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Al-Azhar in the Revolution Author(s): Daniel Crecelius Reviewed work(s): Source: Middle East Journal, Vol. 20, No.

1 (Winter, 1966), pp. 31-49 Published by: Middle East Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4323953 . Accessed: 08/01/2013 06:41
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AL-AZHAR IN THE REVOLUTION


Daniel Crecelius I
O

N the eve of the YoungOfficers' coupd'etatin July,1952,al-Azhar

was sufferingfrom the consequences of more than half a centuryof spasmodic reformand severepoliticalcrisesarisingfrom the general conflictbetweenEgyptian modernists and traditionalists, a conflictwhichnaturally revolvedaroundal-Azhar and its systemof education.'For both groups this ideologicalconfrontation had beencrystallized in specific issuesconcerning the controlof al-Azhar and the diminishing availability of satisfactory jobs for al-Azhar's graduates.2 This struggle,then, betweenthe two competingideological orientations, influenced the issues and described the lines of battle for the moreintensepoliticalstrugglebetweenparliament and king for controlof al-Azhar and its systemof religiouseducation. Egyptian politicsafter the FirstWorld War can be characterized as a triangularstrugglefor authority amongthe British,the king and the parliament. As the instrument for the centralization of authority, parliament generallyhad the support of modernists who wishedto counteract the influence of the British, to limit the power of the king in the Britishmanner,and to unite the inwith the newersystemof government dependent systemof religiouseducation controlled education. The fluid state of political relationships in this unstablesystemforced a of In alliances. constantrealignment political to bolsterhis own attempting insecure aboutfor temporary positionthe king thrashed allies, one time invoking Britishaid againsta rebelliousparliament, one time packingparliament with politiciansfaithful to himself, anothertime standingwith parliament
1. For a general survey of the movementto reform al-Azhar,see BayardDodge, Al-Azhar: A Millenium of Muslim Learning,Washington, D.C., 1961; and 'Abd al-Mut'alal-Sa'ldi, Tarikh al-Ilshhfi l-Azhar,Cairo, 1950. 2. See Nadav Safran, Egpyt in Search of Political Community,Cambridge,1963, for an of the modernization excellent study of the consequences processfor Egyptianpolitical orientations.
<> DANIEL CRECELIUS is assistantprofessorof Middle East history at CaliforniaState College, Los

Angeles, California.

31

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againstthe British. But throughout the periodof these realignments one ally remained constant.The activeantagonism of the groupof 'ulams'to both the Britishand parliament turnedal-Azharinto a royalistbastion. It often provided his only support in simultaneous strugglesagainstthe Britishand parliament. But this alliancebetweenthe throneand al-Azhar had the unfortunate result of setting the modernizing nationalists againstboth institutions.Since 1919, al-Azhar's participation in the nationalistmovementquantitatively and qualitatively lessenedas it came under attackfrom the Egyptiannationalists themselves.3 Parliament and the politicalpartiesnow becamethe instruments to control the throne and al-Azharand to introducereformsinto Egyptian society. The cleavagein Egyptian societyinfluenced by the processof "modernization"grew everwider as the modernists and traditionalists found no common ground for agreementor cooperation.The majorityof conservative 'ulama' rejectedany thoughtof a reinterpretation of unalterable Islamictraditionor doctrine and successfully or ostracized fromtheirbodyreformers of disciplined all attitudes,4 such as Muhammad 'Abduh,'All 'Abd al-Raziq, Taha Husayn, Rashid Ridi, Sa'd Zaghlul, Mustafa al-Marighl, and Khalid Muhammad to wardoff seriousreformby insistingthatany continued Khalid.5The 'ulama' was an attackon Islamitself, but theirsucattackon al-Azhar or its traditions cessful defenseof al-Azhar's of the independent positionunderthe patrimony of any but token structural king, coupledwith their rejection reform,further from the modernizing alienatedthe religiouscommunity Egyptian elite, aggravatedthis woundin Egyptian societyand forcedthe modernizers to worktheir and religiousquestions.6 way aroundal-Azhar reformthe shaykhsdeniedthemselvesthe By their refusalto countenance to help shape the courseof the reformmovementwhich neveropportunity
3. The noticeablewithdrawalby al-Azharfrom the nationalistmovementafter 1919 is indicative of the inabilityof al-Azharto play a more active r6le in the nationalistmovementtoward secularism. New groups and institutions,such as political groupings, parliament,the newly emergent middle class, and the politicized students of the governmentschools took over nationalist-inspired many of the former functions of the men of al-Azhar. To make mattersworse, the Azharis continued to withdraw from society under the constant attacks of the nationalists. When religion once more becamea factor in Egyptianpolitics it was the Ikwan al-Muslimunand not the men of traditionalIslam. al-Azharwho championed 4. Perhaps "restoration" or "purification" might be a better descriptionthan "reform"when discussingIslamicattitudesor doctrines,as A. L. Tibawi suggestsin "EnglishSpeakingOrientalists," Islamic Quarterly (July-December) 1964, pp. 73-88, for "reform"seems to imply that something is wrong with Islam itself. These are also the phrasesthat Islamic modernistsuse. 5. The reformers'position was seriouslyweakenedby the fact that they did not representan organizedgroup, but a collection of individual reformers,often antagonisticto one another. By their ostracismfrom the general body of 'ulama', being in some cases stripped of their title of lost the opportunity to work for reformwithin the religious community. 'Xlim,the reformers Instead, they had to face the stigmaof these who were put in the position of "attacking" Islam. 6. It was for this reason that Muhammad'All preferredto introducean entirely new school system ratherthan institute reform at al-Azhar. Khedive Isml'il likewise createdDar al-'Ulim to avoid a direct confrontationwith religious conservativesover any reform within the religious system of education. The old is never destroyed;it is simply allowed to lapse into disuse.

