The House of Representatives’ Religious Committee will discuss Wednesday the ongoing dispute between the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar over the unified Friday sermon.
The discussion will take place in the presence of representatives from the two institutions and other ministers, and is expected to take place after the weekly cabinet meeting. The committee will also discuss the Hajj season, which will begin in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, the ministry published this Friday’s unified sermon, which is titled “food security and protecting it”, amid continued resistance and criticism from Al-Azhar preachers.
The sermon was published in full paragraphs, as opposed to previous weeks when the ministry just published guidelines for the preachers to follow.
Minister Mokhtar Gomaa stressed that all preachers must follow the text and limit the time of the sermon to 10-15 minutes. “We are using dialogue and other methods of convincing without any oppression or forcing,” the ministry added.
Several preachers from Al-Azhar are planning to stage a demonstration in support of Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb and his refusal of the unified sermon.
The dispute has brought to light the clash of both institutions’ role in regulating the religious public sphere in Egypt.
Al-Azhar is the highest Sunni authority in the country. Under the 2014 Constitution it is an advisory institution, which the executive branch consults. Internationally, Al-Azhar has maintained a positive reputation, as it spearheaded Egypt’s diplomatic missions condemning the practices and ideologies of extremist group Islamic State.
Meanwhile, Gomaa’s ministry has been an important pillar in propping up the post-3 July 2013 regime as well as countering the Muslim Brotherhood and its religious preachers locally.
On Wednesday, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with Al-Tayyeb to discuss the efforts of Al-Azhar in “correcting the image of Islam”, and the Grand Imam’s foreign tours to several Asian, European, and African countries.