The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections, held Oct. 18-19, opened the floodgates once again for religious and political fatwas. Clerics from Egypt’s official religious institutions were at the forefront of these fatwas, which continue to be strongly condemned by the political Islam movement. The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf dedicated the Oct. 16 Friday sermon to call upon citizens to vote in the coming elections. On Oct. 19, Minister of Local Development Ahmed Zaki Bader even insinuated that those who were registered but refrained from voting without a valid excuse could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($62) in accordance with the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights. Yet nothing seems to be working, with voter turnout in the first round of elections, held in 14 of the country’s 27 provinces, coming in at less than 27%.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam issued a statement Oct. 17 calling those who refrain from voting “sinners.” Abdullah Nagar, a member of the Islamic Research Academy, issued a fatwa stating, “Not participating in the electoral process is tantamount to abandoning prayer.” His words have gone viral over social media.
In the same vein, an alliance of five Al-Azhar groups — including Al-Azhar Free Sons, the World Federation of Al-Azhar Scientists, the Egyptian Syndicate of Preachers, the Union of Young Imams and Preachers Abroad and Scientists Against the Coup in Europe — issued a fatwa Oct. 15 stressing the sacredness of participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Abdul Hamid al-Atrash, the former head of Al-Azhar’s Fatwa Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Those who wish to issue a fatwa have to first study the doctrines of the four imams, the senior scholars for Sunnis, who are Abu Hanifa, Ibn Milik, al-Shafi’i and Ibn Hanbal. They have to be pious and devout Muslims and not inclined toward fame and public appearances.”