Islam always called for harmony between families and humanity as a whole.
A Hadith by the Prophet Mohammed says: “You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness [insomnia] and fever with it.”
In order for this relationship to be achieved, family ties need to be observed as it a sign of faith.
The sermon cites an incident when a man came to the Prophet Mohammed and said: “Direct me to a deed which draws me near to Paradise and takes me away from the fire [of hell].”
Upon hearing this, the Prophet Mohammed replied: “You worship Allah and never associate anything with Him, establish prayer, and pay Zakat, and do good to your kin.”
When the man turned his back, the Prophet Mohammed remarked: “If he adheres to what he has been ordered to do, he would enter Paradise.”
Calls to boost image of UAE imams
ABU DHABI // Improving the image of religious teachers is as important as increasing financial incentives to attract more Emiratis to the job, say UAE nationals.
FNC members this week questioned Hamdan Al Mazrouei about the reason only 4 per cent of imams and muezzins in the country were UAE nationals. Mr Al Mazrouei is the chairman of Awqaf, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
He said factors such as the long hours and perceptions about low wages were part of the problem.
But some Emiratis said they believed there were other reasons as well.
Khalfan Al Muhairbi, 32, the chief executive of the Gulf Arabian Group, said the social commitments of Emiratis made it hard for them to be imams, so providing them with a personal assistant was essential. “The imam needs to be at the mosque an hour before each prayer and stay for half an hour after, fives time a day, which is a lot,” said Mr Al Muhairbi.
However, he voiced optimism that the Government’s support to improve the working hours of religious teachers would result in more Emiratis leading prayers and preaching.
Mr Al Muhairbi said he was incapable of becoming an imam or muezzin regardless of shorter working hours, but he would be happy to help anyone who chooses to become an imam.
“From my position I will also try to give the support I can to make this work,” he said.
Zainab Amer, a 30-year-old Emirati, said more should be done to change public perception about the profession.
Ms Amer said many people thought that the role entailed political interference at times.
“Imams don’t feel safe with everything going on in politics. If I’m going to be monitored all the time I don’t think I’m going to be comfortable in doing this job,” she said.
Ms Amer said there should be further rewards if imams are inspirational in their sermons.
“They could assign them to mosques with a high number of attendees, based on their skills and interesting preaching skills,” she said. Having Emirati imams was important to the country, she added, as they could deliver sermons “more effectively”.
“When you have the Friday sermon recited by an expat, you sometimes find that the locals are not focused and they don’t get influenced as much by the message,” said Ms Amer.
She also suggested brainstorming sessions with imams to select relevant discussion topics.
Ali Al Abbadi, a 43-year-old Emirati lawyer in Abu Dhabi, said higher salaries were necessary but more could be done to offer imams emotional and social support.
“[Awqaf] should meet with them [to discuss] their problems and try to solve them,” he said.
“So, if someone needs to get married, they could help him find a wife and settle down.”
A UAE University professor, who asked not be named, said the university had a degree in Sharia studies but it could not qualify graduates to become imams. “To graduate from this degree the student should have memorised a number of parts from the Quran,” said the academic.
But an imam needs to have memorised the entire Quran in tajweed and have thorough knowledge of related studies. And although there is a compulsory subject called “the fiqh of da’awa [preaching] and worship”, it is not sufficient either, so the professor suggested introducing a specialised course to prepare people for a career as an imam.