Fujairah Collage

Fujairah Collage
Some distinctive landmarks in Fujairah

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who’d Be an Imam in Fujairah?

According to Mr. Rashid Al Dhanhani, the Manager of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in Fujairah, there are currently 287 imams in the emirate of Fujairah.

Most mosques have one imam but there are a handful of mosques that have a muezzin (caller) as well as an imam (mosque leader). More imams are needed as the hope is that eventually each mosque will have two imams in order to ensure adequate coverage when one is sick or on leave.

All imams in Fujairah are male and all are married.

Not Emiratis

Of the 280 imams in Fujairah only 8 are Emiratis! The rest come from Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Syria, Egypt, and other countries with a high number of Sunni Muslims.

When asked to explain the absence of Emiratis in the ranks of imams, officials at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in Fujairah gave several reasons.

An oft-stated reason is the low salary. Imams from outside of the UAE may start on 5,000 AED and each year this may increase to 7,000 AED plus a free residence.

Emirati imams start at 9,000 AED and they receive a free residence.

Tied to the Mosque

Another negative stopping Emiratis from taking up the imam vocation is that they feel they would be tied to the mosque. They are expected to be on the job five times a day and more on the day of worship. Emiratis value Friday as a family day and see that the responsibilities at the mosque as an imam would preclude much time spent with their family.

Others view the time commitments as being quite liberating saying that once early more prayers are over the imam has the whole morning to himself. While the Friday sermons are prepared at headquarters and are not written by local imams, there are mosque maintenance issues that must be attended to and certain pastoral functions.

The imam has one day off a week but he cannot be off duty on a Friday or Saturday.

New imams start with 45 days of holiday each year and after a few years this increases to 60 days of annual leave.

Ongoing Training

It is difficult to establish how much training is required to become an imam for this varies according to the formal education received prior to beginning imam training. Some College or University training is preferred and then there are several years engaged in the study of the Koran and theology.

Once a month all the imams in Fujairah are rounded up where they meet at a mosque to talk about common issues and receive ongoing training. Older, more experienced imams play a role in encouraging those who are more junior.


The head office of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments is based in Abu Dhabi. There the policies are established and the formal training is conducted. Orders are disseminated to the different emirates and the Fujairah authority is a branch of the headquarters in the capital.

Most policy and practical issues are sorted out by the Fujairah manager, who in turn has Emirati managers responsible for a number of imams in different parts of the emirate.

The imams are paid out of the Fujairah office which also oversees the movement of imams to and from Fujairah, including the determination of when it is appropriate for an imam to move on. This is done in consultation with the needs and preferences of the imam and his family.

Geoff Pound

This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.

Image: Photo courtesy of UAE Pics from the article Mosques in the UAE.

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