Cairo University Hosts 600 Imams and Preachers from the Ministry of Religious Endowments in an Educational Symposium sponsored by the Minister of Religious Endowments and the University President


Cairo University Hosts 600 Imams and Preachers from the Ministry of Religious Endowments in an Educational Symposium sponsored by the Minister of Religious Endowments and the University President

Dr. Elkhosht: “Cairo University’s project is to establish a new form of religious discourse that resists extremism, terrorism, and reactionary views.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “We must use reason to understand Scripture and reality in light of cultural specificity and diversity of environment.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “A clear distinction must be made between the sacred and profane, between constants and variables.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “What we need is belief in the plurality of truth and a restoration of the forgotten Islam upon which our Islamic civilization was founded in all its glory.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “Imams are the first line of defense and their job is to propagate true religion, consolidate moderation, and confront extremist thought.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “The university launched the enlightenment document in 2017 to regain its leadership and achieve its goals. We practice rational enlightenment combined with bold critical thinking.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “We have become fourth-generation universities by enabling the creation of knowledge value and activating the university’s role in terms of research to support efforts at rebuilding our community.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “Scientific openness is necessary for all sciences to cross-pollinate. We seek to build an intellectual system that transcends the boundaries of isolated disciplines, creating an educational environment that stimulates creativity.”


Dr. Elkhosht: “Our primary battle is to rebuild people and their ways of thinking, and bridge the knowledge gap with the developed world to achieve our renaissance. No homeland can be built in the absence of rationality when it comes to religious discourse.”


Dr. Massad praises the role of Dr. Elkhosht and Cairo University in organizing a symposium for the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ Imams as patriotic partners in the battle to build up our nation.


Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments: “The Ministry has taken upon itself a great role in educating people and imams, and the Minister of Religious Endowments is keen to organize an educational day for imams to increase and diversify their knowledge.”


Cairo University organized an educational program for 600 imams and preachers from the Ministry of Religious Endowments under the patronage of Dr. Mohamed Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Endowments, and Dr. Mohamed Othman Elkhosht, President of the University, in the Grand Celebration Hall, aiming to identify the intellectual role of Cairo University, its role in renewing religious discourse, its history, and its local and global role. This falls under the framework of implementing the cooperation protocol signed by both the university and the Ministry of Religious Endowments for the better preparation, continuing training, and general advancement of imams and preachers in various fields, in a manner that contributes to supporting the Egyptian state’s orientation toward combating destructive and extremist ideas, and striving for a balanced religious discourse free from fanaticism.


There were many activities in the educational program, including the screening of a documentary about Cairo University entitled “History, Present, and Future,” a lecture by Dr. Mohamed Elkhosht on the intellectual role of Cairo University and its project for establishing a new type of religious discourse, and a speech by Dr. Al-Sayyid Musaad, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments for Giza Governorate, in addition to two lectures each given by Dr. Abdullah Al-Tatawi, cultural advisor to the university president, and Dr. Muhammad Mansour Haiba, media advisor to the university president, which discussed national identity and the role of the media in shaping awareness. The program concluded with an exemplary recitation of the Holy Qur’an undertaken by some of the imams present, with the participation of all attendees. 


During his lecture, Dr. Mohamed Othman Elkhosht said, “This educational program is a happy event in the life of Cairo University, hosting a noble gathering of imams from the pulpits of Egypt and the Ministry of Religious Endowments, who represent the first line of defense against extremism and terrorism by propagating true religion and preaching moderation.” This symposium, he stressed, forms part of a larger framework of fruitful cooperation with the Ministry of Religious Endowments under the auspices of His Excellency Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Religious Endowments. This cooperation has opened up new areas hitherto nonexistent, especially with the need to diversify and multiply our sources of knowledge, and constitutes a response to some of what the earlier sheikhs of the Ministry of Religious Endowments had suggested. He furthermore stressed the longstanding relationship between the university and the Ministry of Religious Endowments; each of them, he says, forms a part of the other. In the past, some mosques have been a locus for extremist groups of all kinds and their thoughts, which lead to friction; however, the Imams of the Ministry were always present, playing their role of shedding light and positive energy upon things to restore balance. Imams, therefore, he said, are truly representatives of moderation and enlightenment. 


