For describing the excellence and greatness of the rank of Imamat, suffice it to say that this glorious position was taken up by the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, Rightly Guided Caliphs رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُم and the best ones were chosen for this important responsibility. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: There will be three persons on the mounds of musk, one (amongst those) will be the one who would have been the Imam of a tribe and those (i.e. the people of the tribe) would have been pleased with him. (Tirmizi, vol. 3, pp. 397, Hadees 1993) It is narrated, an Imam will get the reward equivalent to the reward of all those following him in Salah. (Nasa’i, pp. 112, Hadees 643)
Not everyone can become an Imam because there are certain conditions needed to be fulfilled before taking up the blessed position of Imamat, some are Shari’ah-compliance conditions and some are ethical requirement. Apart from them, an Imam should possess numerous attributes and he needs to avoid informal attitude. six conditions are stated below:
1. One who leads Salah should be a Muslim.
2. He has reached the age of puberty.
3. He is sane.
4. Imam should be a male person.
5. He is able to recite correctly
6. A Shar’i Ma'zoor person cannot be an Imam.
For further detail, read the book ‘Bahar-e-Shari’at’, an encyclopaedia of Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), from page number 561 to 575, Part 3, vol. 1.
An Imam is a medium between the Creator and His servant during a congregational Salah. The stronger the medium, the better it is. The attributes of an ideal imam have been divided in four parts in this article:
1. Imam and his words and conduct
2. Imam as a sermoniser
3. Imam’s role in making people frequent Masjid
4. Imam’s behaviour with the locals of area and the management of the Masjid.
Imam and his words and conduct
Merely reading, listening and describing piety are not sufficient but rather it is also necessary to act upon them. Piety is the most important attribute of a believer. So, an Imam should excel others in adopting this attribute as it is also an important source of acceptance of Salahs. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: If you like that your Salahs be accepted, your good people should be your Imam. (Mustadrak, vol. 4, pp. 237, Hadees 5034)
٭ Majesty of the position of Imamat (leading Salah) can be understood from this fact that an Imam is the deputy of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. Since the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is a paradigm of all the noble traits and attributes, an imam should also strive to adopt excellent qualities and avoid bad habits. General public always think well of Imam Sahib and regard him as more virtuous comparatively. Thus the responsibility lies with honourable Aimmah that they do not let the trust placed by the public weaken a bit. Particularly, they must avoid the practices that affect the act of performing Salah such as un-hidden acts of sins such as trimming the beard less than a fist-length, using abusive language openly etc. So, an honourable Imam should keep himself clean and pure inwardly and outwardly.
٭ An honourable imam must avoid such acts and habits which are generally considered against etiquettes e.g. eating like general public on pathways, chewing Gutka [betel quid], smoking, asking everybody for loan etc.
٭ Sale and purchase matters are always the part of everyone’s life. Generally it is not permissible for anyone to involve in cheating, and it is far more important for an imam of Masjid to stay away from all fraudulent and impermissible activities because an imam possesses a religious identity and he is a torchbearer for common Muslims. Imam’s involvement in deceitful activities will either create a climate of suspicion and mistrust or people too will start following such practices considering them permissible. So, the Imam of a Masjid must avoid anything that brings disgrace and reproach for him. Moreover, he must take monetary matters serious and resolve them appropriately.
٭ Every Muslim should make especial efforts for providing Islamic Tarbiyyat for his family but an honourable imam of Masjid has to be more careful in this regard. The spouse and children of an Imam must adhere to sharia in every aspect and keep away from all acts below ethics and morals so that the noble act ‘calling people to righteousness and preventing them from evils’ carried out by an honourable Imam, faces no hindrance.
٭ Way of speaking and communication is the symbol of a man’s personality. An Imam must not resort to foul language, lying, backbiting and tale telling. He should show kindness, gentleness and affection.
٭ Imam’s clothes and his lifestyle also have strong effect on Salah-offering people and locals; so, he should also follow the lifestyle of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. It will bring respect and honour for him. The dress should be simple, graceful and clean. Too bright and stylish dresses may earn an Imam some words of appreciation by few young people but his image will get tarnished in the sight of senior citizens. For example, having dressed in fashionable clothes, how can an Imam describe the simplicity of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم? The honourable Imam should keep wearing Imamah Shareef as much as possible.
٭ An Imam should also keep an eye on the acts, habits and behaviour of Muazzin and Khadim.
٭ This is an age of social media, smart phones and internet. Many Imams also use social media. Remember, social media is a platform which strictly monitors the activities of users. Be it a single click or the smallest message, everything goes viral, and it not only reaches to friends and relatives but also a number of strangers. So, preferably, an honourable Imam should refrain from it. If there is a need to use social media, it should be used only for Islamic purpose. They should not be a part of political or non-political discussions on social media. Back to back questions, debates, objections, un-relevant sharing of posts etc., may make an Imam controversial. Thus, the position of Imamat requires great carefulness.
٭ The evil of unlawful gaze has grown so widespread in our society that almost everyone is indulged in it. Unlawful gaze is a fatal attack of Satan, especially targeting the Iman of righteous and pious Muslims causing negative effects on their character and conduct. Imam of a Masjid must guard himself against this fatal attack. Sometimes women also approached Masajid with the purpose of ‘blowing Dam’ on their children or seeking advice regarding giving name to their infants and sometimes people also invite Imam Sahib for conveying the reward [Isal-e-Sawab]. During all the mentioned and other related activities, Imam Sahib should keep his eyes lowered as much as possible. If he is invited, he must accompany a male member of the household.