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This is the first detailed study of the life and thought of Shaykh Mahmud Shalt=ut (1897-1963). Shaltd=ut was an Egyptian scholar and reformer who held the most senior position open to Sunni Muslim religious scholars - that of Rector of the Azhar University in Cairo. His period of office (1958-63) was a turbulent time in Egypt and within the Azhar itself, with President Nasser's socialist government initiatinga radical reorganization of that institution in accordance with its policy of exerting greater control over the forces of Islam in Egypt. One of the most popuar and progressive Rectors of the Azhar in recent times, his writings have received extremely wide readership throughout the Muslim world. They reflect both his traditional religious background and his great concern with the contemporary problems of Muslims, thus providing an insight into some of the tensions which arise in the confrontation with modernity. In his important work in the areas of Islamic jurisprudence and Qur'anic commentary, he strove to demystify Islamic scholarship and make its fruits available to ordinary Muslims.
He issued fatwas on a wide range of topics of particular relevance in the modern age, such as financial transactions and family planning. By focusing on the work of an essentially traditional religious scholar, this study will fill a serious gap in modern Islamic studies. Set against the wider context of the cultural and revolutionary changes of Egypt at this time, it will also provide valuable insights for students charting the development of the modern Middle East.