Forum Member Posts Hani al-Siba`i Article Calling Shaykh of Al-Azhar Unfit Jihadist Websites Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi of al-Azhar, Sunni Islam institute, talks during a presser in Cairo,Egypt, Thursday, Oct.8, 2009. Egypt`s top Islamic cleric has barred students from wearing face veils in classrooms and dormitories of Sunni Islam`s premier institute of learning, al-Azhar. The decision announced Thursday by Sheik of al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi appears to be part of a government campaign to crack down on overt manifestations of ultraconservative Islam in Egypt.

On 10 October, a forum participant posted to a jihadist website an article written by London-based Egyptian Islamist Hani al-Siba`i on Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and shaykh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. In his article, Al-Siba`i recounts Tantawi`s life and career, but questions Tantawi`s qualifications for and actions as Shaykh of Al-Azhar. After discussing numerous controversial fatwas issued by Tantawi, Al-Siba`i concludes that Tantawi was selected by the Egyptian government for its purposes and not qualified to issue fatwas or to hold his current position.

A summary of the article follows:

The article, written by Hani al-Siba`i, begins by giving the background of how Shaykh Sayyid Tantawi was appointed as the grand mufti of Egypt in 1986, the beginning of his rise and his “controversial fatwas.” The author finds it noteworthy that all previous muftis had studied and received degrees in Islamic law, but that Tantawi had not, referring to him as simply a “university professor.”

Al-Siba`i then recounts how Tantawi was appointed as the shaykh of Al-Azhar in 1986, “although he was near the bottom of the list (of candidates) that includes more than 40 Azhari scholars.” He compares Tantawi to Abdulrahman Taj, grand imam and shaykh of Al-Azhar from 1954 to 1958 and noting that while the latter was certainly corrupt, his level of corruption was “a drop in the ocean” compared to the current shaykh of Al-Azhar. Tantawi, the author maintains, “issues fatwas according to the official position of the country.”

Al-Siba`i then discusses some of the controversial views and fatwas issued by Tantawi such as the permissibility of sex change operations under certain circumstances; his approval of the recommendations of the international women`s conference in Beijing in 1995, and his position that the conference`s demands for equality between men and women do not contradict Shari`ah; his fatwa that Palestinians who carry out suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets are not martyrs; his approval of the decision of the Egyptian minister of education forbidding wearing of the niqab at Egyptian public universities; his meetings with Israel`s chief rabbi and ambassador to Egypt; his position that a woman could be the president of Egypt; and his fatwa defending the French government`s right to ban women from wearing the veil in public schools.

Al-Siba`i says that: “Shaykh Sayyid Tantawi was carefully chosen by the (Egyptian) regime” because he “fit the time of crisis that the Egyptian state was going through.” Tantawi, the author says, “dealt with the Al-Azhar scholars with the morals of a gang leader” and “should be brought to trial historically and religiously for his transgressions since he contradicted what is known in religion, disregarded the Koranic texts, was loyal to the enemies of the Islamic nation, undermined the scholars of Islam, and repressed them in favor of evil forces.”

Al-Siba`i concludes: “The leadership of this man for the ancient religious institution in the Islamic Sunni world insults the history of this institution; moreover, it is an affront to the feelings of Muslims around the world. Tantawi is not qualified to issue fatwas nor is he competent for the position of shaykh of Al-Azhar, since the Al-Azhar is not only an Egyptian institution, but also an Arab and Islamic one for all Muslims throughout the Islamic world.”

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Al-Siba`i Discusses Jihadist, Regional Issues in Interview with Jihadist Forum
November 23, 2009
Jihadist Websites

“Yes, Al-Tantawi, Ali Jum`ah, and many other scholars are held as infidels for they meet almost all the conditions.”

On 6 July, a forum participant posted to a jihadist website several links to a jihadist forum`s interview with Dr Hani al-Siba`i, a prominent pro-Al-Qaeda writer. The interview covers many topics, including the situations of various mujahidin groups, the Saudi regime, takfir (holding other Muslims as infidels), and the situation in Iraq.

A summary of the interview follows:

The interview with Dr Hani al-Siba`i is an online interview, with the interviewer asking his own questions as well as those submitted by online writers. The interview is divided according to the questions, each part covers one question and its answer.

