I once graced an occasion to admonish parents on child upbringing. While addressing the choice of career for children, I rhetorically quizzed thus: “Who will like his/her child become an imam/alfa?”

Despite the teeming number of attendees, no hand was seen raised in the affirmative – their jaws were rather displayed in laughter. Hmm! Of course, they want their children to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots, astronauts, presidents, governors. Reasons for the apathy were not far fetched, one of which was that imams or alfas are usually not wealthy. Excruciating!

Muslims want to be led in solah by an imam/alfa, but they don’t desire the imamship responsibility for their children. Parents want their children taught the Qur’an by an alfa/imam, but they despise their children ending up as alfas. Muslims want their dead relations buried Islamically by alfas, but they do not wish such a job taken up by their children. What future then has the religion?

I have come to conclude that if Islam were of man, its flourishing fame would have gone into extinction with the ill-attitude of parents towards the career path of being an imam/alfa. If there are no imams sacrificially manning our mosques, isn’t it shame on us all?

However, the belief system that imams/alfas are poor and wallow in penury is a notion ignorantly and/or premeditatedly factored by us. We made it so. And it can change if we want to.

Consider this formula:

An imam runs a Qur’an/Arabic school with the number of learners totalling 50 and each paying #2,000 monthly. The imam, apparently, indisputably, undeniably, is #100,000 rich at the end of each month. If the pay is on a scale of #1,000 monthly, he is #50,000 rich at month end. This – the former or the latter – is more than the monthly remuneration of some civil servants. If the imam were to employ more hands and get them salaried on a monthly basis, what would remain of the #100k would still be significantly, manageably spendable.

Aside the #100k that is accruable to the teaching service of the imam, if he is salaried from the coffers of the mosque, that will be an augmentation of his monthly stipend. The treasury from which the imam will be salaried may not necessarily be from the daily, weekly meagre fisebiliLlaah (depending on the fatness of the mosque’s purse). Some financially potent individuals may do so on volunteerism to maximize eternal rewards. It is workable. It is practicable. Some people are doing it.

The imam may be afforded a free accommodation within or closely outside the mosque. Other benefits as deemed appropriate by executives may be added for the imam’s enjoyment, too. Some may be annual, as in: Eidul Fitr/Eidul Adha bonuses like salary earners.

But it is unfortunate, so disheartening that imams/alfas are rather maltreated by us. Their job is not accorded the required attention. They are employed but not properly, monetarily deployed. They are hired with no pay being wired into their pockets. Their profession is not institutionalised. The reason they devised various extortionist means to have ends meet. The factor behind exploitation of people at naming, nikaah, haflah (commonly known as walimat) and even at burials. It’s painful, indeed!

Parents don’t pay their children’s madrasah fees, but they pay school fees regularly. What injustice! They impoverish and pauperize those who are striving to make their offsprings attain mundane and spiritual success. Parents are the reason many alfas took to soothsaying to make a living under the guise of Islam.

Mosque executives, too, don’t consider the imam and other alfas worthy of emoluments despite the financial ableness of the mosque. They are the stumbling blocks in the wheel of progress of the imams.

Imams can be rich. The job is lucrative if only the right thing can be done.


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