Professor Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb was appointed as the Grand Imam and Shaykh of al-Azhar al-Sharif in March 2010, after the passing of his predecessor, Shaykh Dr Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi. He was formerly the President of Al-Azhar University for seven years and prior to that, served for two years as the second most powerful cleric in Egypt as its Grand Mufti.
Shaykh Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb’s scholarly influence as a leading intellectual of Sunni Islam spans the globe. He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Aswan, as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the International Islamic University in Islamabad (IIUI) in Pakistan. He has also taught in universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Shaykh Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb holds a PhD in Islamic Philosophy from La Sorbonne University of Paris, France.
Since becoming the Grand Imam Shaykh al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb has emphasised his mission to promote traditional Islam. He has since issued decisions to teach all four schools of traditional Islamic thought at Al-Azhar University, while stressing the importance of teaching students about Islamic heritage – considering Al-Azhar Graduates as ambassadors of Islam to the world.
Shaykh Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb leads the oldest university in the world where teaching has continued without interruption since 975 CE. Al-Azhar University represents the centre of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. It is a key institution that issues authoritative religious rulings and has provided extensive Islamic education to Egyptian and international students since its inception over a millennium ago. This history makes Al-Azhar University a bastion of Sunni Islam. The University is considered one of the most prominent Islamic educational institutions, and the foremost centre of Sunni Muslim scholarship in the world.
Al-Azhar University is currently the largest university in the world, having risen from a group of three schools in the 1950s to its current state with 72 feeder schools, and close to 400,000 students studying there at any one time. Including schools that are part of Al-Azhar Waqf initiatives there are close to 2 million students. This immense size and grounded respect makes the head of Al-Azhar University an extraordinarily powerful and academically influential person. In spite of his huge workload as President, and now as Shaykh al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb publishes regularly in numerous academic journals, dealing particularly with the reception of Islamic culture and philosophy in the Western world. Shaykh Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb also serves as the Chairman of the World Association for Al-Azhar Graduates International which has established the UK Branch and Contact Office at Jamia Al-Karam in Great Britain.