The interviewer starts by asking Al-Siba`i about Abu-Qatadah al-Falastini, a prominent Islamic militant affiliated with Al-Qa`ida. Al-Siba`i says that Abu-Qatadah`s son was praying with him last night, and he asked him the same question. He goes on to say that: “they are tightening up on him and torturing him a lot.” Al-Siba`i also discusses the situation of the prisoners in general, and gives a live example from his own experience in prison.

The second question was about France, its “enmity towards Islam, and its stances towards the face veil. Al-Siba`i says: “the war is not against the face veil itself, it is against the whole Islamic doctrine.” He continues to say that the French and the German people hate the Muslims so much. He adds: “they are scared from the Islamic expansion in Europe; this is the reason behind their continuous assaults.” He goes on saying that Muslims are now found everywhere and in every job, school, and street in Europe.

Then the interviewer asks him about takfir, and especially holding the elite figures in the society as infidels, for example Al-Tantawi (Muhammad Sayyid, Grand Shaykh of Al-Azhar University) or Ali Jum`ah (Grand Mufti of Egypt). Al-Siba`i starts his answer by noting some examples from history and stating that the ideology of takfir has been circulating for the past 30 years only and before that no one has ever mentioned it. He talks about the conditions and the nullifiers of takfir and notes: “whoever ignores the implementation of God`s ruling is an infidel,” and he adds: “Yes, Al-Tantawi, Ali Jum`ah, and many other scholars are held as infidels for they meet almost all the conditions.” Finally he says: “you can hold an individual as an infidel, but you can never hold the entire society as such.”

The interviewer continues his questions and asks him about some major scholars who supported the tyrants, and about his opinion of the regime of Al-Sa`ud. Here, Al-Siba`i says that those scholars used to hold other regimes as infidels, but they never held the Saudi regime as infidel. Criticizing such scholars, Al-Siba`i says: “those scholars were used for political purposes.” He condemns the Saudi regime because they allowed the polytheists to enter the Arabian Peninsula.

The final question was about Harith al-Dari and the new plan in Iraq. Concerning this issue, Al-Siba`i says that Al-Dari is taking advantage of the current situation in Iraq and he is supported by the neighboring countries such as Syria and Saudi Arabia. Al-Siba`i adds: “Harith al-Dari is a well known figure that does not need any marketing.” He adds that the Americans and several other fronts are using Al-Dari for their own benefits. Al-Siba`i ends by saying that God will grant victory to the pious monotheists in Iraq.

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Understanding The Niqab
by Disu Kamor
November 18, 2009

“I have already told you that the niqab has absolutely nothing to do with the religion, and it is something that is from custom......and I know the religion better than you, and those who gave birth to you (i.e. her parents).”

Lagos, Nov 18, 2009 (This Day/All Africa Global Media) -- The Shaykh Al-Azhar, esteemed Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Tantawi while on a recent visit to an Al-Azhar-affiliated high school stood in front of the class to teach a 16-year old teenager who was using the niqab (the face veil) some important lessons in Islamic legal rulings.

Having observed that the girl was adorning the face cover in the class, he ordered her to immediately remove the veil because niqab “has nothing to do with Islam and is only a custom”. Rather surprisingly, the thoroughly embarrassed young girl rejected the order of the most senior religious cleric, stood her ground, and explained that she was uncomfortable without her niqab.

The Shaykh repeated his order but the young girl reiterated her objection to the anger of the Shaykh who must have felt that his pre-eminence status and authority were being challenged. This ex-grand jurist of Egypt who had taught in some of the most prestigious Islamic centers of learning, including the Islamic University of Medinah, then did the unexpected to put the little girl in her place, he charged: “I have already told you that the niqab has absolutely nothing to do with the religion, and it is something that is from custom......and I know the religion better than you, and those who gave birth to you (i.e. her parents).” Forced to yield under enormous pressure coming from the symbol of authority who is more that four times her age and under the full glare of the press, the girl finally removed her veil. Unsatisfied by this compromise still, the Shaykh stunned onlookers when he crudely went ahead to humiliate the girl right in front of her classmates. He remarked in a coarse Egyptian street vernacular which cannot be properly translated into English language because of its coarseness: “So if you were even a little beautiful, what would you have done then?” Feeling satisfied and vindicated, the Shaykh then let the girl to be, although only after promising to ban female students from veiling their faces on Al-Azhar premises and affiliated educational establishments. One cannot help but sympathize with the poor girl.

