An Alexandria administrative court banned non-specialists from issuing Islamic fatwas (religious edicts) and preaching earlier Monday in the first lawsuit of its kind in Egypt.
The lawsuit was filed by a preacher in Beheira governorate, North Delta, against the decision of the minister of religious endowments not to renew his permit. He was banned from administering sermons because he is accused of belonging to ideologically radical religious groups in the governorate.
The court supported the decision of the minister of religious endowments not to renew the permit of the preacher which allowed him to issue fatwas and administer sermons.
The court revealed that there was an urgent need for Egyptian legislation to identify legally what defines “Al-Mujtahid” (Islamic scholar). An Islamic scholar is qualified to interpret the Islamic Sharia according “Ijtihad” (which means the process of making a legal decision or fatwa by an independent interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah).
The administrative court added that there was a pressing need for legislators to draft laws in order to regulate the issuing of fatwas in Egypt.
It also stated in its court ruling that the ministry of religious endowment’s jurisdiction in Egypt includes Islamic religious preaching.
In March 2015 the ministry of religious endowments decided to place all Islamic cultural institutes and preacher training centres under its direct supervision. It was made clear by the ministry that starting from the next academic year, small institutions would be stopped being used as a backdoor to “spread terrorism and religious terrorism”.
In 2014, the ministry of religious endowment also mandated that all preachers need to acquire a permit before administering sermons on the pulpit, banning all unlicensed preachers. In addition, the ministry prohibited Friday prayers at small less-regulated mosques known as Zawaya.
According to a law signed by former interim-president Adly Mansour following Morsi's ouster, unauthorised preachers could face jail terms of up to a year and maximum fines of LE 50,000 ($7,000).
Authorities have maintained that many unofficial religious centres and small mosques have been used for decades by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups to preach against against the country's national interest and security.