Egypt Religion (II)

The Awqaf Ministry

Waqf, pl. awqaf, means religious foundation. A waqf is usually a building or a piece of land that is donated by a private person for religious or charitable purposes, for example to care for the sick, widows or orphans. As a rule, it is the income from these properties that is used to fulfill these purposes. The beneficiaries of a waqf can be individuals or public utilities such as mosques, schools or cemeteries. Relatives can also be named as beneficiaries. In any case, the founder must expressly name the beneficiaries in the Waqf contract. The awqaf, which were previously privately administered according to criteria set by the founder, were placed under state control by Mohamed Ali as early as the 19th century. The Awqaf Ministry was founded under Abdel Nasser, which took over the administration of the foundations. In addition, the ministry is also responsible for the administration of the state mosques and the appointment and payment of imams in these mosques, as well as the regulation of tens of thousands of private mosques.

This proximity to the political regime as well as the corruption, which did not stop at the Awqaf Ministry, led to the ministry being increasingly perceived by the public as an instrument of the state to control religion and Muslims. This is likely one of several factors in the success of radical Islamist preachers in many private mosques. Imams and other members of the Awqaf Ministry also took part in numerous demonstrations, calling, among other things, for the Ministry to be rid of corruption and the interference of state security in the appointment of imams and the content of the sermons. In addition, they also raised social demands such as the right of imams to permanent employment and the establishment of a free trade union.

The Sufi Order

A Sufi order, Arabic tariqa sufiya, is an Islamic lay association who seek closeness to God and haqiqa or the ultimate truth through spiritual practices. There are around 80 Sufi orders in Egypt with around three million members. The orders are all members of the Supreme Council of the Sufi Order, which elects a Grand Sheikh as spiritual leader. With a few exceptions, the Sufis were hardly involved in political life under the Mubarak regime. Its leaders encouraged believers to stay away from politics and not to confront the regime. In 2010 the regime intervened in a power struggle within the Supreme Council and finally appointed Sheikh Abdel Hadi Al Qasabi, who was loyal to the regime. After the revolution, a number of Sufi Sheikhs demanded his removal because of his proximity to the regime.

The tensions traditionally that between the mystically oriented Sufi orders and the text-oriented political Islamic movements, which instead of a spiritual approach to God through mystical practices see the literal adherence to their respective interpretations of the religious scriptures as the core of the religion, intensified after the Revolution. Salafist groups emphasize the oneness of God and the Islamic prohibition of polytheism. From this they deduce a ban on the festivals in honor of historical Sufi Sheikhs, which are widespread in Egypt, and destroyed some of the graves of such Sheikhs. The Sufi orders fear that a success of the political Islamic movements of the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood would inevitably jeopardize their own religious orientation and practice. A politicization of some of the Sufi orders can therefore be observed as a reaction. The leader of the ‘Ayimiya Order, one of the most important Egyptian Sufi orders, was a co-founder of the in September 2011. Egyptian Tahrir Party, which is supported by many Sufis. The party cooperates with secular forces and deliberately nominated a number of Copts and women as candidates.

The Coptic Church

The Coptic Church originated in late antiquity and goes back to the evangelist Mark, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt in the 1st century. Coptic, which emerged from the Pharaonic language, is still a sacred language today. The monastery system also originated in Egypt and there are many important monasteries here to this day. The steady expansion of the Coptic Church in Egypt was more or less stopped by the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. At the head of the Coptic Church is the Coptic Pope. After the death of Pope Shenouda III in March 2012 was established in November Theodoros II the new pope elected.

According to philosophynearby, the Coptic Church is organized very hierarchically and there are repeated reports of internal disciplinary measures in the case of bishops or priests, which deviate from the line given above. Many of today’s leaders of the Coptic Church follow the tradition of the Sunday School Movement, a reform movement of the 1940’s and 1050’s that sought to renew the Church and deepen the believers’ bond with religion through social, educational, and community work. In fact, the breadth of the social activities of the Coptic Church, especially in youth work, is unique among the Oriental churches. It even has its own episcopal office for social services and community work. As a result, however, also under the pressure of increasing religious tensions, the Coptic Church again became a central point of reference for the identity of Egyptian Copts. In it you will not only find spiritual guidance in a wide range of life-related questions, but also material support when looking for work, in crises or disputes with Muslims. It was not until the revolution that the beginnings of secular organizational structures emerged from Copts as Copts. The Coptic Pope, who died on March 17, was considered an experienced politician who was able to defuse many sectarian tensions. The new Pope is expected to be more supportive of Coptic civil rights activities outside the institution of the Church than the previous Pope. In it you will not only find spiritual guidance in a wide range of life-related questions, but also material support when looking for work, in crises or disputes with Muslims. It was not until the revolution that the beginnings of secular organizational structures were brought about by Copts as Copts.

Egypt Religion 2

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