A3   Appendix 3:  The MINAB Guidelines

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, MINAB, produced a set of guidelines, recommendations covering ways in which masjids, 'mosques', might conduct themselves in order to provide a better level of community engagement and demonstrate support for community cohesion.  While I do not suggest for a minute that any but a handful of well-known masjids do not strive to this end, most masjids are far too small to take on any such responsibilities effectively, what is more important to note is that (i) these guidelines are pretty insipid, and (ii) MINAB has no actual authority over any masjid by which these or any other guidelines could be implemented.

The main part of this brief pamphlet is reproduced here, though without endorsement from MuslimsInBritain.org.  Readers might detect some subtle intimations of the kinds of problems I have elaborated more forthrightly in the main section, but will be disappointed to find that the Guidelines contain next to nothing in the way of practical advice, merely platitudes.

Good Practice Guide For Mosques And Imams In Britain


"The Mosque is central to Islam's presence in society. It is also the centre of Muslim communal life. It is not only a space for prayer but also a 'community centre', where pre-existing networks of solidarity are reinforced and where various rites that mark Islamic family life such as marriage, male circumcision and death take place. Thanks to Zakaah. or religiously-mandated alms-giving, the Mosque is also a place where those who are in need of financial aid can seek help. The cost of a burial (or repatriation to the sending country) and money for rent and travel can all be financed through the Mosque or by a special collection undertaken by worshippers. It is recognised however that many burial committees exist along ethnic, socio-political and cultural groupings, which provide a means of financial support at times of need. Some of the larger Mosques in Britain also operate as cultural centres and community centres, and as vehicles for social welfare and philanthropy, since it is through the Mosques that Zakaah is channeled. They organise visits to the sick and bereaved, and play a significant role in providing religious education classes so that children may be nurtured in the Muslim faith and to help to ensure that Muslim beliefs and culture can be transmitted and maintained. Latterly a number of Imams in Britain have begun to assume pastoral roles. broadly similar to those of Christian chaplains, in hospitals, prisons and universities.

While Mosques are in theory open to all Muslims, they can, in practice, operate all sorts of closures. Male elders have tended to claim the Mosque, arguably the most 'serious' and 'prestigious' Islamic space, as their own. The celebration of spaces associated with popular culture tends to be left to women and young men. Attempts by members of these other constituencies to challenge the authority of elders is sometimes briskly opposed and certainly not encouraged.7

The Role of the Mosque

Up to ages between 12 and 14 most Muslim children attend a local Mosque. The pedagogical style is typically different from what is experienced in mainstream schools. It usually places emphasis on memorising the Holy Qur'an in Arabic and oral repetition, which can result in inadequate intellectual debate. Often, Imams and other teachers at the Mosques have received their own education, both secular and religious, outside Britain. There is an increasingly widespread perception in Muslim communities that Imams can often be ill-equipped to help young Muslims cope with issues such as unemployment, racism, Islamophobia, drugs and the negative attractions of Western youth culture. By and large the quality of educational activities provided by Mosques for young people over the age of 14 can be significantly enhanced.

Although many Mosques provide a cursory service to worshippers, there are a number that have been developing a range of additional services relevant to the changing needs of the Muslim community. Nevertheless, the current practices of many of the existing institutions could be professionalised and made more inclusive. Below are a number of activities carried out by some Mosques and could be offered by others.

a.   Education: Evening and weekend Qur'an classes are amongst the most common services provided to children. A huge opportunity exists to standardise this service through the development of a national curriculum, providing training to teachers and producing basic teaching materials. It is also an opportunity to reinforce some of the positive messages of community cohesion and inter-faith dialogue.

b.   Youth Engagement: Young people's involvement in the management structures of Mosques remains minimal. Mosques should do more to encourage young people contribute their skills and capabilities to capacity-build management committees.

c.   Women: Many Mosques provide specific facilities for women including prayer facilities. However, there still remains a large number that do not have facilities for women due to resource and space limitations and cultural misunderstandings of Islam in relation to the status of women. Education and awareness needs to increase amongst Mosque committees and Imams on the importance of providing space and facilities for women. Women's requirements need to be planned into the design of Mosques and extension plans as well as increasing ways for women to participate in decision making committees.

d. Outreach: An increasing number of Mosques hold open days and provide basic Islamic awareness training. This should be promoted more widely through community networks and the media to encourage greater participation and to combat negative stereotypes of Mosques and Imams.

The following is a checklist of the issues that impact on the management of Mosques and the delivery of services.

a.   Aesthetically pleasing prayer room, with space for women: sometimes women are happy with separate facilities, such as another room, or a balcony, etc., but it can also discourage progress for women. It is problematic when women cannot see the person who is leading their prayer - when there is a Sutrah (even a brick wall) between them and the male congregation. Viewing monitors may be used to overcome this.

b.   Adequate Wudu facilities for both men and women: These should be kept in good condition.

c.   Library: This is a vital facility that every Mosque should have. Reference books are essential and books to lend out to new converts should be made available. It is important that libraries be adequately supplied with books in both Arabic and English. Major Muslim texts should be available in English - the Qur`an itself, the major Hadith collections and other important historical works,

d.   IT equipment: Every Mosque should have a telephone, email and internet facilities and possibly a fax machine.

e.   Adequate parking facilities: It is not always possible for Mosques to provide this but every effort should be made to do so,

f.    Creche facilities: To ensure that children can be supervised when needed, e.g., when families use Mosques for burial prayers.

g.   Kitchen facilities: To ensure proper kitchen facilities are available at all times and especially when the community needs to use the Mosque for particular gatherings.

h.   Marriage bureaus: The Mosque could play a more role in matrimonial services. including Nikah, support for matchmaking events and mediating in divorce cases.

