Destruction of shrines creates friction between Al-Azhar, Sufis and Salafis

News article, posted 04.12.2011, in:
Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line
Injy El-Kashef
The destruction of holy shrines created friction between Sufis and Salafis in Egypt (Photo: Al-Ahram Weekly Online)

A Sufi massive protest was held last Friday before Al-Hussein Mosque, as well as a march from Al-Azhar Mosque to Al-Hussein Mosque the previous Tuesday, expressing outrage at the destruction of the shrines belonging to holy men and women held in the highest esteem by the Sufi community, and their resolve to confront the Salafis allegedly waging the destruction campaign. The Salafis, considered the ultra- conservative form of Islam, have long denied the legitimacy of shrines according to their specific interpretation of the Quran and Sunna.

Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa dedicated his Friday sermon at Al-Azhar Mosque last week to denounce what he called the "malicious" transgressors "who wish to spark blind strife in order to destroy both the country and its people." He added in reference to previous debates he had held with the Salafis around the legitimacy of shrines erected inside mosques, that when he mentioned the fact that the shrines of Prophet Mohamed as well as his most trusted companions, Abu Bakr Al-Seddiq and Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, are constructed inside Prophet Mohamed's Mosque in Medina, they replied with the intention of destroying these shrines, too, along with Al-Hussein's, the prophet's grandson. It was a reply which infuriated Gomaa, who added that the destruction of shrines is condemned and criminalised by Islamic Sharia according to all Islamic scholars, past and present.

The Islamic Research Centre, led by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, has also sharply renounced the attacks on the shrines, asserting that both Al-Azhar and the centre are capable of facing these "conspiracies" as well as the protection of the shrines through the Muslim community.

Gaber Qassem, deputy of the Sufi Orders, stated that "around 14 shrines have been violated since the 25 January Revolution," adding that "the enforcement of popular committees has begun, in cooperation with the revolution coalition in Alexandria, to protect the holy shrines." Similar calls for unity have been voiced across the Sufi community at large, inviting all Sufi disciples to consolidate their efforts in a unified front ensuring the protection of the hundreds of shrines found across Egypt against what they described as "Salafi thuggery".