In the Name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
Dear Dr. Shaykh Ahmad Al Tayyib
First of all I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to you and all the scholars of the respectable al-Azhar University on the auspicious occasion of the Prophet (s)’s birthday anniversary.
The truth is that the only things that keep Muslims hopeful in these troubled times that Takfir and extremism is bringing destruction upon the entire Muslim world, are the rational stances taken by the al-Azhar throughout history as well as your own moderate views and support for the unity of Muslim Ummah. However, recently a number of actions have been taken in the name of the al-Azhar which, I believe, constitute a warning about the deviation of al-Azhar from its former, more moderate and rational stance. These include the critiques that have been leveled in some of the media against the beliefs of the Ahl-al-Bayt (a) school, the as c r i p tion of a number of false views to Shia school because they are being propagated by some media which are controlled by the enemy and which we strictly renounce, holding writing contests against Shia school, talking about Shia Muslims in Egypt with contempt and using offensive words about them, and preventing even one of the Shia citizens from being elected as MP in Egypt.
Such actions add fuel to the flames of extremism which yield nothing but sectarian conflicts and the loss of the proud history of the al-Azhar.
What is the best way of resolving disagreements between various Islamic schools from a logical and a religious point of view? Is the best way of resolving disagreements scientific discussion between the religious authorities of all schools or writing critiques against each other and starting propaganda and writing contests against one another?
What is the wisest way to obtain the most reliable account of the beliefs of a school? Is the best way to judge the beliefs of a school to study the works and the ideas of the religious authorities of that school and its most reliable references or to rely on the remarks of some hated individuals and their media, which are mostly controlled by the enemies of Islam, and they try to find and criticize some flaws in the references which are not approved by the religious authorities of that school as being reliable?
This is all while in the 35 years that have passed since the Islamic revolution in Iran none of the Shia religious authorities (Marja’s) in Iran has ever critiqued the Sunnite convictions and schools of jurisprudence and no writing contests have ever been held by the Center for the Management of the Islamic Seminaries in Qom against Sunnite school. Now can these two divisive actions taken by the Al Azhar be considered as the commitment of the al-Azhar to Islamic unity and the proximity of Muslim schools? There are a lot of Shias and Sunnis living in Iran and Afghanistan together in harmony and they take part in elections and run their governments together.
Will the al-Azhar authorities not be held accountable before Allah the Almighty should such propaganda enrage some extremists among Sunni Muslims in Egypt and compel them to spill the blood of your Shia fellow citizens, in which case there might be retaliatory actions on the part of Shias as well?
I have always been optimistic about you and so I hope that you will firmly stand up against this deviation. Such deviations can cause the al-Azhar to fall prey to the evil plots of the enemies of Islam and those of the Wahhabis and Takfiris. The Wahhabis and Takfiris seek only to spread divisiveness among Muslims and so I hope that you will stop them before they can carry out their evil plans and take you away from the path of moderation. I hope that you continue to shine, just like other prominent figures of al-Azhar such as Shaykh Mahmūd Shaltūt, as a pioneer in promoting moderation and proximity among all Muslim schools.
May Allah bless you and his bounties be upon you
Naser Makarem Shirazi