Al-Azhar Imam’s Participation in Grozny Conference Raises Unprecedented Outrage among Saudi Circles

The media center at Al-Azhar Institution has released a statement explaining Sheikh Ahmed AL-Tayeb’s stance with regard to defining what is meant by “Ahl-al-Sunnah” (Components of Sunnah -those who adopt the real traditions of Prophet Mohamed and adhere to his teachings, uniting upon them- a controversial issue over the Islamic ages), reported the CNN Arabic News.

Al-Tayeb-,the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, faced massive criticism from Saudi circles in protest against excluding the Salafists from Ahl- al-Sunnah’s definition when he enlisted those who are included in this term during the conference. In addition, a well-known Saudi writer called to leave Al-Sisi “to face his fate,” for taking the decision to participate in this conference.”

The media center at Al-Azhar said in its statement that “It followed what has been circulated on some sites and on the social media pages about defining who are included in “Ahl al-Sunnah” as well as the reactions toward the conference recommendations”

It also stressed that al-Tayeb said in his speech at the conference that “the concept of Ahl al-Sunna wal Jama’ah is used to describe the Ash’aria and Maturidiyyah, and Ahl al-Hadith.” Al-Azhar statement said that Ahmed al-Tayeb quoted this definition from Al-Saffarini” (one of the famous reliable Sunni scholars).”

However, Al-Azhar’s clarification did not stop the storm of anger among the Saudi journalists and activists. One of the prominent comments on the issue was that of Mohammed Al Ash-Sheikh, a famous writer, who said on Twitter, “The participation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Grozny Conference, which excluded the Saudi Kingdom from the definition of Ahl al-Sunnah requires to change our treatment with Egypt.”

He added, “Our nation is more important and let Egypt of al-Sisi go to ruins.” He continued, “We were supporting al-Sisi because our joint enemies were the Muslim brotherhood (MB) and the pro-MB Salafis.” Al Ash-Sheikh said that after Sisi showed ingratitude in Grozny, “he should face his fate alone”.

Al Ash-sheikh said that the conference “clearly targets the Kingdom”, accusing the Russian and Iranian Intelligence of standing behind the conference to “exit the Kingdom out of Ahl Al Sunna. He ended his comment saying, “I have disagreed with the extremist and I had enough from them but if the case is related to the nation’s underestimation and marginalization, I will turn to the greatest hardliner because the nation is a case of life or death, according to my criteria.”

On the other hand, the well-known academic Mohamed Abdullah Azzam said on Twitter, “The former Grand Mufti Aly Gomaa was tutored by Sheikh Hamud Al-Tweirgy and he has been generously treated by the Saudis Scholars … however, I am astonished at the silence of al-Sisi supporters in Saudi Arabia toward the Chechnya Conference treason. He added that after the Kingdom’s enormous projects in al-Azhar, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar is awarding Saudi Arabia through engaging in a coalition with Putin to expel the Kingdom out of the Islamic world.

Gulf countries have poured billions of dollars to support al-Sisi regime after he led a military coup in 2013 against Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has received more than $20bn in aid from Gulf countries since then.