The Role of Imams

There is no innermost, hierarchical religious authority in Islam. It is not possible for any central body to be established in order to control its inherent diversity. Imams therefore are employed in the service of the community: primarily to lead prayers and other religious functions. In the current climate it seems that Imams also need to engage with the social and cultural concerns of Muslim communities in the UK, the challenges being faced by second and third generation Muslim minority communities and the greater need to undertake pastoral care in public institutions such as prisons and hospitals.8

The role of the Imam therefore is growing, responding not only to challenges facing the Muslim community but also more general concerns imposed by wider society. Imams now need to be much more culturally sensitive to the values and ways of contemporary society. There are many examples of progressive approaches to learning undertaken by Mosque-based supplementary schools across the UK. But some traditional modes of teaching continue to provide a basic understanding of the values of Islam leaving some disenchanted and disaffected youth to become susceptible to exploitative and radical interpretations of their faith. Yet. many young Muslims are increasingly identifying themselves by their faith, where Islam serves to bridge the inter-generational and inter-cultural conflicts in their lives. Faith becomes a common bond between the ethnic diversity found among British Muslims.

Women are also becoming more knowledgeable of Islam and are using this to make progress in educational and work related fields. Women are increasingly involved in providing religious instruction and language teaching within the home and the Mosque. However, the devotional role of women remains restricted with some Mosques still not providing prayer space or other facilities for women. Furthermore. the role of women participating in Mosques and in decision-making processes still tends to be limited.

Further developments in relation to Imams could include:

a.   Volunteer Imams: It is important that every adult Muslim male has the opportunity to familiarise themselves with leading the prayers should they wish to do so. It is important to ensure that youngsters specifically have the opportunity to learn how to do this. Similarly, some of the women should be able to lead the prayers for women where appropriate.

b.   Huffaz: Devout men who have memorised the entire Quran are especially useful during the month of Ramadan.

c.   Community preachers: Men (and women) of professional status with higher educational qualifications could be called upon to lead the community, perhaps on a rotational basis. These include qualified doctors. lawyers and teachers, etc. Many of these men and women are of enormous ability and aptitude but are underutilised by the Mosque. If a Mosque could make use of such people it would be an enormous community asset.

It is vital that Imam training courses take place in the UK. so that Mosques are not exclusively relying on Imams from overseas. A major part of empowering Imams would be to set up certificated Imam courses so that both the Muslim community and the wider community could be made aware of the training courses available for the development of Imams.

There are a number of core duties expected of an Imam and the ability to utilise a number of more innovative approaches. The following is a checklist.

a.   Imams should provide comprehensive spiritual leadership of the Muslim community.

b.   Imams should use the Jum'ah prayers (Friday sermons) to present spiritual answers to the everyday needs of the Muslim community as well as deep theological insight. Issues such as drugs. smoking, obesity, environment, health. respect and tolerance of others should also be addressed.

c.   Khutba: This could be delivered in Arabic and in English.

d.   Immigration problems and counselling: To know local MPs, councillors,
local authority civil servants, non-governmental sector officers, etc.

e.   Legal advice: Imams could have a better appreciation of the legal system and the legislation that impacts on their services.

f.    Marriage advice and counselling: Many families and potential spouses could benefit from this service. Imams could also act as a Wali where appropriate.

g.   Visiting: i.e., sick. prisoners, elderly, converts.

h.   Skills catalogue: Keeping a register of community members: a record of talents and skills could be made available to the Mosque, i.e., teachers, childminders and legal experts, etc.

i.    Connecting with communities: Keeping a register of new converts or people who have expressed an interest. New converts should be occasionally visited, be invited to Mosque functions and perhaps allocated mentors to teach them the basics, i.e., how to pray, what is Halal food, etc.

j.    Communications: Organising a team of people willing to attend local schools:

      i.          To give occasional talks and displays.

      ii.          To give religious assemblies.

      iii.          To highlight local or national projects or initiatives as part of citizenship education.

k.   Integrating services: Making the Muslim community aware of help and opportunities available to them: e.g., day care centres, adoption and fostering services or refugee. domestic violence, mental health or other welfare facilities.

I.    On-site facilities: Offering to help the destitute, temporarily homeless, refugee and visiting VIPs, etc. This could be at the Mosque itself.

m.  Marketing: Advertising Mosque functions to the wider community.

In relation to Imams, Madrassah teachers need to compare well with state school teachers. Important points to consider are:

a.   Imams should engage with the young and concentrate their energies on a productive service for community and nation.

b.   Professionalism and proficiency are important characteristics in situations where Muslim pupils interact with school teachers and it matters no less in relation to Imams.

c.   There should be adequate investment in educational resources so that Mosques provide appropriate IT equipment and books.

d.   Teachers need to be understanding of the various stresses and pressures that schoolchildren are under. It would be useful to set aside Madrassah time for guidance on problems concerning school and Mosque work in general.