Extensive controversy and great irony sparked by the statements of “permission to mention” made by Osama Al-Azhari, advisor to the Egyptian president for religious affairs, as supporters considered them a well-known Sufi approach, while others saw them as promoting religious myth, especially as it comes from an official in the state.
The story began when Al-Azhari wrote on his Facebook page an article in which he dealt with the story of the Prophet Yusuf – peace be upon him – and the name of Al-Aziz. For you with the dear 658 times”, then followed by requests from many of the Sheikh’s disciples and page followers.
But Al-Azhari’s comments sparked a great controversy that was dominated by ridicule from activists on social media, and some of them considered them contrary to the essence of Islam that denies the existence of a mediator between God and His servants. The crisis also renewed the old battles between religious forces in Egypt, especially between the Sufi orders, the Salafist currents and the Azhar school of Ash’ari.
Defenders and supporters
The locomotive for defending Sheikh Osama Al-Azhari and the issue of permission to remembrance was led by one of the students of knowledge at Al-Azhar, Hisham Mahmoud Al-Azhari, who wrote 3 articles on his Facebook page in which he denied the meaning of permission to remembrance as some understood that a person cannot remember God Almighty unless he has permission Thus, considering that this is an incorrect understanding, and indicating that the meaning of permission to mention according to the scholars is similar to the issue of permission in the Holy Qur’an.
He moved to the interpretation of what is meant by mentioning the name Al-Aziz 658 times, pointing out that it goes back to a type of remembrance mentioned by the scholars in the past known as “Al Mujarrabat” that revolves around the secrets of letters and the secrets of numbers with the aim of trying to deeply understand the Noble Revelation and the secrets of God in the universe.
In turn, a member of the faculty at Al-Azhar University, Dr. Ahmed Nabawi Al-Azhari wrote on his Facebook page that the problem is never in understanding the issue of permission to dhikr or other similar and similar ones, but rather the origin of the story is that there are a number of concepts and rules that were fixed and stable in the minds of the public and those engaged in science. It has been tampered with over the past half century until it has been distorted and loosened, and what was built on it has been disfigured, including the permission to mention.
The same end of the thread is picked up by one of the Shafi’i teachers in Egypt, Sheikh Mustafa Ahmed Abd al-Nabi, known as Abu Hamza al-Shafi’i, to explain where the mention of the name of God, the Mighty, 658 times came from.
He says in this regard: “Look at the heavens are seven, the earths are seven, the Fatiha is seven, the circumambulation is seven, the saa’i between Safa and Marwah is seven, the word of monotheism is seven words, the takbeers of the two Eids are seven, the command to pray and fast at seven, and the letters of the Qur’an are seven, and the creation of man is in seven, and his creation God is the Creator in seven, and the number of human souls is seven, and the most frequent number in the Qur’an is seven, so note the care of this number, so it is recommended that the remembrance of the name of God Almighty be repeated 94 times 7 times, so the result was 658 times.”
On his Facebook page, Sheikh Al-Shafi’i considered this remembrance as a matter of diligence, similar to what Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal did when he strived to repeat the recitation of Al-Fatihah for pain 70 times, and the verses of healing each verse 7 times.
Opponents and attackers
On the other hand, the former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments, Sheikh Dr. Salem Abdel Jalil, criticized the issue of permission to mention, and addressed his followers through the communication sites, asking them not to ask permission from anyone to mention God, and to read the wird.
For his part, the Salafi preacher Mustafa Al-Adawi attacked the issue of permission to mention, and considered it a misguidance that appeared at this time, and was demonstrated by the Sufis “who spread their poison and misguidance in this regard,” as he described it.
Al-Adawi addressed Sheikh Osama Al-Azhari – without revealing his name – saying, “Who are you to give people permission to mention so that they can remember him, what is your character that you allow me?”
Yasser Burhami, deputy head of the Salafist Call in Alexandria, also attacked what was described as permission to mention, considering that heresies and innovations in religion from venerating Sufi sheikhs are above what God Almighty has legislated.
In a lesson entitled “The Healing Statement on the Heresy of Permission by Remembrance,” the Salafi leader asked, addressing supporters of permissibility by remembrance, saying, “What are your sources on the issue of permission to remembrance? Is there a letter from the Book of God or from the Sunnah of the Messenger of God or sayings about the Companions that says that?”
He added that they – that is, the Sufis – have nothing but tales and abstract claims to seek blessings and search for the secrets of letters and numbers and the like.
The stick from the middle
Among these and those, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, Saad Al-Din Al-Hilali, sought to present his own interpretation opposing permission to mention without clashing with the young sheikh who is close to the Presidency of the Republic by virtue of his position.
During televised statements, Al-Hilali denied the existence of any intermediaries between the servant and his Lord, but he made it clear that the issue of permission to remembrance is related to the emergence of the tariqa Sufism based on the sheikh and the murid, the sheikh who takes precedence over being a relative (i.e., having a direct connection with God) and having dignities, and that he is trustworthy in this religion, and on He wants to go his way.
Al-Hilali’s comments carried an indirect criticism of the tariqa Sufism and what its sheikhs offer, indicating that there are disturbances that the Egyptian Sufi orders coexist with in ritual ideas and practices, with the absence of the legal methodology, as he described it.
The controversy did not stop at the media and famous preachers, as the communication sites witnessed a wide interaction with the issue, whether from the religious or political side, as well as the usual ridicule of Egyptians in such cases, especially with regard to the use of numbers in the male and the permission of the sheikh.
Activists said that the crisis is not related to the religious dispute, but has taken on political dimensions due to Al-Azhari’s position as a religious advisor to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and he is one of the most prominent advocates supporting the Egyptian regime since the military coup in the summer of 2013 that overthrew the elected President Mohamed Morsi, and one of the most critical of the currents of political Islam. .
On the other hand, others said that Osama al-Azhari promotes religious superstition and presents a backward and reactionary version of Islam, even though the main propaganda of the current regime is based on anti-Islamism and stigmatizing it as a reactionary current that distorts religion and presents interpretations that do not keep pace with the modern era, and uses it in control and governance.