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MARAGHI, MUSTAFA AL- (1881-1945), Egyptian reformist and rector of al-Azhar (1928-1929 and 1935-1945) Shaykh Mustafa al-Maraghi is the link between the reforms of his mentor Muhammad `Abduh and such subsequent leaders of al-Azhar as Mustafa `Abd al-Raziq, `Abd al-Halim Mahmfid, and Mahmfid Shaltut; the last, his professed disciple, later transformed al-Azhar by compromising with the secular nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser.



He was described by his contemporaries as a unique man of strong character and leadership abilities. Maraghi’s dismissal by King Fu’ad in 1929 caused a revolt among the Azhari (`ulama’) that resulted in the dismissal of seventy of them.

As a reformer, Maraghi believed in Islam’s flexibility and ability to adapt to the needs of modernity. He called for social, legal, and educational reforms and pursued an aggressive campaign-begun by `Abduh and finished by Shaltut-to integrate the modern sciences into alAzhar’s curriculum. To that end he organized committees to reform the university’s regulations and curriculum and created a supervisory department for research whose responsibilities included publishing and translation.

Maraghi called for the exercise of ijtihdd, reinterpretation, and opposed taglid, the blind following of tradition. He worked for the reconciliation of different Muslim madhhabs (schools of law) and cooperated with the Aga Khan in setting up Islamic educational and research associations to arbitrate between various madhhabs and strengthen ties among them. He also waged a campaign against Christian missionaries and the schools they opened in Egypt, which he felt were comprising Islam and undermining Islamic society. He also participated in international religious conferences, where he asked for recognition of the equality of all religious groups.

Maraghi was in several senses an enigmatic figure. Although a leader at conservative al-Azhar, he was nevertheless a close associate of Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid and the liberal Ahrar Dustfirlyfin Party. He opposed British rule, yet he often cooperated with the British. He refused to support King Fu’ad’s bid for the Islamic caliphate after its 1924 cancellation by Ataturk, yet later he joined Misr al-Fatat’s Ahmad Husayn in calling upon King Faruq (who reinstated him as Shaykh al-Azhar in 1935) to claim it. His professed desire for a greater role in government for the clergy did not stop him from proposing a reform program that, if fully implemented, could have weakened them, since it included closure of Dar al-`Ulum and the school for shari’ah judges. It is also reported that he proposed the translation (to other than Arabic languages) of the Qur’an to King Faruq.

As Shaykh al-Azhar, Maraghi exerted a final effort to keep that institution under full clerical authority at a time when the ‘ulama’ were losing authority to a new bureaucratic and intellectual order whose discourse was secularly oriented. Students of Egyptian social history also note his provincial origin in the small Upper Egyptian town of Maragha near Tahta as a reminder of the often-forgotten importance of the periphery in the transformation of the center.

[See also Azhar, al-; and the biographies of `Abduh and Shaltut. ]


Bayyumi, Muhammad Rajab al-. AI-Azhar Bayna al-Siyasah waHurriyat al-Fikr. Cairo, 1983.

Baz, Ni’am al. Al-Baquri: Tha’ir tahta al-`imamah. Cairo, 1988. Qurra’ah, Saniyah. Tarikh al-Azhar ft alf `am. Cairo, 1968.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/maraghi-mustafa-al/

  • writerPosted On: August 3, 2014
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