The Friday prayer in the Islamic Republic of Iran is traditionally the day on which the country’s rulers issue fatwas, rulings that guide Islamic law.
The fatwas can influence public life, but it’s usually only the government that has the power to impose them.
But the Friday prayer, traditionally one of the holiest days in the Shiite Muslim nation, has become increasingly controversial as tensions rise with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.
The country’s Islamic leaders say the Friday prayers are an essential pillar of their religion and are intended to protect it from foreign influence.
Last year, the Supreme Leader issued an order to allow all Friday prayers to be celebrated.
In the past year, Saudi Arabia has tried to clamp down on Friday prayers and has threatened to cut off the countrys oil imports unless the country opens up its borders.
Iran, meanwhile, has tried for years to maintain the Friday mosque as a way of showing support for the country, especially for its Shiite minority, and has been increasingly aggressive in enforcing the restrictions.
Iranian officials have claimed that the Friday sermon serves a special purpose for Iran and is intended to promote Islamic law and religion.
Saudi Arabia and other nations have long accused Iran of supporting terrorism and of trying to destabilize the Middle East by spreading its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
But in recent years, Iran has been trying to make the Friday Mosque more visible, according to Saudi officials.
The Friday sermon was one of several changes to the daily prayers in the country last year that Iranian officials say have been intended to appease the Saudis.
Saudi authorities began the change to Friday prayers in 2009 and again in 2016.
The changes were meant to be seen as a move toward tolerance and acceptance.
But Iran has said the changes were a ploy by Saudi Arabia to push the Islamic nation to change its religion.
The Saudi regime and its allies, however, have said the change is a ploy to undermine Iran’s sovereignty and religious identity.
In 2017, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he was “disappointed” with Iran for not allowing the Friday evening prayers to continue.
“Iran’s religious leaders should allow the prayer to continue to be a part of the Islamic world,” al-Zubaidi said.
Saudi officials have said Iran is trying to push its religious identity through its actions in the Middle Eastern region and that its leaders are seeking to weaken Iran.
In response to the Saudi regime’s threats, Iran responded by banning the Friday night prayers in Iran in 2018.
The ruling system, which includes the country and its neighboring countries, has a Shiite majority, but Shiite Muslims are the majority in Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sought to distance himself from the Saudi-Iranian rivalry and to emphasize that Iran has the right to protect its national identity.
He also has taken a more conciliatory approach toward Saudi Arabia, calling the kingdom’s actions a “grave infringement” on the Islamic faith.
But Iranian leaders have continued to push for Friday prayers as a means of bolstering their religion.
They say it helps to preserve the faith, promote a sense of unity among the people, and give them a sense that they are part of a unified country. ____