Al-Sisi meets with Al-Azhar grand imam amid controversy over unified sermon

Sarah El-Sheikh
2 Min Read

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met on Wednesday with Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb to discuss Al-Azhar’s efforts “to correct the image of Islam” and eliminate false concepts about the religion, according to presidency spokesperson Alaa Youssef.

During the meeting, Al-Tayeb reviewed his discussions with officials during his recent visits to various African, Asian, and European countries, noting that his goal was to address the real concepts and principles of Islam, Youssef said.

Al-Tayeb confirmed that Al-Azhar is still the platform of Islam to the world, and also stressed that the religion is innocent of extremist and terrorist groups even if they claim the affiliation to Islamic doctrine.

The two also discussed Al-Azhar’s efforts to develop the religious knowledge and skills of young people around Egypt and improve their scientific and cultural skills in order to qualify them for work in Al-Azhar Global Centre. This institute will be launched soon as the first Islamic entity to confront terrorism and eliminate the disorganisation of fatwas, which are often issued in abundance.

Alaa said the president confirmed Egypt’s continuous support to Al-Azhar’s efforts and role in religious discourse.

Daily News Egypt contacted head of the Religious Sector in the Ministry of Endowments Gaber Al-Tayaa to ask if the meeting included discussion about the unified sermon, but Al-Tayaa said that he has no information about this.

This meeting comes a few days following a dispute between Al-Azhar and the ministry over the written, unified sermons.

The decision to standardise Friday sermons follows a string of other measures that the ministry has undertaken over the past three years to tighten its grip on religious discourse in Egypt in an attempt to regulate it.

Al-Azhar’s top clerics, including the institute’s undersecretary, Abbas Shuman, opposed the decision, concerned that the sermons will lack credibility, creativity, and will distort the connection between an imam and his listeners. They also urged that it is inappropriate considering their long years of study, effort, knowledge, and prestige.

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