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Why Are So Many Imams Leaving the Masjid?

https://stocksnap.io/photo/TFOHRBGVTKThe Masjid

Across the United States masajid (mosques) have expanded in physical size, improved mass communication via websites and social media accounts, begun to offer live-streaming for Friday khutbas (sermons) online, and have improved women’s prayer areas. But in recent times, many imams have left their posts, leaving communities and trend followers to speculate and ask, “Why?” Was it the imam’s ego or a salary dispute or are they just becoming too impatient?

No, this wave of resignations is a symptom of a greater problem: while incoming imams treat their position as a profession by becoming increasingly qualified, the masjid board has not taken the same strides in becoming trained in non-profit management. Those who run the masjid and supervise the imams’ affairs are still volunteers with, generally speaking, no expertise on how to manage non-profit organizations.   As a result, the operational structure of the masjid is not equipped to manage the imam, the other employees, or to draft and execute long-term plans with a vision for the changing needs of the community. Masjid reform must take place to not only bring stability by retaining their imams but by also allowing for future growth, and attracting Muslims of all backgrounds and ages.

To analyze the surge in recent Imam’s resignations from masajid large and small, it is important to understand the dynamics between the masjid board, the imam, and the community.

The Board

A typical board is elected for a specified number of years, where elected members take on various responsibilities: Chairperson, President, Financial Officer, Secretary, and so on.  The staff of the masjid goes on to include the imam, sometimes multiple imams or religious directors, administrative staff, and other support employees. At the end of the day, all of the above staff report to the board.

Boards usually manage the day-to-day affairs of the masjid. These duties and responsibilities are noble and to be commended. The question to be asked remains: If a community is made up of hundreds or even thousands of congregants, what is the guarantee that the most qualified people are elected to manage the masjid? Those five, ten or fifteen that are chosen to represent their masjid, are they equipped to understand all of the needs and nuances of their constituents? Are they trained in management or in human resources so as to interface with the imam and the other staff in the most effective manner?

The masjid is, by definition, a non-profit organization, and rarely do the doctors, engineers, and business people who are voted onto the board have backgrounds in non-profit management. While these volunteers are to be commended for their countless hours of dedication and sacrifice, it is time the community recognizes that the non-profit organization that we call the masjid cannot thrive on the limited expertise of individuals from random professions. These realms are completely different. A multitude of certifications and degrees are offered in various aspects of non-profit management, so individuals with the above expertise should serve on the board.

Allah the Most Merciful tells us in the Qur’an in the second half of the ayah (verse) below: “…And ask those who have knowledge, if you do not know.”

16-43

Surah Al Nahl 16:43

The Imam

The same level of expectations in terms of expertise is also necessary for the Imam. An Imam should have a grasp of the Arabic language, have certified training as a religious scholar which includes understanding the complex sciences of tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), hadith (narration), and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). In addition, many imams have supplementary degrees in social sciences, history, Middle-Eastern studies, etc. The ability to connect with the community and to understand its needs are crucial in supporting the diverse make-up of the masjid’s constituents.

The demands upon the Imam are very high. Supporting the community in times of distress such as providing counseling on marriage, divorce, domestic violence, death, drug use, suicide, etc. are just a few of the Imam’s responsibilities. The imam also shares in the celebrations of the community, conducting weddings and attending aqeeqahs (birth celebrations) and ameens. In addition, the imam represents not only the masjid, but the greater Muslim community at political events, interfaith circles, and in social justice arenas.

The imam sacrifices his time with his own family with the intention of serving the community and pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). This is not a position of wealth or glamour.

The Board, The Community, The Imam: An Unbalanced Equation

The dynamics between the board, the masjid’s constituents, and the imam has many nuances. Let us explore these relationships:

The Community-Board Relationship

Often times the board is an ear to the constituents’ wants, needs, and likes/dislikes. This is a healthy relationship that helps to ensure that the board is indeed representing their community. One of the pitfalls, however, is when the ear is filled with opinions from friends or acquaintances of a few board members that become magnified as a major issue. “Where was the imam at this time?” or “Why was the prayer time changed?” or “I didn’t like the khutba.” Imagine if only friends or acquaintances get the ear of the board, and they happen to be those with complaints that do not reflect the overall effectiveness of the imam. The result would be a skewed impression of how well the Imam performs.

