His Eminence Sheikh Dr Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque
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His Eminence Sheikh Dr Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque

Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb was appointed as Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar in March 2010, after the passing of his predecessor, Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi.

Birth: 6 January 1946 (Age: 76)

Source of Influence: Administration of Religious Affairs

Influence: Highest scholarly authority for the majority of Sunni Muslims, runs the foremost and largest Sunni Islamic university

School of Thought: Sunni, Traditional Sunni

Status: Featured in current year

Influence

Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb was appoint­ed as Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar in March 2010, after the passing of his predecessor, Dr Muhammad Sayy­id Tantawi. Al-Tayyeb was formerly the president of Al-Azhar for seven years and, prior to that, served for two years as the most powerful cleric in Egypt as its Grand Mufti.

Scholarly Influence: His scholarly influence as a leading intellectual of Sunni Islam spans the globe. He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Islam­ic Studies in Aswan, and the theology faculty of the International Islamic University in Pakistan. He has also taught in universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Political Stance: Over the past years of political uncertainty and unrest in Egypt, Al-Tayyeb has at­tempted to hold the middle way. He has been out­spoken against the Muslim Brotherhood for their exploitation of Islam as a political ideology whilst also resisting calls by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for a “religious revolution” and efforts to “renew Is­lamic discourse”. Such efforts included the suggestion to revoke the verbal divorce law in Egypt. Al-Azhar wholly rejected the President’s plan, calling the law an “undisputed practice since the days of the Prophet Muhammad”. Al-Tayyeb has been active in trying to diffuse the influence of da’ish, organising many ini­tiatives and conferences. He has also tried to improve foreign relations and met with many foreign religious leaders and heads of states (including the Pope and the late Queen Elizabeth).

Advocate of Traditional Islam: Sheikh Al-Tayyeb has emphasised his mission to promote traditional Islam since becoming Grand Sheikh. He has stressed the importance of teaching students about Islamic heritage—considering Al-Azhar graduates as am­bassadors of Islam to the world. In an age where claimants to authoritative Islam seem to be on every corner, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb has both the institute and the personal skills to authentically claim to be a rep­resentative of traditional Islam, Islam as practiced by the majority of Muslims throughout the ages. Sheikh Al-Tayyeb has defined the Sunni community (Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Al-Jama’a) as those who follow Imam Abul-Hasan Al-Ash’ari and Imam Abu Mansur Al-Matu­ridi and the scholars of Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i jurisprudence, as well as the moderate scholars of the Hanbali school. He also included the Sufis following the way of Imam Al-Junayd.

Leader of Al-Azhar University: Sheikh Al-Tayyeb leads the second-oldest university in the world, where teaching has continued without interruption since 975 CE. Al-Azhar represents the centre of Sun­ni Islamic jurisprudence. It is a key institution that issues authoritative religious rulings and has pro­vided extensive Islamic education to Egyptian and international students since its inception over a mil­lennium ago. This history makes it a bastion of Sunni traditionalism. The university is considered one of the most prominent Islamic educational institutions and the foremost centre of Sunni Muslim scholarship worldwide.

Administers Al-Azhar Education Network: Al-Azhar is currently the largest university in the world, having risen from a group of three schools in the 1950s to its current state with 72 feeder schools, with close to 300,000 students studying there at any one time. Including schools that are part of Al-Azhar waqf initiatives, there are close to 2 million stu­dents. The graduates of Al-Azhar have great respect as religious leaders within the Muslim community, and this makes the head of Al-Azhar an extraordinar­ily powerful and influential person.

Interfaith Initiative: The International Day of Hu­man Fraternity is an annual UN-designated celebra­tion of interfaith and multicultural understanding which was established by Pope Francis and Sheikh Al-Tayyeb.

Quotes

“We reach out to all those who are seeking peace, whatever religion they believe and whatever race they may be.”

Statistics

9 thousand Al-Azhar affiliated schools across Egypt

970CE the year Al-Azhar University was founded.