Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University announced on Saturday that it disowns the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex housing a mosque, a church and a synagogue, inaugurated in the UAE last month.
Al-Azhar explained that it does not recognise this attempt to incorporate three faiths under one new name. It called for those who want to use this endeavour to serve their interests to look for another way to do it.
The statement from the institution said that it recognises differences among nations and people with regard to their religions, and pointed out that it respects such differences, and that they should not preclude human contact with followers of different faiths.
However, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyip, attended the ceremony when the idea for the Abrahamic Family House was launched in 2019. Although he encouraged the move, he did not attend February’s inauguration ceremony fearing criticism from other Al-Azhar scholars. The mosque in the centre is named after the sheikh.
Following the controversy caused by its statement, Al-Azhar backtracked and insisted that it supports “all initiatives” of human fraternity.
“Building houses of worship separate from each other for non-Muslims and maintaining the independence of each religion is not considered a corporation of religions,” it noted. “This is accepted by Islam.” Al-Azhar cited the Abrahamic Family House as an example of this.
Nevertheless, the contradictory statements have prompted a number of Al-Azhar scholars to criticise the Grand Sheikh, not least for his stances on several issues affecting Muslims worldwide.