Although renowned for making what many have described as `pay-as-you-go fatwas`, the office of the Shaykh al-Azhar is symbolically the most senior office in the entire Sunni world, which boasts of about 87% of the world`s Muslim population of 1.57 Billion, outranking even that of the grand jurist of Egypt, the position the Shaykh held for almost 10 years before being appointed on 27 March, 1996 into his current position by president Hosni Mubarak. The office is reckoned to rank higher than any other Islamic office because the person purportedly placed in this office is the most scholarly personality of the oldest and most revered Islamic University in the Sunni world. Given an impressive credential such as this, it will be easy to mistake the event which occurred on Monday, October 5, 2009 as a scholarly attempt to unravel the conspiracy of institutionalizing the `non-Islamic and customary practice` of obscuring the face into mainstream Islam. This however was not to be the case. Infact this peculiar event shows exactly why the Muslim world does not deserve government appointed Shayukh at its oldest university.

Thank God the Shaykh restricted his claim of superior knowledge of Islamic legal rulings to the girl and her parents because Muslim scholars since the time of the companions of the prophet up till the present time have historically differed over this issue. Their difference was due to their various understandings and attitudes towards the religious texts about the subject since there is no definitive clear-cut text about it in the primary sources. Had there been any, there would have been no scholarly difference regarding it. The four classical Sunni schools of law discussing the legal status of the niqab, in numerous major work of fiqh, written throughout the centuries of Islam have only differed on the subject on the basis of its been obligatory, recommendable, or merely permissible, never as forbidden.

Among contemporary scholars, Shaykh Ali Abu al-Hasan, the former head of the Fatwa Council at the Islamic Studies Institute (ISI) in Cairo said “No official has the right to order a young lady to remove a form of dress that was sanctioned by none other than Umar ibn al-Khattab (the 2nd Caliph after the prophet (SAW)), except for the purposes of identification for security reasons.” In his own juristic opinion, the eminent scholar Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi stated that: “No Muslim scholar, whether among the predecessors or contemporary scholars, has ever been reported to have regarded wearing niqab as forbidden except in the case of ihram for women... Thus it is untenable that a Muslim jurist would regard niqab as prohibited or even merely undesirable in Islam.... Those who believe that niqab is an innovation or forbidden are ignorant, and by this they lie about the Law of God. The least that can be said about the issue of niqab is that it is merely permissible.” This opinion is in agreement with the views expressed by scholars like Nasir Ad-Din Al-Albani, the majority of the Al-Azhar scholars, the scholars of Az-Zaytunah University in Tunisia, the scholars of Al-Qarawiyeen University in Morocco, and many Pakistani, Indian, and Turkish scholars as well as others.

Of course, there is no unanimity among contemporary scholars that it is permissible to uncover the Muslim woman`s face and hands, as there are many scholars in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, a number of the other Gulf countries, Pakistan, and India, who believe that veiling the woman`s face and hands is obligatory. Among them are the late eminent Saudi scholar Shaykh `Abdul-`Aziz ibn Baz, the late well-known Pakistani scholar Abu Al-A`la Al-Mawdudi and the famous Syrian writer Dr. Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan Al-Buti.

Cases such as this is a sad reminder of history of state dictatorship to change the public face of Islamic culture and practices, like the Tunisian President Bourguiba who ruled between 1955-1987 and tried to ban Ramadan in his efforts to increase worker “productivity” and “modernization”. As part of the difficulties surrounding the use of niqab in Egpyt, on Saturday 3rd of October, scores of female university students protested outside Al-Azhar university dormitory calling for the repeal of the decision banning fully veiled women from entering the university premises. A previous directive by the Egyptian minister of religious endowment to ban women preachers wearing the niqab from mosques was hotly contested and a ban on nurses wearing full veil was announced last year, but not enforced. In the case of the university students, an ingenious means of ban enforcement have been devised: by rendering government subsidized housing and nutrition inaccessible to veiled female students in Egyptian universities.

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