What If al-Azhar were Absent? What If al-Azhar were Absent?
Prof. Muhammad Abdul Fadeel al-Qousy
Member of Authority of Senior Scholar of al-Azhar
 
   
     
  I can almost see, with my own eyes, the future challenges and obstacles, which may result from the course of events taking place nowadays; so far, if the pace of these massive and boisterous waves, continued to threaten al-Azhar with an unprecedented violence, it would exceed the constructive and perceptive criticism, in language and objective, to the fierce and agitated attempts to waste the substantial, intellectual and scientific status and dignity of al-Azhar. These attempts seek to offset and displace al-Azhar away from its firm, deeply-rooted historical status and dignity; then, to replace it with the lurking remnants who are yearning to behold the absence and the disappearance of al-Azhar -despite their contradicting attitudes and views-, to fragment al-Azhar's approach, status and dignity into parts, so that to, leisurely, swallow and gulp it. Accordingly, these remnants will exploit the absence of al-Azhar, in order to discharge their soaked and drenched poisons, till they reap what they planted.

You would see my dear reader, in case this "Absence", or part of it occurred, that, part of the nation's consciousness, has become a desecrated looting by some croaked groups, who mix religion with the game of authority and politics, to replace the sober knowledge of al-Azhar with their melancholically dark concepts and sayings about atoning the society and accusing the 20th century with living in the age before Islam (Jahiliyyah). These deviant groups claim that "we are living in an age of ignorance, similar to that before Islam (Jahiliyyah) and even worse". What resulted from these claims is the propagation of violence and terrorism; if al-Azhar were absent, we would not find anyone to stand as a lofty mountain, to defend the "tolerance" of Islam and its detachment from extremism and exaggeration (Gulu), and to mend and renovate the true image of Islam which has been distorted by the conflicts and the fights for seizing power, whatever the cost is.

If al-Azhar were "Absent", you would see my dear reader that another part of the nation's consciousness is seized by groups who apply the Qur'anic verses that tackle the judgments of "Disbelievers and how to deal with them", literally and blindly, on fellow Muslims. These groups tend to shed the blood of Muslims, cultivate terrorism and violence, and harvest its bitter fruits, while generally applying such twisted judgments. As a matter of fact, it was Abd Allah ibn Abbas, the Prophet's companion, who intelligently noticed these vicious notions, and considered them as a source and a cause of disorder and the dark Fitnah in the different ages of Islam. If al-Azhar were "Absent", you would not find my dear reader, anyone who will realize the seriousness of the issue of the "Generality of Texts", except the sober and the diligent references, who toiled and moiled all their lives and dimmed their sight, in order to come out with a proper and a meaningful understanding to this fundamental issue and its minute details.
 
You would see my dear reader, in case al-Azhar were "Absent", that a third part of the nation's consciousness, would be occupied by groups that claim their affiliation to the Righteous Predecessors "al-Salaf al-Saleh", to disseminate the literal interpretation of the texts, the narrowness of vision, and the formality of perception, while exploiting the innate tendency of the Egyptian people to piousness and religiosity. These groups have transformed Islam into a rigid and vain religion that is not consistent with the Egyptian character which enjoys the spiritual richness and diversity and the psychological depth that exceeds superficiality to the essence of things. Thus, if al-Azhar were "Absent", you would not find my dear reader, anyone to confront these allegations, and to restore the spiritual richness and the sentimental depth to the Muslim character.

You would see a fourth part of the Ummah's mind has been occupied by other voices that embrace alien ideas: They regard 'Aql' (reason) to be in contradiction with 'Naql' (texts from the Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah) and believe that the good of the Ummah is based on abiding by Aql and discarding Naql. They attest -as one of the advocates of such cult say in absolute truthfulness- "that the progress of the Ummah would not be achieved unless it leaves behind the 'darkness' of Naql and embraces the 'light' of Aql. Enlightenment would not also take place unless rational principles substitute fundamental ones of Naql." Others also argue that good of the Ummah lies in the perspective based on replacing fundamental principles of Naql with rational ones. What if al-Azhar disappeared from the Islamic arena leaving unchained rationalism without rectifying its path with parameters of Naql? In fact, abiding by "the insightful equilibrium" between Aql and Naql ensures an effective balance between Aql and Naql, faith and thought as well as theology and humanities.

In this regard, the question of "the temporality and historicality of the Holy Quran" was revived. This question aims at tampering with "the absoluteness and comprehensiveness of the Holy Quran" through Asbab al-Nuzul (reasons or circumstances of revelation), since Asbab al-Nuzul in this distorted direction provides a space for humans to prove "the relativity of the Holy Quran". This ambiguous thought hurls "human minds", which keep changing all the time, into the immutable and ageless of Quranic judgments.

If al-Azhar disappeared from the Islamic arena, you would not find an alternative entity that would combat those mercurial notions except the sciences of al-Azhar that fortify those who study them with well-founded logical and rational bases, that are absorbed by Azhari students at an early age. Azhari students explicitly acknowledge that Asbab al-Nuzul are just occasions in which questions and guidelines are revealed, however these occasions do not represent a crucial element that affects the timelessness, eternity, and perpetuity of the Holy Quran. 

You will see a fifth part of the Ummah's mind has been occupied by other groups that show growing interest in reviving events of "the Great Fitnah" (Fitnat Maqtal Uthman), resulting in arousing hidden grudges that create deep divisions among the Ummah. What would happen if al-Azhar disappeared from the Islamic arena and lowered his voice that calls for "rapprochement among various Madhabs (schools of thought)"? This rapprochement rationally brings about glorifying Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) and avoiding negotiating the disagreement that took place among them, so as to restore the Ummah's unity and agreeing on a common word. 

You will see a sixth part, represented in the 'status' of Egypt without the presence of al-Azhar in the Islamic world, desiring to shake its deeply-rooted position. However, this Islamic world has been and still is proud of Egypt, the country of al-Azhar, as knowledge-thirsty people worldwide resort to it searching for moderation as well as its intellectual, doctrinal and spiritual balance.

Are the above mentioned parts aware of the forthcoming dangers if al-Azhar's status, intellect and thought disappeared from the Islamic world that seeks refuge and reference in it? O, would that my people knew?