Why get sanctimonious about Tantawi?

About 24 hours ago, Muhammad Tantawi, the shaikh of al-Azhar in Cairo, died of a heart attack at Riyadh airport.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon.

Formalities over …

I am somewhat taken aback by the tone of the comments on some of the Muslim message boards and blogs. People have seemingly forgotten that this was a man who was a symbol of the degeneration of al-Azhar, many of whose positions in fiqh would not have been taken seriously towards the end of his life, and was associated with two disgraceful public involving involving Muslim women, and are treating him like he was a great shaikh. One person on DeenPort even said this:

Mashallah look at his qismat, forget all the negative issues about him and his fatwas, subhanullah his janaza will be in Habib’s (saw) masjid and he will be buried in janaat al baqi shareef

How often do people die in Riyadh and get buried in al-Baqi, particularly when they did not live anywhere near Madinah? If an elderly Pakistani gentleman, who had done his prayers on time all his life, fulfilled the other obligations, treated his wife gently and respectfully, brought up his kids well and was a doting grandad, treated his neighbours kindly and gave as much as he reasonably could in charity, had a heart attack at the same place, where would he be buried? Whether or not he was a sayyid, I very much doubt they would transport his body to Madinah to be buried in al-Baqi; he would most likely be prayed over locally and buried locally.

Tantawi is being made to look like a saint and a big shaikh for no other reason than that he was powerful and famous. The Egyptian government has recently been cracking down on Muslim women in niqaab, barring them from access to colleges and even children’s playgrounds, and Tantawi imposed this in the girls’ schools run by al-Azhar. A few years ago, he attempted to publically shame Yvonne Ridley who refused (rightly) to shake his hand, and more recently intimidated a young girl who wore niqab in front of him at school in Egypt. He told the girl he knew more about Islam than she or her family did, which may be true, but it means he would have known that she was right and he was wrong.

Most of us take a dim view of men who harass and abuse women, and we wouldn’t make excuses for some lout in a park in East Ham, so why do we make excuses for a man who uses his scholar’s robes and prestigious position of authority to do the same to a young girl in Cairo? This man gave ammunition to those both within and outside the Muslim world who have an anti-niqaab and even anti-hijaab agenda, and within days Italian legislators were using it as a justification for a proposed law banning it there.

People have said we should not insult the dead, and I agree. I am not insulting him or cursing him, but just saying that he should not be made to look like something he wasn’t. Thirty hours ago, many of us despised him as he was someone who displayed public contempt for the Shari’ah, so why are we getting so sanctimonious now? He died in Riyadh, the main city of Najd, a place known for trouble (fitna) as mentioned in the hadeeth. Those who attach significance to his proposed burial in Madinah should consider that fact as well. That is where he died and, unless they want to take him back to Cairo, that is where he should remain.

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