Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb and Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa met on Tuesday to discuss an initiative for a new academy to teach preachers specialised skills in the field of evangelism, according to a source in the ministry.
The initiative comes as a bonding step between the two institutions following weeks of exchanging opposing statements on the issue of the unified Friday sermon, the source told Daily News Egypt.
Although the two institutions have been diplomatically close the past week, officials from each institution have continued to oppose the other regarding the unified Friday sermon.
Sparking controversy among preachers, the unified sermon was propagated by the Ministry of Endowments as a tool to limit “the spread of radical preaching and ideas from reaching Egyptian mosques”.
On Tuesday, the ministry announced the topic of the upcoming sermon which is titled “no to terrorism”.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments also told preachers that they must adhere to the text of the unified sermon, despite the challenges preachers are facing.
Enlightened preachers will acknowledge this critical moment and the need to control religious discourse, the ministry added in a statement released Tuesday.
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.
Meanwhile, Al-Tayyeb instructed that the coming Friday sermons should address the pilgrimage season and how Muslims should prepare for this pillar of Islam. He also ordered that the sermons should include safety procedures in order to help pilgrims avoid risking an incident, such as the 2015 Mina stampede. Al-Azhar said that these sermons are part of a campaign by the state to organise the season and lecture the participants on safety.
The leading Sunni institution refused the idea of the unified sermon, urging 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, as the organisation started to mobilise by using mosques after Friday prayers to call on people to resist the 3 July Uprising.