Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmud
[ 1973 - 1978 ]
[ Year of Birth: 1910 - Year Deceased 1978 ]
[ Place of Birth:
Abu Hamad , Sharqiyya Province
, Egypt ]
Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmud was born in a devout middle classed
family. His parents had their ancestory going back to the prophet's
[PBUH] grandson al-Husayn [RAA]. His father was an Azharite and
worked as the village's judge.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim memorized the holy Qur'an in the village's
Kuttab . He finished its memorization at a very young
age. He could not join the Azharite education right after memorizing
al-Qur'an due to his young age.
In 1923 Shaykh Abd al-Halim travelled to Cairo with his father to
enrol in the primary Azharite education. Two years later he was
travelled to al-Zaqaziq to continue his education in its
newly openned Azharite primary institute.
There were several directions that Shaykh Abd al-Halim could have
went through at this young age. He elligible for studying in several
newly openned schools for graduating teachers. Those schools were
promising in his time, since its graduates were highly paid. Shaykh
Abd al-Halim's father interferred and insisted that the young
Shaykh continue his Azharite education. Shaykh Abd al-Halim compromised
by studying in three curriculums simultaneously.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim's perseverence paidoff later. He was too educated
for his normal years at al-Zaqaziq's institute, so he studied
independenty for the seondary exam, which he passed and became eligible
for the higher Azharite education. In this jump Shaykh Abd al-Halim
covered the curriculum of three years in one.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim started his higher Azharite education in 1928. At
that time Azharite education was not divided on Faculties. Shaykh
Abd al-Halim Mahmud named some Shaykhs as his reverred teachers during
his Azharite education. These include
Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut
Shaykh Hamid Meheisen ,
Shaykh al-Zankaloni ,
Shaykh Muhammad Abd-Allah Daraz ,
Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi
Shaykh Mustafa Abd al-Raziq
There were some public associations for Islamic preaching and youth
activities that were present when Shaykh Abd al-Halim was a student.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim participated in the activities of two of these
associations. These were: the association of Muslim youth (Jam'iyat
al-Shubban al-Muslimeen) and the association of Islamic guidance
(Jam'iyat al-Hidaya al-Islamiya) whose president was
Shaykh Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn
In 1932, Shaykh Abd al-Halim graduated from al-Azhar. After his
graduation he travelled to France to continue his education accompanied
by his wife. He enrolled in the universite de Sorbonne. In Paris, Shaykh
Abd al-Halim sticked to his Islamic values and behaviour. He graduated
in 1937 and in 1938 al-Azhar joined him to the its delegation in
France to prepare for the PhD degree. Shaykh Abd al-Halim's biggest
problem in France was the bias against Islam that was shown by many
Shaykh Abd al-Halim's finished his thesis in the area of Sufism and
the life of al-Harith ibn-Asad al-Muhasibi in 1940. His supervisor
Masignon the orientalist left him alone in the final phase of his
PhD to fight the Germans. With the outbreak of the second world war
Shaykh Abd al-Halim had to go back to Egypt by the way of Cape of
Shaykh Abd al-Halim started his professional career as a professor in
the Faculty of Arabic language in al-Azhar. He was then transferred to
the Faculty of Religion's Fundamentals in 1951. He became the faculty's
dean in 1964.
In 1969, he was appointed as the secertary general of the Assembly of
Islamic Research (Majma' al-Buhuth al-Islamiya) . In 1970, he
was appointed as al-Azhar's vice-Imam. In 1971 he became the minister
of Waqf and was then appointed as al-Azhar's grand Imam in 1973.
In the early 1960s an anti Azharite wave swept the Egyptian media.
This wave was topped by a comment of a high Egyptian official who
slandered Azharites. In response, Shaykh Abd al-Halim stopped wearing
the European costume and replaced it by the Azharite one. He even
instructed his fellow Azharites to respond in the same manner. In
those days socialist journalists attacked a multitude of Azharites
in the newspapers. Shaykh Abd al-Halim was no exception.
In addition to being one of the great Islamic scholars of the modern
age, Shaykh Abd al-Halim was an activist whose objective was to retain
al-Azhar's reverred position and independence. In 1974, when a law
was passed that degraded the position of Azharites. In response Shaykh
Abd al-Halim resigned from the grand Imam position. Due to the Shaykh's
overwhelming popularity within the Azharite and Islamic circles, the
law was not passed and Shaykh Abd al-Halim was persuaded to stay in
Shaykh Abd al-Halim propelled for reshaping the 1961 Azhar-law that
ripped the grand Imam position of much of his authority and undermined
al-Azhar's independence. He succeeded in reshaping the law and his
act was met by overjoy of his fellow Azharites.
In 1975, the Egyptian security forces cracked on an extermist group
known by the name of al-Takfir wa al-Hijra after the
assassination of the minister of al-Waqf, Shaykh al-Dhahabi. During
their trial Shaykh Abd al-Halim was instructed by the judges to
give al-Azhar's opinion on the group and he was hinted to give a fatwa
that the group members apostasized and left Islam with their extreme
beliefs. Although in difference with the group's beliefs, he refused to
have orders dictated to him unless he reviewed their thoughts. This
stand caused him and al-Azhar as a whole to bear the wrath of media
A group of devout Egypt-Air workers demanded not to do any work which
involved the use of wine. The officials refused and the workers had
no one to complain to except Shaykh Abd al-Halim who sent to their
officials narrating the prophet's [PBUH] tradition "There is no
obedience for a created person when it involves the disobedience of
In the mid seventies, some Egyptian officials wanted to pass a divorce
law that contradicte Islamic Shari'a. Shaykh Abd al-Halim stood firm
against it and the law was never debated until after his death.
In the early seventies, the communist way of thought was popular in
some elite and students circles. Shaykh Abd al-Halim issued a long
list of pamphlets and books that warned the Muslim community against
Shaykh Abd al-Halim pioneered in trying to unite the Muslim preachers
into one code of conduct. In an unprecedented inceident he made a
committee for Islamic Da'wa which constituted Azharites,
Islamic groups and Sufi orders. He even linked al-Azhar with Da'wa
organizations outside Egypt.
During the Sheikhdom of Shaykh Abd al-Halim a great number of Azharite
institutes were established upon his personal orders.
Shaykh Abd al-Halim was the first Azharite Shaykh to publicly call for
the application of Islamic Shari'a. When he was confronted with
officials saying that time is needed to detail its laws, he established
several committees of Azharite scholars and for the detailing process,
which was supervised by him even when he was taken to hospitals for
his deteriorating health.
In 1978, when Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmud passed away, his death
was so saddening to his fellow Azharites that his funeral was
Shaykh Abd al-Halim was a talented author. His published over 60
books during his active career. He was known to have a calm,
tender and sober personality. In his books one can trace the Sufi
tendencies of Shaykh Abd al-Halim. His form of Sufism was based
on Qur'an and the prophet's traditions in a manner like the person
whom he biographed in his PhD, al-Harith al-Muhasibi. Shaykh Abd
Abd al-Halim's publications included:
Muhammad Rasul Allah.
al-Islam wa al-Shuyu'iya.
Ra'uf Shalabi, 1982, Shaykh al-Islam Abd al-Halim Mahmud
Siratuhu wa A'maluh.
al-Hay'a al-`Amma lil-isti'lamat, 1983, Shuyukh al-Azhar.
Majda Rabi', 1992, al-Dawr al-Siyasi li al-Azhar.