Ahmad al-Tayyeb

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Ahmed El-Tayeb
أحمد الطيب
Ahmed el-Tayeb May 2015 (17963337671).jpg
Ahmed El-Tayeb in 2015
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
Assumed office
10 March 2010
PresidentHosni Mubarak
Mohamed Hussein Tantawy (Acting)
Mohamed Morsi
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Preceded byMohamed Sayed Tantawy
Grand Mufti of Egypt
In office
10 March 2002 – 27 September 2003
PresidentHosni Mubarak
Preceded byNasr Farid Wasil
Succeeded byAli Gomaa
President of Al-Azhar University
In office
PresidentHosni Mubarak
Preceded byAhmad Omar Hashem
Succeeded byAbdallah al-Husseini
Ahmad al-Tayyeb
Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb

(1946-01-06) 6 January 1946 (age 74)
Alma materAl-Azhar University
Paris-Sorbonne University

Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb (Arabic: أحمد محمد أحمد الطيب‎) (born 6 January 1946) is Egyptian Islamic scholar and the current Grand Imam of al-Azhar and former president of al-Azhar University. He was appointed by the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, following the death of Mohamed Sayed Tantawy in 2010.[1] He is from Kurna, Luxor Governorate in Upper Egypt, and he belongs to a Sufi family.[2]


Al-Tayeb studied Doctrine and Philosophy at Al-Azhar University, where he graduated in 1969, after that he had a Master's degree and Ph.D. in Islamic philosophy in 1971 and 1977 respectively. Later on, he went to study at the University of Paris for six months, from December 1977 to 1978. Afterwards, he held academic posts at Al-Azhar University, then administrative roles in Qena and Aswan, and he even worked at the International Islamic University, Islamabad in Pakistan in 1999–2000.[3]

Between 2002 and 2003, al-Tayeb served as Grand Mufti of Egypt.[4] Al-Tayeb is a hereditary Sufi shaykh from Upper Egypt and has expressed support for a global Sufi league.[5][6] He has been president of Al-Azhar University from 2003 until 2010.[7][8]

As Grand Imam of al-Azhar, al-Tayeb intervened to reverse a decision by al-Azhar disciplinary board to expel a female student for "hugging" a male student at Al-Azhar university.[9]

Political Party (Past)[edit]

Prior to his appointment as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and president of al-Azhar University, he was a member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party's Policies Committee.[1] He initially refused to resign from his position in the National Democratic Party (NDP) by saying that there was no conflict between his role at Al-Azhar and membership in the party.[10]

In April 2010, he resigned from his post in the party.[11]


Muslim Brotherhood[edit]

In an article published shortly after his appointment as president of Al-Azhar University, he was described as "a regime loyalist and member of Mr Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party [who] takes a firm stance against the Muslim Brotherhood".

Tayeb was quoted as saying that Al-Azhar University would "never be an open field for the Brotherhood".[1]

The same article reported that the Muslim Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, had congratulated Tayeb on his appointment. At the same time, the Brotherhood senior member, Sheikh Sayed Askar, also an Azharite, accused the government of "promoting one of its own at the expense of people better suited to the post".[1]

Criticism of intensified after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Some Muslim Brotherhood members accused him of being "a remnant of the ousted Mubarak regime and National Democratic Party".[12]

In 2011, following the Egyptian revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood held a rally at the Al-Azhar mosque to oppose what it described as the Judaization of Jerusalem. He said at the rally that "the al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews" and "we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaize al-Quds [Jerusalem]". He also alleged that Jews around the world were trying to prevent Islamic and Egyptian unity.[13][14] The rally was criticized by the New York Daily News as anti-Semitic.[15]

He backed the military coup against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.[16]


In 2016 al-Tayeb, said that leaving Islam (apostasy) is punishable by death. In his view, crimes, assault and treason are forms of apostasy and must be punished. Apostates must rejoin Islam or be killed.[17]

Opposition to sectarianism[edit]

He has strongly rebuked the Salafi anti-Alawite preaching, which has increased since the Syrian government, cracked down on the Sunni Islamist rebels in the Syrian Civil War.[18]


In an interview which aired on Egypt's Channel 1 on 25 October 2013 (as translated by MEMRI), al-Tayeb stated, "Since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago, we have been suffering from Jewish and Zionist interference in Muslim affairs. This is a cause of great distress for the Muslims.".