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battlewas foughtover the issueof reformalong thelessevolved. A continuous on the question were centered of fronts,but the majorconfrontations a myriad eachbasedon a specificset of education.Two opposingsystemsof education, was but the processof modernization had developed, of valuesand judgments, tipping the balanceever more positivelytoward the governmentcontrolled system. have revitalizedand expandedthe embryonic Since 1900, the modernists modernideas without acschool systemas a way of introducing government directedschool religioussystem. A government tuallytouchingthe traditional for q.1is was developedin 1907 in an attemptto expose qsklisto a broader which openedin 1908 has had an enorcurriculum.The Egyptianuniversity to reform. As these dedicated of Egyptians mous role in traininggenerations took root in Egyptthey beganto limit the funcand othermoderninstitutions Islamicinstitutions.The rulingelite, drawnalmostexclutions of traditional to Westerneducaexposure sivelyfromthe ranksof thosewho had a significant as the instruments parliament, and especially tion,7 used thesenew institutions, expandedthe continually for the development of their programs.Parliament of the civil courtsystemat the expenseof the shari'ahsystemas jurisdiction law encroached upon the domainof the sharl'ah. Western-inspired the entireAzharsystemto its will, parliament In a directattemptto subject for key the Azhar budget to itself and claimed responsibility appropriated at al-Azharin the famouslaw Number 15 of 1927.8 When it appointments oppositionof the king and the shaykhs by the combined found itself thwarted against by discriminating retaliated againstall shaykhs of al-Azhar, parliament Azhargraduates when they sought government positionsand held up appropriationsfor the Azharbudget,therebyforcingthe king to subsidizeal-Azhar from his privatetreasury.The king and the shaykhswere now throwninto a tight embrace. of the nationunderthe attacks withdrew frompublicaffairs As the Azharis grew everwider. The alists the cleavagebetweenthe two generalorientations opposedanysugthatwhichtheyhad andobstinately guarded jealously 'ulama' their authority,but their own strengthwas gestion that might compromise weakeningin direct proportionto the growing strength of the modernist movement. The marchof reformwithin al-Azharitself was tediousand hard fought, 'ulama'. The supportedas it was by such a small group of reform-minded ratherthansubstantive issues. battlewas, however,over structural organization of far reachingchange between 1908-1936,such as the Despite appearances along the lines of rectrganization additionof moderncoursesto the curriculum,
7. Many of the leaders,such as Tahha Husayn and Sa'd Zaghlul, were actuallygraduatesof the Azharsystem. 8. For an account of the struggle between parliamentand the king over the implementation of this law, see Fakhral-Din al-Ahmadial-Zawahiri, al-Siyisahw al-Azhar,Cairo, 1945.

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a modemuniversity and the regulation of diplomasand facultyranks,al-Azhar in 1952 was little changedin substance and sadlyout of touchwith Egyptian realities.9 As an indication of the slow paceof actualreformbeneathal-Azhar's publicespousalof reform,one can mentionthat English,which first appeared in the curriculum as earlyas 1901 andwhichKing Faruiq ordered to be taught, along with French,Hebrew,Persian,Chinese,and Turkish,was not taughtat al-Azhar until 1958 when Mahmuid Shaltuit, then Vice-Rector, announced that Englishinstruction would beginimmediately."0 It can be seen, then,that the Young Officers inherited a nationdeeplysplit overmodernist an unreformed andtraditionalist orientations, Azhar,and a religious class whichwas desperately tryingto defendits own crumbling position while refusingto participate in the modernization of Egyptian life andthought. II Religionwas one of the most explosiveissues the Revolutionhad immediatelyto face. The threatto the Revolution was not from al-Azhar, however, but from the highly organized, powerfuland aggressive Ikhwan al-Muslimin, the MuslimBrethren.Facedwith the Ikhwandesirefor power,the Free Officers made obviousoverturesfor al-Azhar's supportand allowed the idea of until theirown positionwas secure. religiousreformto lay dormant the cliqueof Young Using GeneralNagib as theirsymboland spokesman, Officers to the 'ulama'of al-Azharthat they stood for gave public assurances and would uphold sound Islamicprinciples. Besidespaying frequentofficial visits to al-Azhar's shaykhs, the Free Officers made it a conspicuous collective itself or one of the other habitto pass the important Friday prayerat al-Azhar great mosquesof Cairowhere the shaykhsand public could bear witness to their piety. Although the Free Officersearly showed themselveswilling to with the Ikhwanto gain theirsupport, theiraversion to the extremist cooperate of the Brethren," principles coupledwith their unwillingness to sharepower, drove them to strengthentheir ties with al-Azhar,to which the Ikhwan was generallyopposed.'2 organization
9. There was no significant structuralchange at al-Azharbetween 1936-1952. See Dodge, op. cit.; Sa'idl, op. cit.; H.A.R. Gibb, Modern Trends in Islam, Chicago, 1947; and Wilfred C. Smith, Islam in ModernHistory, New York, 1957. 10. Al-AzharUniversity,no author,Cairo, 1950. 11. For published studies on the Ikhwan movement see ChristinaHarris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt, The Hague, 1964; Ishaq Husseimi, The Moslem Brethren,Beirut, 1956; J. Heyworth-Dunne, Religious and Political Trends in Modern Egypt, Washington,D.C., 1950. For the best and most thorough account to date see RichardMitchell, unpublishedPh.D. thesis, The Society of the Muslim Brothers,PrincetonUniversity,1960. 12. Although individualAzharis were fervent membersof the Ikhwan,the two organizations fought bitter pamphletand verbalwars over their respectiveinterpretations of Islam. An indication of the division betweenthe two organizations is the fact that H{asan al-Banna,the Ikhwan Supreme Guide, made only one appearance(December 12, 1947) at al-Azhar. Husseini, op. cit., p. 20 and personalinterviewwith the author.

