Religion from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s perspective
Written by: Dr. Amr Sabih
In Philosophy of the Revolution written by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, he discussed the three circles taken into account in Egypt’s foreign policy, including the Islamic circle that overlaps with the Arab and African circles.
The holy Quran was compiled into a book “Mushaf” in the time of the first caliph Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, in response to persistent appeals by Umar Ibin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, after the death of most of the Quran memorizers (Hafiz) in the wars of apostasy. President Gamal Abdel Nasser is the first Muslim ruler during his reign the Holy Quran was compiled into millions of audiotapes and CDs, recited by Egyptian Qari (reciters) according to the phonetic rules of Quranic recitation.
Under president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the number of mosques in Egypt was increased from eleven thousand mosques before the revolution to twenty one thousand in 1970, meaning that during his rule of 18 years, ten thousand mosques were built, which is equivalent to the number of mosques which as built in Egypt during the period from the Islamic conquest to the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The Religious Education has become a compulsory subject, and considered a subject of success and failure, for the first time in the history of Egypt while it was an optional subject in the monarchy.
In addition, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif was turned into a modern university at which natural sciences as well as religious sciences are taught.
Professor Mohamed Fayek wrote in “Abdel Nasser and the African Revolution” that President Abdel Nasser ordered to turn Al-Azhar into a university, after following the situation of Muslims in Africa and finding that the Western colonial powers were keen to teach Christians physical sciences (medicine - engineering - pharmacy), while Muslims were excluded from learning these subjects, which led to the rule of Christian minorities in African countries, the majority of which are Muslims. The Christian minorities controlled the affairs of Islamic African countries and acted as an ally that guaranteed the interests of the Western colonial powers. Hence, president Abdel Nasser designed to break this monopoly of power and teach modern to muslim Africans so that they can rule their countries for their benefit.
Abdel Nasser established the Envoys Islamic City on an area of thirty acres. It’s a dormitory complex for international Muslim students from seventy Islamic countries who came to Egypt to study in Al-Azhar University free of charge, noting as well a cost-free full time residence in Egypt. Under orders from President Abdel Nasser, the City was fully equipped. That’s why the number of foreign Muslim students in Al-Azhar has increased 10 times.
Abdel Nasser also created the Organization of the Islamic Conference that brought together all Muslim nations. Under his reign, the Noble Quran was translated into all languages of the world, and the Holy Quran Radio Station was created, which broadcasts the Quran throughout the day. The Noble Quran was compiled and recorded on CDs and tapes for the first time in history. President Nasser was the first Muslim ruler in the history of Islam to compile the Quran into audiotapes and CDs, recited by the greatest Qari (reciters) of his time according to the phonetic rules of Quranic recitation. CDs and audiotapes were widely distributed all over the world.
Under president Nasser, competitions for memorizing the Noble Quran were organized at the levels of the Republic, the Arab world, and the Islamic world; and President Abdel Nasser himself distributed the prizes to the Quran Memorizes. The Gamal Abdel Nasser Encyclopedia of Islamic jurisprudence was created; all the religious sciences as well as the jurisprudence of the true Islam religion were compiled into dozens of volumes and distributed all over the world. Thousands of Institutes Islamic Education were built in Egypt and branches of Al-Azhar University were opened in many Islamic countries.
Gamal Abdel Nasser supported all Arab and Islamic countries in their struggle against colonialism.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser was the Arab and Muslim leader who most wanted to spread the spirit of the true Islamic religion in social justice and human equality.
The islamic missionary work in Africa and Asia, under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, recorded the highest rates of Islam conversions in history, thanks to the missions of Al-Azhar 7 people out of every 10 people converted to Islam. This was an unprecedented and unparalleled record in the history according to the statistics of the World Council of Churches.
Under president Nasser, a law was issued banning and prohibiting gambling, and Nasser issued decisions to close all Masonic and Rotary clubs, as well as Baha'i forums.
Under president Abdel Nasser, girls for the first time received religious education, and Institutes of Islamic Education were opened for girls, and numerous Quran Memorization competitions were held in all cities. Millions of copies of the Holy Quran were printed and given to Islamic countries. The islamic missionary work expanded in Africa and Asia. In addition, all the books of Islamic heritage were printed in the State printing houses in popular editions to be accessible to all.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was keen to perform the Friday Prayer with the citizens in grand mosques throughout his tenure.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser died on Monday, September 28, 1970, and in Hijri Calendar on the 27th of Rajab, 1390. President Gamal Abdel Nasser died on the night of Isra and Miraj, a great religious night whose virtue is known to all.
With regard to Christianity, President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s relationship was excellent with Pope Kyrillos VI. It was Gamal Abdel Nasser who asked Pope Kyrillos VI about the number of churches that he deems appropriate to build annually, and the answer was 20-30 churches. President Abdel Nasser issued an order of building 25 churches annually, granting the Pope himself direct authorization to the official authorities.
When Pope Kyrillos VI asked President Abdel Nasser to help him build a new Cathedral worthy of Egypt, and complained to him about the lack of sufficient funds to build it as he envisioned. President Abdel Nasser immediately decided that the State would contribute 167 EGP to the building of the new Cathedral. He also ordered that the public sector Contracting Firms would carry out the construction process of the new cathedral.
In addition, upon orders of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, a weekly meeting was held every Monday between Mr. Sami Sharaf, Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Anba Samuel, Bishop of Services and Secretary of the Pope, to discuss and solve any problems that arise for Christians.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser also sought to create closer ties the Emperor Haile Selassie, Ruler of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), given the fact that Ethiopian Christians are Orthodox. He invited Emperor Haile Selassie to attend the opening ceremony of St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya in 1964. He also supported the unification of the Egyptian and Ethiopian churches under the spiritual presidency of Pope Kyrillos VI. President Abdel Nasser was, as usual, far-sighted, as he realized that closer ties between Egypt and Ethiopia guarantee the protection of Egyptian national security, because 85% of the Nile water flowing to Egypt comes from Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, after the death of President Nasser, the coup against the revolution on May 13, 1971, and the comprehensive response to Abdel Nasser’s policies following the October 1973 war, the Egyptian-Ethiopian relations deteriorated under President Sadat, and are still deteriorating until now, and Israel occupied Egypt's stature in Ethiopia, and in all of Africa.
Under president Gamal Abdel Nasser, there was not a single sectarian incident between Muslims and Christians, and no demonization of others was promoted.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was not anti-religious, nor was he an atheist, as his political opponents from the Muslim Brotherhood had spread. On the contrary, among the other presidents of Egypt, he was the one who truly understood the spirit of religion and its role in peoples’ lives, as well as the importance of including religious aspect in social life, while ensuring social justice and human equality.