Al-Azhar Mosque. Archived photo
The statement noted that AOCE was “following the news circulating on social platforms that said [Ayman] Al-Zawahri’s uncle or grandfather was the grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque,” warning that “the matter could be taken advantage of by anonymous parties to attack Al-Azhar.”
The statement added that the false allegations of such a kinship forced AOCE to deny it, adding that it was an insult to the late grand imam who held the post from 1929 till 1935.
The position of grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most important institution in the Sunni Muslim world, is currently held by Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb.
The statement noted that the dead Al-Qaeda leader's full name is Ayman Mohamed Rabie Moustafa Abdel-Kareem Al-Zawahiri and was born in Cairo in 1951, while the late grand imam’s name is Mohamed Al-Ahmadi Ibrahim Al-Zawahiri and was born in 1878.
The latter died five years before the birth of the former Al-Qaeda leader, according to the statement, which added that there was no connection between the two, despite sharing the same family name.
The belief that the terrorist leader was the grandson of the grand imam is widespread, with numerous foreign and local books and websites repeating the claim.
The AOCE, which is dedicated to fighting radicalism and terrorism, noted that they issued the statement to shed light on the two different paths taken by the two figures who happen to share the same name.
A disciple of prominent Egyptian Sheikh Mohamed Abdou, who supported reform in Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohamed Al-Zawhiri was among the most famous reformist Muslim clerics in the institution who turned Al-Azhar into a modern university.
The Sufi sheikh was also known for his political positions, most famously standing against the revival of the Islamic Caliphate by King Ahmed Fouad I after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The statement emphasised that Al-Azhar clerics seek to fix the problems of the Earth by easing peoples’ daily life and preserving the fundamentals of Islam against "devils" who want to drag it into politics.
Highly important and revered in the Islamic world, Al-Azhar University has been offerings international scholarship to Muslim students around the world, offering 800 annual scholarships to African students since the program’s inauguration in the 1920s.