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now reconstiof the Free Officers, aspirations The mutuallyantagonistic Council(RCC), and the Ikhwanled ultiCommand tutedas the Revolutionary a attemptagainst 'Abd al-Nasir as he addressed mately to the assassination mass Alexandriaaudienceon October26, 1954. Although the subsequent of al-Azharto the and the adherence of the Ikhwanorganization destruction had the effectof relievingthe RCCof immediate of the Revolution principles political pressurefrom religiousgroups, the continuingquestionof Egypt's enoughto causethe RCC was potentiallydangerous basicreligiousorientation of the Ikhwan,however,was the key which seriousconcern. The destruction of unlockedthe door to generalreligiousreformand offeredthe opportunity bringingreligionunderthe controlof the Revolution. But, though the RCC under the firm was devotedto bringingal-Azharand the religioushierarchy it did not force the issue of reformuntil two years controlof the government, later when it finally felt securein posing the problemof the shari'ahcourt system. communal The secondstage of reformwas reachedwhen the autonomous oriented into the nationalsystemof secularly systemswere officiallyabsorbed creespecially shaykhly dass, againstthe of revulsion courts. In an atmosphere who weregivtwo qsdiis presswhen the policearrested atedby the government in returnfor favors from their women litigants,the ing favorablejudgments in September, 1955, the abolitionof all reliannounced summarily government 1, 1956. Despite the fact that it was an attemptto gious courtsas of January stateand was aimedpricreatea unifiedlegal systemfor the modernEgyptian system,the Westernpressgenerallymissed sharl'ah marilyat the autonomous this action had for the Muslim communityin the importantconsequences of the law for Egypt'sCoptic Egypt becauseit overplayedthe significance
community."3

grounds, systemon theoretical madeno defenseof the sharl'ah The shaykhs of the political aubeen within the jurisdiction for justicehas traditionally dailies madeno defensewhatsoever.All Egyptian the shaykhs thority.Publicly from varioushighly statements of September 26, 1955, carriedcongratulatory the government's program.On September who supported 28, shaykhs respected al-Azhar of a accompanied picture Shaykh the majorEgyptian daily,al-Ahrsam, President'Abd al-Nasir,with this Taj showncongratulating 'Abd al-Rahman for havingtakenthe "liberating step" thanksto the President leadingshaykh's raised the courts. Shaykhs beyondthe reachof the RCC,however, of abolishing camein fromall parts moveand protests over the government's a publicoutcry of the Islamicworld, notablyfrom Syriawhere the Ikhwanstill had a strong organization.
13. See Nadav Safran, "The Shar'i Courts in Egypt,"Muslim World 48 (1959) pp. 20-28; 125-135; and Joseph Hajjar,Proche Orient Chretien5, no. 4 (1955); 6, no. 1 (1956).

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that Azhargraducomplained Behindthe headlines,the Egyptianshaykhs jobs, againstin theirsearchfor government ates, already heavilydiscriminated trainedlawyersfor posito competewith government would find it impossible with the Western tions in the combinedsystembecausethey were unfamiliar bases of modernEgyptianlaw. The job future of Azharis,they said, was made only a small concessionto the becomingdesperate. The government in the shari'ah system that no q4i presently employed 'ulama'in guaranteeing to sit in the combinedsystem. To would lose his job; he would be retrained that sharl'ahlaw had not furtherallay shaykhlyfears, the RCC emphasized into the nabeen abolished;the sharl'ahsystemhad simplybeen "absorbed" tionalsystemwhereshari'ah"principles" would still be applied. Nevertheless, made it clear that therewould be far fewer jobs for Azharis the government studies. who continued to concentrate solelyon traditional the With the crisisof diminishing job futuresfor Azharisas a backdrop, of the religioushierarchy militaryleadersdecidedto completethe absorption posisystemby bringingto an end the semi-independent into the revolutionary itself. The RCChad begunthis campaign al-Azhar's tion of al-Azhar to subvert autonomyin the early days of the Revolutionby seeking out cooperative but its own policy at al-Azhar, shaykhsto act as the channelsfor government to this bastionof tradition. precarious positioncautioneda carefulapproach conflicts beAlthoughwe have little dataon the personaland institutional tween the men of the Revolutionand the 'ulama'of al-Azharbecauseof the were forcedto give to the Revolution, we get some publicsupportthe 'ulama' of the strugglewagedin the halls of al-Azhar of the intensity indication by the submitted as protestsagainstgovbyhighlyplaced'ulama' spateof resignations in religiousaffairs,the temporarily successful ernment"meddling" passiveresistanceof the shaykhsto reformor control (the government representatives to work with the shaykhs)which delayedreformfor sevfound it impossible of militaryleaders appointedto control eral years,and the rapid succession al-Azhar. revolutionary leadersto subvert The attempt by someof the highestranking continued for yearsand sharpened al-Azhar's already violentperindependence al-Azhar. the at march of reform was seriouslydeThough sonalityconflicts of the 'ulama',its final outcomewas never in doubt. layed by the resistance had to be agreedupon. After the example Only the termsof the capitulation of the Ikhwan algiven to the men of religion by the severe destruction was alwaysable to counton the officialpublicsupthe government Muslimuin, but the succession of military programs, port of al-Azharfor its revolutionary Affairswas nonetheless as Directorof al-Azhar men appointed unableto overof the 'ulama'towardreformor government come the traditional suspicions affairs of al-Azhar. in the internal interference
Kamal al-Din Rif'at (2/11/59-10/23/59), Ahmad 'Abdallah Ta'imah

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(10/24/59 - 10/17/61), Ilusayn al-Shafi'i (10/18/61 - 10/23/62), three leaders from the military establishment,and Dr. Muhammadal-Bahai (10/29/62 - 3/25/64) wereall unableto createa satisfactory workingrelationship with the conservative shaykhsof al-Azhar.'4 Lackingany foundationfor oppositionto the Revolution,the 'ulama'temporarily thwartedgovernment programsfor al-Azharby simply failing to cooperatewith their appointed directors.These personality conflictsled in extremecases to furtherresignations of highly placed shaykhswho preferredthis path to the ignominyof presidingover al-Azhar'send as an independentinstitution. This strategy could not changethe courseof events,however;it could only delay it. The governmenttook advantageof these resignationsto appoint Western educated Ph.D.'s of a more liberal outlook to these important vacantpositions. Althoughthe obstaclesto reformwere slowly being removed, the government had to continueto movecautiously, for it knewfull well thatanyviolentattack againstal-Azhar would be construed as an attackagainstreligionitself. The government sought cooperation among a few progressive shaykhsat al-Azharwho desiredreformeven at the expenseof government interference, for the tortuous courseof reformat al-Azhar had shownthatsignificant changes could only be imposedupon al-Azhar by government action.'5Notable among these shaykhs was Dr. Muhammad al-Bahai, Germaneducated, who was later promotedto the positionof Ministerof Awqaf and Directorof al-Azhar Affairs. He is now professorof philosophyat CairoUniversity. Dr. al-Bahai prepared the groundfor reformat al-Azhar by gathering abouthim a groupof administrators similarlydevotedto reformand by presidingover the passage of certainfundamental legislationthat laid the groundwork for the total rethatwas to engulf al-Azhar.The half century organization of delayedreligious reform dammedup behind al-Azharfinallyburstupon the institutionin the summer of 1961, sweepingawaythe deadpast but leavingthe foundations for the erectionof a new al-Azhar.The total reorganization of this greatMuslim institution to which the government had for so manyyearsbeenpointingwas in June,1961. announced

