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Thread: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

  1. #1

    Default Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    Taking all the critiques into account, the claim then is that “neo-Sufi”orders thus exhibit most if not all of the following properties (while not claiming that these were always absent from Sufi orders in earlier times):

    Charismatic founder of the modern age, who claims a privileged status as inheritor or gatherer of the spiritual power of older saints; veneration for the latter is largely subsumed within his own, thus providing him with the spiritual authority to revive, reform, and adapt the tariqa to contemporary times.
    Founder's claim of direct spiritual dispensation from much older saints (often the Prophet or his immediate family), thereby validating formation of the order. Downplaying the medieval silsila is the mystical equivalent to the reformists' return to the early Islamic community.
    Spiritual and social unity. Complete submission to the central rather than local shaykh; veneration reserved almost exclusively for the founding saints, and the Prophet. Social unity is maintained through centralized social organization, and uniform codes of behavior, defining a sharp social boundary between members and non-members; intolerance of multiple or nominal affiliation.
    Pan-Islamic, revivalist discourse used in active proselytizing, aimed particularly at the educated classes, and implicitly competing with other reform movements.
    Modern social integration. Limitations of spiritual behaviors deemed anti-social, especially asceticism (zuhd), social withdrawal (khalwa), and spiritually madness (majdhub). Affirmation of the importance of education, and productive social roles for members in modern society.
    Clear affirmation of the centrality of Islamic law (Shari'a) for the Sufi life, though sometimes rejecting traditional schools of law (madhahib) and sometimes affirming ijtihad (reasoning) (Radtke 1996:360; Radtke 1994:917-920).
    Sufi orders possessing most or all of these attributes embodied some of the principles of Islamic reform, and were therefore less open to the critiques of reformers. They also approached more nearly the dimension (or potential dimension) of a pan-Islamic global social organization. Neo-Sufi orders, appearing more modern and respectable, and better organized, could win a more educated middle-upper class membership possessing greater financial and political clout. While firmly proclaiming their adherence to mainstream Islam, these socially unified brotherhoods rejected the extreme localization of traditional orders, and thus introduced sharper social disjunctures between members and non-members in community where they were active '(O'Fahey 1990:1; Rahman 1979:205-209; O'Fahey in Karrar 1992:ix-x).

    Such neo-Sufi reformist orders quickly entered the Sudan from Hijaz in the late 18th c, where they spread themselves widely, especially the Tijaniyya, the Idrisiyya, and the Khatmiyya (Holt and Daly 2000:36-37).12 They transcended the traditional lineage-based social structure of older Sufi groups through supratribal and pan-Islamic links, and came to dominate many districts (e.g. Shayqiyya) in the 19th c (Karrar 1992:x, 42-23, 127-130).13 In many cases, a kind of tribal theocracy developed in which Sufi organizations thoroughly penetrated tribal political structures (Holt and Daly 2000:30, 82).

    Another social model for the Burhaniyya tariqa must have been the messianic Mahdiyya movement which produced dramatic social results: revolution and a short-lived theocratic Sudanese independence from the Turco-Egyptian regime and Britain (1881-1899). The movement's founder, Muhammad Ahmad of Dongola, was initiated into the Sammaniyya order (a branch of the Idrisiyya), although the Mahdiyya centered on his popular status not as saint in the traditional sense of wali, but rather as an Islamic reformer, in the triple guise of Imam of the Muslim community, successor of the Prophet, and al-mahdi al-muntazar (the awaited 'guided one' who will come to rule the world at the end of time, according to interpretations of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings) (Holt and Daly 2000:76ff). His version of pan-Islamism “aimed not only at restoring the primitive purity of Islamic organization and faith, but also at reforming the whole Dar al-islam and ultimately Islamizing the world as a Mahdi should…for a time the Sudanese Mahdi and his caliph appeared as a possible alternative to the Ottoman Sultan as leader of a world Isalmdom waiting to be united.” (Hodgson 1974:3:247). Although the Mahdi officially abolished the orders, the Mahdiyya also displayed many of the signs of neo-Sufism, and allied itself with Sufi familes such as the Majadhib; reemerging after the First World War, the Mahdiyya began to resemble a Sufi order (Holt and Daly 2000:82; O'Fahey 1999:276, 281)

