Shaykh El Tayeb appointed as the new Shaykh of Al Azhar


Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak has named Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb (pictured) as the new leader of the prestigious al-Azhar, one of the foremost institutions of Sunni Islam learning in the Muslim world.
By News Wires (text)

REUTERS - Egypt’s president has appointed Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb as the head of al-Azhar, the nation’s most prestigious seat of Islamic learning, state television said on Friday, nine days after his predecessor died in Saudi Arabia.
The appointment was made by President Hosni Mubarak, who is in Germany following gall bladder surgery two weeks ago, and has handed presidential power to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

However, Mubarak, 81, was shown on state television on Friday making phone calls in what may be the first signs of his resuming political activity after the operation.

El-Tayeb, 64, has headed al-Azhar university since 2003 and was state-appointed as Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious legal authority, from 2002 till 2003.

He will now head the overall body, which has schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt, and sends scholars to teach in countries across the Muslim world. It receives most of its funding from the Egyptian state.

Al-Azhar is one of the most prominent seats of Sunni Islamic learning in the Muslim world. El-Tayeb received a PhD in religion and philosophy from al-Azhar university in 1977.

Some religious scholars say the government usually chooses a moderate sheikh to head al-Azhar. Given that this is a presidential appointment, no radical swerves in policy or teaching are expected.

Al-Azhar officials were not immediately available for comment.

The former head of al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who died of a heart attack on March 10, was viewed as having relatively liberal views on issues such as women’s rights but had been criticised by some for toeing the government’s line.

More From Al Sharq al Awsat:
New Al Azhar Sheikh Describes Appointment as Big Surprise

By Mohammed Khalil
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appointed Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, 64, as the new head of Al Azhar on Friday, nine days after the former head Dr. Mohammed Sayyed al Tantawi passed away during a visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Sources at Al Azhar expressed strong support for the nomination of El Tayeb to fill this position that is considered the highest religious authority in the country.
Circles within Al Azhar celebrated the appointment of El Tayeb, who has become the 48th head of Al Azhar.
In his first statement following the news of his appointment, Dr. El Tayeb described the decision as a “big surprise”. He was in his village of Al Qurna in Luxor, Upper Egypt, where he usually spends his weekends with his family. As soon as he received the news that he had been appointed the new head of Al Azhar, celebrations broke out in the village and he received congratulations from local residents.
Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, the former deputy of Al Azhar and member of the Islamic Research Center expressed his hope that God will help Dr. El Tayeb raise Al Azhar and that the hopes of Muslims will be fulfilled by him, stressing that Dr. El Tayeb is of prominent scientific standing and has great pride in Al Azhar.
In a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. El Tayeb expressed his deep appreciation of the trust that President Hosni Mubarak has shown to him by appointing him the new Sheikh of Al Azhar. He wished President Mubarak a speedy recovery [after undergoing surgery in Germany] and good health.

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