Our reliance on Maulvis has made religion a business

Published: January 23, 2016
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Pakistan needs its mosques to integrate its Muslim population. PHOTO: REUTERS

On December 16, 2015, the nation observed the first death anniversary of the APS attack victims. Right now, the country is reeling from the attack on Bacha Khan University. We have suffered multiple disastrous assaults, yet the government remains unconcerned. It still has not taken any concrete steps to implement the National Action Plan.

Various measures had been taken to combat the likelihood of another attack. Security had been beefed up, children had been trained on how to react, school timings had been changed and special instructions were delivered. But these were interim and private measures.

Has the government taken any long-term measures to address terrorism?

Sure, the Army has taken Operation Zarb-e-Azb to new heights and military operations are still raging in several parts of this country. But that’s purely a military effort.

What about public policy?

What has the government done to deter extremists and de-radicalise certain elements in society?

Nothing, really.

While reading about the APS attack, I was mortified to learn that a cleric at a mosque had been a facilitator of the attack. What’s more shocking is that he was employed by the government. That makes the government of Pakistan implicit in the death of 144 people.

It is a fact that should make all our government officials shudder and repent.

Repentance, however, has not come in forms that the Pakistani public can appreciate.

I fail to understand why the government has been unable to identify the problem areas in our fight against terrorism.

It appears that I have no choice but to spell it out for them:

Our mosques need to be reclaimed and reorganised.

We need to have a clear policy regarding the establishment and operations of mosques all over the country. In addition to this, we need to specify the role of the imam and the maulvis at the mosques.

Photo: Reuters

Dr Israr Ahmad often stressed that an average Muslim needs to be able to function without maulvis. According to him, a father can carry out the marriage ceremony (nikkah) of his offspring and a son can lead the prayers of his father’s funeral. We do not need maulvis for these tasks. Our dependence on them has made religion a business.

Maulvi’s and imams are now entrepreneurs. And that too powerful ones!

Since religion is a business now, the seat of the imam of a local mosque is a very lucrative and powerful position. This is why the organisation of the mosque needs to be regulated.

Javed Ahmed Ghamdi has also spoken in favour of the nationalisation of mosques, which in essence is how mosques are supposed to be in Islam.

In recent years, campaigns have been initiated by the civil society about ‘reclaiming our mosques’. However, little or almost no substantial support has been given by the government. Our officials need to realise that these are important measures to combat extremism and should be taken up urgently.

Now that I have identified the problem for our guileless leadership, let me help them out with the drafting of the policy as well.

1. A single mosque for all sects in a neighbourhood should be promoted.

2. Where a single mosque is not possible, one that caters to all sects should be built in every district of cities.

When we have no issues with praying next to all sects in Masjid al Haram and Masjid-e-Nabawi, then why not in our own country?

The Ismaili and Bohri Jamaat Khanas are places of worship and provide a space for social interaction. That’s what mosques are for, building relations within the community. If all the sects are going to one mosque, it would be difficult to incite sectarian violence.

We need to create an atmosphere of community at the mosques. In recent times, people rush in to pray and rush out as soon as they are done. Because of this, the mosque is no longer an effective public space. This is partly due to our fear of mosques. After several mosque bombings, we are conditioned to leave its perimeters as soon as we can.

We can no longer allow our mosques to stay dangerous. It is urgent that we recondition them to become the safe spaces that they are meant to be.

Mosques allow us to connect with those around us, irrespective of their social, financial, cultural and religious backgrounds. We have never been this divided and isolated from one another. Pakistan needs its mosques to integrate its Muslim population. Collective efficacy – does that ring a bell, dear policymakers?

Photo: Reuters

Let me delineate some more points of policy for you.

1. Every mosque should have a female section. Let’s allow women to play leadership roles at the mosque. A woman in the UK recently led the prayers of a mixed congregation. It’s time we welcome back our women into religious public space.

2. All the main mosques of a town must have a library inside, or next to it, with not just religious but also books from a variety of disciplines. This is necessary to convey the message that Islam encourages and promotes education and progress.

And of course, the imams should be literate enough to run these libraries effectively.

Mosques should be centres of knowledge, not fear and extremism.

3. The government should appoint the imams, after strict background checks. These imams should be considered public servants with good salaries and other facilities. Their salaries should be according to their educational degrees and research. An educated imam means educated followers.

4. The sermons at mosques should be monitored. There should be a standardised guideline for sermons that details things they can and cannot say. This needs to be done in order to curtail hate speech and extremist ideas. Moreover, all sermons at Eid prayers must be the same in all the main mosques of the country.

When each town, and ideally each neighbourhood, has a mosque like the one described above, people will not have to send their children to madrassas with militant ties. Each child would be taught the Quran by a responsible teacher who would not instigate the student and preach a violent cause.

This is what is needed, immediately, so that another cleric at a mosque does not facilitate the slaughter of 144 lives or give refuge to terrorists.

