Ahmed el-Tayeb

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Not to be confused with Ahmad al-Tayyeb Aldj.
Ahmed el-Tayeb
أحمد الطيب
Ahmed el-Tayeb May 2015 (17963337671).jpg
Ahmed el-Tayeb in May 2015
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
Assumed office
10 March 2010
Preceded by Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy
Personal details
Born Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed el-Tayeb
(1946-01-06) 6 January 1946 (age 69)
Qena, Egypt
Alma mater Paris-Sorbonne University
Religion Sunni Islam; (Ash'ari); Sufi

Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed el-Tayeb (Arabic: أحمد محمد أحمد الطيب‎) is 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 Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy in 2010. He is considered to be one of the most moderate Sunni clerics in Egypt.[1] El-Tayeb holds a Ph. D in Islamic philosophy from the Paris-Sorbonne University, and has been president of Al-Azhar University since 2003.[2][3] Between 2002 and 2003, el-Tayeb served as Grand Mufti of Egypt.[4] El-Tayeb is a hereditary Sufi shaykh from Upper Egypt and has expressed support for a global Sufi league.[5]

Membership in National Democratic Party[edit]

Prior to his appointment as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and president of al-Azhar University, el-Tayeb was a member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party's Policies Committee.[1] El-Tayeb initially refused to resign from his position in the National Democratic Party (NDP), saying there was no conflict between his role at Al-Azhar and membership in the party.[6]

In April 2010, El-Tayeb resigned from his post in the NDP.[7]

Relationship with Muslim Brotherhood[edit]

In an article published shortly after his appointment as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and president of al-Azhar University, el-Tayeb 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". El-Tayeb was quoted saying that 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 el-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 el-Tayeb 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".[8]

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. El-Tayeb spoke at the rally, saying "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.[9][10] The rally was criticized by the New York Daily News as antisemitic.[11]

On 3 July 2013, el-Tayeb backed the military coup against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader.[12]

Sunni-Shia Relations[edit]

He has strongly rebuked the Salafi anti-Shia preaching that has increased since the Syrian civil war.[13]

Statements on Jews[edit]

In an interview which aired on Egypt's Channel 1 on October 25, 2013 (as translated by MEMRI), Al-Tayeb stated that "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." Al-Tayeb 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."[14][15]

Statements on ISIS[edit]

Although El-Tayeb has strongly condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stating that 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”[16][17] and (citing the Quran) that: “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 the Islamic State was heretical.[18][19] The Ash'ari school of Islamic theology - to which El-Tayeb belongs - does not allow calling a person who follows the shahada an apostate.[18] El-Tayeb has strongly come out against the practice of takfirism (declaring a Muslim an apostate) which is used by the Islamic State to "judge and accuse anyone who doesn’t tow their line with apostasy and outside the realm of the faith" declaring "Jihad on peaceful Muslims" 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."[20]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Abou el Magd, Nadia (March 21, 2010). "Mubarak appoints a new chief of Al Azhar". The National. 
  2. ^ "EGYPT: Moderate cleric the front-runner in race to take over powerful Sunni Muslim post". LA Times. 13 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Topol, Sarah (22 March 2010). "Egypt names Ahmed el-Tayeb sheikh of Al-Azhar University". Christian Science Monitor. 
  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. 
  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. ^ El-Beheri, Ahmed (March 21, 2010): New sheikh of Al-Azhar: 'I won't resign from NDP', Egypt Independent
  7. ^ Maher Ghali Katharina Natter, Diana (April 4, 2010): "Mubarak accepts Azhar Sheikh's resignation from NDP", Masress
  8. ^ Essam El-Din, Gamal (November 30, 2012): "Constituent Assembly okays draft Egypt charter in night-time session", AhramOnLine
  9. ^ Beck, Eldad (November 25, 2011). "Cairo rally: One day we'll kill all Jews". Ynet. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ Muslim Brotherhood rally vows to 'kill all Jews' By Oren Kessler, Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2011. (accessed on August 17, 2012).
  11. ^ Mikelberg, Amanda (November 26, 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 August 10, 2012. 
  12. ^ BBC News (July 4, 2013): "Q&A: Egypt military ousts Morsi" BBC News Service
  13. ^ http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21580162-sectarian-rivalry-reverberating-region-making-many-muslims Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there
  14. ^ Sheik of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayeb Justifies Antisemitism on the Basis of the Koran, MEMRITV, Clip No. 4048, October 25, 2013. (video clip available here).
  15. ^ Leading center of Sunni learning criticizes but does not accuse Islamic State of apostasy by Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, December 14, 2014.
  16. ^ Al Arabiya: "Head of Egypt’s al-Azhar condemns ISIS ‘barbarity’" 3 December 2014
  17. ^ Asharq Al-Awsat: "Egypt’s Al-Azhar stops short of declaring ISIS apostates - Azhar statement rejects practice of takfirism" December 13, 2014
  18. ^ a b Al Ahram: "In search of ‘renewal’ - Al-Azhar is at the centre of an escalating controversy" by Amany Maged 15 January, 2015
  19. ^ Al Monitor: "Al-Azhar refuses to consider the Islamic State an apostate" by Ahmed Fouad |"The sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, repeated his rejection of declaring IS apostates on Jan. 1, 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"
  20. ^ Muslim World League: "Sheikh Al-Azhar Speech in opening of conference" February 22, 2015
  21. ^ "2013 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Winners Announced". zayedaward.ae. April 3, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 

External links[edit]

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