Over the years, local imams have prided themselves in working to transform their respective communities, from officiating at wedding ceremonies and funerals to standing ready to mediate in family matters, all the while not enjoying the deserved recognition for their efforts. Asserting that addressing financial constraints shuyukh face is long overdue, first deputy president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie says that it is time that community members acknowledge ulama as being professional and qualified individuals who provide vital services to communities.
Allie says that many imams have questioned the role of residents in assuring that local shuyukh enjoy a reasonable standard of living and acknowledged the life president of the MJC, Shaykh Nazeem Mohamed, who introduced a contribution from the MJC toward local ulama, specifically those working within townships, a practice that continues to this day.
“Where is our community in its obligation to us as imams for society? When moulana Igsaan [Hendricks] became the president, he introduced a point of discussion, ‘The Plight of Ulama’, and negotiated with cooperate companies, calling for an approach that could help ulama and imams, and alhamdulillah [some companies] took up the challenge,” he said.
He notes that given the fact that imams remain voiceless, the ulama body will continue to make the call that shuyukh to be granted their rights.
Meanwhile, imam of Rocklands Masjid, moulana Sabri Davids, explains that it is a “sad” situation that imams are given meagre salaries, despite them being qualified within their discipline.
“It is sadness when a senior ‘alim within Mitchells Plain, who has served the community for 25 years, only this year earned R13 000,” he asserted.
Davids further says that while community members are willing to splurge on extravagant weddings, in many instances imams who preside over ceremonies, often spending entire days conducting the various Islamic traditions are not afforded their rights and are paid a meagre R50 for services rendered.
“One very well-known imam droves from Athlone to strand to perform a nikaah, he drove back to Athlone. Then he was asked to say a few words at the reception, so he drove back to strand, then he drove back home. He is then asked to say a few words at the bridesroom and drives back to strand. At the end of the day the father gives the imam a R50,” he elaborated.
Citing requests from imams to attend courses, Davids says that imams are unable to afford the often exorbitant cost of courses and are generally not afforded time-off to attend required classes.
While he agrees that imam’s need to be up-skilled, he asserts that imams are pressurized into being in the masjid at all times and are faced with deductions for time absent.