World Nexus

World Nexus (52)

In Egypt’s Democracy, Room for Islam

By ISRA World Nexus
Source: C1 World Dialouge
In Egypt’s Democracy, Room for Islam
Published: April 1, 2011

LAST month, Egyptians approved a referendum on constitutional amendments that will pave the way for free elections. The vote was a milestone in Egypt’s emerging democracy after a revolution that swept away decades of authoritarian rule. But it also highlighted an issue that Egyptians will grapple with as they consolidate their democracy: the role of religion in political life.

The vote was preceded by the widespread use of religious slogans by supporters and opponents of the amendments, a debate over the place of religion in Egypt’s future Constitution and a resurgence in political activity by Islamist groups. Egypt is a deeply religious society, and it is inevitable that Islam will have a place in our democratic political order. This, however, should not be a cause for alarm for Egyptians, or for the West.
Egypt’s religious tradition is anchored in a moderate, tolerant view of Islam. We believe that Islamic law guarantees freedom of conscience and expression (within the bounds of common decency) and equal rights for women.

And as head of Egypt’s agency of Islamic jurisprudence, I can assure you that the religious establishment is committed to the belief that government must be based on popular sovereignty. While religion cannot be completely separated from politics, we can ensure that it is not abused for political gain.

Much of the debate around the referendum focused on Article 2 of the Constitution — which, in 1971, established Islam as the religion of the state and, a few years later, the principles of Islamic law as the basis of legislation — even though the article was not up for a vote. But many religious groups feared that if the referendum failed, Egypt would eventually end up with an entirely new Constitution with no such article.
On the other side, secularists feared that Article 2, if left unchanged, could become the foundation for an Islamist state that discriminates against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities.

But acknowledgment of a nation’s religious heritage is an issue of national identity, and need not interfere with the civil nature of its political processes. There is no contradiction between Article 2 and Article 7 of Egypt’s interim Constitution, which guarantees equal citizenship before the law regardless of religion, race or creed. After all, Denmark, England and Norway have state churches, and Islam is the national religion of politically secular countries like Tunisia and Jordan. The rights of Egypt’s Christians to absolute equality, including their right to seek election to the presidency, is sacrosanct.

Similarly, long-suppressed Islamist groups can no longer be excluded from political life. All Egyptians have the right to participate in the creation of a new Egypt, provided that they respect the basic tenets of religious freedom and the equality of all citizens. To protect our democracy, we must be vigilant against any party whose platform or political rhetoric threatens to incite sectarianism, a prohibition that is enshrined in law and in the Constitution.Islamists must understand that, in a country with such diverse movements as the Muslim Brotherhood; the Wasat party, which offers a progressive interpretation of Islam; and the conservative Salafi movements, no one group speaks for Islam.

At the same time, we should not be afraid that such groups in politics will do away with our newfound freedoms. Indeed, democracy will put Islamist movements to the test; they must now put forward programs and a political message that appeal to the Egyptian mainstream. Any drift toward radicalism will not only run contrary to the law, but will also guarantee their political marginalization.

Having overthrown the heavy hand of authoritarianism, Egyptians will not accept its return under the guise of religion. Islam will have a place in Egypt’s democracy. But it will be as a pillar of freedom and tolerance, never as a means of oppression.

Shaykh Ali Gomaa is the grand mufti of Egypt.


Sufi World Union

The Grand Shaykh of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb has agreed to form an international organization to be known as The World Union of of Sufi Scholars in a move of first of Its kind in the Islamic world in face of the current rise in extremist radical interpretation of Islam. The Union will work to reform Sufi orders and will fight against the heresies and evils attributed falsely to Islamic Tasawwuf. Details were made public by Shaykh Yahya Kettani, the media spokesperson for the Union.

The Shaykh Al Azhar has agreed with the nomination of Dr. Hussein Al Shafei , head of the Islamic University of Islamabad Pakistan and a member of the Arabic language academy in Cairo for the post of the president of the World Union of Sufi Scholars. He said that Dr.Shafei is best suited for the job especially at its early stages of incorporation and propagation. He promised full moral support of Al Azhar to the federation.

