Mohammed Mursi, who won the Egyptian presidency as the official candidate of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, had a stab at defining the verse: “Only those who fear Allah, from among his servants, have knowledge.”
But he was swiftly met with a response from a group which aligns itself with Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, “Azharis without limits” (Azhariyun Bila Hodood).
The group, in a statement on their website, said Mursi had “explained the verse according to his mood,” adding that he had misunderstood it.
According to the site, the movement cited Sheikh Salah Eddine Abu Arafah, the imam of the al-Aqsa Mosque, saying Mursi’s interpretation of the verse was inaccurate.
In the video of the president’s speech, Mursi reads the verse, then explains its meaning, saying: “What is meant by the term ‘fear’ here, is profound respect and not fear as such.”
His definition differs from what imams generally agree on, teaching that there is a fear of God Almighty, the group explained.
However, both interpretations of this verse have been frequently been debated by scholars.
The site quoted some of the comments that were on the social networking sites where Mursi’s interpretation stirred debate. But some defended president Mursi, saying it was not unusual for misinterpretations to happen.
Another commenter supported Mursi, advising others to aim criticism at those who deliberately insult Islam and not those who unintentionally misinterpret it.