He also argued that "the Quran said it and history has proven it: 'You shall find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists'". He also claimed that Jews consider non-Jews to be "extremely inferior" and that Jews "practice a terrible hierarchy, and they are not ashamed to admit it, because it is written in the Torah – with regard to killing, enslavement, and so on".[19][20]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[edit]

He has strongly condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and stated that it is acting "under the guise of this holy religion and have given themselves the name 'Islamic State' in an attempt to export their false Islam"[21][22] and (citing the Quran).

"The punishment for those who wage war against God and his Prophet and who strive to sow corruption on earth is death, crucifixion, the severing of hands and feet on opposite sides or banishment from the land. This is the disgrace for them in this world and in the hereafter they will receive grievous torment".

He has been criticized for not expressly stating that Islamic State was heretical.[23][24] The Ash'ari school of Islamic theology - to which El-Tayeb belongs - does not allow calling a person who follows the shahada an apostate.[23]

Al-Tayeb has strongly come out against the practice of takfirism, declaring a Muslim an apostate, which is used by Islamic State to "judge and accuse anyone who doesn't toe their line with apostasy and outside the realm of the faith" and declares "jihad on peaceful Muslims" by using "flawed interpretations of some Qur'anic texts, the prophet's Sunna, and the Imams' views, believing incorrectly that they are leaders of Muslim armies fighting infidel peoples in unbelieving lands".[25]

Wahhabism and Salafism[edit]

In late 2016, at a conference of over a hundred Sunni scholars in Chechnya, al-Tayeb defined orthodox Sunnism as "the Ash'arites and Maturidites (adherents of the theological systems of Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and Imam Abul Hasan al-Ash'ari) ... followers of any of the four schools of thought (Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki or Hanbali) and ... also the followers of the Sufism of Imam Junaid al-Baghdadi in doctrines, manners and [spiritual] purification."[26] Having said that, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb excluded the “Salafis” from the term of Ahluls Sunna (Sunnis) stating that Salafis – also known as Wahhabis – are not from among the Sunnis.[27] The conference was believed to have been designed to take an "uncompromising stand against the growing Takfiri terrorism that is playing havoc across the world."[28]

Shia Islam[edit]

In 2016, he reissued the fatwa on Shia Muslims, calling Shia the fifth school of Islam and seeing no problem with conversions from Sunni to Shia Islam.[29]