Do other community members know when and how to contact the board if they have a concern or a word of praise? What about when there is a conflict with the imam? Is there a mediation process involving professional mediators or a group from the community? Does the community know about problems before the imam feels compelled to resign? Regrettably, the answers to these questions are often “no.”

The Board-Imam Relationship

The Board, and most often the Chairperson or President, in particular, is the imam’s boss. In some masajid, imams as employees are given formal, written evaluations. How are these evaluations made? Are there general surveys sent out to the community after prayer or via email? Who evaluates the board? No one does. The community at large does not know the details of individual board member actions. Written evaluations are a one-way, subjective process, in which, out of all the employees of the masjid, only the already over-burdened imam is scrutinized.

The board has by-laws that protect the masjid and the board itself, but who is there to protect the imam? If there is a conflict between the board and the imam, who is there to defend or represent him?   A meeting with the board can turn into a five-on-one intimidating process, with the Imam being the “one.”  And psychologically speaking, it is natural for any group of individuals working together to develop “group thinking” where it is difficult to understand any reasoning other than that of the group, or in this case, the board. As a religious director or imam, who is already burdened with the problems of the community, and of society at large, he has the added responsibility of being his own lawyer when negotiating for his rights at the masjid.

A position at the masjid, as previously mentioned, is not one that people enter into for glory. Thus there needs to be an inherent level of trust in the imam, especially after years of proven performance. When hours at the masjid are being questioned, it is a sign of an inherent problem – a lack of trust and/or of an understanding of what it means to be an imam.   Expecting the imam to spend his over 60-hour work week at the masjid is not practical. As one great imam and scholar stated, “A five minute reminder can take five hours of preparation.” Aside from off-masjid activities, countless hours of preparation for speeches and khutbas (Friday sermons) are spent at home. In addition, fielding phone calls, and tending to crises of the community at individuals’ homes or at the hospital are also time spent away from the masjid.

The Imam – Community Relationship

The imam deals with various constituents either through private counseling sessions, or through general contact at the masjid.   Although the imam has a close relationship with the community, most of its constituents never contact the board about their satisfaction with the imam. Instead, most feedback regarding the imam comes from only a handful of individuals with complaints about the minutia of masjid affairs. As a result, what true knowledge does the board have of the community’s satisfaction with the imam?

Conclusion

There is a disconnect between the immense relationships that the imam has within the community he serves and the board’s perception of the imam’s performance. As a result of this disparity, the board is readily willing to exert their power in enforcing their micromanaging demands without being mindful of the ensuing effect their unreasonable pressure will have on the imam. Despite the imam’s love for the community, he finds himself having to choose between continuing his post at the masjid and saving his own sanity and that of his family. In addition, the board may be shocked by a resignation, yet no consideration was given to the fact that imams are human and there is only so much difficulty in dealing with the board that the imam can handle before becoming soured to the system.

And that’s the point: one can endure temporary problems, differences of opinion and conflicts arising from within the masjid. However, when the religious director or imam understands that the system will never change, that is, the system of having a new, volunteer boss every one to two years who has no experience in non-profit management, who is going to come down with their own style of management, with their own opinions about what the imam should be doing, it is difficult to sit tight and think, “one day this may change.”

I encourage a healthy discussion between community members, masjid officials and our religious leaders to come to a practical solution. May Allah (swt) guide us all and make the masjid a place welcome for all, including the imams.

About the author

Lobna Mulla

Lobna Mulla

Born to Egyptian parents, Lobna Youssef Mulla, along with her three siblings, was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. She graduated from California State University, Northridge with a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting. She was on the board of the Muslim Public Affairs Council for two years and worked for 10 years as an accountant before entering motherhood. In 2005, Lobna moved to Egypt with her husband, Shaykh Suhail Mulla, and her children for three years where she studied Arabic, Islamic Studies and Tajweed, before moving back to the States. Lobna has been working with the youth for the past 15 years in various capacities such as assisting with youth camps, leading halaqat, teaching tajweed classes, and leading a MAS Girl Scouts Troop. Currently, Lobna lives in Orange County with her husband and four children, where she is the Vice Chair for MAS Greater L.A.’s Tarbiya Department.

