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Saudi faces critical shortage of imams, says official

Al-Asheikh said the employment of imams and muezzins is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance, not the Ministry of Labor.

Published: Updated:

The assistant deputy minister of Islamic affairs said there is a huge shortage of imams and muezzins (callers to prayer) throughout the Kingdom.

Abdulmuhsen Al-Asheikh said this shortage in particularly affecting larger cities and mosques holding Friday prayers and that the government department is currently discussing the problem with the Ministry of Finance.

He explained there is a shortage of about 6,000 imams and muezzins in the main cities, rising to 30,000 when all mosques in the country are taken into account.

He said: “There are around 90,000 mosques all around the country and each one of them would normally require an imam and a muezzin [the person who recites the call to prayer]/”

“The ministry is currently trying to sort out the shortages in the main cities first, and then look at the other mosques where the imam can possibly perform the muezzin's duties as well.”

Al-Asheikh said the employment of imams and muezzins is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance, not the Ministry of Labor, because imams and muezzins are not employed on monthly wage basis.

The Finance Ministry instead pays a monthly bonus to them.

He noted the ministry monitors imams and those who deviate from correct religious teachings are questioned by a consultancy committee and sanctioned accordingly.

Al-Asheikh said the minister of interior’s recent directives to conduct security checks on imams and muezzins before they are employed is a positive step and ensures only qualified personnel are employed.

He pointed out the Ministry of Islamic Affairs provides training courses for imams and muezzins in all parts of the Kingdom and has an agreement with the Islamic Open Academy to conduct online courses for imams and muezzins in other parts of the world.