Al-Azhar Sheikh: “Islam cannot prevail and spread by means of weapons”

SHAFAQNA –  Al-Tayeb says here that “what the Islamist armed movements are doing is wrong.” However, rejoicing over his “moderation” may be premature: he has justified anti-Semitism on Qur’anic grounds; called for the Islamic State murderers of the Jordanian pilot to be crucified or have their hands and feet amputatedon opposite sides (as per the penalty in Qur’an 5:33 for those who make war against Allah and his messenger or spread “mischief” in the land); and broken off “dialogue” with the Vatican after Pope Benedict XVI dared to criticize the jihad massacre of 21 Christians in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve 2011. Al-Azhar was also revealed to be offering free copies of a book that called for the slaughter of Christians and other Infidels.

Here he says the Qur’an cannot be changed, and not even a new interpretation is needed. To counter the Islamic State’s challenge, he says that Al-Azhar is setting up “multilingual observation centre to monitor what ISIS and the other armed movements are spreading in the world.” So relax.

As for his claim about Islam not prevailing through violence, it would be interesting to know what he made of these Qur’an verses, among others:

2:191-193:  “And slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution is more grievous than slaying. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, slay them — such is the recompense of unbelievers, but if they give over, surely Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s; then if they give over, there shall be no enmity save for evildoers.”

4:89: “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of Allah; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”

5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement.”

8:39: “Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s entirely; then if they give over, surely Allah sees the things they do.”

8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged.”

8:67: “It is not for a prophet to have captives until he inflicts a massacre in the land. Some Muslims desire the commodities of this world, but Allah desires the Hereafter. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.”

9:5: “Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”

9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.”

9:111: “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon Allah in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfils his covenant truer than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.”

9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”

47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads. So it shall be; and if Allah had willed, He would have avenged Himself upon them; but that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will not send their works astray.”

“‘What the Islamist armed movements are doing is wrong,’” by Khalid El Kaoutit, Qantara, April 30, 2015:

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb is grand imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the highest religious instances in Sunni Islam. In an interview with Khalid El Kaoutit, he explains how the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) are abusing Islamic doctrine for their own purposes

Al-Azhar is currently facing completely new challenges. The so-called “Islamic State” is building its empire in the Arab world on the basis of Islam. How is your institution dealing with this?

Ahmed al-Tayeb: In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Let us first agree on the term “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). There is at present no “Islamic state” in that sense. Nor do I agree with your claim that ISIS has supposedly conquered the Arab world. That’s precisely their propaganda! As an institution, al-Azhar teaches its students that Islam cannot prevail and spread by means of weapons, but through arguments, logic and conviction. What the Islamist armed movements are doing is wrong. Al-Azhar is not in agreement with it and disapproves of their activities.

What are the reasons for the emergence of these radical Islamist groups?

Al-Tayeb: Among other things, the crucial factors are the many setbacks experienced by young people, the economic backwardness, unemployment. That means that we need a vitalisation of the economy. The West has to take responsibility too and help the Arab countries to free themselves from the beast of terror. This could, for example, take the form of economic co-operation and political support. Western countries have to guarantee the Arab states a protective barrier, because if the terror remains here, it would be wrong to think that the West will be unaffected. We all know that people from the West have been voluntarily taking up arms on their own initiative to fight their own countries of origin and their fellow countrymen.

You mentioned economic factors as some of the reasons for the emergence of IS. But these militant groups all invoke Islam. So is it not necessary to change the image of Islam?

Al-Tayeb: No. It is necessary to present Islam the way it is, the way it respects others, the way it believes in others and grants them freedom of religion. It doesn’t work the way some people are demanding: change your cultural heritage! Change the Koran! No, the Koran is unalterable, just like the Bible.

But even President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has called for a new religious discourse. Does Islam need a fundamental renewal?

Al-Tayeb: Fundamental? No. That would mean altering the Koran and the foundations of the religion. The president said he doesn’t mean a new interpretation of the scriptures; what he means is that we’re facing new problems that have never existed in this form before and for which there is as yet no discourse. What we need is to find a new discourse that addresses these challenges.

And what steps is al-Azhar taking in this respect?

Al-Tayeb: Among other things, we’re working on setting up a multilingual observation centre to monitor what ISIS and the other armed movements are spreading in the world. All this will be presented to a commission of al-Azhar scholars and then analysed by them. Recommendations will then be formulated, translated and published on the al-Azhar website….

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