ISLAMABAD: Friday sermons will now be delivered after they have been approved by the capital administration, which will also monitor them, officials said on Saturday.

The administration had initially decided to issue written sermons to mosques and imambargahs in the city, they said. Scholars from various sectors and administrators of places of worship were called for a meeting with the capital administration in this regard.

The idea was largely opposed by scholars, administrators and prayer leaders, officials said, as a number of mosques and imambargahs are not supervised by the administration but by the Auqaf department.

However, it was later decided that sermons would only be delivered on matters selected by the administration, which were shared with the scholars and prayer leaders, who agreed.

Capital admin initially planned to issue written sermons, but failed to convince prayer leaders

Officials said that a committee that includes administration and Auqaf officials and scholars from all sects was constituted to devise standard operating procedures after discussing and finalising the matter. Guidelines have been issued to the committee by senior officials in this regard, including 35 topics for the sermons.

Scholars and prayer leaders will select a topic from the list provided and deliver a sermon on it, they explained. They must also get the concerned authority’s approval before delivering the sermon.

The capital administration and the Auqaf department will also monitor the sermons with the assistance of the police’s Special Branch.

Officials said the measure was taken as part of an effort to make a code of conduct for Friday sermons, under the directives of the Islamabad chief commissioner. They added that they will also monitor the use of loudspeakers installed at places of worship to curb verbal attacks on sects, hate speech and prevent the sentiments of other religions and sects from being hurt.

Auqaf Deputy Director Islamabad Syed Jawad Muzaffar, when contacted, said the Auqaf department and the administration had no intention to issue written sermons so far. He said it is also impossible to issue and distribute these among a thousand places of worship in Islamabad.

There are 980 mosques and imambargahs in the capital, of which 89 are supervised by the capital administration, he said.

Among the 35 topics given to scholars for the sermon are the five pillars of Islam, Ahl-i-Bait and fundamental rights, he said.

The committee has been given a week to finalise the SOPs, which will be implemented soon, he added.

Masjid Khulfa-i-Rashideen khateeb Maulana Nazir Ahmed Farooqi, when contacted, said the administration had asked that written sermons be delivered during Friday prayers, but the request was declined after discussion. He said a committee has been formed to devise a code of conduct for the sermons, which all the scholars and prayer leaders will cooperate with.

The administration has asked for assistance to deliver sermons on religious harmony, morality and peace, and to condemn terrorism and sectarianism, he said.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2018