According to the sponsors of the draft law, among them MP Osama Al Abed, the amendments are aimed at “reorganising Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa”. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The Egyptian parliament today began discussing a draft law submitted by a number of its members to set up an Egyptian Fatwa House, in the presence of the country’s Mufti, Shawky Allam. This comes amid public objections from Al Azhar, the most prestigious religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world, and the Council of Senior Religious Scholars.

According to the sponsors of the draft law, among them MP Osama Al Abed, the amendments are aimed at “reorganising Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa” and giving it an independent legal personality and financial, technical, and administrative autonomy and defining the system of the mufti’s work and how to choose the trustees of the fatwa.

On the other hand, Al Azhar told the parliament session, in a statement addressed to its Speaker, Dr. Ali Abdel-Al, the draft law “includes a constitutional violation, and prejudices to the independence of Al Azhar” as set in the constitution.

Article 7 of the Egyptian constitution states Al Azhar Al Sharif is an independent, Islamic, scientific, and religious body, exclusively responsible for carrying out all its affairs. It is the primary reference in religious sciences and Islamic affairs, and it is responsible for advocacy and the dissemination of religious sciences and the Arabic language in Egypt and the world.

In it official statement, Al Azhar refuted the articles of the draft law, and said that it included “creating an entity parallel to Al Azhar and robbing it of its most important functions”, citing that the bill stipulated “the establishment of an Islamic religious body, entrusted with everything related to the fatwa, and that the Center for Mufti Preparation, headed by the Mufti, aims to prepare professionals who work in the Fatwa, qualify them inside and outside Egypt, and to issue a diploma equivalent to that of the Supreme Council of Universities.

Al Azhar explained those specialisations are considered an infringement on the competences of Al Azhar University, which specialises in issuing scientific degrees in Islamic sciences.

In turn, Dr. Osama Al Abed, Chairman of the Religious Committee in the House of Representatives, and the sponsor of the bill, said, “the draft law did not diminish the powers of Al Azhar, the mufti is chosen by Al Azhar Al Sharif, and there is no dispute,”

He added, “The draft law was approved by the religious committee, and the final decision is in the hands of the parliament’s plenary session.”