Grand Mufti of Egypt sees need to deradicalise the understanding of Islam

Before issuing a fatwa, a Muslim cleric should consider three important factors. It must be issued only after thorough reference to textual sources and also must be based on an investigation of the lived realities.

Most importantly, the fatwa sought to be issued must strike a fine balance between texts and the human experience. Clerics must hence adhere to a ‘clear, systematic' methodology that is backed by credible scholarship, according to Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

Dr. Gomaa heads the Dar Al-Ifta Al Misriyyah in Egypt, one of the leading authorities in the world for Islamic legal research that issues nearly 3,500 fatwas a day.

A vocal proponent of a moderate and tolerant version of Islam, he is a pre-eminent jurist widely respected across the Muslim world.

In conversation with journalists at the Egyptian Embassy here, Dr. Gomaa spoke of the need to deradicalise the understanding of Islam and usher in a ‘fresh, revisionist' perspective on critical issues that face the community.

‘Cannot happen overnight'

Observing that Muslims drawn towards militancy pass through diverse stages of literalism, rigidity and extremism, Dr. Gomaa warned that their rehabilitation was not possible overnight.

He noted that over 90 per cent of nearly 16,000 imprisoned Islamists in Egypt were absorbed into mainstream, moderate thinking through a rehabilitation project that spanned several years.

However, various forces constantly sought to sow seeds of division, as was evidenced by the bombing on New Year's eve at the Two Saints Church at Alexandria. Condemning the attack, Dr. Gomaa said that the unity and solidarity between religious communities in Egypt was unshakeable.

Shia-Sunni divide

The Grand Mufti stressed that there were no major ‘theological or juristic' differences between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. In fact, the division was created by ‘manipulative political agendas,' more often than not.

On the independence referendum currently underway in Southern Sudan, he was personally against the ‘dividing up' of nations, but emphasised that the will of the people to realise the modern ideal of democracy must be accepted.

Dr. Gomaa is on his first visit to India. He participated in an international Islamic conference in Kerala last week. Scheduled to meet with Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Farooq Abdullah in New Delhi, Dr. Gomaa spoke of the need to ‘rejuvenate' ties between India and Egypt, especially relations between religious establishments. Terming ties that dated back to the age of Nehru and Nasser as ‘historic and solid,' he said that his visit was an ‘enormous success.'

  • Rehabilitation of militants not possible overnight
  • Stresses rejuvenation of ties between India and Egypt