Ali Gomaa

Ali Gomaa
علي جمعة
Former Grand Mufti of Egypt
In office
28 September 2003  11 February 2013
President Hosni Mubarak
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (Acting)
Mohamed Morsi
Preceded by Ahmed el-Tayeb
Succeeded by Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam
Personal details
Born (1952-03-03) 3 March 1952
Beni Suef, Egypt
Nationality Egyptian
Alma mater Al-Azhar University (B.A.) (M.A.) (P.H.D.)
Ain Shams University (B.Com.)
University of Liverpool (H.D.)
Occupation Islamic scholar
Religion Sunni Islam (Ash'ari);[1][2] sufi; Shafi'i[3]

Ali Gomaa[4] (Arabic: علي جمعة, Egyptian Arabic: [ˈʕæli ˈɡomʕæ]) is an Egyptian Islamic scholar, jurist, and public figure. He specializes in Islamic Legal Theory. He follows the Shafi`i school of Islamic jurisprudence[3] and the Ash'ari school of tenets of faith.[1][2] Gomaa is a sufi.[5]

He served as the eighteenth Grand Mufti of Egypt (2003–2013) through Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah succeeding Ahmed el-Tayeb. He is one of the internationally most respected Islamic jurists according to a 2008 U.S. News & World Report report[6] and The National[7] and "a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam," gender equality, and an "object of hatred among Islamists" according to The New Yorker.[8]

He was succeeded as Grand Mufti by Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam in February 2013.


Ali Gomaa was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Beni Suef on March 3, 1952(7 Jumadah al-Akhirah 1371 AH). Gomaa is married and has three adult children.[9] In person, Gomaa's appearance has been described as "tall and regal, with a round face and a trim beard."[8]


Gomaa graduated from high school in 1969, at which point he enrolled at Ain Shams University in Egypt’s capital, Cairo. Having already begun to memorize the Quran, he delved deeper into his studies of Islam, studying Hadith and Shafi'i jurisprudence in his free time while at university. After completing a B.Comm. (Bachelor of Commerce) at Ain Shams in 1973, Gomaa enrolled in Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the oldest active Islamic institution of higher learning in the world. He received a second bachelor's degree (B.A.) from al-Azhar, then an M.A., and finally a Ph.D with highest honors in Juristic Methodology (usul al-fiqh) in 1988.[10] Since he had not gone through the al-Azhar High School curriculum, he took it upon himself in his first year at the college to study and memorize all of the basic texts, which many of the other students had already covered.


Gomaa taught in the faculty of Islamic and Arabic Studies at al-Azhar University from the time he received his M.A. until he was appointed Grand Mufti, first as an assistant professor and then as a full professor.[11] In addition to being a teacher of Aqida, Tafsir, Hadith, legal theory and Islamic history,[12] Gomaa is also a highly respected Sufi master.[13][14][15]

Classes outside university

In addition to the courses he taught at the University, Gomaa also revived the tradition of open classes held in a mosque where he taught a circle of students six days a week from after sunrise until noon. Gomaa established these lessons in 1998 [16] with the aim of protecting the Islamic intellectual tradition from being lost or misinterpreted: "I want people to continue in the tradition of knowledge reading the classical texts the way they were written, not the way people want to understand them." [17]

In addition to the lessons in al-Azhar, Gomaa also began giving the Friday sermon (khutbah) in Cairo’s Sultan Hassan Mosque in 1998 after which he would give a short lesson in Islamic jurisprudence for the general public followed by a question-and-answer session. In addition Gomaa speaks fluent English, and he was a former chairman of Al-Azhar University's Islamic Jurisprudence Department.