 

Amnah Mohasin

Amnah Mohasin

The author is a Law graduate, currently pursuing her Masters in Forensics, Criminology and Law in The Netherlands. When she is not ranting about the socio-economic issues from a subjective point of view in her blog articles, she blogs on behalf of Qaaf se Qanoon - SZABIST's legal and research clinic and legal literacy radio show

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Patwari

    Great article. Kudos to the author. May she prosper
    and find the right trails in life.Recommend

  • Zain Imran

    Excellent post. I agree with your suggestions. The government needs to strictly control and monitor all leaders of all mosques.Recommend

  • maz3tt

    Dr Israr Ahmed has said many other things as well like on ”interest”(sood) which is destroying our economy.

    Our priority should be not to take any dictation from the west but to follow Quran and sunnah.We should be and act as a sovereign state.Recommend

  • Danial

    Government appointing imams? You talk as if our governments have done a great job in appointing officials for public offices. I can totally imagine the imam asking for ‘chai paani’ at entertaining request for ‘ijtimayee dua’. The truth is, we have abandoned our religion, we have abandoned our mosques and madrassahs. Who wants to their child to be an aalim today? Which one of us inspires to serve our religion, instead of pursuing a lucrative career?Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    There should be no madrassas or religious schools. Instead teach children languages and make them competent so that they could read, think and understand rather than stories of clerics.Recommend

  • Feroz

    Religion is a business everywhere, Islam is no different. The real difference is the is that in most religions the Clergy has very little influence on the actions of individuals, because the followers do not allow Priests to play the role of mediator between them and their God. Secondly, no one except Muslims believe that religion should govern every aspect of their lives. Elsewhere, how people live their lives has little connection with the religion they were born it.Recommend

  • Cheebz

    Good attempt though flawed… Its that government that created this mess in the first place when they used religion and money from Saudi to counter soviet war in Afghanistan. Your mosque belongs to your community, how about getting your men to take more interest in them and Islam… Majority of maulvis are doing a splendid job of filling a huge void that our society doesn’t want to take care of. Recommend

  • Ali S

    Sadly, the rot runs several decades deep and it’s going to take a long, long period of persistent action by a dedicated secular govt to reverse it – the author’s suggestions, as good as they are, would not practically register today. Case in point: Lal Masjid is a government-appointed mosque, and look how it has turned out.Recommend

  • Pakistan

    Barring one or two points related to females I find all suggestions very feasible. Ayub Khan Marhoom, ensured sanctity of our Religion and Mosques. All speeches on Fridays and Eids were vetted by the Deputy Commissioners. Then came the democracy of a broken Pakistan under ZABhutto. He purely for reelection purposes let loose the Maulvis and this us the result. Let me add here that Friday Khitab is not a monolog but a declared dialog which no Maulvi has the moral courage to accept.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir

    There is no concept of mixed congregation in Islam. Dr Israr Ahmad, was one of the greatest
    scholars of his time. Islam calls for complete segregation of men and women, and commands
    women to wear the jilbab, when they go out of their homes. Kindly listen to Dr Israr Ahmad,s
    talks attentively, for you seem to be confused.

    Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    if Dr. Israr and Ghamdi has offered nationalization of mosques. There mosques should be taken by government and Shia clerics should be appointed there. Recommend

  • Rafidi

    Very well written. The nationalization of all mosque and madrasa is an important step to combat extremism. all privately owned madrasas should be shut down infact all government schools should provide religious teachings thus no need for religious schools .Recommend

  • Rd px

    We don’t need too many aalims. Most things about islam are very clear. Only a few ulema are required to answer difficult questions.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was well thought out and nicely explained. You do realize that you are suggesting taking on the clergy who are the beneficiaries of the ‘ business of religion ‘ that has spread also to encroach on the political landscape of the country mainly through intimidation…… Why would the maulvis surrender this hold they today have both on the people and the government without a serious fight ? A fight that the government neither has the will nor the stomach for……but once again your suggestions if put in to practice would improve matters greatly.Recommend

  • Shaukat Ashai

    Please can we replace religion classes in schools and colleges with Citizenship classes. Let religion be taught at home.Recommend

  • Uzair

    So religious leaders should become a mouthpiece for our ‘pious’ governments? Our reliance on Maulvis is embedded in our apathy towards learning about religion. Objectifying Maulvis and putting them under one category (of fanatics) is convenient. Fanaticism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Socio-economic and political conditions pave the way for and perpetuate religious and secular fanaticism.Recommend

  • Akhwandk

    Same Government that had Rana Sanaullah as law minister, agree with in concept but implementation totally different ball gameRecommend

  • Mohasin

    I think first you need to check you personality.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    My advice to the author would be not to indulge in the subject of organising a mosque, the house of God or the role of clerics in giving sermons to the believers.
    She is too young and indicates a very limited knowledge of the religion of Islam and the role of clerics and Imams in the houses of God. Let Dr Israr Ahmad, whosoever he is explain his thesis and defend it too.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • mazharuddin

    all the heads of terrorist organization are these educated Mullahs. These steps wont cut any Ice.Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Everyone being a Muslim has his/her right to put forward their point of view. This is a God granted right for every human being.Recommend

  • Shahrez

    I agree with most of what the writer has suggested but there are a couple of suggestions, one of which is in direct opposition to rules of Islam and on the other suggestion, there is no clear consensus of Imams.

