Shaltut, Mahmud (1893–1963)

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SHALTUT, MAHMUD (1893–1963)

Mahmud Shaltut was an Egyptian religious scholar, jurist, and reformer of al-Azhar, the renowned center of Islamic learning in Cairo. Born in a farming village of lower Egypt, Shaltut distinguished himself as a student in the principal religious institute of Alexandria and later at al-Azhar. He became an instructor of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) at al-Azhar in 1927. The following year, the reform-minded Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi was appointed shaykh al-Azhar (rector), and Shaltut immediately emerged as one of his ardent supporters. When conservative opposition forced al-Maraghi out of office the following year, Shaltut continued pressing for reform. Because of his opposition, he was dismissed from al-Azhar in 1931. Upon al-Maraghi's reappointment as rector in 1935, he returned as a senior official in the faculty of Islamic law. Following service in numerous committees and conferences inside and outside of al-Azhar, Shaltut was appointed shaykh al-Azhar in 1958. During his tenure, Shaltut oversaw a modernization of the school's curriculum in theology and law, and the addition of new faculties, including medicine. His influence, however, was undermined when the Nasser government imposed direct state control over al-Azhar in 1961. The progressive bent to Shaltut's thought is best exemplified in his condemnation of Islamic sectarianism and his appointment of scholars of Shi˓ite fiqh at al-Azhar. But on social issues such as polygyny and birth control, he adopted more conservative positions that were at odds with government reform programs.

See alsoReform: Arab Middle East and North Africa .


Lemke, Wolf-Dieter. Mahmud Shaltut (1893–1963) und dieReform der Azhar. Frankfurt: P. D. Lang, 1980.

Zebiri, Kate. Mahmud Shaltut and Islamic Modernism. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Sohail H. Hashmi