Work with jihadi prisoners

Gomaa has told American journalist Lawrence Wright that he worked with Islamic Group prisoners who later embraced the "Nonviolence Initiative" and denounced violence. "I began going into the prisons in the 1990s.... We had debates and dialogues with the prisoners, which continued for more than three years. Such debates became the nucleus for the revisionist thinking."[8]

Grand Mufti

Ali Gomaa was appointed Grand Mufti in late September 2003.[18] by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, replacing former Mufti Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb. El-Tayeb was appointed Al-Azhar University president, taking over from Ahmed Omar Hashem.[19]

His office, the Dar al Ifta (literally, the House of Fatwas), a government agency charged with issuing religious legal opinions on any question to Muslims who ask for them, issues some 5,000 fatwas a week, including both the official ones that he himself crafts on important issues and the more routine ones handled via phone and Internet by a dozen or so subordinate muftis.[20]

Media appearances

Since being appointed as Grand Mufti, Gomaa had numerous media appearances. His regular television appearances include al-Bayt Baytak on Tuesday nights on both Egyptian terrestrial and satellite channel two, when he discusses current events and answers the questions of viewers who call in; Yas’alunaka, on Fridays on the Risalah satellite channel on which he gives a simplified explanation of Islamic jurisprudence; and a commentary on the Koran, which appears daily on local Egyptian channel one.

In addition to his television appearances, Gomaa has a weekly column in the Egyptian daily newspaper al-Ahram. His articles have covered a wide range of topics from explanations of the basis of Islamic law and calling for calm in the face of the Danish cartoon crisis, to refuting extremism and denouncing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a forgery. He is one of the signatories of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding.

Views on selling pork and alcohol in the West and 'non-Muslim countries'

In a fatwa issued by Dar-al-ifta,[21] approved and signed by Ali Gom’a, the Egyptian Mufti stated that selling pork and alcohol is permitted in the West because "it is allowed taking the opinion of the scholars from the Hanafi madhhab, who allow to deal with wrong contracts in non-Muslim countries."

Another justification was that the Prophet let his uncle Al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib take usury in Mecca when it was a non-Muslim city, and he did not prohibit him except in the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage.

During the fatwa, which was a reply to a question from a Muslim in Europe asking about whether it would be allowed for him to work in stores that sell alcohol and pork along with other products because he cannot find another job, Gomaa ntioned the terms "Dar-al-Harb" (House of War) and "Ahl al-Harb" (people of war) several times, and he gave a response that not only dealt with what the questioner had asked but also considered further points such as the taking of interest and gambling.

Other significant fatwas

Since taking office, Gomaa issued a number of fatwas and statements that have made an impact in the media. He has issued a fatwa asserting that men and women enjoy equal political rights in Islam, including the right to become president of a modern state.[22]

He recently stated on national television that it is permissible in Islam for a woman to have hymen restoration surgery for any reason since Islam promotes protecting one’s privacy and reputation and does not require a woman to provide proof of her virginity.[23]

In November 2006, he ruled that female circumcision (also referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM) should not be applied; this ruling is in accordance with Egyptian law, which also forbids female circumcision. This ruling came about after a conference instigated by research and a documentary on FGM in Somalia by the German action group Target. The fatwa is now also used in Western Europe to combat FGM.[24]

On 24 June 2007, after an 11-year-old died under the knife undergoing circumcision, he decreed that female circumcision was not just "un-Islamic" but forbidden.[25]

He has also stated that Islam does not call for and has never known a theocratic state and that there is no contradiction between Islam and liberal democracy: "I consider myself a liberal and a Muslim, but this does not mean I am a secularist. The Egyptian [historical] experience has combined liberalism and Islam in the best of ways."[26]

He is a signatory of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy, unequivocally states that nobody has the right to excommunicate a Muslim, and it restricts the issuing of fatwas to those with the scholarly qualifications to do so.[27]

In 2007 he "unequivocally told the Washington Post that the death penalty for apostasy simply no longer applies."[28]

Ramadan Al Sherbini of Gulf News later reported Gomaa clarifying that Muslims are not free to change their faith: "What I actually said is that Islam prohibits a Muslim from changing his religion and that apostasy is a crime, which must be punished." [29]

However, the Mufti still rejects the death penalty for apostasy. In 2009, posted on his website that he does not believe that apostasy is punishable by death.