    The appointment of Imams by Government is not Islamic in any sense.
    Any one could lead the prayer; the only condition is that he should be better in Taqwa (Muttaqqi) than the rest in a congregation. According to Islam, no prayer leader was to be “employed”, or to be paid for his services. Imamat, is not a profession. Khulafa-e-Rashideen, too, had other means of income or used to receive the stipend for being a Khalifa. They neither received nor demanded money for Imamat.

    There is no consensus, yet, on whether a female can be imam or not. I am not going to argue on what is right but as the issue is still disputed, I doubt bringing female imams would solve anything. Plus, there is no practical benefit for having female imam (in the context of curbing Terrorism). A sincere female imam can not do any better than a sincere male imam in that regard. Since both genders are equal, she’d be just as good as a male imam. If she is going to be just as good what’s the point of having one in the first place since scholars have no clear verdict on the issue it will only spark more debate, and more sectarianism. If majority of scholars come to the agreement that women can and should do the Imamat, then they must do that and we, the men, shouldn’t have any problem.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    “A woman in the UK recently led the prayers of a mixed congregation. It’s time we welcome back our women into religious public space.”

    A nice and balanced article, though encouraging mixed congregation prayers was a good idea. If no male Imam is available women may lead prayers, but to women only. There are many other leadership roles for women in the mosque.
    Leading mixed congregation is not one of them.Recommend

  • Javeria

    If we follow your chain of thought, then we have also abandoned our government. Everyone wants to be a businessman or leave the country. No one wants to be a honest government official. Yes, it is difficult, but that is how things are changed.

    We need solutions, not criticism to everything.Recommend

  • Javeria

    How exactly are the maulvis doing a splendid job?Recommend

  • Javeria

    What do you think should be done then? Allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to build a mosque and preach their brand of religion?Recommend

  • Hamad

    My advice to you is to be a little less judgemental and arrogant. You have no right to tell anyone what they can and what they cannot talk about. I do not agree with everything she has to say but I will defend her right to say it. This is how a nation progresses- when people question things and want to change things.Recommend

  • Zain

    Men and women are not completely separated in Makkah. How do you explain that? And what do Dr. Israr’s views on men and women have to do with the national policy on mosques as part of NAP?

    I do not get why we as a nation try to just bring people down for example by calling the author confused, when the main topic of her article is completely different.Recommend

  • uzairbalooch

    How many maulvis have you listened?Recommend

  • uzairbalooch

    There is a hadith saying that praying in Home for woman is better then going to masjid .criticism should be constructive , not for the sake of criticism.Recommend

  • Javeria

    Enough to say that I agree with the writer. Not all of them are bad, but most are ignorant and ignorance causes havoc.Recommend

  • Zain

    As usual we make it a gender issue. There is no point in having these discussions when everything comes down to what the Quran and Ahadith have to say about men and women interacting. This article is not about that. Try to move forward from these discussions.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    This is what is needed, immediately, so that another cleric at a mosque does not facilitate the slaughter of 144 lives or give refuge to terrorists.

    If the police then picks her up on a charge of agitation and blesphamy then she should not squawk on the world media against the religion clerics. I would give the same advice to you as well and your cahorts if you carry similar views about the religion of Islam which has no relation with violence.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • rex minor

    The god of Ibrahim gives no right to his creation beyond the use of brain to follow his commands. No critique. One believes or stays outside the limits. The worst profession for a human is to become the devils advocate by prosecutig and defending or announcing judgments depending upon the employer whereas the most honourable and the oldest profession being of those who preach and spread the word of god. Honour them and give them the respect they deserve without any provokation. I am not a preacher and like you under no obligation to follow their sermons.

    Rex minorRecommend

  • rex minor

    It is not the ignorance which causes havoc- your term but the one who acts as the devils advocate and promotes the communist doctrine of government control over peoples activities including their faith.

    Rex minorRecommend

  • siesmann

    Maulvis need to stay in mosques.Their encroachment onto every sphere of life is what causes problems.Recommend

  • Ansari

    Our reliance on Maulvi? Obviously, when most of us cant even recite the Quran in a proper manner, we indeed have to rely on “Maulvi”. When most of us are unaware of even the basic “masail’ of the fundamental rituals and ibadaat of Islam, let alone the greater intellectual areas of fiqh, we indeed have to rely on “Maulvi”.
    Most of us are of the view that we should not be dependent on Maulvi for our deen, but has any of us done anything to equip ourselves with such knowledge and character that can make us independent, at least in terms of daily routine rituals? Being Maulvi does not mean just leading the prayers, funerals and marriages. It requires the person to undergo a rigorous procedure leading him towards the equipment of the thorough and deep knowledge of Quran and Sunnah that could guide you in every, EVERY, aspect of life, and that obviously requires commitment, devotion and sacrifices (which most of us do not want to make).
    Just ask your self, have you ever done anything to get your self furnished with ilm e deen? The door is open for everyone, get yourself equipped with what it takes to be a “Maulvi”, and you will not need to be dependent on anyone. Allocating all of your resources to your worldly developments, and expecting to be dependent in deen by just googling around in your comfort pillows, that’s just a daydream.Recommend