieve their interests, provided that the overall principles of Islamic sharī'ah becoming the main source of legislation in a way allowing followers of other divine faiths to have recourse to their religious teachings on personal status affairs.
2 – Adoption of the democratic system that stands on free direct election as it is the modern way to attain the principles of Islamic shūrá (consultation), guarantee pluralism, peaceful rotation of power, determine specializations, monitor the work of officials and if necessary hold them accountable in parliament, seek the people's public interests in all legislations and decisions, track down corruption, achieve total transparency and have free access to information.

3 – Commitment to the system of basic freedoms in intellect and opinion while fully respecting the rights of men, women and children, stressing the importance of pluralism, venerating divine religions and considering citizenship and responsibility as the basis of any action.

4 – Complete respect for differences and ethics of dialogue, avoidance of takfīr (to rule that someone is unbeliever), criminalizing incitation for sectarian strife, approving equal dialogue and mutual respect as a way of conduct among the different categories of people in the society without any form of discrimination in rights and duties of citizens.

5 – Underlining commitment to international covenants and resolutions and insisting to cling to civilized accomplishments in human relations that are in conformity with the tolerant tradition of Islamic and Arab culture and also with the Egyptian people's long history and the examples they showed in peaceful coexistence.

6 – Keenness on maintaining the dignity of the Egyptian nation, stressing protection and full respect for houses of worship of the three divine religions, guaranteeing free practice of all religious rituals without any hindrances, respecting all aspects of worship in all its forms without any contempt for a people's culture or authentic traditions and preserving the freedom of expression and artistic and literary creativity within the framework of our established civilized values.

7 – Considering education and scientific research and access to the age of knowledge as the locomotive of progress in Egypt, exerting all efforts to catch up with whatever we have missed in those fields, mustering the society's energy to eradicate illiteracy, investing in human wealth and implementing major future projects.

8 – Resorting to the priority approach in achieving development and social justice, confronting despotism, fighting corruption and eliminating unemployment in a way to unleash the society's energies and innovations in socio-economic, cultural and media programs. Also, quality health care must be considered as a duty incumbent on the state towards all citizens.

9 – Building Egypt's relations with its Arab, Islamic, African and universal environment, supporting Palestinian rights, preserving the independence of Egypt's will, retrieving the leading historical role on a basis of cooperation on common good, achieving peoples' interests in a framework of equality and total independence, preserving the environment and attaining just peace among the nations.

10 – Supporting a project on the independence of the Azhar as an institution, the return of the Senior Ulema Board with its powers of naming and selecting a sheikh of the Azhar and rejuvenating the Azhar education curricula so that it may get back its intellectual role and global effects in many areas.

11 – Deeming the Azhar as the only competent organization to which there has to be reference as far as Islamic affairs, science, heritage and modern fatwas are concerned, provided that everyone's right to give their opinions are guaranteed as long as there is commitment to the ethics of dialogue and respect for what the scholars of the Ummah agreed on.

The scholars of the Azhar and intellectuals who co-prepared this statement are appealing to all Egyptian parties and political powers to work on Egypt's political and socio-economic progress in light of the basic points mentioned in this statement.

We pray to God for the good of the nation.

The Azhar Office,
Rajab 17, 1432 H.
June, 19, 2011

Azhar Scholars:                          Intellectuals:

Grand Sheikh of the Azhar         Muhammad Hāfiz Dīyāb

Mahmūd Hamdī Zaqzūq              Mustafá al-Fiqī

Ahmad Kamāl Abū al-Majd          Nabīl 'Abd al-Fatāh

Hassan al-Shāf'ī                          Samīr Marqus

'Abd al-Mu'tī Bayūmī                   Mustafá Farīd al-Razāz

Muhammad al-Qūsī                     Jābir Ahmad 'Asfūr

Mahmūd 'Azab                            Salāh Fadl

Muhammad Kamāl al-Dīn Imām   Jamāl al-Ghītānī

Muhammad Sābir 'Arab               Muhammad Fādil

'Amr 'Abd al-Samī'

Salāh al-Dīn al-Jawharī

Yūsuf al-Qa'īd

Hilmī al-Namnam

Muhammad 'Afīfī

Bahā' Tāhir

Sāmih Fawzī

Ni'am al-Bāz

Laylá Taklā

Hamdī Hassan

Jalāl Ahmad Amīn

Ayman Fu'ād Sayīd

Al-Sayīd Yāsīn




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