The federation will feature eminent Sufi scholars involved in the affairs of Sufi knowledge and practice.They are the those who call people to Allah with full knowledge and sincerity from around the world. They will work to achieve the desired goals.For his part Shaykh Mohammed Yahya Kettani will be responsible as the media spokesman for the union. In an exclusive statement to Islamwattan online Shaylkh Kettani said The Sufi Union will be a an scholarly body engaged in reforming and reviving Islamic tasawwuf. it will be based upon the cooperation between various Sufi tariqahs.It will work for Islamic revival and victory based on pure Sufi thought and practice.

It will deal with the major issues faced by our nation and ummah.It will promote and activate the role of youth in revival of Tasawwuf by involving youth in community service.It will be done by the establishment of the League of Sufi Youth under the umbrella of of the elders of the Sufi tariqahs.He explained the objectives of the Union. On one hand it will work to reform the Sufis gradually from any practices contrary to Islam.On the other hand it will renew and strengthen the pure practices of Shari'ah (upon which Sufi practices and thought are based ).

The Union will fight against the false propaganda, accusation and heresies which are wrongly attributed against Islamic Tasawwuf. It will promote cooperation and will observe and promote to follow the Prophetic Sunnah. He also said that the Union will emphasize its affiliation with Al Azhar and its doctrine of Ash'ari and Matrudi aqidah, the following of four imams in fiqh and the way of moderation.The Union will establish all means like conferences meetings, setting up of Islamic schools, publishing Sufi books etc. to renew the the tradition of pure Islamic Tasawwuf .

It will restore nations confidence in Sufi thought and practice as a genuine source of purification of heart in accordance with the Truth and Sunnah. It will issue bulletins and brochures to create awareness in the ummah and to provide proper guidance to the ummah. it will highlight the role of Tasawwuf as an integral part of Islam and the nation.It will spread knowledge of deen based upon pure Sunni Aqidah and publish books and preserve our spiritual heritage and enlighten the ummah.

The League of Sufi Youth will be established in all provinces of Egypt. It will gather people to teach them the knowledge of shar'iah based upon the curriculum and methodology of Al Azhar University.

Compiled and translated from Arabic Newspapers By ISRA World Nexus



Yassir Qadhi

On a chilly night in the dead of a New England winter, Yasir Qadhi hurried down the stairs of Yale University’s religious-studies department, searching urgently for a place to make a private call. A Ph.D. candidate in Islamic studies, Qadhi was a fixture on the New Haven campus. He wore a trim beard and preppy polo shirts, blending in with the other graduate students as he lugged an overstuffed backpack into Blue State Coffee for his daily cappuccino. A popular teaching assistant, he exuded a sprightly intensity in class, addressing the undergraduates as “dudes.”

Full Story New York Times



Sunday, 30 August 2015 14:57

Al-Azhar backs a civil state in Egypt

Written by

Al Azhar Part 2

One of the main issues on the political scene is whether Egypt should have a religious constitution or a civil one and whether they’re mutually exclusive. According to Tayyeb, they are not.

As is the case with many questions regarding the role of religion in civil life, this issue was often open to controversy. The Egyptian government’s flagship paper, Al-Ahram, therefore describes the document as “historic.”


The document states that Islamic jurisprudence does not denote the need for a “priestly state” that enforces religious practice, and that the concept of “Shura,” a religious term, indicates pluralism. According to Al-Ahram, the document also states that the nation would resort to Islam for supporting a democratic and constitutional nation based on free elections and equal representation.


Independent daily Al-Shorouk calls the document “revolutionary.” Tayyeb said that the parliament would be the only legislative authority. The rest of the document talked about respecting women, children, freedom of speech, the practices and values of Egyptian society, and all religions.

According to Al-Shorouk, the document’s long list of signatories contains the names of many Islamic, political, literary and intellectual figures, including Coptic thinkers and activists.

State-run daily Al-Akhbar quotes Tayyeb as saying that Islamic principles would remain the main source for legislation and that members of other religions should be guaranteed the right to resort to their own religious authorities for administering their personal affairs if they choose.