    The late 19th and early 20th century saw the decline of Sufi orders in Egypt. In the latter 19th century a strong Islamic reform movement (the Salafiyya) developed in Egypt. While upholding Sufism as a purely spiritual concept, these reformists opposed the social manifestations of Sufism, especially saint veneration. Following the Salafiyya intelligentsia (most importantly Shaykh Muhammad 'Abdu, and Rashid Rida) came a more popular reform movement, the Muslim Brothers. Founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928, the Brothers opposed the existing orders as a corruption of true Sufism, while providing a social alternative to them (Mitchell 1993:214). Expanding extremely rapidly, the Brothers attracted many youths who would formerly have joined Sufi orders. Combined with rapid urbanization, and Westernization of large cities, these factors led to the decline of most Sufi orders in Egypt during this period (Gilsenan 1973:14,17,195ff; Abu-Rabi` 1988:210-211; Trimingham 1971:251; Frishkopf 1999:70ff).

    By contrast, in late 19th and early 20th century Sudan, multiple Sufi-related movements (including traditional Sufism, neo-Sufism (especially the Khatmiyya), and the Mahdiyya) centered on holy families, mystical beliefs and practices, and deeply enmeshed with political life, remained very strong. Despite training a Sudanese class of 'ulama' at al-Azhar, colonial Egypt failed to implant them as an Egyptian-style central mainstream Islamic authority in the Sudan (O'Fahey 1999:272). Anti-Sufi reformist groups like the Muslim Brothers played a major role in Sudanese history only after independence in 1956, and holy families such as the Mirghaniyya and the Mahdiyya have remained powerful to the present (Holt and Daly 2000:152, 182; al-Shahi 1983:62-70). In an environment hospitable to the development of powerful Sufi movements, the local Sudanese Dasuqiyya could flourish, even as it declined in Egypt. Following this incubation period, during which it developed some “neo-Sufi” attributes, the Sudanese Dasuqiyya was able to powerfully reemerge in Egypt during the 1970s, when social factors favored new manifestations of organized Islam. The career of Shaykh Muhammad 'Uthman al-Burhani should be understood in this historical context.

    Shaykh Muhammad was born in northern Sudan (Halfa) around 1900 (Hoffman 1995:303), where he received a religious upbringing (Shabana 1995:50); at age 10 his uncle initiated him into the Dasuqiyya; among other jobs he appears to have worked on the railroad (Shabana 1995:52). Later he had a recurring vision of a one-car train coming from Dasuq. Entering the car, he found a coffin and corpse, whose feet resembled his own, and he was surrounded by saints. Sidi Ibrahim al-Dasuqi appeared, telling him “the dead man stands for my order, and you have been chosen to bring it back to life”. At first he hesitated, but in a subsequent vision Sayyidna al-Husayn (grandson of the Prophet) appeared to urge him on, promising complete support. Shaykh Muhammad then agreed, subject to certain reformist conditions. A contract was signed including sixty such conditions, including guarantees that his followers should not become spiritually mad (majdhub) and need not withdraw from society (khalwa) (History & Tales 2001).

    Shaykh Muhammad moved to Khartoum in 1930 where he gathered followers. In 1958 he founded a Dasuqiyya branch in Khartoum, which attracted a massive following (Shabana 1995:50). Subsequently he established an independent order (al-Qadi in Shabana 1995:52), the Burhaniyya Dasuqiyya Shadhiliyya, combining the charismatic forces of Sidi Ibrahim al-Dasuqi, his putative uncle Sidi Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (both characteristic of medieval Sudanese Sufism), and himself as reformist renewer.15 In this “new” order the Dasuqi tradition, including esoteric writings such as the hizb cited earlier, formed the core (al-Burhani 198?). Shaykh Muhammad eventually became trustee of the Sufi Council in the Sudan (Hoffman 1995:301).