Dr. Mohamed Othman Elkhosht provided some background. The intellectual role of Cairo University, he explained, began in 1908, which was the true beginning of the modern era in Egypt, as this was the inception of the study of various sciences, and was when knowledge was first made available to everyone in a systematic manner. The founding fathers of the university aimed to establish a university for natural, human and religious sciences, and Cairo University produced generations that built upon this. According to Dr. Elkhosht, the Egyptian state played a prominent role in shaping the modern renaissance of the Arab and Islamic world, and he noted that 2017 witnessed the launch of the Cairo University Document for Culture and Enlightenment, which started the process of restoring its vision and redefining its goals. He explained that the term “enlightenment” here does not refer to the Western sense of The Enlightenment, but is the Arabic word whose origin in the Qur’an is “light” and refers to the light of rational thinking, as stated in the Holy Qur’an: “God is the light of the heavens and the earth.” Therefore, talk of enlightenment is not anti-religious, but rather relates to enlightenment in the Arab-Islamic context, and the concept of enlightenment is addressed as the courageous, not to say audacious, practice of rationality and critical thinking in the modern sense. Our first battle, he said, is to rebuild people’s ways of thinking and bridge the knowledge gap with the developed world. Only then can our renaissance be achieved, as one’s homeland cannot be established on a solid basis without rational religious discourse. 


Dr. Elkhosht went on to say that one of the most important features of the Enlightenment Document is the transformation of Cairo University into a fourth-generation university by means of enabling value creation, introducing tools that enable the individual to create cognitive value, and activating the university’s role in creating scientific research that benefits society. The university also takes part in a large number of projects implemented by various ministries and sectors of industry, trade, and agriculture, its main criterion being that the project should benefit people; knowledge that benefits no-one, he said, is worthless. The first generation of universities, he pointed out, was based on copying and memorizing information and knowledge; the second combined education with empirical research; while the third generation focused on combining education and scientific research while adding value to the economy. Practical benefit to the public, he pointed out, was not previously gained from research.


The President of Cairo University further emphasized a number of principles that the university had worked to implement in the context of the Enlightenment Document, the most important of which were to develop a new cultural and religious discourse based on multiple rational interpretations and scientific readings of religious texts; establish an Arab movement of rational thought that resists extremism, terrorism, and reactionism; and call for the application of reason and understanding. Real-world conditions; social, cultural, and religious specificity; openness to other enlightenment experiences; global trends; the history of thought and the arts; diversity of information sources; and technological empowerment – these are all elements with which the university must engage from the perspective of national interest. He pointed out that the university had launched a call, several years ago, for a project to develop a new religious discourse, the most important features of which was making a distinction between sacred religion itself and heritage. The former, which is revelation, “consisting in the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Tradition,” is not part of the heritage, but rather comes before and above it. As for our heritage, it is human and merely attempts different ways of understanding religion, “represented in the words and interpretations of human beings, their visions, and their sciences, which are subject to error and may change over time.” Religion is one thing and religious discourse quite another: there was not one single understanding of religion shared by the Prophet’s companions and the Imams; rather, their opinions and ideas varied, and it follows that religion may be understood in different ways. A distinction must be made between the constants represented by decisive Qur’anic verses with a single meaning, and the variables represented by the texts with multiple meanings which allow more than one way of understanding. Islam is also distinct from Muslims and their ever-changing views and practices. In addition, there must be openness to the humanities and social sciences, allowing all the sciences to cross-pollinate and thus produce something new. 


Dr. Elkhosht pointed out that the plurality of truths means that the same thing may have more than one meaning. 75% of the verses of the Holy Qur’an have multiple meanings and connotations, which is why religious jurisprudents disagree. To develop a new era in religion requires a return to the original principles of faith; the implementation of empirical reason; critical thinking; and the restoration of the now-forgotten first Islam on which the nation was founded, returning to this first Islam in a contemporary manner. He pointed out that the beginning of the modern European Renaissance was when Martin Luther changed Catholic religious doctrine in the Middle Ages, eschewing Indulgences, and emphasizing a direct relationship between God and man without intermediaries. 


