Skip to main content

Egypt's Al-Azhar in dispute with government over fatwa authority

Tensions are escalating between Al-Azhar and legislative and executive authorities over proposed legislation that would render Dar al-Ifta an "independent" institution, ending Al-Azhar's long-standing patronage of the Islamic legal body — and replacing it with state dominance and possibly tighter government control over the religious narrative.
Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, speaks during the opening session of the Fatwa international conference, attended by Arab Islamic clerics, in Cairo on August 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Tensions between Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest religious authority, and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have escalated in recent days after Egypt's largely pro-government House of Representatives approved a draft law regulating the activities of Dar al-Ifta, Al-Azhar-affiliated institution responsible for issuing religious edicts.

The bill, which has been referred to the State Council for review before its final endorsement by the parliament, seeks to reorganize the way Dar al-Ifta operates including the mechanism by which its head —the grand mufti — is selected, his mandate and the length of his tenure. If the bill is enacted into law, Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars (CSS) would no longer elect the mufti by secret ballot, the method of voting introduced by late Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in 2012.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.