Academy for Islamic Studies

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The Academy for Islamic Studies ( Arabic مجمع البحوث الاسلامية, DMG maǧmaʿ al-buḥūṯ al-islāmīya ), also known as the Islamic Research Academy , is a scholarly committee of the Egyptian Azhar authority that deals with the clarification of controversial Islamic questions, holds international Islamic conferences and in Egypt also performs censorship tasks in some cases .

The academy was founded in 1961 as part of the reform of the Azhar with the declared aim of renewing Islamic culture and replaced the former "community of great scholars" ( ǧamāʿat kibār al-ʿulamāʾ ), which had been created in 1911. Unlike these, however, it was given an international orientation from the start. Many elements of the academy go back to a proposal by Mahmūd Schaltūt from 1941 to reform the “community of great scholars”. They have found their way into Articles 15–32 of the Egyptian Azhar Law (No. 103 of 1961), which regulates the affairs of the Academy for Islamic Investigation.


Article 15 of the Azhar Act specifies the following tasks for the body:

“The Academy for Islamic Investigation is the highest body for Islamic investigation and is concerned with the study of everything related to that investigation. It strives for the renewal of Islamic culture, for its liberation from the superfluous, from the flawed and from the effects of political and madhhab- based fanaticism, to the disclosure of its pure, unadulterated essence, to the expansion of knowledge about it on every level and in every environment, to assess newly emerging ideological and social problems that are connected with faith, and to take responsibility for the call to God's way through judicial activity and right exhortation. "

In addition, the commission was entrusted with advisory tasks in the definition of the curricula for the higher courses of the Azhar.

Composition of the committee

According to Article 16 of the Azhar Law, the body is composed of up to 50 great Islamic scholars who are supposed to represent the entirety of the Islamic schools of thought. Up to 20 scholars are said to come from countries other than Egypt. Requirements for membership in the body are according to Article 17:

  • an age of at least 40 years
  • pious way of life in the past and present
  • Academic qualification of the highest level from the Azhar or any faculty or institute concerned with Islamic studies
  • outstanding academic production or five years of activity as a university lecturer for Islamic studies or in an Islam-related position in jurisdiction, preparation of expert opinions or legislation

The election of the members of the Academy is regulated in Article 31. Accordingly, if a member leaves, a new member must be re-elected within three months. This is done in such a way that two members have to propose a candidate. A secret ballot then takes place on this candidate. If the candidate receives an absolute majority of the members present, he will be admitted to the committee. The appointment is made by the Egyptian President on a presentation by Sheikh al-Azhar . This is always the chair of the academy (Art. 18). An adequate number of members should work full-time in the academy. The Minister for Azhar Affairs decides on full-time employment (Art. 19).

Until the 1970s, the academy was a purely Egyptian body to which only a few foreigners belonged. Some of them were also members of the Islamic World League . Hamdī Zaqzūq was one of the well-known Egyptian members of the academy .

Organs of the academy

According to Article 20 of the Azhar Law, the Academy for Islamic Investigation is composed of the following bodies:

  • the academy council ( maǧlis al-maǧmaʿ ), which consists of the chairman, the Egyptian full-time and part-time members and the general secretary
  • the Conference of the Academy ( muʾtamar al-maǧmaʿ ), which consists of all members of the Academy
  • the General Secretariat
  • and the City of Islamic Study Missions ( madīnat al-buʿūṯ al-islāmīya )

According to Art. 23, the General Secretariat is headed by the director of the “Secretariat for Culture and the Islamic Study Missions”, which is a separate body of the Azhar. Today the Academy also publishes the Azhar magazine ( maǧallat al-Azhar ), which appears monthly. It also contains regular reports from the Academy.


According to Article 22 of the Azhar Law, the Academy for Islamic Research is to convene an ordinary conference of four weeks each year. In addition, with the consent of the minister responsible and on the proposal of the Sheikh al-Azhar , it may convene extraordinary conferences if circumstances so require. These conferences are quorate with a simple majority of the members, but only if at least a quarter of the participants are non-Egyptians.

In total, however, only 14 conferences have taken place so far, most of them in the 1960s and 1970s: 1st conference (March 1964), 2nd (1965), 3rd (1966), 4th (September 1968), 5th (1970 ), 6. (1971), 7. (1972), 8. (October 1977), 9. (1983), 10. (1986), 11. (?), 12. (?) 13. (2009) 14 . (2010).

