The outgoing Mufti Ali Gomaa (Photo: Reuters)
The Al-Azhar Senior Scholars Authority, headed by the Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb, is set on Monday to choose a candidate for the position of the country's Grand Mufti.
The new mufti will replace the outgoing mufti, Ali Gomaa, who is set to retire at the age of 61 in March.
Gomaa filled the post since 2003. In 2012, the former ruling military council extended his tenure by one year.
Ealier this month, the Egyptian presidency turned down a request by the Al-Azhar Scholars to extend Gomaa's tenure.
Twenty five Al-Azhar professors have nominated themselves for the position.
The Senior Scholars Authority will select three final candidates for the position. The members of the Scholars Authority have the option of choosing candidates from the larger Al-Azhar community other than official nominees.
Finally, the authority will vote in a secret ballot on one name to send to President morsi for ratification.
Azhar bylaws, drafted by its Senior Scholars Authority, stipulate that the new grand mufti must be under the age of 60 years old.
The bylaws also state that the candidate for the position should have worked continuously inside the religious establishment following the completion of their studies; should be a scholar of Jurisprudence and Sharia; and must be fluent in a second language other than Arabic.
Top candidates for the position include Saad Eldin El-Hilali, the head of the Comparative Jurisprudence at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at the Al-Azhar University.
El-Hilali, 59, graduated from the school of Sharia and Law at Al-Azhar University in 1978 and completed his PhD in 1985.
He worked as a professor in Saudi Arabia from 1988 to 1993 and later spent two years in Kuwait starting from 2001 to 2003.
Abdel Rahman El-Bar, the current dean of the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar University in Mansoura, is also considered a top candidate.
El-Bar, 50, is a member of the guidance bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood and has been known as the "Muslim Brotherhood's Mufti".
El-Bar received his PhD in Islamic text and knowledge in 1993 from Al-Azhar University.
El-Bar's candidacy has sparked controversy as critics of the Brotherhood fear the ruling group aims to monopolise final words on religious matters by shooting to control the position of the mufti.
Others candidates include, Abdel Fattah Idris, professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at the faculty of Sharia and Law at Al-Azhar University; Abbas Abdullah Shoman, head of the Islamic Sharia department at Al-Azhar University; and Mohamed Abu Hashem, professor at the faculty theology at Al-Azhar University.
Eighteen men have filled the post of the Grand Mufti since 1895.