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Controversy in Saudi over use of iPads during Friday sermons

Imams and preachers in mosques around the Kingdom are increasingly resorting to technology to perform their tasks

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Imams and preachers in mosques around the Kingdom are increasingly resorting to technology to perform their tasks and some of them even rely on smart devices such as iPads to read out Friday sermons. However, some religious scholars disapprove of the trend.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Faris, the imam of Umm Ibrahim Al-Faris Mosque in Najran, considered the use of electronic devices instead of paper for referring to notes while delivering Friday sermons as inappropriate and ill-advised.

“Worshippers come to mosques for spiritual enhancement and their feelings must be respected. Giving a sermon looking into an iPad is disrespectful,” said Al-Faris.

Sheikh Saeed Al-Jalil, the imam of Al-Zubair Bin Al-Awam Mosque, said the most important quality of an imam is his ability to influence the hearts and minds of worshippers with sermons that have an effect on them.

“The imam’s moment of truth is when he stands on the minbar (the short flight of steps used as a platform by the preacher in a mosque). The more natural an imam sounds, the stronger his effect will be. It is okay to read out a sermon written on paper, but taking technology into the mosque can be distracting,” said Al-Jalil.

Acting Director of Najran Islamic Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Talibi justified the practice saying the ministry has approved the use of iPads by imams while giving sermons.

“There is no reason to prevent imams from using an iPad or similar devices. Many of them are already using technology in all parts of the Kingdom. The ministry closely monitors the activities of all imams. They are expected to perform their duties diligently but the use of technology will not affect the quality of their work in any manner,” said Talibi.