Preachers exclaimed different points of view concerning the newly enforced written unified Friday sermon, after the Endowments Ministry tested the new directive on Friday in different mosques.
Since September 2013, the ministry has launched a number of guidelines that aim to limit “radical preaching” in mosques and crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric, which back then started to mobilise by using mosques after Friday prayers to call on people to resist what they called the “3 July coup”.
Setting an example of the new method, preacher and Minister of Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa gave the Friday sermon in the Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque in Cairo as state officials attended. Gomaa read from a paper talking about corruption and bribery.
The text of the sermon, which is published weekly on the ministry’s official website, included quotes from the Quran as well as the sayings of the Muslim Prophet to prove and support the condemnation of corruption and nepotism.
Islam Al-Nawawy, a preacher and an official in the ministry, told Daily News Egypt that the difference between now and before is that the text will include an actual sermon to be read. Previously, there were guidelines for the preacher, where he could have explained and interpreted the topic in different ways.
Al-Nawawy has been chosen by the ministry to write the unified sermon, along with a committee of psychologists, social scientists, Al-Azhar members, and parliamentary members. He, however, refused to comment on the new trend, saying that in a matter of two weeks the sermon will be applied in all mosques.
Another Al-Azhar preacher, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the unified sermon “will end all the freedom left in religious proselytising. At first it started by unifying the topic, and then unifying the reading. Hence, no preacher can express his opinion or tackle a certain issue according to his background or education. It will be tackled, however, from the point of view of the regime.”
He added that Ijtihad, or independent reasoning, will cease to exist under the new trend as “what we have studied in the Faculty of Proselytising in Al-Azhar University will not be used”.
Preachers of the ministry defended the concept of the unified sermon saying that it will “unify Muslims in the country’s mosques and will limit false information from flowing”.
Al-Sayed Salamah, a preacher and Imam at the ministry in Beheira, wrote on his social media page that the decision will open the door in front of “radical militants to oppose the homeland while justifying fighting for the religion”.
Salamah warned that the decision will widen the gap between the people and scholars. He added that people at first accepted the decision of unifying the topic as an attempt to “fight terrorism, but the second will not be favoured by the masses”.
Gomaa’s ministry has been largely involved in the state’s war on terror. It has banned dozens of other preachers and undertaken further measures to regulate religious speech in Egypt.