So, I just heard from my gorgeous,, multi-talented, bestest friend G (he forced me to say this) that we have a new sheikh al-Azhar! Unfortunately, the old sheikh al-Azhar, Tantawi, passed away 2 weeks ago while he was in Saudi Arabia…may he rest in peace.
I’m actually really excited about this new sheikh! His name is Ahmed el-Tayeb, and the first thing that struck me is that he doesn’t have a beard…strange for an Islamic scholar! And then I read more about him…
The French-educated el-Tayeb, 64, previously served as Egypt’s Mufti, the nation’s top religious law expert, for a brief stint before stepping down in 2003 to head Cairo’s Al-Azhar University. He is an expert on religious philosophy and issues of faith, and has written books about science, Marxism, Islamic philosophy, and Islamic culture.
So he is French educated – that’s already pretty surprising!
Viewed as a moderate Muslim who has encouraged dialogue with Western countries, el-Tayeb has outwardly criticized hard-line Islamists, saying the focus on rituals and outward manifestations of piety – such as Islamic garb or beards – comes at the expense of true spiritual development.
El-Tayeb also angered radical Islamists for once telling an Islamic conference that “the logic of things is change.”
I think I’m really going to like this guy!
Is this the light at the end of tunnel? Do you think he can actually reform Azhar and maybe inject a little moderation into contemporary Islam?