One of the Islamic world’s leading figures has died suddenly
Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, head of Egypt’s most prestigious seat of learning, al Azhar, suffered a heart attack earlier today during a visit to Saudi Arabia. He was 81.
Close aides say his death was unexpected, saying the grand Imam appeared in ‘‘excellent shape and health’‘ ahead of the trip.
Appointed in 1996 as head of al Azhar, which runs many schools and universities across Egypt, Tantawi was viewed as a religious moderate, particularly on women’s rights.
In addition to opposing female circumcision, he also took a stand against the full veil. Last year, he issued a decree barring the Niqab in the Islamic institution’s all-girl schools.