“Pray that you will marry your beloved this year,” stated a famous Egyptian preacher at a Ramadan Sohour gathering attended largely by teenagers. The popular preacher epitomized Egypt’s challenges by reaching out to his teen supporters and expressing a religious invocation (Doa’a) that they get married soon. Social preaching in Egypt is a field that does not require official credentials or state permission, prompting many young men and women to assume the roles of religious community leaders relying only on a few fake factors.
Young preachers often succeed in their career paths because of their talent in communicating their religious outlooks to their peers, who could easily be labeled as ‘religiously ignorant’ citizens, tending to accept the information that they receive unquestioningly. These preachers then move on to a wider sphere through being hosted by various TV channels that help to establish them as famous preachers, until they finally attain the status of renowned popular figures in our community – without ever being challenged by any authority or submitting to any religious knowledge examination.
Preaching should not be based on the ability to recite a few Quranic verses to audiences; it is more about reaching an advanced state of substantive and spiritual religious understanding. By default, therefore, people who become “preachers” at an early age lack the maturity and the wisdom that the job requires. Young Egyptian preachers, who certainly have the talent of simplifying and conveying our religion to their peers, lack the fundamental personality traits that would qualify them for this high status. Additionally, people in this age bracket are vulnerable to many of life’s temptations that they will have to confront due to their popularity.
“I am not a preacher; I am an intellectual philosopher!” is a flashy declaration made by another Egyptian preacher who suddenly decided to give up his undeserved title of preacher to take up another elevated position that he created for himself. Aside from the fact that he accorded himself a position that should be based upon a deep knowledge, this decision illustrates how popularity that is not backed up by a true understanding of our religion can easily misguide a “preacher” who is supposed to set an example of modesty.
The old-fashioned and unlikeable older preachers have prompted many young citizens to simply set themselves up as “preachers”, reaching out to their peers. Supported by our phony system for authorizing preachers, they have managed to become quite popular. Furthermore, the Egyptian state implicitly welcomes the emergence of these young preachers, who are perceived as a tool to frame society – disregarding the fact that we are thus distancing our youths from truly understanding the good values of our religion.
“I have my own followers” is a claim made by numerous Egyptian preachers who believe that their popularity, and the support of many ignorant followers, legitimizes their preaching and allows them to speak about everything in our society, including religion obviously. Sadly, these preachers strive only to promote themselves, eventually becoming engaged in many commercialized events that attract the wealthy segment of society.
Egypt’s youngsters are our future. They have a better education, often come up with good ideas, and are quite energetic about implementing them. The Egyptian government should work to enable them to occupy leading positions in diverse fields – except for the field of religious preaching, where seniority and wisdom matter immensely. Leadership often comes with specific qualifications and merits that youngsters should work to realize – not achieve simply by being popular.
The damage that many young preachers are causing to society is irreversible! Popularity should not legitimize preaching (or the assumption of leading roles in any other field that requires explicit qualifications). Preaching, even to acquaintances, should be regulated either by the government or by the Al Azhar Institute. Citizens who want to capitalize on their popularity should consider exploring other fields besides religion. We are dealing with many challenges; we must not add new ones by allowing these sham preachers to harm our society.