As per report published by Pew research, India will have most Muslim population in world by 2050. This assumption makes us think that Indian Muslims will be in greater need of local leaders who will work for their social, political, economic and spiritual upliftment.
Due to archaic and collapsing curriculum of madrasas, most of the Imams are unaware of modern world’s sensibilities, psychologies and social problems and they are still living in centuries old world.
Imams are only fair choice for local leadership. Currently, India has large number of religious schools far greater than Gulf countries combined. These religious schools are in the form of Madrasas which are dominantly spread across UP, Bihar and West Bengal. Imam, an Arabic word which means “to stand in front of”. A title commonly used for the prayer leader at the mosque. In present context, Imams are serving as local and religious leader apart from leading prayers. They also deliver sermons (Khutbah) on Fridays.
First hand Experience
Few years back, I desire to learn Arabic in order to understand Qur’an so I went to our local Imam to enquire about it. To my surprise he apologised and what he told, led me to investigate more about the present situation of the Imams. Apart from leading prayers in local mosque he is busy in newly setup second hand car sales business which does not leave him ample free time so he won’t be able to spare 1 hour for my class.
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Luckily he took out some time for me and after few more meetings we started discussing more about the madrasa education system and his profession of Imamat. Alas! What I found was really shocking and heart-breaking. Imams generally get 4k to 9k as their monthly salary. To my understanding, this amount might not be sufficient even for a student living in a hostel in metropolitan city.
Let’s think about a family of 4 who survives with this tiny amount of money. Most of us including me were under false impression about the Imam’s condition. They are suppose to be our community leader but in reality they are struggling for the basic necessities of life. Imams are usually Hafiz-e-Quran, who memorizes the holy book [Quran] and goes through books of Hadiths, Fiqh and Grammar etc. in Madrasa. But due to archaic and collapsing curriculum of madrasas, most of the Imams are unaware of modern world’s sensibilities, psychologies and social problems and they are still living in centuries old world. Even Friday sermons delivered by them are mostly Centuries old derived from the books of popular Imams of those days, repeating the same old opinions.
Especially, across the subcontinent Imam’s distance to social reality is very wide. Most of them are indulge in fights on age-old, unsolved and unnecessary social and religious problems. Due to this, instead of playing the role of a leader, Imams are breaking brotherhood among Muslims. Currently there is a grave need of well informed and school educated Imams. Imams can be future champions of community who glue the community and lead it to betterment of overall health of Godlessness, Heal Hearts with spiritualism and humanity.
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Some Imams are fighting by themselves for the betterment of the society. Few have created modern education institutes like Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, Maulana Syed Shahabuddin Salfi Firdausi has made Athar Blood Bank. Some are involved in national and local politics and some are working in primary and secondary schools as a teacher. Recently vocational training run in madrasas have increased low skill works like A/C Fridge repair, plumbing, construction work etc. among Imams.
Following are some solutions to make Imams more relevant and respectably reimbursed.
- Daily Evening Maqtab for kids like Deeniyat, Mumbai
- Weekly Paid and free Personal counselling in mosque
- Turn mosques into Islamic centres like Masjid-e-Nabawi of Prophet’s era. This will generate income for mosque as well as for Imam.
- Yearly Paid Camps: Summer camps, Hajj Camps etc.
- Provide shops/space for business to Imam to earn respectfully.
Although most imams stick to poverty and perform evening maqtab duties in mosques but due to financial burden, some of these pious men are averting towards mystical practices like Taweez-Gonda and other chant practices. Few pervert are running Halala shops. Due to all these diversions Imams are losing grip on society and social problems.
No human being is perfect, but it is imperative that the Imam does not come across as having double-standards and should become role model for the Muslim community.
Multi-dimensional [Educational, policy and organizational] efforts and restructuring is needed to make Imams better which will benefit community later. Wakf and several NGO’s claim to be working towards betterment of situation but it look good on paper only. Every Year thousands complete their education and comes out of Madrasas with no plans and goals, most of them belonging to financially week families, migrate to remote areas away from their hometown and end up becoming Imam in mosque.
There is No official clergy in Islam and no single body to guide govern and support Imams (although All India Organization of Imams of Mosques claims to be representative of All Indian Imams, but for name sake in my opinion). Situation of imams are depressing and atrocious in terms of economic positions. This situation is forcing them to become agents of Mutwalli (trustee of a mosque) instead of holy Imam.
If we, as a common citizen do not provide condensive environment and much needed motivation and facilitates to these Godmen. Soon there will be a time, No one will want to send their kids to madrasas. No human being is perfect, but it is imperative that the Imam does not come across as having double-standards and should become role model for the Muslim community.
Let’s discuss in comment section few simple and urgent solutions for making Imams adequately reimbursed and more equipped.