Qari Javed Akhtar
Qari Javed Akhtar
Qari Javed Akhtar

The imam of one of Manchester's largest mosques has stepped down amid increasing rumours over his marital life.

Qari Javed Akhtar, the imam of Manchester Central Mosque, has opted to take a temporary leave of absence after it emerged he recently married a woman 30 years younger than him.

According to the Manchester Evening News, relatives of the 58-year-old's new wife are reported to be among those unhappy with the couple's decision to get married.

"He has taken leave from his position while he sorts out these matters", Akhtar's new wife was quoted as saying. "He does hope to go back to the mosque and they will support him."

However, she added her husband will not permanently walk away from his role at the mosque on Upper Park Road in Victoria Park, near Longsight, which he has held for over three decades.

Akthar, originally from Rusholme, south Manchester, separated from his first wife and is currently living with his new partner.

Leaders of the Muslim community stated they were yet to receive a formal complaint about Akhtar's relationship, although they added they would take allegations of wrongdoing very seriously.

"No official complaint has been made to the mosque," said Abdul Waheed, general secretary of Manchester Central Mosque. "We take any allegations of abuse of power seriously. Mr Akhtar has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons."

Akhtar has also stood down from his role as chairman of the International Naat Association - an Islamic poetry recital group.

"He [Akhtar] has also felt sorry for those who have been hurt due to his recent personal family matters," the Association said in a statement on its Facebook group.

"Management of International Naat Association also apologises for any discomfort these issues may have brought to wider community, albeit we highly appreciate your patience and support to the 'Association' while we deal with these sensitive matters with courtesy.

Manchester Central Mosque
Manchester Central Mosque in May 2016. Manchester Central Mosque/Facebook