Dr. Elkhosht also stated that Cairo University, in recent years, has managed many fundamental achievements, foremost among which are transcending the idea of narrow and isolated specializations; building an open and up-to-date system of thinking; developing personalities capable of working intellectually; and creating an educational environment that stimulates the spirit of discovery, creativity, and academic freedom. In addition, there must be no discrimination on any social, religious, or ethnic basis; everyone must be governed by the principle of citizenship. Explaining that the university seeks to bridge the knowledge gap with the developed world, he clarified that this does not mean abandoning our society’s identity or cultural specificity, but rather creates shared spaces by which we may join fourth-generation universities while preserving our unique identity and culture. This university is a rational civil university with freedom as a core component and a commitment to freedom of research. Worldwide, he added, freedom is governed by laws that differ according to the cultural and social context from country to country. The Egyptian identity is enlightened, based on coexistence and accepting the Other.


For his part, Dr. Sayed Massad, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments for Giza Governorate, said that this day was a special event because it took place under the dome of Cairo University, in the company of distinguished professors from whom we could all learn, as well as offering information about the legacy of this university working in the service and interests of the nation. He also thanked Dr. Elkhosht for his effective cooperation with the Ministry by hosting imams and preachers, providing training courses for them, and providing all the required support and facilities. 


The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments further explained that God has spoken of all types of knowledge, and that it is a misconception to view “knowledge” in the Qur’an as being limited to the sciences of Sharia and other religious sciences and hadith only. Rather, the Holy Qur’an calls upon us to adopt knowledge that comprises all the sciences that help to populate and build the Earth under the umbrella of religion. Holy Scripture says, “He created you from the earth and settled you therein,” and “Only among His servants are scholars who fear God.” This verse indicates that knowledge should be taken to comprise all the sciences. Surat Al-Rum also mentions difference in languages, which constitutes implicit encouragement to work in any field of science as long as it does no harm.


The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments pointed out that the Ministry has taken upon itself the role of educating both laymen and imams, being a source of culture and knowledge. The Minister of Religious Endowments is also keen to organize an educational day with the aim of publicizing the state’s efforts to serve society, helping to build their patriotism, being pillars of the community and partners in community building.


According to Dr. Abdullah Al-Tatawi, cultural advisor to the university president, “The renaissance of Egypt lies in the Egyptian identity – the land, its history, and Egyptians’ fortitude in times of trouble. The result is a clear concept of the term ‘national identity’, with an emphasis on using reason and empirical thought, seeking out evidence, focusing on social responsibility, and engaging in hard work. We must be a productive nation with a culture of diversity and pluralism, upholding the value of work, and restoring our ancestors’ former glory by the assiduous application of science, knowledge, and the values that drive progress.”


The cultural advisor to the university president pointed out that while the Holy Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet are above religious heritage, heritage is the human product that is subject to review, criticism, and reinterpretation. A critical mentality, he said, is one that asks questions, seeks out convincing answers, and draws upon facts and evidence.


 


Dr. Muhammad Mansour Heiba, media advisor to the university president, explained that preachers and media professionals are two sides of the same coin with differing methods and means. He stressed the necessity of integrating their visions, “as they are all bearers of a message aimed at advancing and saving the nation, preserving self and identity, and teaching the nation’s people and youth critical thinking and awareness of the interests of its society.” He pointed out that most media in Muslim societies is government-controlled and addresses a variety of societal issues by turning to established religious texts with incontrovertible proof and well-defined meanings. Furthermore, it must work to protect future generations, as the media must be cognizant of its role in safeguarding the Egyptian state.




 





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Cairo University Hosts 600 Imams and Preachers from the Ministry of Religious Endowments in an Educational Symposium sponsored by the Minister of Religious Endowments and the University President - Cairo University