The mosque is an important religious and social institution that influences the life and views of Muslims. It is a seat of learning and preaching. It is primarily a place of worship, but it also provides educational, dispute resolution, religious, social, and welfare services. Sometimes, it also acts as a source of political and religious information for common people.

When a state does not regulate mosques, there is a likelihood that extremist elements can manipulate public sentiments to undermine the authority of the state. The situation can be further exploited by external anti-state organizations to create internal unrest. In this premise, both Muslim and non-Muslim societies tend to regulate mosques as they cannot afford to leave the mosques as a private affair.

Regulation of mosques includes registration with local authorities, appointment, and supervision of imams, financial management and auditing, oversight over religious literature, weekly sermons, and day-to-day governance, etc.

Regulating religious places is a sensitive issue, sometimes even leading to a violent backlash. However, states like Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Malaysia, Türkiye, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) effectively regulate mosques. On the other hand, states like Nigeria and Pakistan exercise control over the mosques. In the particular case of Pakistan, there are many challenges associated with the regulation of mosques. Therefore, it is important to understand global practices to draw inferences regarding mosque regulations in Pakistan.

In Azerbaijan, the responsibility of appointment of imams was earlier assigned to the Caucasian Muslim Board which is a state control authority. However, President Ilham Aliyev has further enhanced the State’s control by approving a new law in March 2023. Now the State Committee oversees “all Muslim educational establishments, censors religious literature of all faiths and approves or bans the building or renovation of any place of worship along with naming prayer leaders in all mosques”.[i]

In Egypt, mosques and religious activities are highly regulated. Even though the country has experienced diverse governments the policy of carefully overseeing mosques, imams and informal religious gatherings has remained constant.[ii]

In Iran, the Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance oversees mosques, religious affairs, and the selection of Imams. The Friday Prayer Council is a body that reports to the Supreme Leader. The chief imam nominates imams, and the final selection is carried out by the Supreme Leader. The potential imams are assessed based on their religious knowledge. Moreover, the Friday Prayer Council is responsible for distributing pamphlets to around 900 Iranian cities weekly. These pamphlets comprise guidelines for the imams to address Friday’s congregational prayers.[iii]

India has also introduced strict laws to regulate mosques. The provincial government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) passed the Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places Bill in 2021. In the Muslim-concentrated province of UP, mosques cannot be built without the permission of the district magistrate and his decision cannot be challenged in any court of law. In KSA, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, is in charge of the affairs of mosques, and Islamic centers, and the appointment and supervision of imams. Malaysia’s Federal Department of Development of Islam (JAKIM) regulates the mosques, Friday sermons, appointment, and supervision of imams and teachers/ preachers of Islam.

In Türkiye, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) regulates the mosques. It is tasked with the appointment and supervision of Imams and entrusted with the drafting of a weekly sermon which is delivered in mosques across Türkiye.[iv] In simple words, the state regulates whatsoever is being said in the mosques.

In the United Arab Emirates, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) and the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) regulate mosques. IACAD issues licenses to “public and private prayer rooms and prohibiting anyone from building, allocating, or modifying a space to be used as a prayer room without prior approval” while “the Awqaf is entrusted with overseeing Islamic religious affairs across mosques, sermons, imam, and publications”.[v]

Countries in Europe consist of Islamic organizations and communities that ensure the religious development and training of Muslim citizens. The Italian Islamic Religious Community (COREIS) is an organization that represents the Muslim community in Italy. It offers training courses to imams and equips them with the theological and legal knowledge necessary to discharge their duties as imams efficiently. CORIES aims to provide the Muslim community of Italy with reliable and insightful individuals who can serve as religious leaders and combine modern methods with classical Islam to disseminate a holistic religious discourse.[vi]

Contrarily, mosques in Nigeria are underregulated. “There is no central governmental or Islamic authority regulating the establishment and administration of mosques in the country, which means that there is little or no control over the sermons preached in central mosques”.[vii]

In Pakistan, the Societies Registration Act of 1860 requires all mosques to be licensed and registered. Accordingly, a committee led by the District Coordination Officer (DCO) is responsible for issuing a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the establishment of mosques. The National Action Plan (NAP) of 2014 and the revised NAP 2021 emphasize on registration and regulation of religious institutes across the country.

