Sheikh Ahmed el Tayeb, the new head of Al Azhar, at the funeral of Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi.
Sheikh Ahmed el Tayeb, the new head of Al Azhar, at the funeral of Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi.

Mubarak appoints a new chief of Al Azhar

CAIRO // Ahmed el Tayeb, the man President Hosni Mubarak has appointed as the new head of Al Azhar, is known for his moderate interpretation of Islam, is a regime loyalist and member of Mr Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party and takes a firm stance against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr el Tayeb, 64, replacing Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, who died last week, is a former Grand Mufti of Egypt and is currently head of Al Azhar University. It is in the latter role that he has demonstrated his opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in general. In 2006, for instance, he condemned Al Azhar University students belonging to the Brotherhood after they conducted a military-style parade inside the university's campus in which they wore black face masks.

Mr el Tayeb, likening the students to "Hamas, Hizbollah and the Republican Guard in Iran", vowed that the university would "never be an open field for the Brotherhood" to spread their political or religious agendas. More than 100 students were arrested at the time and senior leaders within the group were arrested shortly afterward and are currently serving up to seven years in prison, after they were sentenced by a military court in 2008.

Mr el Tayeb is a member of the NDP's policies committee, which is chaired by the president's son, Gamal, who is a seen by many as a potential presidential candidate. "I'm not going to talk about my political party membership, which concerns me only, and is nobody else's business," Mr el Tayeb was quoted as saying in the opposition daily Al Dostour yesterday. "I'm going to maintain the gains achieved by Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, and moderation and dialogue among civilisations."

Many among the opposition had called for the new Sheikh of Al Azhar to be elected by fellow scholars rather than be appointed by the president. The late Sheikh Tantawi, 81, who passed away while in Saudi Arabia on March 10, was also appointed and known for his loyalty to the president and the government. Mr Mubarak, 81, who is recovering from a gallbladder operation in Germany, issued a presidential decree of the appointment from Heidelberg University Hospital, apparently in an attempt to quell rumours and speculations that he is not in a good health.

Yesterday's papers showed pictures of Mr el Tayeb, who is currently visiting his hometown of Al Qurna, being congratulated by local residents after receiving the news of his appointment. Ululation and celebrations reportedly broke out in his hometown when the news was heard. On Friday Mr el Tayeb was quoted as saying by state media that he "highly appreciates the great trust" Mr Mubarak has bestowed on him.

Usually seen dressed in smart suits, the new Sheikh of Al Azhar also said he will start wearing traditional religious grab, such as long cloaks and a red and white head turban. A source close to Mr el Tayeb said that "the coming days will witness major change and upheavals in Al Azhar to regain its role and status in the Islamic world". It was actually Shiite Muslims, the Fatimids - who invaded Egypt from Tunisia in the 10th century - that founded Al Azhar.

The Al Azhar mosque was completed in 972, just three years after the invasion. Most scholars believe it was named after the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatima Al Zahraa. The mosque drew scholars from across the Muslim world - both Sunni and Shiite - and grew into a Sunni university. Its role is to propagate Islamic teachings and culture around the world. Mr el Tayeb was Egypt's grand mufti for a short stint between 2002 and 2003. He is considered to be one of the most moderate and enlightened Sunni clerics in Egypt.

He speaks English and French fluently and has a PhD in Islamic philosophy from France's Sorbonne University. Born in 1946, Mr el Tayeb joined an Al Azhar affiliated school at the age of 10, with a career spanning 40 years at the institution. He became a faculty member at Al Azhar University before becoming dean of the philosophy department. He is an expert on religious philosophy and issues of faith, and has written books about science, Marxism, Islamic philosophy and Islamic culture.

Mr el Tayeb heads the Committee of Religions Dialogue and is a member of Al Azhar Research Centre, the highest scholars' association within Al Azhar. He has outwardly criticised hardline Islamists, saying the focus on rituals and outward manifestations of piety - such as Islamic garb and long beards - comes at the expense of true spiritual development. He angered radical Islamists for once telling an Islamic conference that "the logic of things is change" and again when he said it permissible for Muslims to sell alcohol to non-Muslims abroad in non-Muslim countries.

The sheikh also advises the state on religious matters. He supported late Sheikh Tantawi in his last battle to ban the niqab, or face veil, inside Al Azhar girls institution. He is against wearing the niqab in general and considers it alien to Islamic teaching. Al Azhar, which runs schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt and sends scholars to teach in countries across the Muslim world, receives most of its funding from the state.

Mr el Tayeb's appointment received a mixed reaction. Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Egypt's current Grand Mufti, issued a statement congratulating him, saying that choosing him was "a wise decision". Mr Gomaa was reported to have been one of the candidates of the post, which usually goes to Muftis. but he lacks a strong Al Azhar background. The Muslim Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, issued a statement congratulating Mr el Tayeb.

