- Middle East/North Africa
I do not know a logical reason that would require the government to seek the ruling of Al-Azhar in a case related to organizing the transactions between members of the society in a way that preserves the right of each party.
Documenting transactions in communities does not need a religious edict, and issues of developing and modernizing communities and countries do not need a religious edict. When we assert the need to document divorce, we are simply organizing what is already legal and Islamic. So what is the need for Al-Azhar in an issue that is at the core of the work and functions of the State?
There is no difference between Al-Azhar's current attitude regarding documenting divorce and its old attitude on the issue of printing the Koran in Egypt. Over the years, perhaps Al-Azhar has not changed much, but what has definitely changed is the State and the concept of the State in Egypt.
Al-Amiria Printing House (state-owned institution) was established in 1820 and was officially inaugurated in 1821 in the era of Mohamad Ali Pasha. However, Koran printing was prohibited until the late stage of Mohamad Ali Pasha's era, because of Al-Azhar and its scholars at the time.
They said much, which does not make sense in words or logic, but nonetheless did delay the matter. They said that printing materials are not immaculate; and that Koran verses can not be pressed by iron machines. They also said that there might be typos in the printing.
Ten years later, in 1832, Mohamad Ali Pasha ordered parts of the Koran to be printed for pupils of schools. This was followed by an order to the manager of the printing house to print the entire Koran. He then ordered the grand Mufti at that time, Ahmed al-Tamimi, to stamp the Koran, legalizing its sale and circulation. The Koran was then distributed to schools and to Al-Azhar until the death of Mohamad Ali Pasha.
This edition of Mohamad Ali Pasha of a printed Koran is considered the first printed edition of the Koran in Egypt. Three centuries before this date, namely in the year 1538, the first printed copy of the Koran appeared in the city of Venice, in Italy. That was the first printed Koran in the world.
You may say that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but I tell you it's not like that.
If Mohamad Ali Pasha had adhered to Al-Azhar and its scholars in his strive to modernize and develop Egypt, his efforts would have been unsuccessful.
And there is a clear difference between a state in which Al-Azhar is just a social component and one in which Al-Azhar is the mentor. If you review the constitution, you'll find it legislates for a state in which Al-Azhar is the mentor, and you'll find a practical example of this in the statement of Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars on Verbal Divorce.
"The main reference for religious sciences and Islamic affairs; it is responsible for calling to Islam; as well as disseminating religious sciences and the Arabic language in Egypt and throughout the world." This is how article 7 of the current constitution defines Al-Azhar.
And this has been asserted in the senior scholars' statement on Verbal Divorce in a way that can not be mistaken or considered superficial.
The wording of the statement is akin to a clear declaration of Al-Azhar scholars' powers, drawn unfortunately from a constitutional clause.
The problem in this case is not with Al-Azhar, it is rather with the political thought that drafted the constitution after 30 June, (2013) with its political, social and religious outcomes.
The priority now is not in competing with Al-Azhar, but in the thought that drafted a constitution for a state in which Al-Azhar is the mentor.
No one can claim that such a political thought reflects a true logic at any level; whether on the level of religious thought; or in terms of the concept and the nature of the modern nation-state in the management of politics and society; or on the level of the historical precedents of Egypt's experiments in attempts at advancement and the acquisition of modern developments, which started since its separation from the Ottoman Caliphate.
Islam does not acknowledge mandate power to religious jurists, or a religious institution, and scientists vary; the religious scientist is, as any other scientist, in one type of science and knowledge. But above every scholar, is the All-Knower Allah.
How to become a mandate for a religious scholar or jurist, and not to be one for a scientist in medicine or atoms or electronics, as those have a knowledge-based discovery and innovation?
References and scientific references are many and varied, and the Senior Scholars are not the only clergymen. References of this type occupy their place in the community and can be organized by law into social, scientific, and religious bodies and institutions.
This is the modern nation-state. Nay, no modern nation-state can exist with a mentor!
We rejected the Muslim Brotherhood president as he has a mentor. And we rejected the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the miserable condition of the current political thought drove us with the constitution to a state whose mentor is Al-Azhar.