Message To Imams
As the numbers of Muslims in Canada is constantly increasing through newcomers, Canadian born Muslims and converts to Islam, we are facing new challenges in the society at large; in the schools, in the courts of law, in the hospitals, in the correctional services, in government, in politics, in social work, in charitable organizations, in combating discrimination, crime. And while upholding democratic principles, human rights, justice, tolerance, and fair play we abhor discrimination, violence, gambling, drugs, prostitution, all forms of sexual abuse and perversion, abuse of the environment and we stand firm in support of the basic ethical and moral values common to the main world religions.
To meet the above challenges and to live in harmony within the larger Canadian community we have to define our identity, our role, and our responsibilities. We have to build trust and mutual respect with all responsible authorities through communication, dialogue, exchange of information, and mutual accommodation. We have discovered throughout the years that Canada is a very hospitable land for Muslims. We have been welcome; we have been free to exercise our rights to live our religion. Our needs and our concerns have always received a sympathetic ear. It is up to us to define our needs, our priorities, to organize and act as one body as often as possible and to be as reasonable as possible to abide by the laws of the land and to offend anybody else.
The Imams who are the religious leaders of the Muslim community and who are knowledgeable about the laws and rules of Islam are best suited to form a representative body for the Muslims of Canada to regulate and protect their religious affairs. It was this idea which prompted the establishment of the Islamic Council of Imams of Canada.
The Council has met monthly on a regular basis and it has tackled important issues relevant to the Muslim community in Canada. It has been giving advice and recommendations to the members of the community as well as to different agencies and government bodies. It has been answering questions of fiqh which it comfortable with and seeking guidance and fatwa from reputable Islamic centres and authorities in the Muslim world. (To cite examples of issues and problems the Council dealt with; marriage, divorce, wife abuse, discrimination, religious freedom in schools, police, correctional services, ethics and rules in the workplace, religious holidays, etc.)
Considering the great service the Council is rendering, and the problems and needs which keep multiplying, it is incumbent on every Muslim society to urge its imam or a qualified alternate to become a permanent member of the Council. All Council members are encouraged to attend the meetings regularly and to contribute to the best of their ability to serve the community. This is and obligation. It is a Fardu Kifayeh. If those who are qualified do not perform their duty, members of the ummah should urge them to do so. If they do not do so, the entire ummah has failed the fard. Reference: Usulul Fikh M. Abu Zahrah Fardul Kifayah.
Some of the imams from the greater Toronto area, Mississauga, London, Ontario and Niagara Falls are members of the Council but the great majority of the masajid have no representation. Imams keep advising, encouraging and urging Muslims to unite. Is it not proper for the imams to set the example to all the Muslims by uniting themselves and working hand in hand with mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation in promoting the cause of Allah?
There is also the need for regional councils for imams of masajids of different parts of Canada. A special effort should be made to plan such councils. The minutes, resolutions and recommendations arising from these meetings should be communicated and certainly an annual conference of all members would be very relevant and useful. Recognized authorities on Islam would be invited to lecture and advise.
There is a new endeavour to establish the Islamic laws and rules for minorities. The councils and the conferences would certainly provide an excellent laboratory and platform for this noble work. These are the humble thoughts of one council member who would appreciate your input and constructive criticism and certainly success is within the hands of Allah.