In fact, it was only two years ago that Sheikh Ali Gomaa made clear statements to the effect that apostasy is not punishable by death in Islam, a position that he holds to this day.[30]

He is the Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Hadith, a sub-project of the greater Sunnah Project of the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, which aims at documenting and publishing all works related to Prophetic narrations or hadith.

Gomaa has publicly asserted that the anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a forgery and made an official court complaint concerning a publisher who falsely put his name on an introduction to its Arabic translation.[31]

Views on extremism

Gomaa has taken a very clear stance against extremist interpretations of Islam. "He has become the most explicitly anti-extremist cleric in mainstream Sunni Islam." [32]

He says that the use of violence to spread Islam is prohibited and extremists have not been educated in genuine centers of Islamic learning: "Terrorists are criminals, not Muslim activists." [33]

He indicates, about religion in general including Islam: "Terrorism cannot be born of religion. Terrorism is the product of corrupt minds, hardened hearts, and arrogant egos, and corruption, destruction, and arrogance are unknown to the heart attached to the divine."[34]

Gomaa believes the best antidote to Islamic extremism is "traditional conception of sharia law — along with knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence"[20]

Conclusion of term

Despite having a one-year extension of his term because of the political situation in post-revolutionary Egypt, Gomaa's term was allowed to expire.

A committee decided Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam to be the Mufti's successor.[35]

Egyptian Revolution

Dr. Ali Gomaa made several public statements in relation to the massive uprising that began on 25 January 2011 and led to the stepping down of former Egyptian President Mubarak on 11 February 2011. His general position was one of caution addressing the potential for mass bloodshed and chaos.[36] He was clear that public protest to address grievances is a fundamental human right,[37] but cautioned that mass demonstrations leading to a disruption of day-to-day life could be considered impermissible (haram) from an Islamic legal point of view.[37]

On 3 February 2011, Gomaa went on national TV to answer "hundreds of calls he received that day" with concerns about attending Friday prayer services.[38] He issued a fatwa allowing people who feared physical harm from further mass protests to pray at home and not attend Friday prayer services.

Under Morsi

In March 2011, Gomaa’s 60th birthday and the official retirement age of Egyptian government employees, the SCAF issued him a one-year extension to help with the continuity of government. In June of the same year Muhammad Morsi was elected Egypt’s new president.[39][40][41][42][43] On 20 July 2012, Gomaa held a national press conference to announce the start of the holy month of Ramadan and announced the month in the name of Egypt’s new president.[44] In March 2013, Gomaa retired from his position of Grand Mufti of Egypt, and Dr. Shawqi Allam became Egypt’s new Grand Mufti.

Views on future of Islam in Egypt

In an op-ed in the New York Times, he supported the passage of the 2011 Constitutional referendum, calling it a "milestone" for Egyptian democracy.[45]

He also stated that since Egypt is a very religious society, "it is inevitable that Islam will have a place in our democratic political order". However, he reassured that Muslims believe that "Islamic law guarantees freedom of conscience and expression (within the bounds of common decency) and equal rights for women."[45]

He also stated that there was no contradiction between Articles 2 and 7 of the constitution, the former saying that Islam was the official religion of the state and that legislation was based on principles of Islamic jurisprudence, the latter guaranteeing full citizenship before the law to members of Egyptian society regardless of religion, race or creed.[45]

He also stated that Islamists would stay within mainstream, and that radicalism would "not only run contrary to the law, but will also guarantee their political marginalization".[45]

An opponent believes that Gomaa is not necessarily committed to democracy. Following the Egyptian coup, he expressed hostility towards Western democracy in a television interview and stated that it was contrary to Islamic law. Specifically, he argued that the Muslim Brothers should be following Islamic law, not Western democracy.[46]

Views on ISIL

Gomaa is highly critical of the rebel group ISIL In September 2014, he, alongside 226 other prominent Sunni scholars, was a signatory to an open letter denouncing ISIL and its religious tenets.[47]

