What is Al-Azhar University? And What is Takfir?

Last weekend I posted about the refusal of scholars at Al-Azhar University to pronounce takfir (the accusation aimed at a fellow Muslim or Muslim of kufr, or unbelief) against the Islamic State. In my introduction, I characterized Al-Azhar, as I often do, as “the closest equivalent to the Vatican that can be found in Islam.”

A commenter named SC took exception to that statement and other aspects of my post. His remarks are worth reproducing here in their entirety:

This article is one of the reasons I simply cringe at discussions of Islam by one-off references to Jewish or Christian institutions, terminology, and typology.

Although very powerful and influential, Al-Azhar is NOT the Sunni equivalent to the Vatican.

Takfirism is NOT Islamic anathema. The repeated use of the term anathema in the article is both disturbing and distorting.

Takfirism is NOT a recognized Sunni instrument outside of Taymiyyan Hanbalism — and within it Wahhabism. This is among the most central of friction points between Taymiyyans (100% of Wahhabis are Taymiyyan but only 85% of Taymiyyans are Wahhabi) and the broader Sunni Islam. Takfir can be traced to Ibn Taymiyyah. While Al-Azhar has been vulnerable to initiatives to mainstream takfirism from time to time, in the main, it has opposed the doctrine and been among the more pronounced centers of opposition.

Can anyone show Al-Azhar ever calling someone Takfir where it was not a Wahhabis who got on staff through Saudi (or other Persian Gulf Wahhabi state) influence?

The Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world outside of Wahhabi states is often attacked by mainstream Sunni — and even Salafi — groups from trying to bring takfirism through the backdoor through the Brotherhood-developed concept of jahiliyyah [the time of ignorance before Islam].

On the note by RN, immediately above, these men were not declared takfir and executed. They were found guilty of apostasy in an Islamic court. They were both actually found guilty for the very reasons RN states — because what they said constitutes actual apostasy in Islamic law. Islam does not have “canonical courts,” they have shariah courts in a part of the world where shariah is recognized and understood to be the law of the land.

While I am not a fan of shariah and am not planning on converting to Islam anytime soon, one needs to recognize the actual boundaries of Sunni Islam qua Sunni Islam and judge from that standard.

SC’s points are well-taken. However, most Westerners do not have any in-depth knowledge of Islamic law, nor any understanding of the intricacies of the history of Islamic sectarianism. In order to grasp the significance of what is happening in the news, they are reduced to analogy, which in many circumstances is the best they can do.

For that reason I shall continue to use analogies in my various introductory explanations about Islamic matters. An analogy must needs suffice until the reader learns more and understands the matter more deeply.

Our long-term goal, of course, is to learn to think like a Muslim. That’s the only way to gain a full understanding of the catastrophic process of Islamization that is gradually overwhelming the West.

18 thoughts on “What is Al-Azhar University? And What is Takfir?

  1. SC: I feel you are giving a rather short shrift to the central issue here: Does Al-Azhar University recognize the principle of takfir? Yes or no?

  2. I agree with your stand.
    SC is a professional in this area and most interresting I have a PHD in History and would have to spend many months to research his statment for their validaty. This is impoassible as I cannot read the the prmary sources.
    The Koran in English is difficult enough.

  3. I guess for most of us analogies will suffice, after all, who in their very busy lives have the time to delve into Islam and its many practises just to broaden their knowledge of how and why Islam is so divided and dysfunctional. Islam equals death for all eventually who do not make themselves aware of just how anti-human Islam truly is, and that should be sufficient knowledge for everyone who values their life, the lives of their loved ones and their culture.

  4. Thank you, SC, for your informative clarification.
    Meanwhile, Baron, speaking of learning to think like a Muslim, you must be worried about being takfired yourself, for having illustrated this article with the particular mosque photograph you chose. It shows the mosque under attack by the jinn-like Tinkerbell, and moreover, Tinkerbell is twinkling in a six-pointed Star of David pattern.

  5. I do not want to learn to think like a Muslim. I want to learn how Muslims think. The recent post here (https://gatesofvienna.net/2014/12/the-weaponized-rhetoric-of-jihad/) taught me a great deal about how Muslims think. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    I can think in German and Portuguese. I cannot think like a German or a Brazilian, and I know that, and I know the difference, but I know how they think. I have no desire to think like a Muslim, but it will be useful to know how Muslims think.

  6. Actually The Baron is correct in his use of analogy. I have studied Islam for nigh on 30 years and can be considered to “think like a Moslem”. Under training I was taught by the British Army to “know my enemy”. I do indeed! I read and read and lived in their lands.

    Islamic scholarship and theology is an incomprehensible maze to most. The names are confusing enough! How else are the rest of you to comprehend unless through analogy? I use it even with my “insider knowledge” and the fact I am a Bishop shows what I think of Islam.

    It is fake and based upon an entirely false premise and narrative the Moslems have invented themselves to “explain” their religoon to themselves. So ask yourselves how are we to “understand” it if even its followers cannot agree?

    It is the same with Marx who borrowed wholesale from Islam including its symbolism and its cruel methods…

    How many of you knew that then?

    Splitting hairs over nuance…


    Well done baron and Merry Christmas!

    • Please read “religoon show”. That is how I regard it and comedy humour can kill as we now find out.

      Islam is a bloody “Comedy of errors” and 360,000 dead have all eternity to laugh about it all. Can you hear them guffawing? No of course not! That is why they call it the “Religion of peace”- the peace of the dead and the grave.

      SC is what we in Academe call a “Dotty”.

      • Great posts. Of course, the true number of murders by Islam is 270 million over 12 centuries.

        Why do I say 12 centuries and not the usual 14? because the creation myths of Islam are all false. The emerging historical record seems to show that Islam in its current form was not created by Mohammed, not Uthman, but Abd a;-Malik. I’m sure you know this, sir, but I write this for the benefit of others. Here’s a nice video showing some of the evidence from satellite imagery and textual analysis of the unholy Qur’an:
        “An Historical Critique of Islam’s Beginnings – Jay Smith” [91 mins]

        Please keep up the great fight against the totalitarianism of the man-made, deceptive political ideology called “Islam”.

        Best Christmas wishes to all our Liberty-loving allies around the World from New Zealand.

        • But it’s not just the millions of dead that must be attributed to Islam, it is also the vandalism and destruction carried out by the Muslim hordes as they spread out over the Mediterranean areas of post Roman civilization destroying that which was perceived as being un-Islamic.

          That historical perspective of the old and the ‘modern’ Islam show that nothing has changed over all those years and that nothing can change within Islam because of its own introspective and self defeating ideology. You may be right about the time line, but it is Mohammed who still calls for Jihad from his grave.

  7. Authors I recommend are…

    Lapidus, “A History of Islamic Society” Very heavy and academic.
    K. Armstrong, “Holy War”
    Robinson.”A History of Islam” University of London and Oxford…
    Runciman, “The Crusades” (Still the best)

    All these were written over 25 years ago but before revisionists came in….

    • Bishop,

      You recommended Karen Armstrong’s “Holy War”?

      Here is part of a description of the book, quoted from the “Library Journal”.

      “Recent historians have convincingly demonstrated that 13th-century European governments institutionalized three forms of irrational bigotry that have tragically affected the modern world: anti-Semitism, anti-homosexuality, and anti-Islam. This important book, which brings the perspective of a student of theology and literature who also knows traditional political history, sees the medieval Crusades as the root of current Middle East conflicts.”


  8. Review…
    ‘… Lapidus is concerned not with defining an essential Islam, but rather with mapping the role of Islamic beliefs, institutions, and identities in particular historical contexts.’ International Journal of Middle East Studies

    ‘The value of A History of Islamic Societies lies in its sheer comprehensiveness. In one volume a vast amount of material is synthesized and presented in a clear and effective style. There is nothing else like it. For the first time the worldwide history of Islamic societies is made accessible to the interested reader.’ The Journal of Asian Studies

    Review of first edition: ‘I do not think that any other world civilization can boast a comparable general account of such substance and quality … this is a great deal more than a textbook. It is a product of learning, intellect and style of an extremely high order.’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

    Review of first edition: ‘I do not think that any other world civilization can boast a comparable general account of such substance and quality. … This is a great deal more than a textbook. It is a product of learning, intellect and style of an extremely high order.’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

  9. Lapidus wrote this in 1980s not as Amazon stated. This was my reading when I studied Islam as part of my degrees.

  10. I don’t see why SC takes exception to what was said, which was that Al Azhar is “the closest equivalent” to the Vatican, NOT “the equivalent” to the Vatican.

    they are not the same thing.

  11. I don’t want to understand Muslim theology. I just want them to go away, back to their own area of the world and keep it to themselves.

    Wishful thinking, I know.

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