III The atmosphere of greaturgency whichsurrounded the NationalAssembly meetingon June 22, 1961 was evokedby the fact that the Assemblyhad to
14. These men could count only upon the cooperationof a handful of like-mindedshaykhs educatedin Europe and Americawho now occupiedkey positions in the Azhar system. 15. The situation had by this time grown so desperatefor the Azharis that students and shaykhs themselves desired reform, though most feared the length to which the reorganization would go. The resignationof the Western trainedscholarsto governmentcontrol was summedup by Dr. MahmiidHubballahin this crucial period. "Yet, the state that controlsthe sinews of life has the right, when it wishes, to interferein religion itself, which becomesdependenton the wish of the state." From "The Challenge of Modern Ideas and Social Values to Muslim Society,"in IslamicLiterature11 (1959) p. 35.

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completeits last orderof business,the reorganization in this, the of al-Azhar, last meeting of the parliamentary session.Preliminary documents outlininga reformhad supposedly been workedout, for a government and a committee committee representing al-Azhar presented theirrespective versionsof a reform bill for consideration. It is obvious,however,from the similarity of thesetwo bills in their originalform that the versionsupposedly the views representing of al-Azharhad actuallybeen prepared by the government and handedto the Azharcommittee at the last moment.'6This judgement is substantiated by the unpublished minutesof this momentous meetingwhich clearlyrevealthat the Azharisdid not knowwhatwas in theirversion.'7Theyaskedfor adjournment in orderto studyits contents. The government representatives treatedthe shaykhs harshly, hiddenas they were from public scrutinybehind the closed doors of parliament.They did not debatethe issue of reformwith the shaykhs; they accusedthem and demandedthat the reformbe passed. As President of the Assembly,AnwaralSadat controlleddiscussionof the government proposals;rather,he guided the "explanation" of the reform. The shaykhswere also handicapped by a lack of knowledgeconcerning parliamentary procedureand were constantly being silencedby al-Sadaton points of order. An excellentexampleof the military's attitudetowardthe shaykhs occurred when one venerable shaykhdigressedfromhis lengthyspeechinto a hadithconcerning the Prophet, whichhe used to supporthis point. No soonerwas the hadithout of his mouthwhen al-Sadat, impatient with the shaykh's verbosity, insistedthat this was a hadith about'Umarandnot the Prophet.The shaykh's composure left him. He stammered,then retreated, sayingthat, anyway, it was one of thoseunsurehadiths whichonly Allah knows. Then the shaykh sat down,totallyembarrassed. Despite the efforts of al-Sadat,the shaykhsshowed themselvesunhappy and opposedto the law, for they knew it meantthe end of al-Azhar's quasiindependent existence. In an effort,then to imposethe law uponal-Azhar, the governmentenlisted the supportof some of its most important leaders. In additionto the aforementioned al-Sadat, Kamal al-Din Riftlt and Kamal alDin Husayn,all from the originalRCC,and Dr. al-Bahai, the spokesman for the government within al-Azhar, attacked stagnation in al-Azhar and told the shaykhsin no uncertain termsthat theynow had to submitto reform. One of this militarytriumvirate told the author,"We gave reformto al-Azhar because
16. For a comparisonof these two bills, see the minutes of the Majlis al-Ummahfor June 22, 1961. The amendedlaw as it passed the Assemblycan be found in its Arabic original in the same place. An Arabic copy was published in Majallat al-Azhar (July, 1961), pp. 237-264. A French translationcan be found in MIDEO 6 (1959-1961), pp. 473-484. An English translation can be found in the United Arab RepublicpublicationArab Political Encyclopedia: Documentsand Notes, August, 1961, pp. 65-83. 17. These highly revealing unpublishedminutes of this meeting were made availableto the author in Egypt. They were supportedby interviewswith several of the key participants at this meeting. Most of the following accountof the meetingcomes from these minutes and interviews.

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the shaykhsnever want it." The meetingdraggedon for seven hours,until 3:30 AM, beforethe shaykhs submitted. The government indictment againstal-Azharhad begun with a statement of that institution's gloriouspast, duringwhich time it had "stoodas an imand the pregnablestrongholdagainstall attemptsat our slavery,domination al-Azhar did Traditionally, destruction of our nationaland spiritualentity."'"8 not belong simplyto Egypt,but to the entireIslamicworld. It had spreadthe light of religion and scienceover Asia and Africa and was still the goal of Muslimmissionswhichcameto Egyptto studyIslamicsciences.Kamalal-Din HIusayn calledit the Ka'bahfor all Islamiccountries.
the fact thatal-Azhar to standin However, has for long yearsbeencompelled has madeit acquire a sortof reserve which the faceof all attempts at aggression all of the defensive attitude it has adopted is probably one of the characteristics thatled up When life revived around it, andthe causes through thosecenturies. means and rigid attitude no longerexistedit failedto findproper to its reserved timeswhile of renewed that wouldhelp it adaptitself to contemporary activity andassuming the Religionand its dutiesof defending retaining its characteristics preserving the heritage of Islim.19