The first conference, held in 1964, focused on restoring the unity of the ummah and on the spread and defense of Islam. At the second conference in 1965 the development of the Islamic insurance and banking system was discussed. The fourth conference in 1968 served above all to the theological processing of the Arab defeat in the Six Day War and had a strong anti-Jewish tendency. Some conference participants called for jihad against Israel. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, the Palestine problem and Zionism remained important topics at the conferences.

From the late 1960s, the conferences also dealt with the Islamization of the legal system. For example, the fourth conference in 1968 instructed the Academy to set up a commission of experts on Islamic law ( Fiqh ) and positive law to prepare bills based on the commandments of Sharia law in the various fields of law (criminal, civil, commercial and maritime law, etc. .) should work out. These bills should be made available to political leaders in Egypt and the other Islamic countries and make it easier for them to carry out legal reforms based on Sharia law. The eighth conference in 1977 instructed the Academy to work out a draft Islamic constitution. Such a draft with 141 articles, based on the Egyptian constitution of 1971, was presented on June 22, 1978.

Shiite scholars also took part in some of the Academy's conferences, such as ʿAlī Kāshif al-Ghithā from Iraq at the 1965 conference and Mūsā as-Sadr from Lebanon at the 1970 and 1971 conferences. In 1984, the one in Qatar spoke resident scholar Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī was very disparaging of the academy and its conferences. In a memorandum on the millennium of the Azhar, he criticized the academy for letting itself be too politically instrumentalized and for not having succeeded in attracting important Islamic personalities from abroad. Since it is a “building without any meaning”, the academy must be dissolved.

At the last academy conferences, political questions took a back seat. The 13th conference of 2009 dealt with the Islamic law assessment of organ transplants , the last 14th conference of the Academy in 2010 dealt with the assessment of the dramatic representation of the life of the companions of the Prophets .

The academy as a censorship authority

From the 1980s onwards, the Academy for Islamic Investigations also acted as a censorship authority on several occasions. Its censorship task was derived from Article 15 of the Azhar law, according to which the academy should rid Islamic culture of everything superfluous and flawed and give its judgment on ideological and social problems that are related to faith. For example, in 1980, at the request of the Academy, the book "Introduction to Arabic Philology" was confiscated from the secularist thinker Louis Awad . However, Government Decree No. 250 of 1975 regulating the application of the Azhar Act and Act No. 102 of 1985 limited the Academy's censorship powers. The 1975 decree stated that the academy only had the right to make recommendations to governmental and private organizations and to individuals working in the field of Islamic culture; the 1985 law limited the academy's direct censorship right to copies of the Koran and on collections of hadiths submitted to her. Because of this, Egyptian publishers repeatedly disregarded statements made by the academy until the mid-1990s.

Despite the limitation of its powers, the Academy intervened several times directly from the end of the 1980s, for example at the 1988 Egyptian Book Fair when it requested the confiscation of several books. Members of the academy intervened again at the Cairo Book Fair in 1992, calling for the sale of 28 books to be suspended, including five by the secularist author Muhammad Saʿīd al-ʿAschmāwī. In 1993, a collection of poems by the Egyptian poet was withdrawn from sale after the Academy judged that several of the collection's verses were similar to the Koran. Some works that the Academy recommended confiscation were considered objectionable because they put the Islamic religion on a par with other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism . The Academy also condemned the novelist ʿAlāʾ Hāmid, arguing that his novel contained ideas that are conducive to atheism and unbelief and deny the revealed religions, and call for a change in society through revolution.

Several Egyptian intellectuals protested against the Academy's censorship activities. They referred, among other things, to a judgment by the Egyptian Court of Cassation , according to which the Academy does not have the right to demand the confiscation of books. The Egyptian organization for human rights also accused the organization of sympathizing with certain groups of political Islam that operate outside of legality.

