Mahmoud Al-Habbash was appointed Minister of Religious Affairs by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in June 2009. He served in that position until June 2014, when the Fatah-Hamas unity government was formed. He was then appointed Supreme
Shari’ah Judge and Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari'ah Justice.
In a press conference broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Habbash explained that when he served as Minister of Religious Affairs, he was responsible for “all activity within the mosques” including the sermons, which require prior approval by his ministry:
“It should be noted that the Ministry of Religious Affairs held the press briefing in the conference hall at the Ministry of Information to talk about the steps taken by the PA in order to regulate the activity of the mosques…
Al-Habbash [PA Minister of Religious Affairs] emphasized that the mosques and everything related to them belong to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, from the employees – the imam, the speaker, the Quran teacher, the librarian, the caretakers and custodians –via the mosque and its adjacent structures… to regulation of the activity and the functioning, in accordance with Shari’ah and civil law…
He emphasized that the Ministry is responsible for all activity within the mosques – the functioning, the centers for Quran study, the calls to prayer, and the sermons – and that the Ministry would not take lightly or be negligent in the fulfillment of its obligation. He noted that the religious lessons, Quran study and other activities going on in the mosques require prior approval by the Ministry.” [Al-Ayyam, Aug. 16, 2010]
In his capacity as minister, Al-Habbash delivered the Friday sermons transmitted on official PA TV, using them to convey different messages to the people. The sermons, many which of are documented on PMW’s website, are a reflection of the messages that the Ministry of Religious Affairs choose to disseminate to the Palestinian people.
A recurring message propagated in Al-Habbash's sermons is that Palestinians are in a Ribat, an eternal religious conflict with Israel. In many of his sermons, Al-Habbash emphasizes the importance of Ribat as a religious duty incumbent upon all Muslim Palestinians, as expressed in the following example:
"Allah has preordained for us the Ribat (religious war) on this blessed land. We are committed to it by Allah’s command. Let no one be mistaken or under the illusion that Ribat (religious war) is a choice and nothing more. It is a commandment that necessitates hardship and requires the person to rush to fulfill this command. If Allah has chosen you for Ribat on the land of Ribat, you, the choicest of God’s servants, then this is an honor. The enemy is patient, it is waiting for the nation to collapse. The struggle over this land is not merely a struggle over a piece of land here or there. Not at all. The struggle has the symbolism of holiness, or blessing. It is a struggle between those whom Allah has chosen for Ribat and those who are trying to mutilate the land of Ribat." [Official PA TV, Feb. 12, 2010]