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The Independent Path of Shaykh al-Azhar ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Maḥmūd

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image of Die Welt des Islams

The present article calls into question the widely-held notion that the Islamic establishment in contemporary Egypt is subservient to the ruling class. We eschew the simplistic binary approach to interactions between the political and religious leadership, and claim that under the stewardship of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Maḥmūd, al-Azhar maintained an autonomous agenda that diverged from the regime’s views on a fair share of public and political issues. By dint of a careful analysis of several major disagreements between Shaykh Maḥmūd and the ruling elite, we hope to shed new light on the complex dynamics that limited the regime’s ability to compel the religious establishment to toe the ‘party line’. Although al-Azhar indeed strengthened the regime and legitimized its overall policy, the institution also challenged the latter on crucial topics, such as the Personal Status Law, the sale of alcohol, and the integration of Islamic values into the education system’s curricula.

Affiliations: 1: Beer-Sheva
; 2: Beer-Sheva


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