A Reading in the Thinking of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Gomáa
Minister of Endowments of Egypt
 
   
     
  "
Prof/ Ahmad at-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar has issued three significant publications which are: "Legacy and Renewal", "A Discourse in Justifications and Objectives", "A Look at the Thinking of Imam al-Ashári". As a matter of f act, my intention was to write consecutive overviews on these books; however, I would never miss the meeting of the Grand Imam with the European Delegate for Human Rights, a meeting that proved the Grand Imam's wise philosophy, profound patriotism, and his zeal towards his religion and country. The meeting took place on the 11th of February, 2014, during which the Grand Imam of al-Azhar stressed that the difference between cultures, civilizations, norms and traditions, generates a contrast between the rights and the duties. Thus, the human rights in the West which are linked to the nature of its societies, cannot be copied and forcibly imposed on the East, and vice versa; for example, the Western cultures acknowledge the rights of the same-sex marriage, however, the Eastern cultures refuse such thing. Again, the human rights in the West do not allow any kind of Anti-Semitism or denying the alleged holocaust, for discussing such issues is looked upon as a crime or a taboo; however, the East is not obliged to accept these allegations. This false Semitism gave the Jews rights and privileges that strengthen their false claims that they are the chosen people of God.
The Grand Imam warned that the West, who is talking about human rights, is providing the Zionist entity in Israel the funds and the arms to kill the Palestinian people and destruct their fundamental elements to live; thus, where are the "human rights" in these actions? Here in Egypt, the West seeks the right of a group or some individuals, and not the right of an entire people facing a blind terrorism that does not take into account the sanctity   of religion or homeland. The West receives its information from a misleading media biased to a particular party, rather than looking upon the true reality of the Egyptian people who reject terrorism with all its forms, and suffer from its bitterness and the violent actions of terrorist and intolerant groups.
In this context, the Grand Imam stressed two points which are: al-Azhar is ready to host any team of human rights' activists, at the expense of al-Azhar, provided that they receive their information from the reality of the Egyptian people, rather than the foreign media that support terrorism and intolerant factions.
The second point is that the West should be fair enough while dealing with the East concerning the issue of human rights, rather than treating the East with superiority and imposition. As a matter of fact, the East and the West should have a mutual respect for each other's culture, so that each of them can deal with the other in the light of the integration, and not the clash of civilizations. He added that the West has its culture, customs, habits and rights, which the East does not deny, and does not attempt to impose another set of traditions on the West. 
Additionally, the East too, has its culture, traditions and rights, for which it does not accept, under any pretext or justification, any interference by the West to change the Eastern culture or to impose any other culture rather than it. In this context, the Grand Imam pointed out that the Egyptian constitution has fully acknowledged the human rights, in the light of our principles, habits and traditions, adding that our people reject any impositions that contradict with their culture and traditions.
Consequently, the Grand Imam tackled the relation between the youth and Sheikhs, in which he stressed the importance of communication between generations, since the relation between the two sides is a relation of integration not of clashing or exclusion. The Grand Imam highlighted that both, the youth's energy and the experience of the Sheikhs are indispensable. The grand Imam clarified as well, to the European Delegate, that not all leaders in Europe or in the West whether presidents, ministers or any official, are from the youth. Speaking about the Western bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Grand Imam told the European Delegate that it is not required from the West to seek the rights of some groups and individuals, at the expense of an entire people, stressing that al-Azhar always seeks reconciliation and reunion; however, the rigidness of a particular faction precluded the completion of the reconciliation process.
Accordingly, I would like to report the following:
1.The European Delegate was greatly astonished at the deep philosophy, frankness and the courage of the Grand Imam, and he could not hide his admiration for the Grand Imam's broad knowledge and philosophy concerning the issue of human rights. The European Delegate stressed that the Grand Imam's vision, concerning the issue of human rights, deserves respect and appreciation, and that he, the European Delegate, has benefited from the Grand Imam's point of view, although he attempted to argue some of its parts.
2.The Opinionated party which the Grand Imam has mentioned during the discussion is the Muslim Brotherhood, specially its senior leaders in the Guidance Office, whose interference in the last moments hindered the completion of the reconciliation process.
3.The Grand Imam, with his wise leadership to al-Azhar institution, preferred to side with the state in order to confront absurdity and chaos. Again, the Grand Imam and al-Azhar strongly adopt the approach of tolerance and facilitation and the Fiqh of coexistence in order to confront intolerance and Takfir (declaring fellow Muslims as infidels).
As for the three books which I have mentioned at the beginning of this article, I would like to refer to the Grand Imam's vision to the relation between legacy and renewal, which stands in a central area between benefiting from legacy and distinguishing between the constant and the changeable in this legacy. The Grand Imam's vision emphasizes the conscious rereading of legacy, in the light of the data, the gains and the latest developments of our contemporary age. It is a vision that does not accept either breaking off the past, or detaching from reality; however, it is a reading that calls for a balanced vision that takes from the past to establish its present and future, as well as taking from the present and the foreign culture what is useful and convenient. The Grand Imam's vision believes in the cultural communication and the openness to the other, culturally and scientifically, without contradicting our legitimate constants and cultural values, in order to create a new civilization that brings us to the rank of the developed countries, on one side, and preserving our cultural ideology and privacy on the other side.