HE Sheikh Dr Ali GomaaFormer Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Birth: 3 March 1953 (Age: 64)
Source of Influence: Scholarly
Influence: Legal authority for 87 million Egyptian Muslims
School of Thought: Traditional Sunni
Status: Featured in current year
Egypt’s Weight in Islamic Scholarship: Gomaa’s scholarly influence is derived from his position at the centre of many of the most significant institutions of Islamic law in the world. Before becoming Grand Mufti, Gomaa was a professor of jurisprudence at al-Azhar University—the second oldest university in the world, founded in 975 CE—Gomaa also served as a member of the Fatwa Council. He is currently a member of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, the highest institute of Islamic law in the Organization of the Islamic Conference—an intergovernmental organization for Muslim-majority countries. Gomaa has authored over 50 books, as well as hundreds of articles.
Visit to the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Controversy: On April 18th, 2012, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, with HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan, broke what had been a 45 year taboo in some parts of the Islamic World (propagated notably by Qatar based Sheikh al-Qaradawi) and visited the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to pray there and support the beleaguered Muslim community in Jerusalem. The visit was viewed as controversial in Egypt, but set off a change of public opinion in the Islamic World that continues to this day. The Grand Mufti also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was much appreciated by the Christian community of Jerusalem.
Personal Popularity: Gomaa was exceedingly popular as a mufti and remains ever popular since his retirement although some of his political statements and pro-military government stance after the Egyptian Revolution have tempered this support somewhat. Apart from appearing on popular broadcast and satellite television, he also revived the practice of informal ‘knowledge circles’ at the al-Azhar Mosque, and the very well attended Q&A sessions after his Friday sermons at the Sultan Hasan Mosque, where Gomaa makes a point of taking on anyone who tries to simplify or distort Islamic teachings without knowledge of its traditions. This has made him extremely popular with those who vehemently oppose political Islam, as well as also making him a target for some extremist Islamists. He recently escaped an assassination attempt on his life outside a mosque in Cairo.
Popularized and Simplified Fatwas: Gomaa has immense legal influence through his advocacy of Islamic religious edicts (fatwas). When he was Grand Mufti of Egypt, he modernized the process of issuing fatwas in the country. He did this by overhauling the Dar al-Ifta organization into a dynamic institution with worldwide reach, based on a fatwa council and a system of checks and balances.