Al-Azhar has succeeded in preserving the principles of Islamic law in the Egyptian constitution
Dr. Shawki Allam-the Grand Mufti of Egypt- emphasized that the articles included in the new draft constitution were the product of lengthy discussions. He said that they represent all factions and groups of the Egyptian society from children to the elderly.
In a televised interview on al-Hayat channel, the Grand Mufti spoke of many heated debates and some conflicts during the proceedings of the 50-member committee to amend the constitution. He added that they managed to settle all the contentious articles.
The Grand Mufti said that the representatives of Al-Azhar in the 50-membercommittee played a prominent and effective role, especially with regards to the articles related to Islamic law and the religious reference of Al-Azhar. He said that Al-Azhar succeed in preserving the principles of Islamic law in the draft constitution, especially with regards to the second article stating that Islamic law is the principal source of legislation. This article governs all of the constitutional articles.
He further said that it is impossible to interpret any of the constitutional articles except in light of Islamic law, a matter which was frequently confirmed by the representatives of Al-Azhar during the discussions and in the sessional records.
During the interview, Dr. Shawki Allam said that the claim that Al-Azhar waived some of the terms related to Islamic law is completely erroneous. He further added that Al-Azhar was keen to include the words“mabadi` al-shari’ah (principles of Islamic law) in the preamble to the constitution.
He added saying,“We insisted on including article no. 227 in the section of General Provisions which states: ‘The constitution and its preamble and texts area well-knit fabric that is non-divisible. Its provisions constitute one coherent unit.’ He further said that this is the first time to include such an article in the Egyptian constitution. The reason for including it stems from our concern about many articles as well as our wish that this, along with the second article, guarantees the existence of the reference of Islamic law in the draft constitution.
The Grand Mufti explained that the representatives of Al-Azhar in the 50-member committee insisted on adding the interpretation of the word ‘principles’ in the preamble to the constitution. He pointed out that after an in-depth study, they accepted the interpretation taken from the total rulings issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court, especially those based on consensus, the principles of ijtihad [independent juristic reasoning] and those of definitive proof and meaning. This is an accurate interpretation and an adequate replacement of article no. 219.
The Grand Mufti affirmed that when representatives of Al-Azhar were given this task, they insisted on taking a purely scholarly approach.
He added that a research committee to aid the representatives of Al-Azhar in the 50-member committee was formed. It comprised a law professor, a professor of principles of jurisprudence and a media professor to acquaint Al-Azhar representatives with all the concepts related to the constitutional articles.
He added that the first article discussed was article no. 219 to determine whether it was suitable to interpret the word ‘principles’. After scholarly research, it found that this interpretation is ambiguous and if used, would disrupt the legislative structure such as for instance, the law of obligatory bequests in inheritance which will become incompatible with article no. 219.
Concerning the rumors that the Supreme Constitutional Court has limited the interpretation of ‘principles of Islamic law’ to rulings of definitive proof and meaning, the Grand Mufti said, “After a thorough scholarly research, we found that the constitutional court’s body of interpretations has tackled the problems of article no. 219 which had restricted the interpretation only to rulings of definitive proof and meaning; these comprise only 5% of the rulings of Islamic law. However, the constitutional court’s interpretation requires the legislator to implement the standards of independent juristic reasoning in drafting laws.”
The Grand Mufti pointed out that the legislative field requires discipline and the sources of legislation must be determined. For this reason, the committee members were keen to promote the articles of Islamic law as sources of legislation in light of civilized Islam which encompasses all Egyptians.
The Grand Mufti urged all Egyptians to read the new draft constitution carefully, understand it, and evaluate the articles objectively in order to vote as they see fit without directions from anyone. He called for conducting a societal study and discussion of each of the constitutional articles so that the layman could form an opinion on his country’s constitution.
Concerning the claim “mixing religion with politics”, the Grand Mufti explained that Islamic law covers all aspects of life. These include the individual’s relation to his Lord, to his fellow man — even if non-Muslim — and the state’s relation to other communities.
The Grand Mufti explained that Islam has established certain criteria for the political process. The most important of these is the non-exploitation of religion for political gains, falsifying the will of the people, or directing their opinion. He said that this matter can be eliminated through certain strategies, mainly education and teaching methods.
The Grand Mufti affirmed that Dar al-Ifta` as an institution does not push the public to vote either for or against the draft resolution. It has repeatedly maintained that the [Egyptian] citizen must form his own opinion and place the higher interests of the country above partisan interests. He added that effective participation in all democratic entitlements is a national duty upon all Egyptians.
The Grand Mufti said that the new constitution guarantees gender equality with regards to rights and duties and that equality is a basic principle of law. He further added that Islamic law has accorded men and women equal duties, acts of worship, and rewards except those due to female nature.
He further added, “I think the current incidents will not thwart the will of Egyptians because Egypt was described in the Holy Qur`an as the country of peace and security. Its people were moreover described in a Prophetic report as protectors of the borders until the Day of Judgment.”
On the “chaos of fatwas”, the Grand Mufti said that the spread of this phenomenon is a result of the proliferation of satellite TV channels which have ultimately led to confusion of ideas. He reassured Egyptians that the honorable Azharis fighting this phenomenon through a moderate scholarly methodology stemming from studying books from our juristic heritage considered the basics of the sound scholarly structure. He added that the scholars of Dar al-Ifta` al-Misrriyah and Al-Azhar have been trained to follow this methodology. They understand the realities of the times and therefore, are qualified to issue legal verdicts. To be qualified to issue a legal edict, they have to understand both the texts as well as the reality of the times.