In February 2015, he was noted for statements regarding the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh by ISIL in which he claimed to have proof that the burning was photoshopped and that the pilot was not in fact burned to death. He stated as proof of his claim that in the video published by ISIS, Al-Kasabeh stands still while being burned, something that would seem impossible.[48]


According to American journalist Jay Tolson, Ali Gomaa has been a victim of "smear tactics" by hardline blogger critics of Islam and the Muslim world, the effect of which has been "cumulative and insidious." He quotes Robert Spencer as referring to "wife-beating"[49][50] statue-hating[51] Mufti Ali Gomaa.`[6]


On 18 April 2006, an article entitled "Egypt's grand mufti issues fatwa: no sculpture" appeared:

Artists and intellectuals here say the edict, whose ban on producing and displaying sculptures overturns a century-old fatwa, runs counter to Islam. They also worry that extremists may use the ruling as a pretense for destroying Egypt's ancient relics, which form a pillar of the country's multibillion-dollar tourist industry.[51]

Jay Tolson defended Gomaa, saying that

while Gomaa did say that it was un-Islamic for Muslims to own statues or to display them in their homes, he made it very clear that the destruction of antiquities and other statues in the public sphere was unacceptable and indeed criminal. He is also on record deploring the Taliban's destruction of the great Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan.[6]

Original writings

His published works include:


His sheikhs and teachers include in alphabetical order:

  1. ‘Abd al-Hafidh al-Tijani
  2. ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Abd al-Latif
  3. ‘Abd al-Hamid Mayhub
  4. Ahmad Jabir al-Yamani
  5. ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Qaranshawi
  6. Ahmad Hammadah al-Shafi’i
  7. Ahmad Mursi
  8. ‘Ali Ahmad Mar’i
  9. Hasan Ahmad Mar’i
  10. al-Husayni Yusuf al-Shaykh
  11. Ibrahim Abu al-Khashab
  12. ‘Iwad Allah al-Hijazi
  13. ‘Iwad al-Zabidi
  14. Ismail Sadiq al-’Adwi
  15. Ismail al-Zayn al-Yamani
  16. Jad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jad al-Haqq
  17. Jad al-Rabb Ramadan
  18. Muhammad Abu Nur Zuhayr
  19. Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki
  20. Muhammad Ismail al-Hamadani
  21. Muhammad Mahmud Farghali
  22. Muhammad Shams al-Din al-Mantiqi
  23. Muhammad Zaki Ibrahin
  24. Sha’ban Muhammad Ismail
  25. Said ‘Abd Allah al-Lajhi
  26. al-Sayiid Salih ‘Iwad
  27. Salih al-Ja’fari
  28. Yasin al-Fidani