58 Comments

  • It is easy to blame the board. The real reason however is that Imam’s are making a lot more money by freelancing. Each talk, each speaking engagement, each class, each fundraising event, each Umrah and Hajj trip, each trip to Morocco or Turkey, as well as YouTube subscriptions and ad sharing are bringing in tremendous amount of money for Imam’s. Why would an Imam tie themselves down to a Masjid – if they are a good speaker, they can easily make multiple times the salary.

    • Sorry. You can’t ignore the problem with such a statement about our community leaders. It’s the boards that are responsible and they shall be held accountable.

    • You are right to a certain extent. The Muslim community loses out when Imams start freelancing. The real work is the day to day effort in taking care of the local community. But I hear from Imams that the main reason why Imams start freelancing is because they have to regularly deal with unprofessional masjid boards. A professional English western born Imam will NEVER be able to constantly put up with some egotistical Masjid presidents and board members. Most presidents are wonderful leaders but the bad ones are really tough to deal with.

      If Masjid boards paid Imams better and dealt professionally with Imams, Imams would NEVER freelance. I don’t think regularly traveling around is fun. Masjids need Imams like Sheikh Hamzah Yusuf, Imam Zaid, Sheykh Yasir Qadhi and others to lead local Masjids and organizations. But they will NEVER work with Masjid boards because of obvious reasons and because many times, Muslims are the most ungrateful people towards their Imams who speak to their communities on a weekly basis. Mega Multimillion dollar Masjids can afford to pay higher wages but they intentionally don’t, so the local Muslim community loses out when amazing Imams freelance.

      ISNA/ICNA should conduct a seminar where EVERY new Masjid president should be FORCED to get training at the end of December or early January when their new terms start. This should be a Masjid policy. Unprofessional Masjid presidents should be forced to attend such seminars. Otherwise, many amazing Imams will start their own stuff.

      • Salaam,

        Actually traveling around is fun, and young Imams, enjoy it. They rack up miles, are respected wherever they go. They get picked up by young bushy tailed MSA members who wait on them hand and foot. They don’t need to pay for dinners, flights, hotels, etc. It’s a good gig. The converse is being tied down to office hours at a masjid listening to an uncle complaining that there is a sister praying in the “Mens’ area”.

        I like your seminar idea.

    • Sorry I don’t think from your answer that you’re an imam and probably that may be the case in a minority of Imams, for majority the above is spot on as imam Tahir Anwar mentions

    • @GW: I do not know even ten USA Imams the fit your description. No Masjid will ever permit their Imam to move around like that. There are only a handful of famous speakers in the US who fit your profile. So, it’s totally unfair to make such sweeping comments about Imams.

      Whatever the case, no parent should ever encourage their child to become an Imam. If the Muslim community loses out and kids leave Islam, that’s the fault of the community for discouraging parents from making their children Imams by constantly abusing Imams. The only thing constant in the world is the wages of the Imam. Ten years later, the Imam is on the same pay as the first day the Imam was hired. Masjids went from houses to million dollar facilities but Imams wages never increased. Then don’t go around complaining about unprofessional Imams. You get what you pay for.

  • Mashallah , very good article.

    If Imam do not become a part of the board dirty activities , they removed him.

    I think we must include “check in balances” for the board members in the bylaws of the masjid. I have seen prominent board member involved in character less activities and at same time making decision for the future of the masjid or community or represent muslim community in the interfaith events. Even some of them lead the prayers quite often while they involved in SL stuff. For the control they do not hold elections. So control stayed in their group. If husband is a president, wife or friends wife in charge of food (especially in desi masjid) and son or daughter is a youth leader. Food catering form the family members. If someone raise concerns , they rejected him.