    Under Shaykh Muhammad, the Burhaniyya effectively fused medieval Egyptian ecstaticism and esotericism, Sudanese Sufi individualism, and the centralized organization, revivalist spirit, and proselytization of neo-Sufism.16 While upholding veneration for Sidi Ibrahim and Sidi Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, he also embodied such veneration in his contemporary saintly person, and offered a systematic, organized, and expanding mystical way. In this potent new form the Burhaniyya offered broad geographic and multi-class appeal. These features are metaphorically expressed in the mystical vision story through the themes of revival and reform, and elsewhere in the hagiographic literature.
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

  2. #2

    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    In post-revolutionary Egypt, Islam could be regulated through government control of religious institutions such as al-Azhar University, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, the Dar al-Ifta', and the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders. For over a thousand years, the principal religious authority of Egypt was al-Azhar university, whose scholars ('ulama') lived in a variably uneasy but ultimately symbiotic relation with political authorities. Muhammad 'Ali, seeking to create a virtually independent Egyptian state, weakened and subjugated the Azhari 'ulama', and gathered control of Sufi orders under the leadership of the al-Bakri family (de Jong 1978; Marsot 1972:152-153, 159-165). By 1905 Egyptian state control of the Sufi orders was reorganized and bureaucratized in the form of an administrative body, eventually called the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders (Majlis al-A'la li al-turuq al-Sufiyya), specifically charged with regulating Sufism in Egypt (de Jong 1978), overtly in accordance with proper Islamic principles, covertly in accord with the needs and demands of the state. To be legal, all orders had to be recognized by this body, which published regulations, organized events, and was indirectly accountable for the orders' activities.

    After the Egyptian revolution of 1952, power at least nominally distributed among the royal family, the Parliament, and the British was now concentrated in the hands of President Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir, who soon realized he would have to use it forcefully if he wanted to maintain it. The new government did not seek to lessen the role of Islam in Egyptian society, but rather to seize control of religious education, activities, universities, and organizations, via supervisory religious institutions (Vatikiotis 1969:441). Nasir repressed all potential opposition, including Islamic organizations such as the Muslim Brothers, which could pose a real counterrevolutionary threat (Vatikiotis 1969:106,386; Mitchell 1993).

    The Supreme Council has been able to defend the existence of Sufi orders (including the Dasuqiyya) in Egypt before their detractors by emphasizing the mainstream features of Sufi devotions, and officially prohibiting ecstatic and esoteric aspects criticized as un-Islamic in a reformist climate (Hoffman 1995:9-10), even as these beliefs and activities might still recognized as essential to Sufism, and allowed to continue covertly.23 The Burhaniyya threatened this control structure ideologically, and, perhaps more importantly, institutionally, as a large, public, international, ecstatic-esoteric Sufi organization which did not fit comfortably within the social instruments of state control.

    On the ground, the crisis for the Burhaniyya in Egypt was triggered by the public nature of Burhaniyya esotericism, especially the 1974 publication of the esoteric Tabri'at al-Dhimma. Available to all members, this book easily became known outside the order. In Egypt, the Ministries of Religion and Interior, as well as the Supreme Sufi Council, all launched investigations, and in 1976 the Egyptian media “waged a relentless campaign against the Burhaniyya, depicting {Shaykh Muhammad 'Uthman} as a dangerous cult leader trying to pervert Islam from within” (Hoffman 1995:301). The book was also sharply criticized by at least one Saudi-inspired Muslim intellectual, reformist but anti-Sufi (al-Samman 1977; in his introduction, the author explicitly thanks two reformist shaykhs in Jedda), reflecting a new trend. By the late 1970s, the influence of Saudi “petro-Islam” had grown tremendously in Egypt, a result of the return of Egyptian migrant laborers, and Saudi's general surge in influence following the oil crisis of 1973.

    Tabri'at al-Dhimma, Sharab al-Wasl, and the order's other books also attracted criticism of a more general sort. Critics tended to impugn the order as dangerous because foreign, especially since political relations with Egypt's southern neighbor were often troubled. In conspiratorial tones, the Burhaniyya was linked to militant, anti-Egyptian, even anti-Islamic currents in the Sudan, especially in view of its highly organized hierarchical structure (Hoffman 1995:317). In a 1976 letter to Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, the Egyptian consul in Khartoum, 'Asmat Abu al-Qasim al-Qadi, wrote that the tariqa is organized on a small number of “cells”, whose activities are known only to members, stating “I believe their book - containing false ideas - is designed to mislead Muslims according to a precise plan. Defending Islam is the responsibility of Egypt and al-Azhar” (al-Qadi in Shabana 1995:52).

    The Burhaniyya clearly highlighted the tensions between supranational pan-Islamic reformism (even the overtly apolitical Sufi variety) and more pliant national Islam, ensconced in state institutions and collaborating in state agendas. Transnational Sufism cannot be controlled by the Egyptian state, especially when the leader is not Egyptian, and the group espouses Islamic beliefs deemed extremist by powerful segments of the Islamic intelligentsia. The affective potency of socially organized mysticism makes it appear all the more threatening to the state, particularly when it grows rapidly among the educated classes. Though not overtly political, the mystical leader is unlike an ordinary leader, since he commands absolute authority and devotion of his followers, on a metaphysical - hence nearly unassailable - basis. Though he may claim no desire for political influence, the potential is always present, at least from the state's perspective. Wallerstein has argued that all Islamist organizations are essentially anti-state, at least so long as they are out of power (Wallerstein 1997). For Sufi organizations with no real political designs, such a condition may appear permanent.24

    But the more immediate threat of a proselytizing and expanding supranational religious movement is not to the highest levels of political authority, but rather to those secondary medial institutions established or controlled by the state to regulate religious life and ensure its conformity to state agendas, especially the Supreme Sufi Council, Ministry of Religious Endowments, and al-Azhar university. Such institutions are revealed as ineffectual by successful non-compliant supranational religious groups, even when the latter are not particularly dangerous to the higher echelons of state power.

    Transnational groups headed by charismatic leaders are even more threatening to the government functionaries staffing such organizations, whose power is usually based on position, not personality. The authority of a great charismatic mystical leader such as Shaykh Muhammad 'Uthman is considerably greater than that which most Azhari professors, shaykhs, muftis, or ministers of religion (regarded by many as merely bureaucrats or, worse, political pawns) can possibly hope to wield. Being a foreigner and representing an incipient international movement, Shaykh Muhammad could not simply be absorbed into the Egyptian religious establishment.

    A transnational neo-Sufi group led by a charismatic foreign shaykh would have been bad enough, but the Burhaniyya also featured overtly esoteric interpretations of Islam and ecstatic practices with a massive following, which served as a lightening rod for accusations against Sufism generally.25 Criticism of the Burhaniyya would naturally be reflected also against the responsible regulatory agency, namely the Supreme Council. The Burhaniyya thus threatened to undermine the success of the Council's mission. If the Egyptian Sufi establishment did not distance itself it too would be attacked.

