CAIRO - Egypt's senior scholars have picked a professor of Islamic jurisprudence to become Egypt's first elected mufti and leading scholar, for the first time after the ratification of the new constitution.
Dr Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, professor of Islamic law in Tanta University, got the highest number of votes and the matter has been sent to the president to issue his decision, a statement from al-Azhar seat of learning was cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Monday, February 11.
Abdel Karim, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence, was elected on Monday by the newly-formed council of senior scholars, which submitted its nomination for President Mohamed Morsi to ratify.
A panel of Islamic scholars took the decision after detailed study of the applicants based on scientific legal standards, the adoption of al-Azhar's moderate agenda and an estimation of their psychological and moral suitability, the official statement said.
Filling the post, he would be the first ever elected Mufti since the 1952 revolution.
In the past, the position has been traditionally filled by top scholars from Al-Azhar -- the most prestigious Sunni institution -- who were generally staunch backers of whoever ruled the country.
This is the first time Azhar clerics choose an Azhar scholar in balloting, said Mahmoud Azab, an advisor to Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the head of the influential Sunni Muslim institute.
This is a new tradition we hope will continue, he said.
The institute has sought to position itself as a moderate force above the political fray.
Ali Gomaa, the outgoing mufti, was criticized for reportedly saying that president Hosni Mubarak would go to heaven, before the dictator's ouster in a 2011 uprising.
In spite of Brotherhood's denial, Egyptian press had said the Muslim Brotherhood's Abdel Rahman al-Bar had been among the candidates, but he did not make it to a short list of three clerics.
It seems some council members were sensitive to the strong public resistance to Bar's nomination, which led them to change their mind, an official in the mufti's office told Reuters.
The new mufti, Abdel Karim, is not known to hold any political affiliations.
The runner-up, Attiya al-Sayyid Fayad, has written commentaries for the Brotherhood's website and was reported to have been a member of the Islamist group on whose ticket Morsi won the presidential election in June.
Abdel-Karim will be the country's 19th Grand Mufti since 1895.
The Grand Mufti has a variety of tasks in Egypt. He reviews and ratifies death sentences issued by courts.
He also is responsible for announcing the dates of the months based on a lunar calendar, which in turn determines when the important Muslim fasting month begins.
In response to citizens' requests, he issues religious edicts, known as fatwas, and he gives opinions over government policies.