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5 Jul 2013 3:06 pm
Ezzitouna mosque licensed to open in Tripoli

Ezzitouna mosque licensed to open in Tripoli

Hussein Laabidi, the sheikh of Ezzitouna mosque in Tunis received permission from Libyan religious officials to open a religious institute in Tripoli.

The signing took place at the headquarters of the Tripoli Local Council in the presence of the President of the Council, Sadat Elbadri and the Minister of Local Government as well as a number of legal experts and jurists. The permit stipulates that the Libyan mosque will engage in educational programmes that are accredited by the Zitouna mosque in Tunis in legal and modern sciences.

Elbadri told the Libya Herald that this “initiative is a good one for both Tunisia and Libya” highlighting the role played bythe Ezzitouna mosque in history in promoting scholarship in Islamic throughout in the Muslim world.

“A number of Libyan Muslim scholars went to Tunisia and agreed with Sheikh Laabidi on the establishment of a Libyan branch of the Ezzitouna mosque,” he added.

Sheikh Laabidi said that what politics failed to achieve will be achieved by science and learning. God began his speech in the Koran with the word “read” and not “beat”, Laabidi stated. He went on to stress the neutrality and independence of the Ezzitouna mosque from the state. It is not involved in any political affairs in any way and the permit to open the Tripoli institute stipulates the institution’s character is as a “scientific educational institution.”

He also noted that the Ezzitouna mosque is in the process of establishing educational programmes in several fields, including space, medicine and engineering.

Libya Herald attempted to contact Libyan Dar Al-Ifta for a comment on the subject but got no reply. However, Elbadri said that Dar Al-Ifta also plans to open a branch of Asmariya University in Zliten – where the shrine of Sufi scholar Sidi Abdessalem Lasmar lies and which was bombed in August 2012 by Islamic hardliners who consider the structure as idolatrous.

The Ezzitouna mosque was established in the year 79 of the Hijri calendar, (circa AD 703). Famous alumni from the institution include medieval Tunisian jurist Ibn Arafa, the historian Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldun, Muslim scholar Tijani, Tunisian Sufi scholar Abu Hassan Chadli, Tunisian reformist scholar and feminist writer Tahar Haddad, Tunisian poet Abu El Kacem Chebbi, Algerian reformist scholar Ibn Badis, the late Algerian President Houari Boumedienne and Suleiman Baruni, the president of the short-lived Tripolitanian Republic – to name but a few.

The Ezzitouna mosque housed the University of Ezzitouna, which claims to be the first Arab Islamic university and even preceded Al Azhar university. It helped spread Islamic culture in North Africa and even beyond the region to sub-Saharan Africa. It was closed under former Tunisian presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for fear of religious extremism. However, it reopened in March 2012 after a ruling from the first Court of Tunis to counter hardline Islamic extremism, by propagating Maliki Islamic teaching in Tunisia, according to some moderate Islamist figures from the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahdha.