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Why Did Al-Demerdash Bin Zaki al-Aghili Convert to Shia?

Al-Demerdash al-Aghili is among the contemporary and official people guided to Shia religion. He was born in 1930 in Egypt in the middle region of Asyut, Aghal village in Hanafi, Sunnism family.

– Scientific Personality

He began the academic education and was graduated from the Law Faculty of Cairo University in 1954 (Mowsouʻa, 1424: 315/2).

– Social and Political Personality

He was lawyer for a short period and later he was appointed as a judge in the Ministry of Justice, Egypt and was promoted to the judge of the Court of Appeal. Around 1957, Egyptian judges appointed him as the advisor and assistance of the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia.

Having returned to Egypt, later he left the judiciary due to his political engagements and joined the Egyptian Islamic Labour Party[1]and then in 1984 he was accepted as the vice-chancellor of the Party by the consensus of members. In 1986, he was appointed as a member of the Egyptian Shura Council by the president of Egypt and in 1987 he became a candidate in the Egyptian parliamentary elections. Having gained 127,000 votes – the majority of votes – he was accepted as a member, and studied the public security thereafter (ibid, 316).

– Areas of Intellectual Transformation

1- Holy Quran

Demerdash referred to the Quran that he had memorized most of which in childhood and searched for the tracks and signs of AhlulBayt (pbut) and referred to valid Sunni exegeses in this regard. When he discovered the certain position of the Quran, he was horrified and knew that in order to understand it, which contains the decisive and allegorical[2] verses, he inevitably needs a guiding reason to direct his wisdom among the verses without ignorance and desire.

In this way, he found that Imamate has a pivotal status in the Quran, without which the Quran is subject to misunderstanding and mistakes in the interpretation, and it becomes a vague book without the presence of an innocent Imam indicating the truth.

2- Searching for Facts and Thinking in Beliefs

He was forced to contemplate in his inherited beliefs during his duties in various responsibilities ​​and sought the right path until his heart finally was enlightened and he found the right on the side of AhlulBayt (pbut) and quickly followed them and their path. He continued searching until he was sure of the truth through the Sunni`s sources (Mowsouʻa, 1424: 318/2).

Reasons for Tendency to Shia Islam

1- Defect in Hanafi Jurisprudence

“I spent 20 years attempting to understand the religion of AhlulBayt (pbut), and being Reifian[3] was my drive at the beginning (Reif: a Lower Egypt region), which molded the love of AhlulBayt (pbut) in my heart and I had a perfect heart affection to them.” said Demerdash.

During the period between 1965 – 1967, he was selected as a judge to deal with the interpersonal affairs of Muslims and Christians in one of Egypt cities, Kom Ombo, Aswan Province, where Muslims were living in peace and respect.

Once a divorce case of a Christian couple was referred to him, where husband accused wife of adultery and among the Orthodox Coptsthe only way of divorcing was bringing the accusation of adultery against spouse. Based on law, the judge must use a priest when he is proceeding with the Christian lawsuits. The priest was anxious due to the accusation of the husband against his wife. Demerdash said: “When I noticed the priest’s mood, I said jokingly and compassionately “Can’t you find a simpler way to divorce so that there won’t be a need to accuse wife of adultery?” The priest replied quickly and passively: Do you want us to divorce as Muslims do without any criterion?”

This statement exerted a profound effect on Demerdash, and suffered a psychological disorder he never expected. After this incident, Demerdash went to the late Sheikh Abu Zohre – his professor at the Faculty of Law – and complained about the rules of divorce in Abu Hanifia religion. Sheikh Abu Zohre replied: “My son, if I was in charge, I would not exceed through the religion of the Imam Sadiq in judging and giving fatwa.” He then referred him to divorce laws in the AhlulBayt religion.

Demerdash referred to the sources of Imamiyyah school of thought and found that divorce does not take place unless through specific conditions and stipulations. Therefore he said to himself: “Sobhan Allah! How come these contents were remained hidden to the jurist, who established some religions according to which people act and adjust their relationships, and mix the permitted act[4] with the forbidden act[5]” (ibid, 316).

  1. Knowledge towards Imamiyyah Jurisprudence

This subject was his first reflection point, and then he decided to study a book on Imamiyyah jurisprudence. The book titled “Al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi Fi-Feqhe al-Immamieh” written by the Muhaqqiq al-Hilli. Now, he believed in the statement of Sheikh Baghouri that the desires of the Sunnis has kept them away from Imamiyyah jurisprudence, despite the fact that the cure for many social pains lies in this jurisprudence. “Studying this book coincided with the reading of the Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltoot fatwa, the former al-Azhar Sheikh who had given fatwa:” It is permissible to follow the religion (jurisprudence) of Ja’fari, i.e. Twelver[6]Imamiyyah.” Since then, he followed the Imamiyyah jurisprudence, hoping that God would increase his knowledge and insight into other books (ibid., 317-318).