But Brotherhood lawmaker Sheikh Sayed Askar, also an Azharite, accused the government of promoting one of its own at the expense of people better suited to the post. "The Egyptian regime has no shame, it looks for its supporters to reward them with certain posts, ignoring those who really deserve them, as the regime only cares about its interests, not that of the citizens or the institutions," he said.

nmagd@the * With additional reporting by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Pad Man

Dir: R Balki

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte

Three-and-a-half stars


UAE team
1. Chris Jones-Griffiths 2. Gio Fourie 3. Craig Nutt 4. Daniel Perry 5. Isaac Porter 6. Matt Mills 7. Hamish Anderson 8. Jaen Botes 9. Barry Dwyer 10. Luke Stevenson (captain) 11. Sean Carey 12. Andrew Powell 13. Saki Naisau 14. Thinus Steyn 15. Matt Richards

16. Lukas Waddington 17. Murray Reason 18. Ahmed Moosa 19. Stephen Ferguson 20. Sean Stevens 21. Ed Armitage 22. Kini Natuna 23. Majid Al Balooshi

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Financial considerations before buying a property

Buyers should try to pay as much in cash as possible for a property, limiting the mortgage value to as little as they can afford. This means they not only pay less in interest but their monthly costs are also reduced. Ideally, the monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 20 per cent of the purchaser’s total household income, says Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching.

“If it’s a rental property, plan for the property to have periods when it does not have a tenant. Ensure you have enough cash set aside to pay the mortgage and other costs during these periods, ideally at least six months,” she says. 

Also, shop around for the best mortgage interest rate. Understand the terms and conditions, especially what happens after any introductory periods, Ms Glynn adds.

Using a good mortgage broker is worth the investment to obtain the best rate available for a buyer’s needs and circumstances. A good mortgage broker will help the buyer understand the terms and conditions of the mortgage and make the purchasing process efficient and easier. 

Abu Dhabi GP weekend schedule


First practice, 1pm 
Second practice, 5pm


Final practice, 2pm
Qualifying, 5pm


Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (55 laps), 5.10pm


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

The specs: 2018 Audi RS5

Price, base: Dh359,200

Engine: 2.9L twin-turbo V6

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Power: 450hp at 5,700rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 1,900rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 8.7L / 100km


• Looming global slowdown and recession in key economies

• Russia-Ukraine war

• Interest rate hikes and the rising cost of debt servicing

• Oil price volatility

• Persisting inflationary pressures

• Exchange rate fluctuations

• Shortage of labour/skills

• A resurgence of Covid?


Friday Valladolid v Osasuna (Kick-off midnight UAE)

Saturday Valencia v Athletic Bilbao (5pm), Getafe v Sevilla (7.15pm), Huesca v Alaves (9.30pm), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (midnight)

Sunday Real Sociedad v Eibar (5pm), Real Betis v Villarreal (7.15pm), Elche v Granada (9.30pm), Barcelona v Levante (midnight)

Monday Celta Vigo v Cadiz (midnight)

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices


6.30pm Handicap (TB) US$65,000 (Dirt) 1,400m

Winner Golden Goal, Pat Dobbs (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer)

7.05pm Dubai Racing Club Classic Listed Handicap (TB) $88,000 (Turf) 2,410m

Winner: Walton Street, William Buick, Charlie Appleby.

7.40pm Dubai Stakes Group 3 (TB) $130,000 (D) 1,200m

Winner Switzerland, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

8.15pm Singspiel Stakes Group 3 (TB) $163,000 (T) 1,800m

Winner Lord Giltters, Adrie de Vries, David O’Meara

8.50pm Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 (TB) $228,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner Military Law, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi.

9.25pm Al Fahidi Fort Group 2 (TB) $163,000 (T) 1,400m

Winner Land Of Legends, Frankie Dettori, Saeed bin Suroor

10pm Dubai Dash Listed Handicap (TB) $88,000 (T) 1,000m

Winner Equilateral, Frankie Dettori, Charles Hills.


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

The alternatives

• Founded in 2014, Telr is a payment aggregator and gateway with an office in Silicon Oasis. It’s e-commerce entry plan costs Dh349 monthly (plus VAT). QR codes direct customers to an online payment page and merchants can generate payments through messaging apps.

• Business Bay’s Pallapay claims 40,000-plus active merchants who can invoice customers and receive payment by card. Fees range from 1.99 per cent plus Dh1 per transaction depending on payment method and location, such as online or via UAE mobile.

• Tap started in May 2013 in Kuwait, allowing Middle East businesses to bill, accept, receive and make payments online “easier, faster and smoother” via goSell and goCollect. It supports more than 10,000 merchants. Monthly fees range from US$65-100, plus card charges of 2.75-3.75 per cent and Dh1.2 per sale.

2checkout’s “all-in-one payment gateway and merchant account” accepts payments in 200-plus markets for 2.4-3.9 per cent, plus a Dh1.2-Dh1.8 currency conversion charge. The US provider processes online shop and mobile transactions and has 17,000-plus active digital commerce users.

• PayPal is probably the best-known online goods payment method - usually used for eBay purchases -  but can be used to receive funds, providing everyone’s signed up. Costs from 2.9 per cent plus Dh1.2 per transaction.


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Most Read
Top Videos