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Religious Tolerance In Egypt's Al-Azhar University

Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the head of one of the most important centers of learning in the Islamic world, wrote a remarkably tolerant article in the Egyptian government daily newspaper Al-Ahram back in June. Translated excerpts of the article recently appeared at MEMRI:

The Koran, which Many Muslims know by heart, affirms that had God wished all men to have one religion, one creed, one color, and one language, he would have [created them] so. But he did not want this. Instead, he wanted to create them with differing religions, creeds, colors and languages, and [willed] this variety to continue [forever,] until the universe ends…

A Muslim cannot imagine all of mankind sharing a single creed or turning to a single religion – even if this religion is Islam. As long as this remains the case, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims [must be] one of mutual recognition.

It is great to see religious tolerance espoused by such an influential leader in the Muslim world, and also good to see that MEMRI, a site sometimes accused of selectively translating material that reflects poorly on the Muslim world, took the time and trouble to share the sheikh’s views with its readers. Via Meadia thanks Sheikh Al-Tayeb for his thoughtful exposition of an important religious concept, and continues to believe that people of all faiths must reflect the freedom of conscience that is one of God’s most precious gifts.

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  • David Hoffman

    Unfortunately Dr. al-Tayeb’s opinions on this subject are far from being in the majority.

  • Jim.

    The simple fact is that in this life, not everyone is going to agree (with you), and you have to find a way to deal constructively with that.

    Christ gave us the Parable of the Sower; this should be taken to heart by everyone who tries their hand at persuasion of any type.

  • Paul

    I must second Mr. Hoffman’s point. Yes, there are certainly verses in the Qu’ran which appear directly supportive of this position. There are also verses which appear even more directly opposed to it. It is the task of the mujtahid (or at least the ulama, depending on one’s tradition) to make the proper judgment as to which applies. The influential orthodox schools do not take the position of at-Tayab.

    On the issue of Muslim tolerance and “moderation,” Mr. Mead very frequently puts himself in the somewhat pathetic position of a person who cites those few “progressive” Jesuits and other religious, particularly modernist American nuns, who advocate for the ordination of lesbian priests, and so forth. Yes, there are those with their origins in the tradition who advocate these courses. However, they are regarded as apostates by the orthodox within that tradition, and their recommendations are rejected. Over time, they may win out — but the time-frame involved is measured by multiple generations. Mr. Mead seems ever willing to “hold his breath” for eschaton of Muslim peace which is just around the corner. It is difficult to avoid the impression that he is grasping at straws.

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