Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi

This individual is not a direct affiliate of the Berkley Center.

Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi was the grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and grand sheikh of Al-Azhar University until his death in March 2010. He was one of the senior Islamic authorities for Sunni Muslims worldwide. Born in Upper Egypt in 1928, he was educated at the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar, worked for Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments, and studied and taught in various countries and institutions. He was appointed grand mufti of Egypt in 1986, a position he held until 1996. He was the first to hold this position without prior judicial experience. Tantawi was a self-described disciple of Muhammad Abduh, the nineteenth century theologian who developed Islamic modernism in Egypt. He was an outspoken critic of extremism and terrorism, condemning all suicide attacks, including against Israeli targets. While conservative, he ruled controversially that female circumcision is not Islamic, that the French have a right to ban headscarves in schools, and that abortion is permissible for rape victims.
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