  • The Muslim 500 Mention


  • al-Jānib al-naqdī fī falsafat Abī al-Barakāt al-Baghdādi. Cairo: Dār al-Shurūq. 2004. ISBN 9770910783.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Abou el Magd, Nadia (21 March 2010). "Mubarak appoints a new chief of Al Azhar". The National.
  2. ^ "أحمد الطيب شيخ الأزهر الجديد". www.aljazeera.net (in Arabic). Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b "شيخ الأزهر - فضيلة الإمام الأكبر الأستاذ الدكتور/ أحمد محمد أحمد الطيب". Azhar (in Arabic). 16 May 2016. Archived from the original on 18 April 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  4. ^ Shahine, Gihan (25–31 March 2010). "'A good choice after all'; Will the appointment of a new grand sheikh restore Al-Azhar's credibility?". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012.
  5. ^ Carnegie Endowment: "Salafis and Sufis in Egypt" by Jonathan Brown December 2011 | p 12 | "Ahmad al-Tayyeb, is a hereditary Sufi shaykh from Upper Egypt who has recently expressed his support for the formation of a world Sufi league."
  6. ^ The New Arab: "IS threatens Egypt's Sufis after cleric murders" 9 December 2016 | The head of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, practises Sufism, as have many leading Sunni Muslim clerics over the centuries.
  7. ^ "EGYPT: Moderate cleric the front-runner in race to take over powerful Sunni Muslim post". LA Times. 13 March 2010.
  8. ^ Topol, Sarah (22 March 2010). "Egypt names Ahmed el-Tayeb sheikh of Al-Azhar University". Christian Science Monitor.
  9. ^ "Grand Imam of al-Azhar: The Imam of Tolerance". www.salemalketbi.com. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  10. ^ El-Beheri, Ahmed (21 March 2010): New sheikh of Al-Azhar: 'I won't resign from NDP', Egypt Independent
  11. ^ Maher Ghali Katharina Natter, Diana (4 April 2010): "Mubarak accepts Azhar Sheikh's resignation from NDP", Masress
  12. ^ Essam El-Din, Gamal (30 November 2012): "Constituent Assembly okays draft Egypt charter in night-time session", AhramOnLine
  13. ^ Beck, Eldad (25 November 2011). "Cairo rally: One day we'll kill all Jews". Ynet. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  14. ^ Muslim Brotherhood rally vows to 'kill all Jews' By Oren Kessler, The Jerusalem Post, 27 November 2011. (accessed on 17 August 2012).
  15. ^ Mikelberg, Amanda (26 November 2011). "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood holds anti-Semetic rally, draws thousands at Cairo's top mosque vowing to 'one day kill all the Jews'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  16. ^ BBC News (4 July 2013): "Q&A: Egypt military ousts Morsi" BBC News Service
  17. ^ Ibrahim, Raymond. "Egypt's Top "Moderate" Cleric: Apostasy a "Crime" Punishable by Death". Middle East Forum. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Islam's old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there". The Economist. 29 June 2013.
  19. ^ Sheik of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayeb Justifies Antisemitism on the Basis of the Koran, MEMRITV, Clip No. 4048, 25 October 2013. (video clip available here).
  20. ^ Leading center of Sunni learning criticizes but does not accuse Islamic State of apostasy by Ariel Ben Solomon, The Jerusalem Post, 14 December 2014.
  21. ^ Al Arabiya: "Head of Egypt’s al-Azhar condemns ISIS ‘barbarity’" Archived 6 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine 3 December 2014
  22. ^ Asharq Al-Awsat: "Egypt’s Al-Azhar stops short of declaring ISIS apostates - Azhar statement rejects practice of takfirism" 13 December 2014
  23. ^ a b Al Ahram: "In search of ‘renewal’ - Al-Azhar is at the centre of an escalating controversy" by Amany Maged Archived 15 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine 15 January 2015
  24. ^ Al Monitor: "Al-Azhar refuses to consider the Islamic State an apostate" Archived 6 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine by Ahmed Fouad |"The sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, repeated his rejection of declaring IS apostates on 1 Jan, during a meeting with editors-in-chief of Egyptian newspapers. This sparked criticism from a number of religious, political and media parties, especially since Al-Azhar could have renounced the Nigerian mufti’s statement on IS without addressing the issue of whether or not Al-Azhar considers the group apostates"
  25. ^ Muslim World League: "Sheikh Al-Azhar Speech in opening of conference" Archived 19 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine 22 February 2015
  26. ^ "Islamic conference in Chechnya: Why Sunnis are disassociating themselves from Salafists" Sep, 09 2016 | He stated: “Ahluls Sunna wal Jama’ah are the Ash’arites or Muturidis (adherents of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi's systematic theology which is also identical to Imam Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari’s school of logical thought). In matters of belief, they are followers of any of the four schools of thought (Hanafi, Shaf’ai, Maliki or Hanbali) and are also the followers of pure Sufism in doctrines, manners and [spiritual] purification.
  27. ^ Ibid., "Islamic conference in Chechnya: Why Sunnis are disassociating themselves from Salafis"
  28. ^ "Islamic conference in Chechnya: Why Sunnis are disassociating themselves from Salafists" Sep, 09 2016
  29. ^ Teymoori, Ali (19 October 2016). "Fatwa of Al-Azhar's Grand Imam on Shia". Ijtihad Network.
  30. ^ "2013 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Winners Announced". zayedaward.ae. 3 April 2013. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  31. ^ "Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb becomes Honorary Citizen of Samarkand". Uzbekistan National News Agency (UzA).
  32. ^ "Samarkand celebrates and honors Sheikh Al-Tayyib". Teller Report.
  33. ^ "Samarkand awards Tayyeb title of honorary citizen". State Information Service (SIS).

External links[edit]

Media related to Ahmed el-Tayeb at Wikimedia Commons

Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Nasr Farid Wasil
Grand Mufti of Egypt
Succeeded by
Ali Gomaa
Preceded by
Mohamed Sayed Tantawy
Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque
Succeeded by