Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, sent an open letter to Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. In the letter, Ayatollah Shirazi criticized Al-Azhar’s anti-Shia positions , accusing the Sunni institution of having deviated from its former line of moderation. Ayatollah Makarem warned that, in supporting extremism and sectarianism, Al-Azhar risks falling into the trap of “Wahhabism and Tafikirism”.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
In the name of God
I congratulate you and all al-Azhar ulema on the occasion of Prophet’s birthday. Al-Azhar has always had a rational and unifying stance on Islamic issues and your moderate views in the past has been a “bright spot” in the history of Islam and a source of hope for Muslims. But, recently some divisive actions taken in the name of al-Azhar, like: mounting propaganda campaign against the Ahlul Bayt school of thought in media; giving people a false image of Shi’ism by using anti-Shia channels; organizing anti-Shia competitions in the field of articles, books and drama; Humiliating or belittling the population of Shiites in Egypt with very nasty remarks; and preventing from the presence of even a Shiite in the Egyptian parliament, which are enough to make warning bells start to sound in our mind over al-Azhar deviation from the line of moderation which would led to the religious war and the loss of its historical honor.
What could be a rational and illegitimate way for solving our challenges among Islamic schools, a scholarly discourse between the leaders of the schools or media wars and competitions against one another?
Which sources we should use to understand a religion? Getting the information from the enemies of that religion and hired channels, or turning to the leaders and authentic sources of that religion?
Actually, Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979), there has not been one grand ayatollah to criticize Sunni Islam on state television, nor have there been essay competitions against Sunni Islam organized by the center for Shiite seminaries. So in this conditions how al-Azhar could call for Islamic unity and proximity of religions? In Afghanistan and Iran, Sunni and Shiite officials work alongside each other with no difficulty.
If these propaganda and anti-Shia activities incite Sunnis of Egypt against Shiites, leading to retaliatory attacks, would not the leaders of Al-Azhar be responsible for this blood spilling?
I have been always optimistic about you, so I hope that you will prevent the deviation and falling of Al-Azhar into the trap of enemies of Islam, Wahhabis and Takfiris. They may tempt you to avoid the path of moderation, but I hope you like Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltout and other elders and figures of al-Azhar to be remain in the path of moderation.
Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh