Former Deputy Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour has criticized the extremist discourse of several religious groups in Egypt especially recent statements on the ancient Egyptian civilization as well as Islam’s stance on democracy.
“Those people are neither knowledgeable nor responsible enough to be talking to people,” he told Al Arabiya Monday.
Ashour explained that extremist preachers are not more religious than Amr ibn al-Aas, who led the Muslim army that conquered Egypt, or all other Islamic scholars and clerics who lived in Egypt for years like Imam al-Shafaei, one of the four prominent scholars of Sunni Islam.
“None of those had a problem with ancient Egyptian monuments or thought they have to be destroyed or that they are against Islam.”
Ashour also criticized statements by several Salafi preachers about democracy being a form of apostasy and stressed that the concept of democracy is mentioned in the Holy Quran.
“Several verses in the Quran talk about the concept of ‘shura’ or consultation and the prophet applied this concept all the time. This is what democracy is about,” he said.
Ashour’s statements confirm earlier ones issued by Dar al-Iftaa, the official body in charge of issuing religious edicts on contemporary matters, which stressed that there is no contradiction between Islam and the multi-party system.
Dar al-Iftaa also cited examples from the Prophet’s life and the way he consulted his companions all the time.
According to the statement, Islamic laws did not specify a particular political system and scholars have sanctioned a variety of ways of governance since the time of the prophet and till the present moment.
The statement cited the example of the four caliphs that succeeded the prophet and who were chosen by the people and not by the prophet before he died.
According to the statement, Islamic laws have always displayed a great deal of flexibility and that is why it was always possible to apply them while taking into consideration that changes related to the age in which they were applied.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)