insistedthat from his manytravelsto other Islamiclands Anwaral-Sadat with the IslamicCongress, he knewthat thesenations and from his experience wantedtheir sons to learnmorethan religionso theycould be of use in their for the al-Azhar's importance homelands. Kamal al-Din Rif'at substantiated emergingnations, but declaredthat Africanstrainedat al-Azharcould not find jobs when they returned uselessknowlhome becausethey had acquired edge. But those studentstrained at the secularEgyptianuniversitieswere missing importantreligioustrainings. The solutionwas to combinethe two programs.
of scholars in religionand Al-Azhar, being,however, engagedin the training of the Koran, is not as yet in a positionto qualifyreligious scholars the language in worksof experience andproduction calledfor by the progwho arespecialized Moslemstatesrealized this regretressof Moslems in all countries. Whencertain all or partof theirmissions to civilianuniversities in the tablefact and diverted theirenvoysupon graduation were found to have acUAR and othercountries, aboutreligion. On the other while hardlyknowinganything quiredexperience with a great wealth of religiousand returned hand, their envoysto al-Azhar no workand were neithercapable of production Koranic sciences, but mastered in anytypeof progress to whichwe havereferred.20 norableto participate

In Egyptandabroad, Azharis hadbecome isolatedfromsociety.


18. Documentsand Notes, p. 79.
19. Ibid. 20. Ibid., p. 80.

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A serious unemployment problem had also arisenamongthemwhichaggravated theirisolation fromsociety:a crisiswhichhad profound effectson the mindsof the Azharites and the peopleat largeand did not fail to produce adverse effect on the powerof the creedin the mindsof both.... This feeling,if it spreads, is likelyto severmanyof ourbondswith thosecountries.2 Some shaykhsattempted to say that Azharis could not study tafsir and medicine side by side, the work load being too great. When others boldly asserted that the government was destroying the traditional role of al-Azhar as a place to study language and the religious sciences, the government representatives countered by accusing al-Azhar of deviation from its traditionalrole. The governmentwas now widening its r5ole by restoring al-Azhar to its traditionalplace as a disseminatorof all sciences, not just the religious ones. The principles of the law were made to correct all these weaknesses. They were:
1) To maintain al-Azhar's positionas the largest in andoldestMuslim university

Eastor West. 2) To maintainits positionas the stronghold of religionand Arabismfrom whichIslamwill be renewed in its truesubstance to all levels and everylocalityin society. scholars who have a knowledge 3) To graduate of religious science, but also of practical knowledge and experience 'so that religionwill no longerbe their only craftor profession.' all barriers al-Azhar between 4) To destroy and otheruniversities so that Azhar in the spheres graduates mayenjoyequalopportunity of knowledge andwork. amount of knowledge 5) To give a common andexperience to all Azharis so they and psychologically may be intellectually equal with all other sons of the Fatherland. schooland university certificates in all UAR universities 6) To standardize and
schools.22

The reformhad been declaredin suchhaste that forceswhichmight have opposedit were nevergiven time to makea defenseof al-Azhar.Immediately afterthe announcement of the law, the presslevelleda withering attackagainst of the men of religionthemselves the stagnation and corruption in an effortto for al-Azhar. justifytheirrevolutionary program The openinggun in the campaign was firedon June24, againstthe shaykhs in a blazingheadline,"Religion al-Yawmon thatdaydeclared 1961. Akhbhr is articlestatedthat: not a profession."Its accompanying
21. Ibid. 22. Ibid., p. 81.

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The revolution, the banner of whichwas raisedin al-Azhar is the first University, real upheaval whichhas takenplace in that greatinstitution for the past 1000 years.The youthwhowill be enrolled in al-Azhar will not do so to adoptreligion as a profession sincereligionis not a trade! The feelingof increasing isolation whichhas beensuffered by tens of thousands of al-Azhar and graduates students will cometo an end. Moreover, the thousands of the youthwho comefrom all partsof Asia andAfricato studyat the greatest Islamic institution will no longer return to theircountries to live on the dole or to become a burden on theirfellow countrymen, butwill return as usefulelements in building up theirhomelands on modern foundations apart fromacquiring a deepinsightinto religion. On June 25, al-Ahroim ran a long article on the importanceof the new law for al-Azhar and three days later al-Jumhiriyah had another long explanatory article devoted to questions and answers concerning the new law. On June 29, al-Akhbiirfollowed with still another article devoted to the new law. Husayn al-Shafi'i, Vice President in charge of al-Azhar Affairs, carried the government propagandadirectly to the shaykhs. In one of his monthly lectures at al-Azhar,he cajoled them with the following thought: Al-Azhar became isolated fromsociety andfromlife. In oureffortnowto develop we arebut giving expression al-Azhar, to our determination to reinstate it in its the link between its pastandpresent.23 placeof honorandto strengthen These and similar views found their way even into al-Azhar circles. Dr. al-Bahai, in a semi-appendixto a book he had finished, noted that al-Azharhad lost contact with the problems and life of the people,24and that it had lost its ability to influence the educated classes.25 Its separation from reality was already apparentin the 19th centuryand now, "every day of continuing crisis lessens its value."26 The twin goals of the new law, now, according to al-Bahai, were the purification of al-Azhar from the effects of imperialism, that is, to bring the graduate back into the society in which he lives, and the destructionof the notion that his call is a profession.27 Explanations of the law, of al-Azhar's deviation from its true path, of the need to bridge the social gap between men of religion and the rest of the population, and the necessity of graduating students with practical skills continued to occupy prime space in the nation's papers and journals. But the attacks against the 'ulama' also continued.
23. Minbar al-Islam, English edition (April, 1962) p. 17. This journal published by the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, a governmentsubsidized organ headed by a former army major, has taken from Majallatal-Azharthe role of spokesmanfor a modern or "purified" Islam. 24. al-Bahai,al-Fikral-Islamial-Iadith, Cairo, 1962, p. 488. 25. Ibid., p. 491. 26. Ibid., p. 494. 27. Ibid., p. 496.

