10 March 2010

Grand Sheik of al-Azhar University and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque dies in Saudi Arabia

File picture dated September 16, 2006, the Grand Mufti of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, speaks during a press conference in Cairo. - Getty Images

Officials carry the coffin of Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the head of Egypt's most prestigious seat of Islamic learning al Azhar, at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh March 10, 2010. Tantawi died of a heart attack on Wednesday during a visit to Saudi Arabia, religious officials at al-Azhar said. Riyadh March 10, 2010.

Tantawi wrote a number of books, including a 15-volume interpretation of the Quran [AFP]

Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Sunni Islam's most senior religious figure, has died during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

The 82-year-old Egyptian, who had previously undergone heart surgery, suffered a heart attack as he boarded a flight early Wednesday morning, Egyptian television said.

He was admitted to the Amir Sultan hospital in Riyadh where doctors proclaimed him dead.

Tantawi - who headed al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning - was known for his controversial ban of the niqab, which he said had no basis in Islam.

He also wrote a number of books, including a 15-volume, 7,000-page encyclopedia on the interpretation of Quran.

His body is likely to be sent back to Cairo on Wednesday evening, local television said. - Al Jazeera and agencies
Sheik Mohammed Tantawi, a top Egyptian religious leader, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, authorities said.

Tantawi, 82, suffered the attack at the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh while waiting for a flight to Cairo, MENA, the Middle East News Agency, in Egypt, reported.

Tantawi died while being transported to a military hospital in Riyadh, said Mahmoud Awf, Egypt's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Tantawi was Grand Sheik of al-Azhar University and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.

Born in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Suhag, Tantawi held a Ph.D. in the interpretation of the Koran and was named Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986 and Grand Sheik of al-Azhar in 1996. (c) UPI - www.postchronicle.com

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