    From the 1970s on, the Supreme Sufi council of Egypt issued a number of decisions condemning the Burhaniyya for violating the Islamic shari'a and regulations for Sufi groups (Shabana 1995:51). The order and its books were banned in 1979, for transgressing Islamic law, violating regulation of Sufi orders, and corrupting the youth (Shabana 1995:51; Hoffman 1995:301ff; `Abd al-Fattah 1995:277). 26 Although these orders were not at once practically effective, appeals failed and a state administrative court reaffirmed the ban in 1994 (`Abd al-Fattah 1995:277).
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

  3. #3

    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    Liberate yourselves with "true" sufism.

    http://burhaniya.info/intranet/mm/hadra96.mpg
    Last edited by Pipman; 25th September 2006 at 11:45.
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    Assalamu Alaykum

    Br Pipman

    Please show me how the current climate of slaughter and inhumanity that is brought to bear in the Sudan is illustrated with emperical evidence from the article you have printed or from any other materials that you might have?

    wasalaam

  5. #5

    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    You don't need an article, just watch TV. The governement of Sudan is run by members of the muslim brotherhood, having failed to achieve victory through elections due to the sufi nature of the people of the Sudan. They staged a coup.

    They are very violent as you know, and they believe they are Islam and they are willing to do anything to stay in power. Sudanese despise them.

    But as you know muslims don't care about fellow muslims being slaughtered unless its a western nation doing it, then they suddenly care about muslim blood.

    The purpose of my posting was to show some people that clerics indeed are book worms, and it does not in anyway mean they are pious. We need to seperate between spirituality and fiqh. Many times clerics act like the whip of the rulers, declaring whomever the rulers fear as deviant and a danger to Islam. Its only a way for me to express to some over here who are under the impression that clerics by and large support sufism, while experience and history has taught us that indeed the clerics were opposed to sufism, but had to accept it because the masses flocked to it.

    Now i am not saying all of them are like that, but remember history teaches us that it was the masses that made sufism alive and not the clerics. The sufis had the charisma and the tolerance and flexibility and earned the respect of the masses. They were an important bridge to non muslims, and helped spread Islam to non muslims. Notice, you will see sufis spending a lot of time with non muslims and being respected by them, and then notice the muslim brotherhood and the salafi/wahhabi don't. Indeed they warn their followers from associating with non muslims and most of their "da'wa" is geared towards muslims.

    Just my two cents.
    Last edited by Pipman; 26th September 2006 at 19:20.
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    Asalamu Alaykum

    Br. Pipman

    I disagree with your contention as to the "source" of your information and understanding of the Sudanese "situation", but be that as it may, I do agree that we overlook and do not do enough to evoke a sense of justice in many unjust totallitarian ruled countries. In my country we have had a lifelong historical affiliation to the madhaab's and sufism is almost without fail the practiced methodoly of the masses (including clerics). Yes, we are generally the qadariyah, dhikr every Thursday night, all the "taboo" stuff kind of populace. However, this anger/rage/disdain of anything wahabi/salafi will feed the hate monger in you and will definitely let you lose focus in your attempts to improve your personal relationship with our Creator. I apologise if I offended you, but this us versus them creates a negative overtone that is completely fruitless especially if you have the political senario you sketched in your header that is almost completely off base.

    best wishes and ramadaam kareem

    wasalaam

  7. #7

    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    I don't see what the"source" has to do with it. Unless you also believe that the Israeli mossad was behing 9 11. Everybody can see whats happening in Darfur. Over 1 million displaced after a barbaric campaign by the Islamist government. Ofcourse prior to that there was the situation in the southern Sudan, another barbaric campaign against those who only wanted a fair distribution of the country's resources and more political participation for thepeople of southern Sudan.

    As far as the salafi/wahhabi, it is my assumption that the us verses them i their mentality. Lets look at Afghansitan, Algeria and now Somalia. Its is clear that they seem to cause destruction everywhere they go. Their rejection of those who differ with them and their justification of violence is of their own making.

    If you reject to whats happening in Sudan, then a visit like many othere have done to Darfur might solve that problem. True the conflict is not simply a one between "arabs" versus Africans, it is however a conflict between an Islamic understanding of the Islamist versus those who wish to dissent after mistreatment. The Islamist understaning of Islam is based on their belief Islam is a state and law to be forced on muslims whether they want to or not. It is based on forbiding of alchohol, forcing Hijab in public, religious programs on television and anti Western political rhetoric and stance.

