Imams and muezzins in mosques are revered and respected but are poorly paid, not enough remuneration for a decent, dignified living. A majority of them are paid so little that they find it tough to meet the bare minimum daily expenses, leave alone spending necessary amounts on healthcare or education for their children.
There are nearly 5,000 mosques in the GHMC limits. Each employs a muezzin, the person who gives call five-times a day for prayer, and an imam, the one who leads the mandatory daily prayers.
According to ulema, there are two opinions in Sharia or Islamic law. One says that there is no provision for the imam or muezzin to be paid for their duties towards the community since what they are doing is for the sake of God. They would be rewarded by God in the here-after life, they say. But there is another opinion that says, and is widely practised, that the community that the imam or muezzin are serving, should pay for their time and travel since they normally do not take up any other job for a living.
In the olden days when a state was governed by Muslim rulers, the imams and muezzins were given landed property by the government in lieu of their services. They used to live off that land. The people in a village or neighbourhood where these two men performed their duties also gave away a small portion from their produce or money to them.
State Wakf Board (SWB) chief executive officer Habeebuddin Ahmed concedes that the salaries to the imams and muezzins are paltry and should be urgently reviewed. He said there are only two mosques-Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid, Public Gardens-where the staff is paid salaries by the government since they fall under the minority welfare department. Majority of the mosques are registered with the SWB. The board does not pay salaries to the imams, muezzin or any other staff directly. It is the managing committee of the mosque that is registered with the board that pays the salaries.
According to sources, generally the salary of an imam ranges between Rs 3000 and Rs 5000. Since Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid are an exception, the imams and muezzins there are paid higher salaries. On the other hand, a muezzin generally gets Rs 2000 to Rs 3000. “If you leave out a dozen or so exceptions, the salaries of most are very low. Even a person who has spent 10 to 15 years of service does not get enough to run his home,” Maulana Rizwa Qureshi, Imam of Mecca Masjid said.
Sources, giving an example of the exploitation of the imams, said that the prayer leader of Chowk ki Masjid, which has about 80 shops endowed to it, gets less than Rs 4,500 even after putting in service for over 30 years. The muezzin here gets only Rs 3000 per month. The imam of Masjid-e-Mandi at Mir Alam gets even less, Rs 3000 per month.
Shaikh Ahmed Mohiuddin, rector of Darul Uloom, Nomania, says that the Muslim community, particularly the leaders and ulema should sit together to discuss this serious issue and come with a system which should properly serve the imams and other staff of mosques. “Yes, Allah will reward them in the life here after or even here. But what about the community? Why should it not pay for the time the imams and muezzins spend to serve them,” he asked.
Maulana Qureshi says that given the condition of the Wakf Board, nothing much can be expected from it. But the political leadership and Ulema should resolve to force the board or devise some other mechanism whereby the imams and muezzins should be able to live decently and serve the community properly.
According to sources, generally the salary of an imam ranges between Rs 3000 and Rs 5000. Since Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid are an exception, the imams and muezzins there are paid higher salaries. On the other hand, a muezzin generally gets Rs 2000 to Rs 3000.