For more than a week, the name of the late Sheikh Muhammad Metwally Al-Shaarawy was published, the talk of the pioneers of communication sites, after announcing the preparation for a work in the National Theater that recounts aspects of the biography of one of the most famous preachers in Egypt.
No sooner had the controversy over the play subsided than Al Shaarawy’s name returned to the arena of controversy through a dictation text in the Arabic language exam for the second year of middle school.
What are the details of the story? And why is Al-Shaarawi still causing controversy even after more than two decades have passed since his death and the emergence of new advocates on the scene?
“Imam of preachers”… a spelling piece that will be referred for investigation
The discussion began this time after Egyptian bloggers circulated pictures of a text that had been chosen by a Cairo school to test its students in the dictation class.
The text titled “Imam of the Preachers” provides an overview of Al-Shaarawi’s life, in which he praises him and praises his simple style of interpreting the Qur’an.
And it was stated in the text: “Al-Shaarawi, the imam of preachers and the most famous Muslim scholar in the modern era, people loved him for the simplicity of his style, and the evidence for this is that when he interpreted the Noble Qur’an, the ignorant and the knowledgeable understood him, and although he left our world, he is still alive with his knowledge because money perishes and knowledge remains.” “.
This piece of text stopped the pioneers of Facebook, during the past days.
Some of the commentators rushed to publish it to celebrate Al-Shaarawy, and some of them questioned the pictures as a whole, calling for verification.
There are also those who praised the school administration for reminding its students of the biography of one of the most influential clerics.
However, this celebration of the sheikh and the spelling text was met with many criticisms, which prompted the educational authorities to open an investigation into the matter.
Local press websites indicated that the director of the Coastal Education Department ordered the spelling text to be transferred to legal affairs for examination.
“A violation of the civil state or pride in religious symbols”?
Some see the inclusion of a cleric’s name in a spelling test as unjustified and inconsistent with the principles of the civil state.
And there are those who called for defining a prerequisite for formulating the exam questions so that they are devoid of religious, political and ideological passions.
Journalist and writer Khaled Montaser was among those calling for an urgent investigation into the incident to ensure the impartiality of educational institutions.
The journalist criticized the spelling text and the “distinctive religious spectrum” it contained, as he described it.
In a video clip he posted on YouTube, Montaser indicated that “the educational area of the coast, to which the aforementioned school is affiliated, includes a large percentage of Coptic students.”
He continued, saying: “The educational institution in the civil state must deal with the common national collective conscience and establish the concept of citizenship.”
Montaser affirmed that he does not object to the person of Al-Shaarawi, but rather he is surprised that the names of the clergy are included in an Arabic language test, adding, “I mean, there is no dictation piece on Al-Shaarawi, nor a piece of dictation on Pope Shenouda in a school belonging to the state and not a religious school.”
On the other hand, bloggers believe that Montaser’s statements and his doctrine of demanding the withdrawal of the spelling text come within the framework of side battles to distract Egyptians from their main issues.
While others denounced the opening of an investigation just because a spelling text mentioned al-Shaarawi, and considered it part of a “campaign that targeted the sheikh recently.”
And every time the name of Al-Shaarawi is mentioned, the discussion takes a polemical turn, and with it the “war of comments and intellectual battles between the sheikh’s lovers and critics” is renewed.
It can be said that the appearance of the Sheikh’s name among the lists of the most discussed topics on electronic platforms has become a recurring event in recent years.
The media and some religious currents play a prominent role in provoking this debate about Al-Shaarawi’s personality.
Some sheikhs usually resort to citing his interpretations and positions, as many view him as “a model of the moderate religious world.”
However, invoking these positions often generates opposite reactions from another movement that describes the sheikh’s ideas as “reactionary”.
The sociology professor’s pens and many Egyptian journalistic investigations have already dealt with the biography of the late, perhaps finding an explanation for his popularity among Egyptians.
Some of them even indicated that the tomb of Al-Shaarawi turned into a shrine in a certain period, similar to the tomb of Sheikh Al-Sayyid Ahmed Al-Beddawi.
A large segment of Egyptians became attached to the personality of Al-Shaarawy, prompting film and drama makers to produce a series dealing with his biography in 2003.
What is the secret of some attachment to it and why do others criticize it?
Some attribute the secret of some Egyptians’ attachment to Al-Shaarawi to his cheerful spirit and his simple and soft style in explaining religious texts.
Others also believe that Al-Shaarawi was adept at finding new tools to communicate with the public, so he distinguished himself from his peers by using colloquial language similar to that used by the simple citizen in his daily life.
He was also helped by his constant appearance on television, and the Egyptian families who used to gather to watch official television programs in the seventies clung to him.
In addition to the religious dimension, some believe that Al-Shaarawi represents “a symbol of a historical and political era that began with Sadat’s accession to power and the formation of the pillars of his rule on new rules that differ from the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser.”
In light of the global transformations of that period, Sadat adopted internal policies that, according to many, depended on adopting religious discourse to confront the leftist current and the Nasserite current.
From here, some begin to interpret the criticisms that affected the ideas and legacy of the late preacher.
While bloggers expect Al-Shaarawi to remain a point of contention between Islamic, secular and nationalist currents, others say that the attack on him and other Islamic symbols is part of a larger attack “aimed at undermining the constants of religion and targeting figures of Al-Shaarawi’s worth.”
This is denied by another sector of bloggers who call for the need to engage in an intellectual dialogue for the realization of the mind and lifting the sanctity of religious discourse and its sheikhs.
Bloggers consider that some support Sheikh Al-Shaarawi without deeply recognizing his fatwas, “which promoted erroneous ideas about other religions and freedom of belief, or those that underestimated the value of scientific and modern research.”
Others also criticize the sheikh for his ideas, which “restrict women to a certain mold, and his defense of extremist habits and tendencies that deprive women of their most basic rights.”
In light of this heated debate about Al-Shaarawi, the Egyptian President’s advisor for religious affairs, Osama Al-Azhari, came out with a statement refuting the criticism of the late sheikh.
It seems that the debate about him will not stop, given his influential presence in the religious and social life in Egypt.