The activities of the eleventh international conference of the Center for Papyrus and Inscriptions Studies of the Faculty of Archeology at Ain Shams University were launched, under the title: “Archaeology and Astronomy in Human Civilizations,” which continues over the course of two days from 11 to 12 February, with the participation of the Islamic Research Academy, represented by Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences.
The activities were held at the Al-Azhar Convention Center headquarters, under the patronage of the Grand Imam, Prof. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Prof. Mohamed Diaa Zain El-Abedeen, President of Ain Shams University, under the general supervision of His Excellency the Undersecretary of Al-Azhar, Prof. Muhammad Al-Duwaini, and Prof. Ghada Farouk, Vice President of Ain Shams University for Community Service and Environmental Development Affairs.
In the presence of: Prof. Salama Gomaa Dawoud, President of Al-Azhar University, Prof. Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, Professor and Head of the Department of Museums and Archaeological Sites Management at the Faculty of Archeology, Ain Shams University, and former Minister of Antiquities, and Prof. Magdy Tantawi, advisor to the CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency, and member of the Egyptian Space Board of Directors., and Prof. Mahmoud Siddiq, Vice President of Al-Azhar University, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences, and Prof. Gad Al-Qadi, President of the National Institute for Astronomical Research and member of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences, and Dr. Bassem Mohamed, Acting Vice Dean of the Faculty of Archeology for Community Service and Environmental Development Affairs at Ain Shams University, headed by Prof. Hossam Tantawi, Dean of the Faculty of Archeology, and Prof. Nazir Ayyad, Secretary General of the Islamic Research Academy.
At the beginning of his opening remarks, Prof. Muhammad Al-Duwaini, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences, greetings from His Eminence Sheikh Prof. Ahmed Al-Tayeb to the audience and expressing his happiness with this scientific twinning. Pointing out that the Al-Azhar Center for Science and Astronomy is taking steady steps in cooperation with the Center for Research and Studies of Papyrus and Inscriptions at the Faculty of Archeology, Ain Shams University, adding that archeology was and still is within the study bag of students of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif.
Prof. Al-Duwaini confirmed that the Muslim has known astronomy since the dawn of history, and has introduced it into all aspects of life, and determined the direction of the qiblah in his prayers.
Prof. Ghada Farouk, Vice President of Ain Shams University for Community Service and Environmental Development, conveyed the greetings of the President of Ain Shams University to the attendees, and expressed her gratitude for her presence within the prestigious Al-Azhar University, stressing that Ain Shams University always seeks to establish multiple partnerships in all areas of scientific research, and the coming period will witness many aspects of cooperation between the two universities.
She also explained that the Faculty of Archeology at Ain Shams University had created a giant, and had a great impact in preserving the university’s manuscripts, antiquities, and heritage, and that Ain Shams University is proud of it.
During his speech, Prof. Salama Gomaa Daoud, President of Al-Azhar University, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy, explained that the conference indicates the great interest that Al-Azhar Al-Sharif pays in the field of astronomy and archeology, which are closely linked to the Islamic religion.
The President of Al-Azhar University cited many verses of the Holy Qur’an, and that the catalog of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif contains many volumes and manuscripts on astronomy, such as a manuscript “Al-Bari’ fi Akhbar al-Najm by Al-Shaybani,” which reflects the early interest of Muslim scholars in the field.
Prof. Mohamed Ibrahim, Head of the Department of Museums and Archaeological Sites Management at the Faculty of Archeology, Ain Shams University, and former Minister of Antiquities, stressed that the Islamic religion does not forbid the study of antiquities, as some strict opinions claim, as Muslim scholars have studied the lives of predecessors and translated their sciences.
Prof. Magdy Tantawi, advisor to the CEO and member of the Board of Directors of Egyptian Space, reviewed the origins, nature, and objectives of the agency, which aims through its presence to spread and deepen the concept of space culture in Egypt and the local community, to raise the level of awareness of communications and satellite technology, and the importance of their role and presence in society.
