Egyptians reject fatwa calling for destruction of pyramids and Sphinx

A member of a Salafi jihadist group called for the destruction of the pyramids. Shown above are the Sphinx and one of the pyramids of Giza. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Shorfa]

A member of a Salafi jihadist group called for the destruction of the pyramids. Shown above are the Sphinx and one of the pyramids of Giza. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Shorfa]

  • COMMENT 5
  • Print this article
  • increase decrease

Egyptian scholars, officials and tourism workers denounced a fatwa -- recently issued by Egyptian cleric Morgan Salem al-Gohari -- that calls on Egyptians to destroy the country's pyramids and the Sphinx.

Al-Gohari, a member of a Salafi jihadist group, said he wants these antiquities demolished, just as Prophet Mohammed destroyed the idols he found upon his conquest of Mecca.

During an interview that aired on Egyptian satellite channel Dream TV, al-Gohari likened the Egyptian landmarks to the Buddha statues that were demolished in Afghanistan.

He also equated those who work in the tourism sector to those who work "in prostitution and debauchery" and demanded that the tourism ministry be abolished.

The Fatwa Committee at Al-Azhar rejected the fatwa, saying antiquities are part of the country's culture.

Dr. Mahmoud al-Jabali, sharia law professor at Al-Azhar University, said the fatwa and others like it have no basis in religion.

Al-Jabali said such edicts violate sharia and Qur'anic teachings and profoundly contradict with the true interpretation of the Qur'an (tafseer) and the Prophet's Sunnah.

"At the onset of Islam, the [original motive] behind smashing idols was preventing people from worshiping and praying to them instead of God," he told Al-Shorfa. "This is not the case with Egyptian antiquities, especially the pyramids, the Sphinx and the statues of Luxor, for neither Egyptians nor tourists do such things."

"The pyramids are mentioned in the Qur'an as great and important relics, [by way of] the phrase 'pharaohs with the edifices', where the term 'edifices', interpreters agree, refers to the pyramids," al-Jabali said.

Antiquities Minister Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim said in a press statement on November 17th that he does not honour any fatwa issued by any party other than official government bodies and Al-Azhar.

The law will be enforced firmly and emphatically against anyone who tries to harm antiquities that are protected by law, he said.

"The ministry is implementing a security plan in co-ordination with the Tourism and Antiquities Police to protect our cultural treasures in all the provinces against any attempt to harm Egypt's antiquities," he said.

Fatwa 'tarnishes Islam'

Mahmoud Sami, director of a tourism company and member of the Egyptian Chamber of Tourism, told Al-Shorfa the fatwa adversely affects Egypt's position on the world tourism map, especially since news agencies and newspapers circulated the fatwa story and linked it to the destruction of antiquities in Afghanistan and Mali.

He called on the media to "deal wisely and rationally with such nonsense -- those who disseminate them seek only to gain fame and to capture the spotlight by stirring controversy".

Workers in the tourism sector submitted dozens of complaints to the Egyptian Attorney General against Sheikh al-Gohari. They accused him of defamation and libel and of undermining public and national security, Sami said.

Sheikh Abdel Moneim Mohammed, imam of al-Nour mosque in Cairo's Maadi district, echoed his sentiment.

He said he is astonished by such fatwas, which tarnish both true Salafi advocacy and Islam.

"Many claim to be part of the Salafi advocacy, but a distinction must be made between Salafi advocacy that calls for following the example of our righteous ancestors, and jihadi Salafi advocacy affiliated with terrorist organisations, like al-Qaeda and others," he said.

"These operate according to political agendas that aim to sow chaos and destruction and spread unrest and terrorism," he added.

Sheikh Mohammed said Egyptian youth will not allow such ideas to spread, for during the chaos that accompanied the country's revolution, many young people protected the Egyptian museum and antiquities.

Al-Azhar is the only authority in Egypt whose fatwas people honour, because it is the only legitimate body authorised to issue them, he added.

ADD A COMMENT (COMMENT POLICY) * DENOTES REQUIRED FIELD

* DENOTES REQUIRED FIELD

Test
  • READER COMMENTS

    MOHAMED SOBHY

    2012-12-7

    Why do the Muslim Brothers and the Salafis insist on defaming the image of the great Islam? They are not true Muslims. The biggest proof is that whenever they exist in a place, a feud takes place. In Libya, there is a civil war between the Muslims and a team that sought the help of the disbelievers against Muslims and also in Syria. May the Lord save Egypt from them before civil war breaks out!

  • ابو احمد

    2012-11-30

    I swear, this is a shameful way of thinking and it should never be described as Islamic. This is the backwardness incarnate.

  • وسام مصطفى

    2012-11-30

    Peace be upon you…. I am a Sunni Muslim and I am always with the truth irrespective of the religion. I want to comment on this issue and I see that we face a massive invasion of personal fatwas that have no relationship with the religion. However, they are unfortunately issued by our honorable sheikhs. If the fatwas would allow demolition of the pyramids and sphinx as the Prophet, peace be upon him, did with the idols, then we must first differentiate between the two issues. Another question is: did not the honorable Prophet, peace be upon him, know about them as he heard from the Muslim leaders who conquered Egypt? We have never heard any Muslim leader or commander who issued such a fatwa! We cannot call this fatwa, but it is aggression against the civilizations. The societies would look to us and feel pathetic because of our backwardness. Peace be upon you….

  • s

    2012-11-30

    This is prohibited I swear, because the history of Islam rejects this. If Islam prohibits it, the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have issued a fatwa stating this clearly to be recorded over time.

  • Ibrahim al iraqi

    2012-11-29

    We must firmly resist these opinions which destroy civilization. There is no human being that worships these ancient monuments as the symbols of the past that must be preserved; there is nothing in our religion that suggests that. when the Prophet, peace be upon him, demolished the idols, he did it to prove to the infidels that they are not gods, and that they are unable to react in revenge; unlike the pyramids, which do not need that proof because there is no one who worships them. Regrettably, these threads have been raised by the new, underdeveloped rule under President Mursi. Thanks to Al Azhar Al-Sharif, who rejected these opinions, and our authorities must follow them and speed up issuing opinions that are contrary to these destructive opinions.