Al-Wafd’s party paper ran the headline, “Al-Azhar clings to the civil state.”


Courtesy: al Masry Al-Youm




Sunday, 30 August 2015 14:57

Zam Zam in Danger

Written by

By Aqeelah Bawa

May 10, 2011

Holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic is allegedly being sold illegally to Muslims by UK retailers. This is according to a recent report by BBC journalist, Guy Lynn, who found the pure holy water contains higher than normal levels of arsenic, nitrates and other chemical substances. The investigative reporter claims Zamzam which originated from Makkah is being sold in London. Zamzam is an integral cleansing tool on the holy pilgrimage and the sale of the water is therefore illegal.

"We have tested the water which pilgrims brought back from the holy city, as well as tested water from the taps in Makkah and bottles on sale there. All had very similar results to the water that was tested in the UK. Arsenic found in the water tested to three times the levels which are allowed by UK standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines," he told VOC's Drivetime. The water could be polluted naturally from soil and rocks and drinking it in moderation is fine.

But, Lynn said, through undercover filming, the retailers said there were people purchasing and consuming large quantities daily. Prior to the piece being aired on BBC, the investigative team approached Saudi authorities for a response about the apparent contamination at the source. "We did not receive a response before the piece aired, but two days later, Saudi authorities denied and refuted the fact that the water is contaminated, and as far as they were concerned it is safe to drink," Guy said.


Islamic Heritage Research Foundation executive director, Dr Irfan Al Alawi, based in the UK, said he was not very surprised at the findings. He has done extensive research into the risks of the holy water being contaminated and the impact that large-scale construction in Makkah has had on Zam-zam wells.

"I've been saying for the last 25 years that Zamzam is in danger. During the early 1970's and early 1980's, construction on the Grand Mosque, where the Zamzam well used to be, caused the source to be disturbed," he said. The well dates back to more than 4,000 years and is about 98 ft (29.87m) deep and 3ft (0.91m) by 9ft (2.74m) in diameter. According to Al-Alawi, during construction on the Darul Tawheed hotel at the time, the Bin Laden construction company was instructed to be careful with its excavations, as it may rupture the well.

"The old bricks of the well did not have the capability to withstand construction. During the winter months in Makkah in January and February, there is a lot of flooding and rain, the flooding system is not suitable for the well." Al Alawi said there is a history of construction around the well itself. In 1975 King Faisal, removed the old building which over stood the Kaabah, where the Zam-zam water was pulled up using ropes in order to expand the Tawaaf area.

During King Khalid's term, he had the entrance of the Zamzam well moved and there was a risk factor as well. The area under the Kaabah consequently flooded with rain water, which attacked the natural sources of the Zamzam. A geological survey was conducted on the area and Saudi authorities mentioned that Zamzam had to be filtered.


"The public should be aware though that the water they consume from the taps is never directly consumed from the well. The Zamzam water is pumped into another area, located in Kuday District (some 4.5km from the Haram), which uses the latest technology to purify and filter the water."

The plant purifies five million litres of Zamzam water every day through two main purification lines, each using a number of filters besides one sterilization unit. The water is then brought back to the Grand Mosque where the pilgrims then have access to it. Al Alawi said the water would not have needed any filtration systems if the sources were not disturbed.

"The water was contaminated by gravel, sand and dust and thereafter they decided to filter it. However, the Saudi geological survey is not allowed to disclose what chemicals are being used to purify the holy water." Al-Alawi has delivered a number of public talks on how the construction to the Grand Mosque caused the water to become affected. One of the most frequently asked questions is how the Muslim world has allowed the Saudi authorities to do so.

