Monday, 22 December 2014

The Maulvi is a bureaucrat; Why Treat him Differently?

If a system such as this is developed, it will soon fall in sync with the aspirations of us ordinary Muslims who find no incompatibility between our faith and the modern world.

If the government is serious about eradicating fundamentalism, it must give incentive to the maulvi.

This is how it works. For the last four or five decades, global and local forces have offered all manner of incentives to the maulvi to develop a radical and fundamentalist version of Islam. Now if we want the maulvi to change, a new system of incentives has to be developed.

The government is regulating every market and profession except the mosque and the maulvi. The maulvi continues to operate freely and frequently not in the interest of the public. The possibility of a foreign hand manipulating the maulvi is always under popular consideration. Fundamentalism has been fuelled mainly because this whole mosque-maulvi enterprise is being led by the unenlightened and they are easy to manipulate by forces that seek to retard Pakistan's path to modernity.

Currently, the maulvi has no master other than the vaguely defined politico-denominational organisations they might adhere to. No license is necessary to set up a mosque. The ownership and management of mosques is not regulated.

The community that the maulvi and mosque are supposed to serve has hardly any say in the running of the mosque or the behaviour of the maulvi. Neighbourhoods cringe when the maulvi misuses the loudspeaker to say things that they may not agree with. They have no say in how loud, for how long, and when, he can turn on his loudspeaker. They certainly cannot expect any human sympathy or forgiveness from the maulvi. He is there only to scare them and interpret Islam very narrowly.

Unlike the early days of Islam, the mosque is no longer a community place. No learning activities take place there. No seminars, no birthday parties or weddings can take place there. The maulvi uses it virtually as a personal domain.

We must change the system of managing the mosque and managing the maulvi to make this combine more responsive to the community if the objective of enlightened moderation is to be achieved.

If the maulvi wase somehow bureaucratised into a hierarchy that could control and incentivise his thinking, we would be closer to moderation.

Consider a system of mosque and maulvi regulation based on the following principles:
All mosques, when built, should be publicly owned and subject to a system of community control.

Defined areas to be served by the mosque would elect a mosque committee to run the mosque and define and appraise the work of the maulvi. The case for another mosque in the mosque area should be very carefully made. The use of a loudspeaker should be carefully regulated for Azan only and loud enough only to cover the mosque area gently.

Community uses for the mosque should be clearly defined. Learning activities at mosques should be actively encouraged.

A hierarchy of mosques should be developed on the basis of size and the area that they serve. Smaller mosques in the area of larger mosques should not be allowed to use loudspeakers and should have very confined roles for serving tightly knit communities on a personalised basis. The larger mosques should have libraries, internet access and learning facilities. All mosques should display a learning calendar based on professional seminars and training delivered by professionals in the community. The maulvi's performance should include the development and management of this calendar.

The profession of maulvi should be organised such that there are professional standards and peer and community review. The following principles could be useful:

Entry: Maulvi should only be allowed to enter the profession on the basis of competitive exams. Ideally these exams should test for knowledge of Islam, comparative religion, humanities, and social science.

Career: To graduate to managing a bigger mosque, knowledge of English and ability to use the internet should be considered necessary. The maulvi should be ranked and graded and should have clear guidelines for promotions. The mosque committee must every year write a performance report of the local maulvi while the district Auqaf head, who should be a member of the maulvi service, would write another. The maulvi should have a maximum tenure of four years in a mosque. An Auqaf council, made up of the senior-most maulvis who have been promoted within the system after having served in many positions, should manage the whole system.

Peer and community review: The maulvi should be encouraged to publish selected sermons as well as his personal research in journals that should be created for this purpose. Debates should be encouraged. The community, the maulvi profession and especially the Auqaf council could occasionally highlight the best sermons and research and use these as an element in the evaluation of the maulvi.

Fatwas and other religious injunctions: In this system, then, fatwas and religious injunctions cannot be initiated by any maulvi. These will only be issued by the Auqaf council with adequate review by the council and the senior layers of maulvis.

Sectarian concerns: The constitution of the Auqaf council would have to be such as to allow some sect-specific issues to be referred only to the members of the council belonging to that sect. No sect big or small should have the feeling that it is losing out to a tyranny of the majority.
If a system such as this is developed, it will soon fall in sync with the aspirations of us ordinary Muslims who find no incompatibility between our faith and the modern world. Our community will also develop as it gets more integrated through a system of mosque management that helps learning and skill development.

Most important, our youth will be the biggest gainers as they benefit from the community mosque that promotes skill development.