    The islamist i believe do not have an understanding other than that of Islam. The government of Sudan practiced torture, its extremely corrupt, partisan, discriminatory and operates like a mafia. Most government contracts for example are given to their supporters and not the best one for the job. Their is nothing that differentiates them from the tyranical regimes in Egypt or Syria or Libya other than the 3 principles i mentioned already(alchohol, hijab, TV).
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    Asalamu Alaykum

    Br. Pipman
    Quote Originally Posted by Pipman View Post
    I don't see what the"source" has to do with it. Everything: Your thread makes certain accusatory assumption that the onus is on you to substantiate. Having said that nothing in the rest (apart from huge generalisation, I agree with).



    Unless you also believe that the Israeli mossad was behing 9 11.

    No.

    Everybody can see whats happening in Darfur. Over 1 million displaced after a barbaric campaign by the Islamist government. Ofcourse prior to that there was the situation in the southern Sudan, another barbaric campaign against those who only wanted a fair distribution of the country's resources and more political participation for thepeople of southern Sudan.


    Your basic understanding of the situation is exactly that - basic.

    As far as the salafi/wahhabi, it is my assumption that the us verses them i their mentality. Lets look at Afghansitan, Algeria and now Somalia. Its is clear that they seem to cause destruction everywhere they go. Their rejection of those who differ with them and their justification of violence is of their own making.

    I cannot speak from any position of understanding on these issues, but I have often agreed with Salafi's like Al Izaree etc so I do not seek and us versus them approach, but you do as you please.

    If you reject to whats happening in Sudan, then a visit like many othere have done to Darfur might solve that problem.

    Been there, done that and agree to the huge humanitarian issues facing the country. I am no Sudanese govt. supporter and have reservations about the Islamic Shariah Council that control the other half of the country. My issue is not with what is happening to the people of the Sudan, but with your header which I am waiting for emperical evidence on. (ps I am not saying I am right and you'r wrong, only to provide the evidence that the Al Azhar has a crusade againt the Sufi in Sudan).

    The islamist i believe do not have an understanding other than that of Islam.

    Do you believe they represent a Sufi worldview?

    The government of Sudan practiced torture, its extremely corrupt, partisan, discriminatory and operates like a mafia. Most government contracts for example are given to their supporters and not the best one for the job.

    Agreed

    Their is nothing that differentiates them from the tyranical regimes in Egypt or Syria or Libya other than the 3 principles i mentioned already(alchohol, hijab, TV).

    Ill rather not comment on the last statements, but would appreciate it if you could answer the questions I posed and please leave the "because it is obvious" claim and either you are "anti-west brigade and salafi" for somebody else other than me.

    wasalaam

  9. #9

    Default Re: Al Azhar's crusade against Sufism in Sudan

    What question, this is getting very difficult. What question?

    About Al Azhar?

    Akhee do not hear from me, ask Jamal Al Banna, ask Khaled Abul Fadl, ask Subhi Mansour ask many people out there who know about the Azhar.

    The Burhaniya which has thousands of followers in Sudan and millions in Egypt got hit. Al Azhar has been influenced by the Saudi influence everybody knows this. What source are you looking for?

    The Saudi Takeover Of Al-Azhar University

    By Laurent Murawiec

    The traveler who walks the streets of Cairo notices the many simple bookstands that proliferate all over the city. However, he may fail to observe the titles that top the hit parade of those numerous Arab streets. There are three: Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf; the forgery the Tsar's secret service peddled on the world under the title of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; and the works of the Great Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Mohammad Sayed al-Tantawi.

