Al-Azhar undersecretary Abbas Shuman and top clerics expressed total rejection of the Ministry of Endowment’s decision to unify Friday sermons by giving preachers written sermons.
Minister of Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa announced on Friday a decision to form operation rooms and committees to observe and monitor imams’ performances regarding the written sermon that was decided by the ministry to be applied across Egypt’s mosques.
Shuman said that he is surprised by the decision, contending that preachers are not required to follow ministry-written speech. He explained that his comment on the decision was not about opposing the ministry rather about clarifying Al-Azahr’s stance on the decision as the leading Sunni institution in Egypt.
Similarly, Roshdy Shalaby, an Al-Azhar scholar, said that the decision contradicts Al-Azhar’s teachings.
”How can top clerics can give a speech to listeners while carrying a paper in their hands,” he deplored, adding that it is inappropriate.
On 14 July, Gomaa announced the start of the implementation of a written unified Friday sermon in all mosques across the country after several meetings with scholars over the past few weeks.
During the meeting, several scholars with different ideologies attended to discuss the decision’s validity.
This past Friday was the second to witness the unified speech since its announcement, and it addressed chastity and purity.
Shalaby argued that the decision might be beneficial for beginner imams in order for them to avoid mistakes, since delivering sermons is a huge responsibility.
Al-Azhar preacher Ibrahim Mohamed agreed with Shalaby’s point of view that written sermons are fine for beginners; however, he asserted that carrying a paper can weaken the imam’s message in being delivered to the listeners, adding that this degrades the imam and his credibility.
He also said the decision will impact the imam’s performance and presentation skills, distorting the process of persuasion.
Next Monday, imams and preachers are planning to gather to protest in front of the ministry to demand the dismissal of the minster of endowments, to abolish of the unified sermon, and to return Da’wah (the preaching of Islam) to Al-Azhar functions, Shalaby said.
Furthermore, Shuman went on to say that the decision is not related to Al-Azhar preachers and suggested that if the ministry required anything from Al-Azhar, it should coordinate with the Islamic Research Academy, which Al-Azhar follows.
He concluded by saying there is “no need to show the issue as conflict between Al-Azhar and the ministry”.
The decision to standardise Friday sermons comes following a string of other measures that the ministry has undertaken over the past three years to tighten its grip over religious discourse in Egypt, claiming it is attempting to regulate it.
Following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013, the ministry has been largely involved in the state’s war on terror. It has banned dozens of preachers and undertaken further measures to regulate religious speech in Egypt.