3- Reading Shia books

After Demerdash undertook the responsibility of the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia, where Egyptian judges selected him as the deputy, and he became a member of a committee that its aim was the obtaining information about the books confiscated from Iranian hajis and expropriated in some cases. By forming this committee, the Saudi government aimed at pretending the fact that confiscation of Shia books was conducted under the supervision of a legal and scientific committee, and if a book is confiscated it is according to the awareness of harmful effects of that book.

A few days after the formation of the committee and before it began working, a large number of books were taken from Iranian hajis and the Saudi government commissioned the committee to investigate this issue. Shortly after, the head of the Saudi committee came to Demerdash giving him a note that he was informed of these books in that committee and they should confiscate them and asked him to sign it as a member of the committee. But Demerdash replied, “Dear friend, how do you expect me to confiscate books that I know nothing about their content?” Then Demerdash asked him to know a little about these books to sign it later. The head of the committee was displeased and brought the case to the deputy minister to have it signed so that the sign of the Egyptian lawyer will not be required. “The deputy minister was a fair person, then he called me and assured me and said “You are free to read these books.” The committee members again stated that they did not read any of these books, but were aware of their content.”

The deputy minister gave him two months to read these books because he was a cultivated person, and knew that studying these books takes two months. He took the books and began studying them. In each line of the books, he felt himself as a new man. The last thing he studied was the Hadith of Thaqalayn, and he was persuaded to contemplate in both Shia and Sunni hadiths.

He then made a thorough search to determine the fate of his beliefs, and his greatest attempt in this period was made to infer beliefs from the Holy Quran. Gradually, he gained a clear insight, leaving no room left to remain on his inherited beliefs, thereby he abandoned blind imitation, and admitted following the religion of AhlulBayt (pbut) and resorting to their guidance and following their path (ibid , 319-320).

Works

1- Daʻāʼim al- Manhaj al-Islami

The author believes that the foundations of Islamic method concerning self-knowledge in order to achieve the right (haqq) has covered in worship. Therefore, he presented his discussion in two chapters: Recognition and Worship. In regard with recognition, through resources he clearly revealed the difference among scholars about the sources of recognition based on the differences between their schools of thought to address the nature, sense, wisdom, inspiration, and revelation, and finally mentioned the role of wisdom in assuring the issue of revelation. However, he did not address the issue of worship, contrary to the promise he made in the introduction. Beirut Dar al- Safvah Publication published this book in 1417 AH.

2- Mohaḍirat al-Agha’idiah: A collection of lectures delivered during visiting Iran in 1421 AH hosted by al-Abhath al-Agha’idiah Center, including the following:

  1. “Departure to Thaqalayn“. In this article, he spoke briefly about his life and how he converted to Shia religion and the high dignity of the AhlulBayt (pbut) who is one of the two weighty things[7] that interprets the other.
  2. Imamate in the Quran. A well and documented argument to Quranic verses in proofing the Imamate of the AhlulBayt (pbut), and ended by answering the questions of the audience.
  3. “Imam Hossein on the martyrs’ journey “: A long discussion on the history of the prophets from Abraham until the time of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), the jealousy of the Quraysh to the Prophet and his family and the resistance of Quraysh to Islam from outside and later from inside. He compared the departure of Imam Hossein from Medina to the departure of Moses from Egypt in a frightening and fearful way. Eventually, he spoke about the problems of Umayyad after the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (pbuh) and what will happen to the oppressors after the advent of Imam Mahdi.
  4. “Selecting the path from darkness to the lightness”: Here, he explains about converting to Shia religion, other than what he said in the first speech, in which he spoke about being informed of the books brought by Iranian hajis to Hijaz and his responsibility to confiscate the books, when he served as an advisor at the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia, and how he used these works to figure out the role of AhlulBayt (pbut) through Hadith of Thaqalayn.
  5. “Who is Shia”?: Several issues were discussed in this speech, including the interpretation of a number of Quranic verses, the life and deed of the prophet and the AhlulBayt (pbut), and the circumstances of transferring the divine guidance after the Prophet Mohammad to Imam Ali and His descendants, and the inheritance of Shia, the advent of Imam Mahdi etc. (ibid., 321).

Al-Demerdash al-Aghili passed away on March 1, 2019 in Egypt.

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References

[1]Ḥizb al-ʿamal al-islāmī al-Masri

[2]Muhkam and Mutashabih

[3] A district in Egypt

[4]Halal

[5]Haram

[6]Athnā‘ashariyyah

[7]Thaqalayn

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