Ahmad Abdou Maher, an Egyptian researcher of Islamic studies, recently criticized the reform taking place in the Al-Azhar curricula, saying that controversial material has been "put aside, but not removed." Material dealing with killing, enslavement, sectarianism, and immoral conduct can be found "in abundance" in university books, he said. Maher, who was interviewed on the Egyptian ON TV channel, said that some professors were still teaching at Al-Azhar that it was permissible for women, under various circumstances, to breastfeed grown men. The interview aired on January 17, 2016.
Following are excerpts:
TV host: Can we say that some, or even many, revisions have been made in the school curricula of Al-Azhar?
Ahmad Abdou Maher: There is no doubt that some materials have been removed, or put aside - mainly the material that we have been screaming since 2010 to remove. Everything that we screamed about has been put aside, but not removed. They've taken it out of the middle school and high school curricula.
But the graduate of these schools does not become a housewife. He continues to the university, where he encounters these materials again. He meets them in abundance - in many books, not just one. If in high school, they used to find these materials in one book, now they find them in several books. The same materials that deal with killing, enslavement, sectarianism, and immoral conduct in some matters of jurisprudence can be found in these books.
24,000 students enter the Al-Azhar educational system every year. Why do I have doubts about this reform? I met with the late [Sheikh of Al-Azhar] Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, and told him about [the problems] in the curricula. He changed all the curricula, and wrote a new jurisprudence book called Accessible Jurisprudence. The moment he died, the Supreme Council of Al-Azhar convened, and decided to reinstate Jurisprudence According to the Four Schools of Thought, and to reject Tantawi's book.
One of Al-Azhar's professors, a Ph.D. graduate, wrote this book: Repudiation of the Doubts about the Sunna and the Prophet. Can you say anything against this title? - But then, when you open it, what do you see?
TV host: It's scary.
Ahmad Abdou Maher: It says that the Prophet told Suhayla to breastfeed her mawla. She asked him how, since he was a grown man with a beard. The Prophet permitted her to breastfeed her mawla, so that she would become [forbidden to him] like his mother. Thus goes the hadith.
Who wrote this? A professor of hadith in Al-Azhar University - the very university whose development we are calling for. He says that this hadith is of the utmost credibility, and no righteous man will deny it. Moreover, this hadith, according to the researchers, is a badge of honor for Islam. But I say that this man, a university professor, is promoting prostitution.
That's not all. Another professor, before him, said that it is permissible for a woman to breastfeed her male co-worker, and for him to marry her after her divorce. The breastfeeding should be performed directly by suckling from the breast.
TV host: Oh my God!
Ahmad Abdou Maher: Directly by suckling from the breast!
TV host: Are these things still taught in Al-Azhar today?
Ahmad Abdou Maher: Those two are still professors at Al-Azhar University.