We would like to share with you some thoughts on mimbar and majalis with you. We begin with this notion that, of course, not all alims misuse the mimbar and some try to approach a subject-matter sincerely in order to educate the community. We do agree that there are those that may have biased motivations or look at the mimbar as a financial tool. And yes, within the Khoja community, we are quite open about the different types of alims we invite who are from various backgrounds and that we do not have the culture of dialogue yet. However, we do believe that in order to change the present culture and to stop the misuse that can occur, we have to draft regulations/ guidelines for the mimbar that help us sieve knowledgeable and sincere alims from those that may not be active in the pursuit of knowledge and/or have some other motivations. Currently, our standard seems to be of inviting alims for their level of oratory rather than level of knowledge. Therefore, we propose to focus on the following:
1. An alim is to be invited first and foremost on his/her willingness to serve the community rather than profit from it.
2. An alim is to be invited on the basis of his knowledge, critical thinking and research skills and therefore we must also enquire what kind of research he/she is engaged in and his/her qualifications.
3. Q&A sessions should be encouraged with the alim to nurture transparency of knowledge in the community and hold the alim accountable.
4. Jamaats to set certain standards for alims when they give a majalis e.g to critically engage with contemporary issues, help grassroots with their problems, sharing their notes and resources, contributing to madrasah - at times. we give alims an easy ride but rather, we should put pressure on them to share their knowledge and actively contribute for the well-being of the community, not just give a 30-40 mins majalis.
5. Any attempt at politics with the Khoja community in order to ban a person or secure some kind of political support for a worldview should be prohibited.
6. Alims, particular those who pursue seminary or academic studies, should be given a reasonably good hadyo to support their studies and personal expenses.
7. Khoja students and scholars should be given the first opportunity for lectures in order to train and nurture them. Otherwise we find outside speakers getting most of the opportunity to speak and khoja students are not connected to their own community nor are they financially supported.
We have done some groundwork to develop the vision for mimbar. It is in Gujarati. You can hear it by clicking on the link:- Vision for the Mimbar -
Obviously, these thoughts are open to challenge. We have to begin somewhere. Also, by making such guidelines it will make our community as a whole think deeply about how knowledge and education can beneficially be made available from the mimbar and how scholars and alims can play vital role. This will open up a vigorous spirit of enquiry from within our community. We would value your comments on the above but also do share this e-mail with your colleagues who may be interested to promote constructive dialogue on this issue.
See also: results of the 3rd Awakening Project Survey:
The Role of the Mimbar Today
Dr. Sibtain Panjwani
Founder of “The Awakening Project”