Sheikh Ali Gomaʕa (Arabic:علي جمعة ) is the Grand Mufti of Egypt succeeding Ahmad El-Tayeb. He has been called "one of the most widely respected jurists in the Sunni Muslim world," and described as "a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam," gender equality, and an "object of hatred among Islamists." He specializes in the science of the foundations of Islamic Law, viz. Usul al-fiqh. He follows the Shafi`i school of Islamic jurisprudence.
Ali Gomaa was born in the Upper Egyptian
province of Bani Suwayf
(also spelled Beni Suef) on March 3rd 1953 CE (7 Jumadah al-Akhirah 1371 AH
). He is married and has three adult children. In appearance he has been described as "tall and regal, with a round face and a trim beard."
Gomaa graduated from high school in 1969, at which point he enrolled at Ain Shams University
in Egypt’s capital, Cairo
. Having already begun to memorize the Quran, he delved deeper into his studies of Islam studying Hadith
jurisprudence in his free time while at University. After completing a B.A. in Commerce at Ain Shams in 1973, Gomaa enrolled in Cairo’s prestigious al-Azhar University
, the oldest active Islamic institution of higher learning in the world. He received a second B.A. from al-Azhar, then an M.A., and finally a Ph.D with highest honors in Juristic Methodology (usul al-fiqh
) in 1988. Since he had not gone through the al-Azhar High School curriculum he took it upon himself in his first year at the college to study and memorize all of the basic texts that many of the other students had already covered.
Gomaa taught in the faculty of Islamic and Arabic Studies at al-Azhar University from the time he received his M.A. until he was appointed Grand Mufti, first as an assistant professor, and finally as a full professor.
Classes Outside of the University
In addition to the courses he taught at the University, Gomaa also revived the tradition of open classes held in the al- mosque where he taught a circle of students six days a week from after sunrise until noon. Gomaa established these lessons in 1998 with the aim of protecting the Islamic intellectual tradition from being lost or misinterpreted, “I want people to continue in the tradition of knowledge reading the classical texts the way they were written, not the way people want to understand them.” In addition to the lessons in al-Azhar, Gomaa also began giving the Friday sermon (khutbah) in Cairo’s Sultan Hasan Mosque in 1998 after which he would give a short lesson in Islamic jurisprudence for the general public followed by a question and answer session. In addition Gomaa speaks fluent English, and was a former chairman of Azhar university's Islamic Jurisprudence Department.
Work with Jihadi prisoners
Gomaa has told American journalist Larwence Wright that he worked with Islamic Group prisoners who later embraced the "Nonviolence Initiative
" and denounced violence. “I began going into the prisons in the 1990s. ... We had debates and dialogues with the prisoners, which continued for more than three years. Such debates became the nucleus for the revisionist thinking.”
Ali Gomaa was appointed Grand Mufti in late September 2003. by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
, replacing former Mufti Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb. El-Tayeb was appointed Al-Azhar University president, taking over from Ahmed Omar Hashem.
His office, the Dar al Ifta (literally, the house of fatwas), a government agency charged with issuing religious legal opinions on any question to Muslims who ask for them, issues some 5,000 fatwas a week, including both the official ones that he himself crafts on important issues and the more routine ones handled via phone and Internet by a dozen or so subordinate muftis.
Since being appointed as Grand Mufti, Gomaa has had numerous media appearances. His regular television appearances include:
al-Bayt Baytak on Tuesday nights on both Egyptian terrestrial and satellite channel two when he discusses current events and answers the questions of viewers who call in.
Yas’alunaka, on Fridays on the Risalah satellite channel on which he gives a simplified explanation of Islamic jurisprudence, and a commentary on the Koran that appears daily on local Egyptian channel one.
In addition to his television appearances, Gomaa has a weekly column in the Egyptian daily newspaper al-Ahram. His articles have covered a wide range of topics from explanations of the basis of Islamic law and calling for calm in the face of the Danish cartoon crisis, to refuting extremism and denouncing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a forgery. He is one of the signatories of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding.
Views on selling pork and alcohol in the West and 'Dar-al-harb'
In a fatwa issued by Dar-al-ifta , approved and signed by Dr. Ali Gom’a, the Egyptian Mufti stated that selling pork and alcohol is permitted in the West because of the following points:
Quote “it is allowed taking the opinion of the scholars from the Hanafi madhhab who allow to deal with wrong contracts in dar-al-harb (the house of war) ”
He also based his fatwa on a narration (hadith) that says: “No usury between the people of war in the house of war” which may be considered a weak narration according to some opinions.
Another justification was that the Prophet let his uncle Al-‘Abbas Ibn ‘Abdil-Muttalib take usury in Mecca - a house of war - and he did not prohibit him except in the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage.
In all during the fatwa – which was a reply to a question from a Muslim in Europe asking about whether it would be allowed for him to work in stores that sell alcohol and pork along with other products because he cannot find another job – the Sheikh mentioned the terms “dar-al-harb” (House of war) and “ahl al-harb” (people of war) several terms, and gave a response that not only dealt with what the questioner had asked but further points such as the taking of Interest and gambling.
Other Fatwas of Significance
Since taking office Gomaa has issued a number of fatwas and statements that have made an impact in the media.
He has issued a fatwa asserting that men and women enjoy equal political rights in Islam, including the right to become president of a modern state.
He recently stated on national television that it is permissible in Islam for a woman to have hymen restoration surgery for any reason since Islam promotes protecting one’s privacy and reputation and does not require a woman to provide proof of her virginity.
