Despite friendly statements, Al-Azhar continues to oppose unified Friday sermon

Adham Youssef
3 Min Read
Egypt-based major Islamic Sunni institution Al-Azhar has strongly denounced on Sunday endeavours by the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to publish a cartoon that allegedly offends Islam. (DNE Photo)

Preachers affiliated to Al-Azhar continued to oppose the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ orders concerning a unified Friday sermon. On Friday, the preacher of Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo gave a sermon addressing the rights of Copts, in refutation of the sermon about food security that was determined by the ministry.

Preachers affiliated with the ministry gave the sermon as ordered by the ministry.

On Friday, Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that the unity of Egyptians and religious institutions demands “collective effort” from all sides. He added that the ministry will support every decision calling for unity and that there is no time for division, while asserting that there is space for discussion.

Gomaa added in the Friday statement that the ministry “will not let the Friday sermon be a tool of division amongst Muslims”, explaining that it will gather with leaders of all religious institutions in Al-Azhar to discuss the issue.

“Under the sponsorship of Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, we will work on what serves our religion and our nation,” Gomaa added.

Gomaa’s friendly statements came after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met Wednesday with Al-Tayyeb to discuss the efforts of Al-Azhar in “correcting the image of Islam”.

Following the meeting, Al-Tayyeb met with officials from Al-Azhar’s grand committee, including Gomaa.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives’ Religious Committee also discussed the ongoing dispute between the ministry and Al-Azhar over the sermon, advocating dialogue between the two institutions.

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 over religious discourse in Egypt, in an attempt to regulate it.

Al-Azhar opposed the decision, concerned that the sermons will lack credibility, creativity, and will distort the connection between an imam and his listeners.

The leading Sunni institution urged that it is inappropriate, considering their long years of study, effort, knowledge, and prestige.

Since September 2013, the ministry has launched a number of guidelines that aim to limit “radical preaching” in mosques and to crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric, which back then started to mobilise by using mosques after Friday prayers to call on people to resist the “3 July coup”.


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