Routinely required to lend religious legitimacy to contentious state policies, al-Azhar's moral authority has been under pressure since its nationalization in 1961. This article outlines how Shaykh al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyib's recent alliance with President ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Sisi has, however, exposed al-Azhar's moral authority to unprecedented risks. This is for three reasons. First, the tactics used by al-Sisi's government to quell the Muslim Brotherhood have been more extreme than those used by previous regimes. Second, the al-Azhari establishment's defence of these violent tactics has been more unqualified than in the past. Third, current state-led reforms of al-Azhar's curriculum are more controversial than prior efforts along these lines. As I show, these recent developments are not a complete break from the past; rather, they are a natural outcome of incremental shifts that have been occurring within al-Azhar since its nationalization over fifty years ago.