Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam denounced Tuesday a parallel drawn last week by a leading cleric likening the country's military chief and its interior minister to prophets.
During a ceremony held on 5 February to honour families of police members killed or injured on duty, Saadeddin El-Helaly, head of Al-Azhar University's Department of Comparative Jurisprudence, described Defence Minister Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim as two prophets sent by God.
Allam, who heads Dar Al-Ifta, the authority entrusted with issuing religious edicts, rectified that prophets hold a dignified and untouchable status which rests on divine selection, infallibility and revelation.
Igniting a fury of criticism, El-Helaly had said "God sent two men, as He sent Moses and Aaron before...No Egyptian would have imagined that these [two] are from God's prophets... El-Sisi and Mohamed Ibrahim were sent out."
"Any analogy comparing [political] leaders to prophets of God is unacceptable. The leaders themselves would not agree to such reverence and glory," the grand mufti reprimanded in public comments.
El-Helaly later told reporters he had meant to compare situations and stances.
This comes in the context of a nationwide fascination with the military chief who led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July amid mass protests against the latter's year-long rule. Since he came to be perceived as the nation's saviour and the spearhead of the "war on terrorism" plaguing authorities, El-Sisi's popularity in the country has reached stellar heights.
"The religious discourse at this critical period should be geared towards advocating the morals and values of preserving the nation and entrenching a culture of development," Allam asserted.
He said Islam dictates that each person be granted a rank commensurate with his status, adding that he respects and supports Al-Azhar, the oldest and highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, which has traditionally upheld a platform promoting the values of moderate Islam.
Clerics during Morsi's time in office were heavily censured for their religious rhetoric depicting authority figures as infallible agents sent from God.