I was under the impression that the big change came when Al-Azhar
lost indopendent control of its Awqaf which provided a lot of its
funding. Is this correct?
Arthur, you are probably right in that something as improtant as Al-
Azhar would never have been allowed to be completely independent but
my impression is that there was a level of independence that we do
not have now. When you read about the French campaign you get the
impression that Al-Azhar was a much bigger thing in those days. Am I
I am not a historian so I am trying to be cautious?
I agree with Ayman that the statement is a positive step, though
imperfect. The British make a big deal of the Magna Carta, which was
a very limited document in reality. But maybe "long journeys things
start with a small step"?
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org
, "The Egyptian Chronicles"
> Prof. Arthur Goldschmidt wrote:
> Ishinan and Sami, writing to you as an historian, I doubt that
there has ever been a time when al-Azhar was totally free from state
interference, Egyptian or foreign.
> Dear Arthur,
> True, no squabbling here about your statement. However, it was
Sa`d Zaghluwl, the then Minister of Education, who pushed the so
called 1908 major reform of al-Azhar, which was a significant piece
of legislation backed by a breed of secular state administrators
mainly loyal to the British. Moreover, this measure was personally
inspired by Lord Cromer the British agent.
> The legislation allowed the government greater control over
religious institutions of learning. It further eroded the
independence and authority of the Religious Establishment of the
`ulama' and dealt a sever blow to al-'Azhar charities (via al-'Awqaf
> As a result, this impacted negatively upon the lives of thousands
of Egyptians who depended on al-'Azhar's charitable activities as a
> With the erosion of the relative independence of al-'Azhar, a
vacuum was created in the country.
> This was exacerbated and complicated further by events outside
Egypt, such as the abolition of the Khalifate in Turkey in I924; the
strained relations between Egypt and the new Saudi Arabia kingdom
over the Hijaz, pilgrimage and related matters. * (1)
> Al-'Azhar, which has had a huge impact on the religious, cultural
and political arena in Egypt, the Middle East, and the whole Islamic
world, found its reputation somewhat tarnished. This became quite
evident when the new King of Saudi Arabia, `Abd al-Aziyz Ibn Sa`uwd,
faced a rebellion from his elite fighting men "the Ikhwan" for having
sent his son to Egypt to study at
> al-'Azhar. The "Ikhwan" * (2) were complaining that Egypt and its
Azhar under the Bristish was a country of non-believers!
> As al-Azhar was weakened, the country's religious energy began to
be channeled to other religious organizations to fill the void,
foremost of them was the Muslim Brethren. The rest is history.
> Best regards,
> * (1) This was the last time Egypt presided over the Hajj and the
honor of sending the annual Kiswah (al-Mahmal) was duly rescinded.
> * (2) The farming communities of militant Wahhabiy / Salafiy
established in Saudi Arabia by King `Abd al-`aziyz Ibn Sa`uwd who
organized them in 1912 into an elite army corps from the Wahhabiy
Bedouin tribes. Those Ikhwan that had remained loyal to him stayed on
the hijrahs, continuing to receive government support, and are still
an influential religious force in Saudi Arabia. They eventually
became part of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.