The council created to address the critical issues of the day and bring to them a proper perspective, informed by the Quran and Sunnah and traditional Muslim instruction will also promote the welfare, interests, and professionalism of imams and scholars. Six months of planning went into the relaunch.
26 scholars and educators from the region have joined the council. Among the goals of the organization is to establish solidarity about the issues of concern, discussion on contemporary Islamic issues, as well as conduct research on topics that are affecting congregations and to bring peace and tranquility in our communities, says Sh Adil Khan.
“We are regrouping with a sharper focus for common goodness,” says Sh Adil Khan, President of the Ulema Council of DMV. Sh Adil Khan has previously served as the Imam of the Muslim Community Center.
The complex world that we live in requires that masjid leaders be skillful in the tasks of management, finances, legal and tax issues, and, of course, the spiritual care of the people who make up their communities.
Communication between scholars is essential says Sh Khan, as is networking.
Some of the broader concerns of the council is to have a space where young imams can bring their issues especially in dealing with board of directors which periodically change whereas the Imam position tends to be be static. Imam salaries, benefits, contracts are all areas that need attention and advocacy. Imams are the lowest paid members of clergy in the United States, according to reports. Imams only make around $30,000 annually and rarely receive a housing stipend.
According to the report "The American Mosque 2011" by University of Kentucky professor Ihsan Bagby, half of the masajid in the U.S. have no full-time staff, and only 44 percent of imams work as paid, full-time leaders.
Advocacy of scholars and imams issues is a prime concern. Many young imams are taken advantage of because they do not know how to negotiate.
Often imams are caught in the middle because they are accepting a paycheck from the board of the institutions, but are concerned with some of the decisions that clearly fall outside the realm of Islamic acceptability regardless of school of thought or the spectrum of opinions that are followed.
They are pressured by the boards of some of the masajid that they are working with to change rulings and need training on how to handle them in positive, constructive ways—building relationships with communities instead of alienating them from the scholars.
Awareness amongst Muslim of Islamic scholarship is a major goal of the organization. A collection of resources for scholars is on the agenda. Extensive research of contemporary issues with daleel (proof or reasoning) that is easily available is a goal, as this will remove turmoil from the communities. “We need a discussion o[n] leeways in an issue, and after research come upon a clear understanding and publicize it so everyone know our position,” says Sh Adil Khan.
The Council hopes that board of masajid will start accepting the valuable role that the council can play as it will provide for stronger communities.
The Council hopes to offer help in personnel procurement, placement assistance, and help masajid boards set a standard for their hirees. The aim is not to impose or disturb the masajid but to let people know scholarly positions and open up a forum— in turn making scholars accessible
Another service that the council will offer is khateeb exchanges and training. Where two masajid can exchange scholars and imams on Fridays so the benefit is spread. .
Grooming of recent graduates of Islamic Studies program on how to handle congregational and pastoral concerns will also be addressed. These young graduates are often left to their own devices. Human behavior was a course taught in traditional schools, says Khan, removed as people like short cuts.
The council also wants to take a look at the current curriculum taught at Islamic seminaries and upgrade it for the needs of the times. As there is no study of psychology established in regional Islamic seminaries, the council would like to reinstate the ilm ul nafsiyat in the curriculum or urge graduates to seek credits in this subject from other sources.
“Imams aren’t ready for counseling when they graduate. Either we need to add it to the curriculum or make them take a degree in this subject,” says Sh Khan. They plan on adding some books to the curriculum and replace others. “Where do we want to take the [institutes of knowledge]?” questions Sh Adil Khan. Self reflection, examining the status quo and planning are critical.
As is passing on the experience of the the elder ulema to the young imams, especially in how to handle sensitive issues of marriage, divorce, domestic violence etc.
The council is inclusive, based on the Ahlul Sunnah wal Jamah and although a majority of the current scholar-members are students of the Hanafi school, they hope that scholars from other methodologies will join. They would like to set up fatwa banks for all major schools of thought so a resource can be created as congregations are increasingly multicultural and diverse in their understanding of Islam.
“We will not impose our views,” says Sh Adil Khan as he discusses that difference in opinion is a natural part of islamic scholarship and agrees that these differences need to be deliberated amongst people of knowledge with the necessary etiquette instead of laymen arguing on internet forums and in masjid hallways.
The council will have 4 meeting every year, an annual retreat for scholars, ad will conduct seminars and workshops joining area masajid and Islamic Centers. One such event was held at the Islamic Community Center of Laurel where Imam Javid Bhaiyat, Imam Safi Khan of Dar us Salaam, Imam Azzarri of PGMA came together to present their opinions on the moon sighting issue, creating bridges that often divide communities.
In 2016, the UCDMV will host the annual national retreat of ulema, where scholars from the US and Canada come together to build bonds.
Participation of women scholars is also on the roster. There are many women scholars in the DC Metro area and there are few ways to access female scholarship. The council hope to address this concern and help those female scholars who have finished their studies and are conducting local halaqas to advertise them and coordinate their efforts.
Members have to be graduates from ’bonafide institutes’ anywhere in the world.
Sh Abdul Mateen Noumani is the senior Adviser for the council. Imam Javed Bhaiyat VP of the MD area, Sh Saalim Noumani VP of Virginia. Sh Omar Farooq is the General Secretary and Imam Ibrahim Muhammad will serve as the Event Manager. Sh Kazi A Hafeez serves as the Treasurer. Mufti Shezad Hussain will head up the Theological Research Department along with Mufti Yusuf bin Yaqub and Mufti Asif Iqbal. Imams Mikaeel Smith and Ahsan Khan serve as the Public Relations Officers. Maulana Amir Shaikh, Maulana Ahmed of Baltimore, Maulana Haleem ur Rahman of Virginia are also members as well as other scholars from cities in Maryland and Virginia.
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