"We should have put an end to this about 20 years ago. Everyone believes the expansion of the mosque was necessary and important. But they do not realize that we will never get the real source of the 4,000 year old Abrahamic well back again. If we do not stop now we will lose it forever. We might even lose the Zamzam essence of the well if this continues," Al Alawi urged

Courtesy: Voice of the Cape [South Africa]



sufi festival

Mai El-Wakil

Thirteenth century Sufi preacher and poet Jalal Eddin al-Rumi praised Samaa - sessions devoted to listening to dhikr (which means "rememberance") music, often accompanied by dance – as a means of training his disciples; Samaa could help clear the mind from worldly distractions, he believed, and of the practice he wrote:

Like ardent lovers, he discerned in the sound of the rebeck, the image of God’s call to man. The lament of the clarion and the threat of the drum bear a faint resemblance to the universal trumpet. That is why philosophers say that these melodies are derived from the turning of the spheres. What people sing with bandore and voice is the sound of the heaven’s revolution.
(Translated by William C. Chittick in "The Sufi Path of Love")

For Rumi, however, music and dance were primarily inward states, reflected in the outward world as only secondary phenomena. The Samaa International Festival for Sufi Music and Chanting that ended on Thursday night takes Sufi dhikr to the performative and worldly realm. The effect of the musical performances on the festival's growing fan base can only be described as uplifting.

For 11 consecutive days, the festival’s director, Intissar Abdel Fattah, has been leading over a dozen bands from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the US as they perform every night in the courtyard of the historic Ghouri Dome. A key characteristic of the performances has been the workshop setting. Every night, after the bands wave their audience goodbye, they convene from midnight to dawn, experimenting with ways to harmoniously blend the different styles of spiritual music.

“I would have an overall vision in mind, then we would work through it and fine-tune it together throughout the night,” Abdel Fattah tells Al-Masry Al-Youm after the show. “There’s, however, room for improvisation on stage, like what happened tonight. I would wave to one group to start singing along with another. Whereas I guide them in terms of timing and tempo, they decide how to join the others spontaneously,” he adds.

At first, it was mostly the Egyptian Samaa musical ensemble (comprised of the Samaa Group for Sufi Music and Chanting, the Coptic Hymns and A Cappella Choirs) that sang along with the Indonesian Dai Nada and Norwegian folk singer Unni Lovlid. Indonesian chanter Nur Akhyari led the way with the song “Dhikrok bayn al-nafs wal nafassi” (You are remembered with every breath).

It seemed difficult, though, for the nuanced music of the Indian Qawwali group, led by singer Chanchal Bharti, as well as the Andalusian melodies of Uis Delgado, to play along with the other bands; indeed, Bharti repeatedly sang solo. Yet halfway through the show, Abdel Fattah waved to Delgado and the rest of his band sitting on the left side of the stage to join in as Bharti sang. A few seconds later Lovlid followed suit, and then every other band simultaneously chanted in praise of God, albeit in different languages.

The shattering sound of applause from the excited audience echoed in the courtyard as soon as the song ended.

“You should congratulate yourselves, as well,” Abdel Fattah told his audience. “This was an improvised session, inspired by your passion for the music.”

The festival’s four workshops have been a great success, with each being just as unique as the last. Several bands lauded the experience as highly rewarding.

"We've participated in several international workshops before, yet none were of this size and rigor," said Shanak Mohamed, a member of the Algerian Issawi Sufi Musical Band of Constantine.

In fact, the Issawi Band has requested Algerian Culture Minister Kalida Toumi to invite Abdel Fattah to conduct similar pieces at Algerian music festivals; preparations to do so are currently under way.

The ceremony closed by recognizing Sheikh Ali Mahmoud (1887-1946), a lead Egyptian Sufi chanter, and Ibrahim Ayad, the lead chanter at the Coptic Church.

As the audience walked out to Khan al-Khalili, one piece of good news that kept them excited was the announcement that next year, at least the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival would be held at the Cairo Citadel to accommodate its growing fans.

