JAFFA, Israel – The former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, a controversial figure in the country, seems to have angered his conservative detractors even more than usual.
The cleric, whose liberal rulings are often decried as subservient to the government, shocked his followers on Thursday when he said that smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol don’t disqualify Muslims from immediately praying.
“Marijuana is a pure substance and you can pray immediately after smoking it without purification,” he was filmed saying in an interview. “Also if you’ve drunk alcohol, all you have to do is wash your mouth, then you can pray. A Muslim can pray with a bag of marijuana in his pocket, because it is pure, but not with a bottle of alcohol, which is impure.”
The Mufti’s statements drew immediate criticism from clerics around the Arab world. On social media, his curious rulings were castigated and some quoted Quran verses saying “a man cannot pray as long as he is under the influence of a substance that affects his spirit, consciousness, reason, and body.”
Commenters said that under Gomaa’s directorship, the Al Azhar Academy, once the most prestigious theological institution in the Arab world, and whose authority was binding, has turned into a joke.
Others said that similar statements were the origin of the January 2011 revolution and accused him, not for the first time, of undermining the values of Islam in the service of the government. Previously, Gomaa came under fire for equating the Muslim Brotherhood to the Islamic State.
Thousands of people demanded his dismissal, saying, “The Egyptian youth have still not given up on the revolution and will settle the score with Gomaa.”
Others told him that he now has “unfinished business with Allah, because his statements are blasphemous and contradict the Islamic constitution – the Quran.”