    Al-Azhar University is the oldest of all universities in the Moslem world. It was established in 971 A.D. by the Fatimid (Shiite) dynasty that had taken over the whole of Northern Africa and was challenging the orthodox Sunni Caliphate of Abbasid Baghdad. In antiquity, Al-Azhar stood supreme. But its prestige is founded upon more. Al-Azhar has an Academy of Islamic Research whose fatwas are authoritative in the Sunni world. It boasts of fourteen faculties (departments) in Cairo itself, and thirteen elsewhere in Egypt. It even has eight faculties for girls. Several tens of thousands of students study there; five to six thousand professors teach at Al-Azhar. In brief, it is a center of the Sunni Moslem world, and, even more, of the Arab world.

    Given the lack of centralization in the Sunni world, Al-Azhar is not a Vatican since it is not possessed of any executive authority. But the extraordinary prestige of the institution lends its views and opinions an exceptional degree of influence. Even though the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized Al-Azhar in 1961 and made civil servants of its entire staff, the aura of the university did not pale. It is a tradition in the Sunni world that Al-Azhar and its Great Sheikh, nowadays, do not prostrate themselves so much in the direction of the Egyptian presidential palace as in the twin directions of Saudi money and Saudi power. Al-Azhar and its Great Sheikh have been purchased by the Saudi regime and its Wahhabi creed.

    "Saudi-ization"

    Starting in 1962 with the establishment by the Saudi regime of the World Muslim League (WML) as one of its principal vehicles of penetration in the Muslim world, and with a swift acceleration after the 1973-74 oil crisis, the Saudi royal family obtained financial means they would not have dreamt of previously. As a result, Al-Azhar professors were approached more and more systematically by Saudi envoys. Offers were made that were difficult to refuse of sabbatical sojourns in the Kingdom. In six months, those holding doctorates would earn the equivalent of twenty years of their meager salary (then US$40!). Next, the Saudi stipend would turn into a habit as the WML endowed chairs and funded whole departments. Toward the end of the 1990s, it was hard to find an Azhari who had not enjoyed Saudi largesse.

    Several individual cases are enlightening. In 1981 an Azhari professor who had often railed at the obscurantism of the Wahhabi creed received the US$200,000 King-Faisal Prize for "services rendered to Islam" and another US$850,000 from the King-Fahd-Prize. He thereupon published a pro-Wahhabi tome entitled The Saudis and the Islamic Solution. One of the most famous of all Azharis, Sheikh Mohamad Metawali Sharawi, who died in 1998 at the age of 87, had become the first tele-islamic star; the estimated audience of his shows was as high as seventy million. Heavily subsidized by Saudi Arabia, Sharawi boasted that he had not read a book save the Quran since 1943. This cleric, who had composed poetry praising King Faruq, glorifying Nasser, and extolling Sadat, made numerous, protracted sojourns to King-Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. He had also been a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. This ensured a direct connection with the hundreds of Brothers who flocked to the protection of the Saudi regime when their conflict with the Egyptian regime become too hot.

    In the year 2000, Al-Azhar as an institution received the "King-Faisal Prize for services rendered to Islam." The award was intended to "salute the importance of the role it played in safeguarding the Arab and Islamic legacy in confrontation against the Westernizing trends, and in propagating Islam and the Arabic tongue."

    To appreciate fully the flavor of this Saudi encomium, it should be remembered that it was Egyptian troops, at the behest of the Istanbul Sultan, who mercilessly hunted down and destroyed the first Saudi empire and that it was the same Egyptian forces, sent by their ruler Mehmet Ali, who humiliated the Wahhabis and sent them back to the dunes of the Nedj desert in the 1820s and 1830s.

    Al-Tantawi Speaks

    The Great Sheikh al-Tantawi himself has demonstrated just how thorough and self-abasing the Azhari capitulation to the Wahhabi Kingdom of Ignorance was. In a long interview he granted in June of 2000 to the semi-official Saudi daily Ain al-Yaqeen, the Sheikh responded as follows:

    Ain-al-Yaqeen: You followed the fierce campaign which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been subjected to under the claim that it does not protect human rights. What are the targets of this campaign?