In November 2006, prof Gomaa ruled that female circumcision (also referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM) should not be applied; this ruling is in accordance with Egyptian law, that also forbids female circumcision. This ruling came about after a conference instigated by research and a documentary on FGM in Somalia by the German action group Target. This fatwa is now also used in Western Europe to combat FGM. On June 24 2007, after an 11-year-old died under the knife undergoing circumcision, he decreed that female circumcision was not just “un-Islamic” but forbidden.
He has also stated that Islam does not call for and has never known a theocratic state and that there is no contradiction between Islam and liberal democracy saying, “I consider myself a liberal and a Muslim, but this does not mean I am a secularist. The Egyptian [historical] experience has combined liberalism and Islam in the best of ways.”
He is a signatory of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy, unequivocally states that nobody has the right to excommunicate a Muslim, and restricts the issuing of fatwas to those with the scholarly qualifications to do so.
In 2007 he "unequivocally told the Washington Post that the death penalty for apostasy simply no longer applies.
He is the Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Hadith, a sub-project of the greater Sunnah Project of the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, which aims at documenting and publishing all works related to Prophetic narrations or Hadith.
Gomaa has publicly asserted that the anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a forgery and made an official court complaint concerning a publisher who falsely put his name on an introduction to its Arabic translation.
Views on extremism
Gomaa has taken a very clear stance against extremist interpretations of Islam. “He has become the most explicitly anti-extremist cleric in mainstream Sunni Islam.” He says that the use of violence to spread Islam is prohibited and extremists have not been educated in genuine centers of Islamic learning, “Terrorists are criminals, not Muslim activists.”
Gomaa believes the best antidote to Islamic extremism is "traditional conception of sharia law — along with knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence
According to American journalist Jay Tolson, Ali Gomaa has been a victim of "smear tactics" by hardline blogger critics of Islam and the Muslim world, the effect of which has been "cumulative and insidious." He quotes Robert Spencer
as referring to `wife-beatin,' statue-hatin' Mufti Ali Gomaa.`
In April 18, 2006, an article entitled "Egypt's grand mufti issues fatwa: no sculpture" appeared in the csmonitor.com
Artists and intellectuals here say the edict, whose ban on producing and displaying sculptures overturns a century-old fatwa, runs counter to Islam. They also worry that extremists may use the ruling as a pretense for destroying Egypt's ancient relics, which form a pillar of the country's multibillion-dollar tourist industry.
Jay Tolson defended Ali Gomaa, saying
while Gomaa did say that it was un-Islamic for Muslims to own statues or to display them in their homes, he made it very clear that the destruction of antiquities and other statues in the public sphere was unacceptable and indeed criminal. He is also on record deploring the Taliban's destruction of the great Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan.
Accusations of Antisemitism
According to translations by the Israeli-based MEMRI organization of an interview allegedly conducted in early July 2003 with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Haqiqa, Ali Gomaa decreed the killing of Israelis travelling to other countries permissible in Islam (though not required). This was the case even if the Israeli was a diplomat, because Israeli are "Harbi and the Harbi spreads corruption throughout the face of the earth. According to Jay Tolson, "I passed on this charge to the mufti's office, and he replied categorically that the contents of the article were a fabrication."
His published works include in alphabetical order:
- ‘Alaqah Usul al-Fiqh bil al-Falsafah
- Aliyat al-Ijtihad
- Athr Dhihab al-Mahal fi al-Hukm
- al-Hukm al-Shar’i
- al-Ijma’ ‘ind al-Usuliyyin
- al-Imam al-Shafi’i wa Madrasatuhu al-Fiqhiyyah
- al-Imam al-Bukhari
- al-Kalim al-Tayyib vol. 1
- al-Kalim al-Tayyib vol. 2
- Mabahith al-Amr ‘ind al-Usuliyyin
- al-Madkhal ila Darasah al-Madhahib al-Fiqhiyyah
- al-Mar’ah fi al-Hadarah al-Islamiyyah
- al-Mustalah al-Usuli wa al-Tatbiq ‘ala Tarif al-Qiyas
- al-Nadhariyyat al-Usuliyyah wa Madkhal li Darasah ‘Ilm al-Usul
- al-Naskh ‘ind al-Usuliyyin
- Qadiyah Tajdid Usul al-Fiqh
- al-Qiyas ‘ind al-Usuliyyin
- al-Ru’yah wa Hujiyyatiha al-Usuliyyah
- Simat al-Asr
- Taqyid al-Mubah
- al-Tariq ila al-Turath al-Islami
His sheikhs and teachers include in alphebetical order:
- ‘Abd Allah bin al-Siddiq al-Ghumari
- ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Ghumari
- ‘Abd al-’Aziz al-Zayyat
- ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah
- ‘Abd al-Hafidh al-Tijani
- ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Abd al-Latif
- ‘Abd al-Hamid Mayhub
- Ahmad Jabir al-Yamani
- ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Qaranshawi
- Ahmad Hammadah al-Shafi’i
- Ahmad Mursi
- ‘Ali Ahmad Mar’i
- Hasan Ahmad Mar’i
- al-Husayni Yusuf al-Shaykh
- Ibrahim Abu al-Khashab
- ‘Iwad Allah al-Hijazi
- ‘Iwad al-Zabidi
- Ismail Sadiq al-’Adwi
- Ismail al-Zayn al-Yamani
- Jad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jad al-Haqq
- Jad al-Rabb Ramadan
- Muhammad Abu Nur Zuhayr
- Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki
- Muhammad Ismail al-Hamadani
- Muhammad Mahmud Farghali
- Muhammad Shams al-Din al-Mantiqi
- Muhammad Zaki Ibrahin
- Sha’ban Muhammad Ismail
- Said ‘Abd Allah al-Lajhi
- al-Sayiid Salih ‘Iwad
- Salih al-Ja’fari
- Yasin al-Fidani