The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2014 aims to integrate mosques into national and provincial education frameworks.

Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Ordinance 2015 is promulgated at the provincial level to control the sound systems of all religious places including mosques.[viii] NISP 2018-23 also proposes wide-ranging reforms to make mosques centers of learning and religious guidance. The government has taken an initiative in this regard and the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MFEPT) has established a Directorate General of Religious Education (DGRE) in 2019 with the sole purpose of registering religious institutions in Pakistan. The legal and policy guidelines are very clear about the mosque regulations; however, the ground situation is somewhat different.

In metropolitan urban centers of Pakistan, there are some major state-run Jamia mosques. The government appoints its imams and issues funds for their salaries and utility expenditures. Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, and Faisal Mosque, Islamabad are cases in point. In well-planned housing societies, the location and number of mosques are defined by the society administration. Contrarily, it is different in the towns and villages of the country. Most of the time, it is the will and wish of people or the person donating, irrespective of the number of mosques already existing in the same location.

In the federal capital territory of Islamabad, 89 out of a total of 957 mosques are governed by the state while the government has no influence over the remaining 868 mosques.[ix] Another report reveals that in Islamabad, 250 mosques are operating without a license.[x] Even, the mosques have been built in the parking areas (F-10 Markaz) and green belts (7th Avenue) of Islamabad etc.

The uncontrolled growth of privately run mosques poses a serious question on the authority of the state. Inversely, the capital administration seldom acts against such illegally operating mosques. This is due to the sensitive nature of the issue. The authorities fear backlash from religious parties and therefore are hesitant to take any action, The issue of Lal Masjid is a case in point.

In view of the above analysis, the following policy guidance factors are suggested for regulating religious places in Pakistan:-

  • Regulating the mosques is a long-term objective that requires strong political will, robust local administration, and a consistent approach.
  • The phased-wise policy should start with selected urban and rural areas and then be implemented throughout the country.
  • Community engagement is critical to managing public opinion and avoiding the backlash. Any backlash should be tackled amicably rather than completely backing off from mosque regulation. The implementation process must be taken to its logical conclusion.

The strategy to implement the above-mentioned policy decisions is also explained. It is suggested that a pilot project be initiated in urban and rural areas to first register all the mosques. Other issues like appointment of imams, auditing of funds, and weekly sermons can be regulated in the second step. The federal and provincial capitals along with selected villages from each federating unit be taken as the sample to draw lessons for further improvement. The local administration, which is otherwise responsible for the registration of mosques, should be tasked to engage with all the stakeholders rather than taking coercive measures.

It cannot be done without engaging the local community, so a public-private partnership is badly required. There are mosques built on state land and removing them will provoke backlash from the religious pressure groups. To avoid the situation, either state has to regularise them, or it has to provide alternate space to relocate those mosques. It requires funding and political will. The suggested public-private partnership can accrue the required funds and political will can help in mitigating the risks associated with the regularisation of mosques. This pilot project will help in drawing pertinent lessons for the regularisation of mosques.

Periodic evaluation, feedback, and accountability mechanisms should also be adopted in this regard. Based on the success of the pilot project, the government should first register/legalize all the mosques in the country. Community engagement with dynamic local administration in a politically enabling environment will pave the way for the second step of regularising imams, funds, sermons, etc.

Regularisation of mosques is an accepted global norm. It is a compulsion rather than an option. In Pakistan, a consistent, phased-wise, and long-term approach backed by community engagement can help in the regularization of mosques.


End Notes:



[iii] Holly Dagres, ‘Supreme Leader Shuffles Friday Prayer Leaders in Iran’, Atlantic Council (blog), 20 March 2019,

[iv] ‘Top Cleric Delivers Friday Sermon in Mardin’, accessed 22 August 2023,


[vi] Mohammed Hashas et al., Imams in Western Europe: Developments, Transformations, and Institutional Challenges (NL Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018),, 401-403.

[vii] Ismael Saka Ismael and Abdulmumini A. Oba, “Administration of Mosques and Appointment of Imams in Nigeria: Between Islamic Law, Customs, and State Law.” Islamabad Law Review 4, no. 1 (Spring, 2020).



[x] ‘Pakistan: Why Is the Number of Illegal Madrassas Rising? – DW – 10/31/2022’,, accessed 17 August 2023,

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