Is restricting religious speech and sermons to Al-Azhar graduates and Ministry of Religious Endowments imams the solution to uncontrolled religious discourse (according to both Islamic jurisprudence and on the preaching level), or is it a decision that will only further complicate and aggravate the problem?
Does the root of the problem lie in the person who stands on the pulpit and his leanings, or in the wording of his speech by which he directs and guides his audience? Then, is the Ministry of Religious Endowments capable of handling alone the responsibility of tens of thousands of pulpits?
If the Ministry of Religious Endowments is searching for a scientifically logical solution, and not causing a temporary media sensation, it should rather set conditions and determinants that would be applied on whoever ascends the pulpit. But it has chosen the way that it thought easier, unaware that it will open the whole of Egypt to the detriment of underground preaching (taking liberty to describe the preaching as such), bringing with it all the baggage of destruction to younger generations, and the distortion of its psyche.
To refresh memory, I will say that Khomeini's speeches and lessons were flown from Paris to Tehran recorded on tapes ready to be launched all over Iran secretly, under the authorities' noses, while the masses' sentiments were impassioned before even hearing it. Khomeini, who was exiled first to Iraq then once again to Paris, was capable through secretly distributed cassettes to rage a sweeping revolution that overthrew a well established regime backed by the United States.
Let us set an objective that is indisputable then. Yes, Egypt — even the entire Islamic nation — needs religious discourse to be reformed in order that its comprehension corresponds to the comprehension of the first generation of Muslims who perceived the causes of revelation of Quranic verses, recognises the semantics of the Prophet's sayings, grasps the requirements of Man in different times and places, and makes the purposes of Sharia its guiding compass.
Our nation needs an unconventional Islamic preaching discourse that awakens the dozing body from its repose, breathes into its mind determination and persistence and drives it to occupy its deserved position in the forefront of nations. It needs to shed the discourse that attributes falsifications to Allah without knowledge, monopolises understanding without right, accuses the dissenter of unbelief without evidence, and is lax concerning sanctities without devoutness.
The state, which wants a religious discourse that reforms society, eliminates bigotry and eradicates ignorance, is asked to spend leisurely on the preaching institutions and Al-Azhar at the forefront. This is with the aim of producing generations of preachers, researchers and scholars who really understand the message of Islam and at the same time do not lack knowledge of the sciences, of management, understands the psychology of the masses and perfects the usage of social networking sites. This goes along with providing preachers with continuous training courses aiming at upgrading their scientific and cultural skills.
Thus, the preachers will devote their lives to transfering this understanding to their societies without worrying about their livelihood or being preoccupied with working in an additional job.
Among the preaching lot, the Salafists occupy a prominent position and they also, with all differences, need to modify their preaching priorities and conduct a radical change in the way of talking to societies, and before all this begin with comprehending the status of their societies — finding excuses for the old before the young, tackling the roots of the problems instead of stopping superficially in the face of symptoms, looking at the dissenter with the eye of the healing physician, or the caring preacher, not the hard-hearted executioner.
The Salafists won't achieve this except through an integrated comprehension of the purposes, ethics and behaviour of Sharia. This needs a more comprehensive elucidation, which I will tackle in another article, God willing.