Prof. Mahmoud Siddiq, Vice President of Al-Azhar University and member of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Science, mentioned some verses that indicate the greatness of God in creating the spheres of the universe, such as the noble verse: “By the sun and its radiance.”
Pointing out that the word heaven was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an more than 300 times, and called on man to contemplate the universe, and that the early Muslim scholars had the credit for developing the philosophy of history when they devoted themselves to translating Greek and other manuscripts and linked them to the various sciences, including astronomy, which they linked to prayer times and Hajj rituals.
Prof. Gad Al-Qadi, President of the National Institute for Astronomical Research, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences, refers to the ancient Egyptians, and that he had a degree of progress in many fields of science such as astronomy, medicine, and arithmetic, and the best witness to that was the planetarium in the Dendera Temple, the establishment of the Khana Observatory, then its development into the Royal Observatory, then the National Institute for Astronomical Research, through which astronomical discoveries were made, many astronomical phenomena were monitored, and the establishment of astronomical schools that seek to qualify cadres in the field of astronomical research.
Dr. Bassem Mohamed, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Archeology for Community Service and Environmental Development at Ain Shams University, wishes that the conference would be the seed of fruitful cooperation that we will witness between Al-Azhar University and Ain Shams University.
Prof. Hossam Tantawi, Dean of the Faculty of Archeology at Ain Shams University, pointed out that the conference is being held under special circumstances that correspond, on the one hand, with Ain Shams University’s strong push towards fourth-generation universities, and the expansion of innovation, entrepreneurship, and building international and local partnerships. This is reflected in the cooperation with Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Al-Azhar University, the Islamic Research Academy, the Egyptian Space Agency, the Al-Azhar International Center for Forensic Astronomy and Space Sciences, and the National Institute for Astronomical Research as active partners in this conference.
His Excellency added that this conference is consistent, on the other hand, with the mission and objectives of the Islamic Research Academy in working to renew Islamic culture, reveal it in its pure, authentic essence, and expand the scope of knowledge of it to every level and in every environment within the framework of the comprehensive mission of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif through its council, committees, and multiple departments.
These circumstances are also consistent with the state’s tendency to pay attention to interdisciplinary sciences, as it is the password to meeting the needs of the labor market and achieving the successful development equation within Egypt’s vision to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals. The choice of the title of this conference, “Archaeology and Astronomy in Human Civilizations” - the first of its kind - was motivated by full awareness of the methodology of interdisciplinary studies in exchanging research experiences, and benefiting from intellectual backgrounds and different research approaches and integrating them into a comprehensive conceptual and methodological framework, which helps expand the framework of studying phenomena and problems, and providing a better understanding of them, which ultimately leads to producing accurate results and providing useful, applicable solutions, which is revealed by the objectives of this conference, its three axes, and the research papers presented to it.
Prof. Nazir Muhammad Ayyad, Secretary-General of the Islamic Research Academy, mentioned that astronomy has always received the support and backing of His Eminence Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
He pointed out that human nature and love of knowledge were the main reasons for the emergence of many sciences. Adding that various sciences were present in the minds of human civilizations. The ancient Egyptians studied astronomy from many other civilizations, such as the Babylonians and Sumerians, and they studied astronomical phenomena such as lunar and solar eclipses and carved them on the walls of their temples. Astronomy also played a pivotal role in determining fishing places at sea, as it was a guide for sailors during their journeys.
Dr. Nazir added that the civilizations have their interpretations of astronomical phenomena, including correct and incorrect ones, and that the Prophet Muhammad, God's blessing and peace be upon him, had the greatest influence in correcting these allegations, and that the sun and moon are natural phenomena that are not affected by the death of a human being, for example.
After the opening session of the conference, the two universities exchanged shields and took souvenir photos, and this was followed by the opening of the archeology and astronomy exhibition accompanying the conference.