Growing discontent around quality of khutbas delivered
Re-training of imams necessary
A petition asking for the State to do something about low quality Khutbas during Jumuah prayer has garnered over 26 million signatures by students and the youth. The petition, started by graduated students at the Dhaka Neuroscience Laboratory (DNL), was initially circulated locally and detailed students unhappiness with both the quality of discussion during Jumuah and the lack of student representation on the mosque board. The issues these students faced however clearly resonated across the Ummah as the petition spread like wildfire, attracting over 1,000,000 signatures in 12 hours.
The Jumuah Khutbah is a sermon given by an Imam on Friday (the Muslims holy day) and often serves as an opportunity to remind the community about their religious obligations whilst also informing them of current affairs and issues. Unfortunately, before the re-establishment of the Khilafa the Khutbah was also under tight regulation and censorship as dictators and politicians recognised the dangers that an informed and educated populate might present to their power. Despite the lifting of these restrictions, many older Imams still unconsciously give Khutbas that avoid any controversial or political topics out of misplaced fear that the Khilafa will clamp down on them. This comes despite the Ministry of Religious Affairs reiterating a number of times that Imams have free-reign when it comes to their Khutbah topic and shouldn’t fear state monitoring or persecution.
Tasneem Imran, a 28 year old PhD candidate from the DNL, is the original author of the petition and hopes the overwhelming response will instigate change:
We have a lot of highly capable, smart and educated Muslims in our area so there is no reason why the Khutbah should be anything but outstanding. Unfortunately, many of the students here and around the Ummah it seems have to endure boring, monotone and uninformative topics week in and week out. We’ve tried to push for changes internally but are constantly blocked by the mosque committee that is comprised of male senior citizens. While we love our older uncles, we also believe we have rights under the Sharia to good religious representation. Not only should students be involved in how the Mosque is run but we also deserve good quality Khutbas and we hope the Khalifa will hear us.
Mosque representation has become a contentious topic over the last few years. With the Khilafa introducing quotas, every Mosque board now has to have 50% female representation within 3 years or have received an exemption by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. This quota system has suffered a massive backlash by mosque committees around the region however the Khalifa has refused to budge. It might just get more difficult soon though as students also demand that the youth have a voice on the mosque committee too.
Imran Abdullah, is a retired tax consultant and president of the Bahraini Cultural Society which manages the local Mosque in east-Bahrain. Not only does he reject the students demands but he questions what religion the Khalifa bases his policies on:
My community has run this Mosque for 67 years. We’ve never had any problems during that entire time. Ever since the Khilafa was re-established though we’ve been under pressure trying to meet their demands. Our Mosque used to be a peaceful place but these days its full of students during the day and at night It’s become a place for socialising and having fun to the point where we have to kick all the people out because they are making too much noise. Now we hear we are supposed to let women help manage the Mosque and make key decisions? I don’t think thats right.
Tasneem Imran believes these views, while widespread, are slowly dying out as the older generation that still lives under an oppressed mentality are replaced by people who understand their religion, are happy to practice it freely and also think that having people in the Mosque no matter how loud is a great thing.
While the Khilafa and Ministry for Religious Affairs mulls over the students petition they have introduced a number of grants that Imams can apply for to undergo retraining to assist with the quality of their Khutbahs. These grants include activities such as:
- Public speaking and oration skills
- How to write an engaging Khutbah
- Topics to choose and how to know your audience
- The importance of discussing current affairs, politics and issues that directly effect the audience
- Brain storming sessions: Where Imams can get together and share their experiences, both positive and negative
We interviewed students around the Ummah and while they were happy to know that there voices were heard, many didn’t express hope that their Imams will take up the opportunities to re-train. The Khalifa has set up a panel to investigate and report their findings over the next 6 weeks.