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Minbaral-Islkm,a newly createdgovernment quarterly(now a monthly of Isla%m, contained becauseof its great success) devotedto the "restoration" the followingwordsof President 'Abdal-Nasir:
and the food Of course the shaykh doesnot thinkof anything exceptthe turkey feudalism withwhichhe filledhis belly. He is no morethana stoogeof reaction, and capitalism. At thattime someshaykhs weretryingto deceiveus with fatwas of this nature.Fromthe beginning, Islamwas a religionof work. The Prophet usedto worklike everybody else. Islamwasnevera profession.28 To make certain the shaykhs got the message, the first issue of the reformist Minbar al-Islam devoted an article to reform. 'Usman Amin reviewed Muhammad 'Abduh's attempts to reform al-Azhar and levelled serious accusations against the shaykhs.29 The leading 'ulama' quickly fell in line and showed an amazing enthusiasm for self-criticism,at least on the surface. Majoallat al-Azhar, the official Azhar journal, contained the following remarkable statements in its January, 1962
issue.

The graduates of al-Azhar wereconsidered as only men of religion. As a result of that,theyusedthe religionas a profession with whichtheycanearntheirliving. Moreover, they lived in completelonelinessfar awayfrom their society, becausetheir culturecould not meet the requirements of the renaissance era, in bothfieldsof workandproduction.30 especially a solution The new law includes for everyproblem, it prepares an experience for andguidesto showhumanity everyfield,it bringsup preachers the straight way
of its life.
. .

. It wants Islam to be revived, ulamas to be of strong faith, living


31

for the sake(my italics)andnot by means of it ...

These are the words of Mahmiid Shaltilt, Shaykhal-Azhar through the early period of revolutionary reform. Immediately following his article, another comment admitted, of al-Azhar The reorganization will prevent University Islamic guidance frombenewkindsof knowledge ing a kindof profession. ... It will create whichenables one to workand earnhis living instead of usingIslamic guidance as a meansof 32 gainingmoney.

28. Minbaral-Islim, Englishedition, (November,1961), p. 13.


29. Ibid., pp. 42-46.

30. Majallatal-Azbar,Englishsupplement, p. 17. 31. Ibid., p. 18. 32. Ibid., p. 21. It is also interestingto note that the present Minister of Awqaf and alAzhar Affairs, Ahmad al-Sharabissi,is often referredto as "the engineer Sharabassi," rather than by some religious title.

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The campaignagainst the shaykhshas not slackenedsince 1961. On August24, 1962,al-Jumhiriyah rana headlinewhichread,"Thestatedoesnot submitto a specialgroupin the nameof religion." In an important confrontation betweenthe men of religionand the regime,the men of the Revolution refusedto name Islam as the state religionin the National Charter, claiming that certain elements were exploiting religion and impeding progress. On February 14, 1963, al-Ahrsam ran a summary of how the reformwas going at al-Azhar.The Rectorof al-Azhar University(not to be confusedwith Shaykh al-Azhar)declared, "Inthe pasttherewas no '.lim knownas a manof religion. ... Religionis not ... the turban and the qaftan!" Onegroupwithinthe innerrulingcliquewantsto pushthis campaign to the limit, for a few officers believethe shaykhs are "useless,too ignorantto carry the torchof culturalrevolution."33 It is obviously the aim of this groupto dissolve the "class" of 'ulama'.It believes"therewill not be a classof 'ulama' in the future. There will be doctors,engineersand lawyerswho are religious. The government is going to destroythe classof 'ulama'."34 This extreme view is not held by the majority of the rulingofficers who recognizethe importance of the 'ulama' as a directlinkbetweenthe government andthe illiterateor semiliteratemajority of Egyptians and solidlygroundedin their Islamictraditions betweenEgyptand otherIslamicstates. This secondgroupbelievesthe 'ulama' shouldbe the missionaries of socialism amongthe people. As earlyas November,1962, the pressbegancalling for the retraining of Im.ms so they could teach socialismto the masses.35 Husaynal-Shafi'i spoke view towardthe role of the shaykhsin society for the majoritygovernment whenhe told them,
I call uponyou to transform of radiation.It is not enough into centers mosques thatmosques shouldbe devoted to prayers havelaunched a camonly. The masses theirranks, theirland.... Anyonewho stands to strengthen paignto reorganize in the face of justiceseeksoppression; anyonewho standsin the way of selfaimsat spreading andanyone of his country who triesto work sufficiency poverty; the peopleopensthe wayfor the return of political for dissension among factions, who are all as dangerous as infidelity, and opportunists, reactionaries hypocrisy andpolytheism.36

Thesewordsfoundan echoin the Azharofficialjournal."Thetaskof al-Azhar in its new era," it states, "is to inculcatethe new revolutionary thoughtand in the people'sminds."37 understanding
33. 34. 35. 36. 37. Personalinterview. Ibid. Rose al-Yfisuf,November5, 1962, pp. 10-11. Minbairal-Ishlm,English edition, (November, 1961), p. 18. Majallatal-Azhar,Englishsupplement,(March,1962), p. 9.

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It is apparent fromthe government's actionssincethe fateful reorganization of 1961, that the 'ulama'and al-Azhar have an important domesticand internationalrole to play in the Egyptian Revolution.In the wordsof the present Shaykhal-Azhar,HasanMa'Miin,al-Azharwill continueto act as a beacon castingits light into everycorner of the Islamic world.38 Al-Azharprovidesthe regimewith an important international instrument for the strengthening of Islamiccultural andpoliticalties with the newlyemergent statesof Asia and Africa. As such,it has takenup the struggleagainst imperialism, ignorance and stagnation.Islamhas been offeredas the religion of freedom,equality, civilization and progress. Domestically, the 'ulama'have the important the Revolurole of carrying tion'sprogram of "Islamic Socialism" to the people.39Becausethe 'ulama'are not as yet conversant with the regime'sway of thinking,most of the theorists of "IslamicSocialism" have been from outside the ranksof the shaykhsof al-Azhar.Nevertheless, as the government continues to retrainthe 'ulama' and to wrapits socialistprograms in the mantleof Islam,the shaykhs will play an increasingly important role. Though they are underfirmgovernment control and have suffered a seriousdimunition of influence, the regimefindsthemuseful in carrying the doctrines of the Revolution to the peoplein an Islamicgarb. But they must be retrained.One of the formerrectorsof al-Azhartold the author,"Any shaykhthat follows only the traditional courseof religiousinstruction at al-Azhar will simplynot finda job upongraduation."