    Mohammad al-Tantawi: Fighting Islam is the main target of this campaign. It is an unjust campaign. This country leads the world in protecting human rights as it preserves them according to God's Sharia. For example, punishment of somebody who commits a crime is one of the rules of Sharia, as God says:

    "O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder. The free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude. This is a concession and a mercy from your Lord. After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement"(Verse 178 of Sura Al Baqara, English translation of the meanings of the Holy Quraan; King Fahd Holy Quraan Printing Complex).

    So whoever says that the death sentence is against human rights would be unjust and unfair to the victim. If Saudi Arabia does not apply the Sharia Laws, the victim's family would despise the state and would themselves take their revenge. It is well known that Saudi Arabia tops the list of the countries that apply human rights in Islam, in an objective and just way, without aggression or taking sides. Justice is the base for protecting the nation.

    Ain-al-Yaqeen: Some people believe that Al Azhar does not maintain the same position in relation with decision making.

    Mohammad al-Tantawi: This is not true, we say the truth, whatever the price is. Doubting has always existed; there are people who doubt God's unity and the messages of the prophets. Life has trained us to handle such matters and at the end, the right prevails.

    Ain-al-Yaqeen: The developments of the century need to be continuously and closely followed up by the Ulamahs. What should be done in this context?

    Mohammad al-Tantawi: We are now going through an era of specialization, we are going through an era where sciences with all their aspects are prevailing. If we do not follow up and participate in the scientific advances we will miss the boat. We should follow up these advances and adopt from them what is compatible with Islam and serves the Muslim Umah.

    Ain-al-Yaqeen: In this field, is there any cooperation between Al Azhar and the Organisation of the Eminent Ulamah in Saudi Arabia?

    Mohammad al-Tantawi: Cooperation exists between us. This does not exclude the existence of some differences in minor issues, but there are no differences in the major issues relating to the basis of Islam on which we agree. We hope that in the future we would cooperate on the present developments.

    Ain-al-Yaqeen: How was your relationship with the General Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the late Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz [the mainstay of the most extreme and backward form of Wahhabism in the kingdom - LM]?

    Mohammad al-Tantawi: His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz God bless his soul was the subject of our respect. We pray God to place us with him in the higher places of Paradise. I used to meet with him in all my visits to Saudi Arabia. We used to discuss matters, and he used to express his admiration for some matters and criticize others. I always accepted his opinions and explained to him some issues and events that happened in Egypt and the causes behind the decision. God Bless his soul and place him in Heaven.

    Besides the obsequious seal of approval extended to Saudi institutions, mores and dignitaries, what is most striking and significant in the Sheikh's pronouncements is how he opines (in the context of discussing the foundation of Saudi Arabian policies on Sharia): "we say the truth whatever the price is. Doubting has always existed; there are people who doubt God's unity and the messages of the prophets." The notion of "God's unity" (tawheed) is so central to the Wahhabi creed that believers in it, who vehemently refuse to call themselves--or to be called--"Wahhabi," want to be known as "the people of the tawheed." Al-Tantawi is publicly paying obeisance and fealty to the Al-Saud-Wahhabi nexus--as any Arab reader recognizes instantly.

    Results

    The importance of Al-Azhar's submission to the Saudis is not a mere theological issue: In 1990, when the Saudi royals met reluctance on the part of a large number of their own Wahhabi clerics to accept the call for "infidel" troops to come into the Kingdom and protect it from a fellow Arab, fellow Muslim, predator, they turned to Al-Azhar and asked the Cairene clerics to issue a fatwa mandating precisely that. The fatwa was duly issued. The same goes with entire categories of fatwas, such as those dealing with suicide bombing: Al-Azhar approves, especially when the bombing is directed against Israel and abets "resistance" to the U.S. presence in Iraq, by all available means. For the Saudi royals, their patient investment in Al-Azhar is paying handsome dividends.
    Last edited by Pipman; 27th September 2006 at 20:16.
    Among His signs are the creation of Heaven and Earth, as well as the diversity in your tongues and colors. In that are signs for those who know

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