Further reading


  1. 1 2 Maged, Amani (3 November 2011). "Salafis vs Sufis". Al-Ahram Weekly Online. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  2. 1 2 el-Beheri, Ahmed (9 May 2010). "Azhar sheikh warns West against double standards". Egypt Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  3. 1 2 Asthana, N. C.; Nirmal, Anjali (2009). Urban Terrorism: Myths and Realities. Pointer Publishers. p. 117. ISBN 817132598X.
  4. Ethar El-Katatney The People's Mufti Egypt Today October 2007.
  5. Islamopedia: "Ali Goma" retrieved January 20, 2015
  6. 1 2 3 Jay Tolson (2 April 2008). "Finding the Voices of Moderate Islam". US News & World Report.
  7. al-Hashemi, Bushra Alkaff; Rym Ghaza (February 2012). "Grand Mufti calls for dialogue about the internet". The National. Archived from the original on 21 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 "The Rebellion Within". The New Yorker. 2 June 2008.
  9. al-Kalim al-Tayyib vol. 2, p. 417
  10. Grewal, Zareena (2010). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 191. ISBN 1479800902.
  11. Islamica Magazine, Issue # 12, Spring 2005
  12. Marranci, Gabriele (2013). Studying Islam in Practice. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 1317914244.
  13. Egypt Independent: "Opposing currents: Internal rifts may risk the credibility of Egypt’s religious institutions" by Mai Shams El-Din 25 February 2013
  14. Carnegie Endowment: "Salafis and Sufis in Egypt" by Jonathan Brown December 2011 | p 12 | "...the current Grand Mufti of Egypt and senior al-Azhar scholar Ali Gomaa is also a highly respected Sufi master.
  15. Ali Gomaa website: Fatwa on Sufism retrieved 29 June 2013
  16. al-Ahram 1 Oct 2005
  17. Islamica Magazine, Issue #12, Spring 2005
  18. " – Egypt news, Cairo tourism, Global headlines, Arabic press".
  19. Reem Leila. "Al-Ahram Weekly – Egypt – Newsreel".
  20. 1 2 Jay Tolson (6 March 2008). "Egypt's Grand Mufti Counters the Tide of Islamic Extremism". US News & World Report.
  21. (fatwa number 4189)
  22. Mufti not against women presidents after all? at The Arabist
  23. Broadsheet: Women's Articles, Women's Stories, Women's Blog –
  24. "Female Circumcision in Islam". 24 November 2006.
  25. "Laying down religious law: Islam's authority deficit – The Economist". The Economist.
  26. Nahdah Masr, 3 Feb. 2007
  27. The Official Website of The Amman Message – The Amman Message
  28. "BBC News – When Muslims become Christians".
  29. "Top cleric denies 'freedom to choose religion' comment". GulfNews. 25 July 2007.
  30. False Accusations Regarding the Grand Mufti and Sayyid al-Qimni
  31. al-Ahram, 1 Jan. 2007
  32. The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2005
  33. Down For Maintenance
  34. "Terrorism has no religion". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  35. Abdel-Baky, Mohamed (13 February 2013). "Moderate mufti". Al Ahram. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  36. Al Jazeera. "مفتي مصر". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  37. 1 2 Al Jazeera (2011-02-08). "مفتى الجمهورية مصر محسودة وعلى ناصية". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  38. Al Jazeera. "فتوى د.علي جمعة بخصوص تظاهرات يوم الجمعة". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  39. "For Islamists in Egypt, Morsi Victory Is a Symbolic Win". The New York Times. 24 June 2012.
  40. "Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi urges 'unity' in first speech as Egypt's president-elect". CNN News. 24 June 2012.
  41. "Egypt's new president: U.S.-educated Islamist". CNN News. 24 June 2012.
  42. "Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi declared Egypt president". BBC News. 24 June 2012.
  43. "Mohammed Morsi, New Egyptian President, Says He Wants Unity, Peace". 24 June 2012.
  44. AlMasry AlYoum (2012-07-19). ""الإفتاء": الجمعة أول أيام رمضان". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  45. 1 2 3 4 Gomaa, Ali (1 April 2011). "In Egypt's Democracy, Room for Islam". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  46. "#Momken – ممكن – 23-8-2013 – الحوار الكامل للشيخ علي جمعه مع خيري رمضان". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  47. Heneghan, Tom (25 September 2014). "Muslim scholars present religious rebuttal to Islamic State". Reuters. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  48. "Former Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa: ISIS Did Not Immolate the Jordanian Pilot – It Was Photoshopped". 5 February 2015.
  49. Middle East Media Research Institute: "Mufti of Egypt Sheik Ali Gum'a: Wife-Beating Is Permitted by Islam in Muslim Countries, but Is Forbidden in the West" Clip No. 1154, 26 May 2006|"But when Allah permitted wife-beating, He permitted it to the other side of culture, which considers it as one of the means to preserve the family, and as one of the means to preserve stability"
  50. "Wife-Beating Is Permitted by Islam in Muslim Countries, but Is Forbidden in the West". 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  51. 1 2 The Christian Science Monitor. "Egypt's grand mufti issues fatwa: no sculpture". The Christian Science Monitor.

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ali Gomaa
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Ahmed el-Tayeb
Grand Mufti of Egypt
Succeeded by
Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam
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