In 1994, however, the Egyptian parliament strengthened the academy in this dispute by extending its censorship rights to non-religious publications and declaring its decisions to be binding. The Academy’s verdict in the so-called “Haidar Haidar Affair” in May 2000, when Azhar students opposed the republication of the novel “Banquet for the Seaweeds ” ( Walīma li-aʿšāb al-baḥr ) by the Syrian writer Haidar Haidar, caused a sensation Egyptian Ministry of Culture protested. The Egyptian security authorities then commissioned the academy to investigate the extent to which the novel violated Sharia law. The academy itself in turn submitted the case to its commission for jurisprudential investigations, which submitted to the academy in a special meeting on May 17, 2000, reports from two members. Based on these reports, the Academy, chaired by Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi , declared that the novel was blasphemous and violated the recognized principles of the Islamic religion, and raised serious allegations against the Ministry of Culture, which published the novel without consulting the Academy. In its public statement, the Azhar emphasized the duty of the Ministry of Culture to submit all literary and artistic works that are related to the Islamic religion to the Academy for examination.


  • Mustapha al-Ahnaf: "L'affaire Haydar Haydar" in Égypte / Monde arabe , Deuxième série, 3 | 2000, URL:
  • Bernard Botiveau: "Penser, dire, interdire. Logiques et enjeux de la censure des écrits en Égypte" in Égypte / Monde arabe , Première série, 14 | 1993, URL:
  • Rainer Brunner: Approach and distance. Schia, Azhar and Islamic Ecumenism in the 20th Century . Berlin 1996. pp. 263-268. Available online here .
  • Monica Corrado: Into the future with tradition. The taǧdīd discourse in the Azhar and their environment . Ergon, Würzburg, 2011. pp. 102-107.
  • DF Green: Arab theologians on Jews and Israel: extracts from the proceedings of the 4th conference of the Academy of Islamic Research. Ed. de l'Avenir, Geneva, 1971. Available online here.
  • Richard Jacquemond: "Quelques débats récents autour de la censure", Égypte / Monde arabe , Première série, 20 | 1994, URL:
  • J. Jomier: "Les Congrès de l'Academie des Recherches islamiques dépendent de l'Azhar" in Mélanges de l'Institut dominicain d'Etudes orientales 14 (1980) 85-148.
  • Gudrun Krämer: God's state as a republic. Reflections by contemporary Muslims on Islam, human rights and democracy . Nomos, Baden-Baden 1999. pp. 195-201.
  • Wolf-Dieter Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar: Studies on renewal efforts in the Egyptian-Islamic education system . Lang, Frankfurt a. M. [u. a.], 1980. pp. 178-187.
  • Reinhard Schulze: Islamic internationalism. Research on the history of the Islamic World League. EJ Brill, Leiden 1990. pp. 235-238.
  • Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen: Defining Islam for the Egyptian State. Muftis and Fatwas of the Dār al-Iftā. Brill, Leiden, 1997.

Individual evidence

  1. See Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar . 1980, p. 181.
  2. See Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar . 1980, pp. 183-186.
  3. See Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar . 1980, p. 178f.
  4. See Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar . 1980, p. 179.
  5. See Schulze 238.
  6. See Corrado 102.
  7. See Lemke: Maḥmūd Šaltūt (1893-1963) and the reform of the Azhar . 1980, p. 185.
  8. See Corrado 29–31.
  9. See also Schulze 235.
  10. ^ On the conferences up to 1986, see Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen 187.
  11. See Corrado 71.
  12. See Brunner 265.
  13. See the documentation of the conference by the two Israeli authors David Littman and Fati Harkabi, who operated under the pseudonym DF Green.
  14. See Skovgaard-Petersen 187f.
  15. See Jomier 118.
  16. See Krämer 275–281.
  17. See Brunner 263-265.
  18. See Skovgaard-Petersen 188.
  19. See
  20. See
  21. See sub level para. 36.
  22. See Jacquemond para. 18.
  23. See Jacquemond para. 17.
  24. See Jacquemond para. 18.
  25. See Jacquemond para. 13.
  26. See Botiveau fn. 24.
  27. See Botiveau fn. 17.
  28. See Botiveau Paragraph 48.
  29. See Botiveau Paragraph 37.
  30. See Botiveau Paragraph 48.
  31. See Corrado 73.
  32. Cf. al-Ahnaf, para. 52.
  33. See Al-Ahnaf para. 53 and Annèxe 7.
  34. Cf. al-Ahnaf, para. 53.