Courtesy: Al Masry Al- Youm, Cairo, Egypt


Sunday, 30 August 2015 14:56

Sufism in Islam -2 part video

Written by

Grand Mufti of Egypt

Courtesy :

Note: These videos are presented here for educational purposes only. Any kind of commercial or other use is strictly prohibited. Please contact the copyright owner for further information. All rights are reserved for Al-Wabel Al-Sayyeb

Tasawwuf in Islam : Part 1 (Video)

By Grand Mufti of Egypt Al Imam Allama Shaykh Ali Goma'a

Video Part 1

Tasawwuf in Islam : Part 2 (Video)

By Grand Mufti of Egypt Al Imam Allama Shaykh Ali Goma'a

Video Part 2

Copyright by: Wabel Al Sayyeb : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Sunday, 30 August 2015 14:56

Taking a Bite of Halal Foods in NW China

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Introducing YES Halal

Taking a bite of Halal foods in NW China

Sheep offal soups, whole roasted lambs and braised snacks are just some of the foods making tourists drool at a halal food street festival in a northwest China city.

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Sufis in Egypt Conference

by: ISRA News Nexus

The first 3 day Global conference on Tasawwuf organized by Al-Azhar and sponsored by the grand Shaykh of Al Azhar University was inaugurated by the Grand Shaykh of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed El Tayyeb on Saturday September 24, at the Al Azhar Conference Center in Nasr City Cairo.

The theme of the global conference is : "Sufism: an authentic way of Reform".

Addressing the the grand assembly of 300 scholars and Sufi shaykhs from 35 countries from around the world on the opening day Dr. Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of the Republic of Egypt said that true Tasawwuf is the path of knowledge, education and spiritual training through love and peace. Tasawwuf, he said is an approach of Islamic reform. He stressed that Tasawwuf unites and not divides and reforms not corrupts and leads to the way of Allah based on the Sunnah of His Messenger (saws). He also called on the youth to enter into the worship and obedience of Allah (swt).

‬ In his opening speech ‬ Dr. Hassan El Shafei , the representative of the Imam and Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar said that Tasawwuf is the humanitarian‬ awakening to spirituality and closeness of God in the station of Al Ihsaan. He denied that Tasawwuf is a Shiite phenomenon, rather he said it is a Sunni phenomenon taught by great imams like Hasan al-Basri.

In his remarks Dr. Abdel Fozail El-Koussi, the minister of Awqaf (Endowmwnts) said Tasawwuf touches every aspect of life and strives to remove the diseases of corruption,evil and tyranny from human society.

Sheikh Abdul Hadi Al Qosbi, the current chief of the Sufi Council of Egypt announced the reforms intended for the election of the Chief of Sufi council of Egypt. He also explained the plans to amend the law to determine the duration of the position of Sheikh of sheikhs and rules for choosing the Shayks of a Tariqa.

Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sharif head of the Association of Ashraaf (The descendants of the Prophet ) declared that people of Sufism are capable to face the tribulations and tests from all sides and face its enemies and any dangers faced by the ummah. ‮ ‬

Sheikh Mohamed Essam El-Din representative of Ashira Muhammadiyyah of Egypt said that Tasawwuf is not a doctrine or sect but that true Tasawwuf is the creed of all Muslim people and can accommodate different sects. He called upon the Sufis to purge their ranks from all that is evil.

Dr. Mohamed Al Mokhtar El Mahdi , member of the Islamic Research Academy and Shari'ah Association said that there is no real difference between true Tasawwuf, true Salafi and the world of Al Azhar as the belief and reference point of all of them is based upon following Sayyidina Muhammad (saws), the Sahaba and their followers who were seeking to achieve Taqwa.He also pointed out that prominent personalities like Sheikh Mahmoud Khattab Sobky as well as Imam Hassan El Banna the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood were Sufis.

More than 300 scholars and Sufi shaykhs ‬ from ‮ 53‬ countriesof the world participated in the conference. Dignitiries included potential candidates for the presidency of Egypt, Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Minister of Culture Dr. Imad Abughaza Wad. Other participants included Mohamed Mukhtar Mahdi, leader of the Islamic Religious Society, Dr. Issam al-Aryan, Yemeni preacher Shaykh Habib Ali Al Jifri and Shaikh Abdul Razak Guessoum president of the Association of Scholars from Algeri‮.a‬ Representative of Pope Shenouda also attend the conference.



Sunday, 30 August 2015 14:55

al-Azhar TV Satellites Send Islamic Messages

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tv satellites

Al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old seat of Islamic learning, will soon be preaching its doctrines on satellite television, a space it has previously left to Islamist parties now leading the country's first free polls.

Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest religious authority, also plans to spruce up its websites, improve religious education and mobilize its imams to offer an alternative to the unexpectedly popular puritan message some Islamist politicians deliver.

Alongside its traditional work training most of Egypt’s imams and providing thousands of religious rulings (fatwas) daily, it has also been hosting discussions among religious, political and cultural leaders to ponder Egypt’s future.

“The revolution has helped us to reform,” said Mahmoud Azab, adviser to Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and top Islamic authority for many of the world’s Sunni Muslims.

Ibrahim Negm, senior adviser to Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s second-highest religious authority after Tayeb, said: “We have not adequately coped with the changing modern means of communication and information technology.”

The advisers told Reuters al-Azhar was not taking sides in the political rivalries marking Egypt’s staggered elections.

Rather, it was making up for time lost during Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship when it kept close to the authorities, while banned Islamists eagerly embraced the new media and grassroots contacts to spread their stricter views.

Islamists swept about two-thirds of the vote in the first of three voting rounds for parliament last month.

A list led by the party of the pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood won about 37 percent, followed by hardline Salafis with 24 percent and a moderate Islamist group with about 4 percent.

Founded as a madrasa in 970, al-Azhar is centerd around its fabled mosque in old Cairo, where imams can still be seen lecturing to students sitting cross-legged on the floor.

In the last century, it became a modern university, adding secular subjects such as engineering and medicine and expanding to new buildings. Al-Azhar also came under control of the state, which pressed clerics into service defending autocratic rule.

Bound by tradition and overshadowed by the state, al-Azhar missed the boat when new communications options opened up and Islamists seized them to challenge its mainstream view of Islam.

“They have succeeded in talking to people in the privacy of their own homes,” Negm said. Eight Salafi satellite channels broadcasting from other Middle Eastern countries can be seen in Egypt while al-Azhar had nothing to match them, he said.

The Muslim Brothers, described by Negm as “people you could talk to,” also have well-funded publicity and social programs.

“We are about to launch two, if not three, satellite television channels in early 2012 that will speak in the name of the institution,” he said, adding this was a project of Dar al-Ifta, the al-Azhar department for fatwas and Islamic advice.

A private religious satellite channel called Azhari, financed by a Libyan businessman, went on the air two years ago but it has nothing to do with the official al-Azhar, he said.

Negm said his department would also launch a new internet portal about its activities and mobilize its 60,000 imams around the country for a “meet the people” drive that echoes the successful grassroots approach the Islamists have taken.

Asked why they didn't do this before, he said: “There is a difference between a job and a mission. They were doing a job, but were not on a mission. It was about time we realized this.”

Negm said open political debate had had a positive effect on the Islamists, turning them from an initial skepticism about al-Azhar’s role to publicly recognizing it now as the main point of reference for interpreting Islam in Egypt.

Azab, who advises Tayeb on dialogue with people of other faiths and views, said the Grand Imam reached out to Coptic Christians last December after 52 worshippers were killed in an Islamist militant attack on a Baghdad church.

“The imam said we’re not going to wait until al Qaeda arrives in Cairo,” the adviser said, noting that a Coptic church in Alexandria was bombed soon afterwards, killing 23.

Boosted by the new freedom the Tahrir Square protests brought, the dialogue, dubbed the Egyptian Family House, expanded to bring together religious, political and cultural leaders to discuss the challenges facing their country.

“The former regime nourished (sectarian) conflicts to stay in power and present itself as the only protector of Christians,” Azab said. “Some problems arising from security or cultural issues were masked as religious problems.”

One fruit of these discussions was a Declaration on the Future of Egypt in June, which supported freedom of opinion, faith and human rights in a state that would be “civilian, protected by constitution and law.”

Azab said his department would target religious extremism with a new school book on justice and liberty in Christianity and Islam to be studied by Muslim and Christian pupils together.

It was also holding new preacher training sessions for imams to guide them towards what he called the real values of Islam.

“We will need some time to undo the harm that was done to society under the dictatorship,”

Courtesy: Al Arabia News



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