IV
After four years,it is possibleto see what coursereformat al-Azharhas taken. Someaspectsof the reformhavenot as yet beengiven attention.Others havereceived too much. The reformof al-Azhar is a completereorganization of the system. A new balanceof powerhas been struckwithin the systemin the form of a reduced role for Shaykh al-Azhar and greaterauthority for government agencies. New of a highercalibrehave been broughtin to occupyimportant personnel Azhar posts and the type of instruction and subject mattertaughtin the entireAzhar systemhas been injectedwith new vigor. The new law totallyintegratesthe religioussystemof education with the government system. In a word,al-Azhar has been "nationalized."
38. Minbhral-Isl2m, Arabicedition, (August, 1964), p. 19. 39. See Minbdral-Ishlm for the most comprehensive collectionof articlesrepresenting a socialist ideology in EgyptianIslamic thought. President'Abd al-Nasir represented the character of this thought when he told the Yemenis on an importantvisit, "Islam is based on three principles: socialism as the basis of social justice and equality;popular rule; and unity." The Arab Observer (May 4, 1964) p. 12.

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Article8 of Law 103 dividesal-Azhar into the followingdepartments:40


Supreme Council Muslim Research Academy Muslim Culture andMissions Department al-Azhar University al-Azhar Institutes The Supreme Council is charged with the general direction of al-Azhar's entire system, including fiscal matters. (Art. 10) It is composed of the Rector of al-Azhar (President); the Vice-Rector;the Director of al-Azhar University; Deans of the faculties of al-Azhar University; four members of the Muslim Research Academy; an Under-Secretaryor Assistant Under-Secretaryof State from each of the ministries of Awqaf, Education,Justice and the Treasury;the Director of Muslim Culture and Missions; the Director of al-Azhar Institutes; and three members at most from among experts in university education and public affairs. (Art. 9) Obviously, government appointed "outsiders"hold the balance of power on the committee. Although Shaykhal-Azhar presides as chairman,his role in the general affairs of the whole system has been reduced to an honorary one. He cannot meddle in the affairs of the autonomous departmentsand is controlled within this SupremeCouncil by the government appointed members who keep a watchful eye on him. He retains some few privileges, must be "consulted"on some appointments, commands a high salary of ?2000 yearly, and continues to receive recognition as the Grand Imam, but his actual influence within the Azhar system is now no greater than that exerted by a reigning king or queen in the British parliamentarysystem.4"What influence he does exert is derived from his personal reputation as a pious leader or "knower"of IslIm.42 Within the guidelines set by the Supreme Council the individual departments have significantautonomy. The Muslim ResearchCouncil is the supreme it undertakes the studyof all matters body of Islamicresearch; relatedto such research, and workstowards the renewalof Moslemculture, its from intrusion, liberation vestigesand tracesof politicaland ideological fanatiin its pureand originalsubstance, cism,its demonstration promoting knowledge of it at everylevel and in everylocality, the expression of opinionon new ideo40. Documentsand Notes, p. 66. 41. "The Rector of al-Azhar is the Grand Imam with the final say in all matters related to religious affairs, scholars on the Koran and the science of Islam. He is the supremeguide in all questions connectedwith Moslem studies in al-Azharand its institutions . . ." (Art. 9). 42. The position of Shaykhal-Azharis much strongerinternationally than domestically.The Young Officers support the internationaltravel of this leading shaykh, who has been called by some the "world Muslim leader,"for the prestige his dignity brings Egypt. In his own right, for instance,Shaykhal-Azharannuallyanswershundredsof questionsconcerningreligious law sent to him from every cornerof the Islamicworld.

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of the responsibilities the creed,and assuming affecting logicalor socialproblems the callfor the sakeof the Religion withwisdom andgoodcounsel. (Art. 15)

of the council numbers50, representingall Muslim The membership schoolsof thought. Not morethan20 shall be citizensof the UAR. (Art. 16) of force for the "purification" an international This attemptto makeal-Azhar to date and the workof the Councilhas been deIslamhas been half-hearted held until March,1964, attracted100 delegates not Its first congress, layed. lisThe shaykhs was accomplished. but little of importance from42 countries, digof variouspapersand hearda seriesof Egyptian tenedto the presentation of Islam'sattitudetowardmodnitariesdiscussthe need for a reinterpretation It has ern problems, but nothingconcretehas yet come from the Academy.43 funcbecause its world in the Islamic influence not as yet exertedanysignificant it has not been enthusiastically tions overlapwith other Azhar departments, receivedby Muslimgroupsin other countries,and has, of course,becomea At presentit is only politicalissue betweenAraband Muslimgovernments." building,but with an officein the old administration by a director represented is plannedfor the Academy.The main reason,howa moderncentrallibrary havenot wishedto developthis is thatthe YoungOfficers ever,for its inactivity to supporttheirown highly to continue at this point. They prefer department Councilfor IslamicAffairs. Nevertheless, and autonomous Supreme successful the possibilityof the Academyspringingto life at some point in the future shouldnot be overlooked. and MissionsDepartment The MuslimCulture
andMoslem to publication, translation with all matters shallbe concerned relating students andreception of scholarship to missions, with regard relations preachers, withinthe scopeof al-Azhar concerned objectives.(Art. 25) andotherpersons

is the mostactive. the missionsarmof the department As it is now functioning, is so greatthat theyoften of the five departments the autonomy Unfortunately, ratherthantowardsa common goal. workat crosspurposes for the 4000 Muslimmisis responsible This department administratively sions studyingat al-Azhar,but it has kept them separatefrom Egyptianstuuntil they are competent enoughto competewith their dentsat the university in Arabic. The foreign studentslive in their own area counterparts Egyptian
43. For a resume of the Academy'smeeting, see The Arab Observer (March 16, 1964), pp. 8-9. for instance,sharesthe duty with the Muslim Cultureand Missions De44. This department, and dissemination of study, interpretation partmentand al-AzharUniversityfor the "preservation, the Moslem heritage." All three must fulfill "the message of Islim to the people" and take upon themselves"the task of clearing up the truth about Islam and its effect on human progress. . ." (Art. 69).

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knownas the foreignstudentcityor missions' far fromal-Azhar, city (Madinat al-BuRth), attend separateclasses, and have their own interestsand recreations.45 Yet, when the foreign studenthas mastered Arabic,to transferfrom the Missions Departmentto al-AzharUniversityis as difficult,becauseof as and the separate bureaucratic inefficiencies autonomy of the two departments, transferring fromone university to another. The MissionsDepartment is also activein sendingAzharteachers abroad, with the Ministry but once again, the sharingof responsibility of Awqaf and the Ministryof Education makesit almost impossiblefor the Azharisthemselvesto understand just what theiractualr6ole is. By far the greatestmajority of Azharissent abroad arehandledby the Ministry of Education.46 The department of al-Azhar Institutes all primary and secondadministers aryreligioustraining.47 Of greatestimportance is the equalization of religious in theseAzharinstitutes with the training training given in the government sysin industrial, tem. Studentsfrom these institutesmay now receivecertificates andotherstudiesso that theymaybe accepted into the commercial, agricultural regularschool systemupon graduation from the primary or secondary levels. Forthe timebeing,however,the flow is in the oppositedirection.Government school studentshave floodedthe new facultiesof al-Azhar University, almost drivingout the Azharis. The reformhas entirelyreorganized al-Azhar University, whichis now one in the Azharsystem.Likeeverydepartment, of the five departments the univerwhichoperates sityhas its own administration independently withinthe overall system. A Rectorof al-AzharUniversity(not to be confusedwith Shaykh al-Azhar) presidesover the UniversityCouncilcomposedof the sub-rector, deansof the variousfaculties,a delegatefrom the Ministry of Education, three of the MuslimResearch and threemembers members Academy with experience or publicaffairs. Sincethe rectorand the sub-rector in university education are of the Republicand the other members appointed by the President by various of the university government agencies,the administration has been taken out Azharis. The past rector,for instance,transof the hands of the traditional and all the deansnow hold WesternPh. D.'s. ferredfromCairoUniversity facultieshavebeenregrouped The traditional underthe Faculty for Islamic
45. The foreign students also find it difficultto mix socially with the Egyptians. New residential buildings for Egyptianstudentsare now, however,being planned for Madinatal-Bu'ith. 46. Of the 3,504 UAR teacherssent abroadin the academicyear 1961-1962, only 756 were delegatedfrom al-Azhar. Of these 756, only a very small numberwere financedby al-Azharitself. See UAR, 10 Years of Progress, 1962, Table 1. Figureson Azharisabroadare takenfrom the records of Shaykhal-Azhar. 47. Article 83 makes possible the creation of more institutes, foreign as well as domestic. Many Muslim countries poor in educationalfacilities have already requested aid from al-Azhar in setting up religious schools.

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Studiesand the Facultyfor Arab Studies,but they continueto operateseparatelyas individualfacultiesand will eventuallybe moved to MadinatNasr. The has not yet been decided.48 What will be done with the old quadrangles to include four new areasof rest of the curriculum has been revolutionized interestsof the religious study,fields hardlycompatible with the traditional scholar. With the creationof the new facultiesof BusinessAdministration, and Medicine,al-Azharhas becomethe Engineering and Crafts,Agriculture fifth Egyptian stateuniversity. All sectionsof the reformed Azharwill be movedshortlyto MadinatNasr centersof the Facultyof Agricul(near Heliopolis) thoughthe experimental ture, for instance,will be located elsewhere. Almost without exception,the new facultieshave acceptedall their studentsfrom the overcrowded governis also drawn ment universities.The entirefacultyfor these new departments studentsand trainingcannotbe any from the secularsystem. The professors, Azhar than the fact that instruction more alien to the traditional within the is given in English. facultiesof MedicineandEngineering The announced goal of the reform,to allow the Azharisto receivethe same will thus be severalyearsin coming,for trainingas theirsecularcounterparts, the Azharisare not yet used to the new sciencesand are incapableof doing workin the new facultiesin Arabic, muchless in English. university so as not to stir The religiousscienceshave generallybeen left untouched up undue trouble. Nevertheless,Islam as taughtat al-Azharis becominginwith the ideas of Arabsocialism.49 as it is impregnated "socialistic" creasingly the regime'sdesireto make the religiousscholara "productive" Considering one can expect the relicitizenand the trendtowardenlightenedsecularism, and suffera seriousloss gious facultiesin the futureto lose muchimportance underthe impactof the reformed of students, and secondary primary especially will It several areas. be in the rural education yearsbeforevillage boys (and girls) come to al-Azharfor anythingbut religioustraining,but the day will will have the characteristics of any Jesuitor Wessoon arrivewhen al-Azhar wheretheologyis but one facultyin the total university.The leyanuniversity weight of the modernfuture is pressingheavily on the traditionalreligious self-interest in seekingsatisfactory employscholar,but it will be his perceived
for Islamic and Arabic Studies at 48. One innovation is the creation of a new department the Faculty of Shari'ah. Lectureswill be given on theology, rhetoricand other Islamic sciencesat the mosque of al-Azhar. Anyone may attend,but it is primarilyfor holdersof the secondary certificate and foreign students who are capable of following the courses. At the end of a four year course, a degree which gives the same rights as any Azhar degree will be awarded. See The EgyptianGazette,(March7, 1965). 49. One of the more importantresolutionsof the IslamicResearch Councilconference of 1964 opened the door to Egyptianstyle "ArabIslamicSocialism." "The government of a countryhas the right to restrict the freedom to ownership to the extent necessaryfor preventingcorruptionand realizingthe interestsof the country." The EgyptianGazette, (April 6, 1964).

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mentthatwill finallydrivehim towardthe new facultiesat al-Azhar.The turbaned shaykhwill give way to the broadlytrainedreligiousscholarsuch as thosewho already occupythe key postsas deansand rectors in the new system. It is from the ranksof these moderntrainedshaykhsthat any meaningful "trestoration" of Islam will come, if indeedit will come from shaykhly ranks at all.

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