  • I feel that we have a huge problem both with Imams as well as the ways things are organized in a mosque.
    First off, not too many parents want their children to grow and become a professional Imam. For many it is a thankless job, with nothing but constant anguish at the hands of a congregation that expects Imams to live in poverty. I don’t want my sons to become Imams, and frankly I don’t know of a single parent here in California who is actually encouraging their son to become an Imam. So for one to be an Imam it has to be a deep spiritual calling.
    That being said, even Imams have to contend with regular hours of work and life. The expectation that they should lead all five prayers every day is grossly unfair. Heck I cant even say five prayers a day in my own home, much less going to a masjid. Besides, how does one actually have any semblance of a regular life if you have to be at the mosque five times a day? This is unrealistic and should be simply abandoned as an expectation.
    Now regarding the board. Have you noticed that often times it is people who haven’t accomplished much in their regular professions that tend to gravitate to the board positions?. It is probably the only place where they feel they can have some authority simply by being vocal or present more than others.
    So we have a lethal combination. Poor, unmotivated Imams being led by unaccomplished individuals in the form of a board (sure I am making a sweeping statement, but honestly think about it and see for yourself by looking at the resumes of the board members)
    Muslim Imams are the worse paid amongs’t all the religious communities. Far, far less than Rabbi’s or Pastors. Don’t take my word for it, look it up on google. We pay them dog wages, expect them to work like dogs, and the board treats them like dogs. This picture show isn’t going to last. Imams who have the slightest competency will depart, the first generation of immigrant board members will pass on and the mosque will cease to exist.
    There is an absence of zeal or burning fire in almost all the congregations that I have ever visited. The Imams are equally burnt out with their tired old sermons, peppered with Arabic, that no one really understands. Talk about being out of touch, we are losing this avenue. In time I predict the number of mosques in the US will dwindle down and more Muslims will exit and fall into the mainstream of America. And that, my friends , would be sad for all of us who value Islam.

    • I could not agree more in some cases.

      Now regarding the board. Have you noticed that often times it is people who haven’t accomplished much in their regular professions that tend to gravitate to the board positions?. It is probably the only place where they feel they can have some authority simply by being vocal or present more than others.
      So we have a lethal combination. Poor, unmotivated Imams being led by unaccomplished individuals in the form of a board (sure I am making a sweeping statement, but honestly think about it and see for yourself by looking at the resumes of the board members)

    • تفاءلوا بالخيري تجدوه … Have good atittude and good expectations and you will find it in your path.

      As an imam in Australia we have the above problems that is mentioned. A miser and hoarding board is quite common in the subcontinent communities, but not the other communities. If there is a genuine imam is valued and well looked after by the community.

      But the only problem I see and it is quite serious that the old generation imams are dying and there is no real replacement from the locals. There are plenty of imported imams who don’t speak the English language.
      After teaching at Islamic schools for nearly 25 years, the brilliant children do not gravitate towards “imam hood”.
      But that doesn’t mean it’s our end. Inshallah Allah will have something good kept for this ummah.

  • just a thought. has anyone of you ever thought of how the churches deal with their priests ?
    besides the “respect and honor” part of it, they ensure that their priests are well paid, given the best of apartments, vehicles etc
    aren’t the muslims supposed to be in the forefront with regard to this ? more so, when the nabi of Allah sallallawhu alaihi wa sallam has emphasized the importance of respecting and honoring of our imaams
    no doubt, the imaams will have their mistakes since they are humans, BUT does that mean we must ignore all the good they are doing ???
    we need to really do some soul searching, make sincere tawbah and ask Allah ta’aala to give us hidaayah

  • Assalamu Alaikum, Jazak Allahu
    Khairun. We always can talk and criticize others but remember the board members, imams, director chairperson everyone is from our community. We know each other’s ,
    we can talk each other’s. Above all keeping Quran & Sunnah on top and fear Allah we can easily forgive and forget others mistakes and thus can bring good changes.
    Finally, thanks to sister Lobna for her time in bringing so much stuff for our attention. May Allah reward her and her family.

  • Being born and raised in the West, educated in the West, graduated in the West, served two Masjids in 14 years, that too in the West; whatever anyone wants to believe, that’s their prerogative.

    Truth is, life is difficult as an Imam in North America.

    I grew up seeing the same, now I am experiencing it.

    The difference though, is two distinctive points.

    The former Imams were highly respected, and the later Imams are more qualified.

    The two points however, never crossed paths.
    I can say, that Masajid and their boards have lost focus with reality, and however you may see them advancing for the community need, they are only playing catch up.
    We have never being proactive, nor productive. We’ve always being counterproductive, and at the most: defensive.

    We travel not to make money, and if we get, maybe it is to make ends meet. For we have families and needs too.
    As for myself, I do it for the passion. Mostly, never reimbursed for my presentation.

    This is the pinnacle of ignorance, when you defend ignorant uneducated unprofessional non-profit organizers over educated qualified representative of Islam.

    Reflection.

  • Asssalaamo Alaikum> Do some has an evidence to prove this Statement

    ‘Those who run the masjid and supervise the imams’ affairs are still volunteers with, generally speaking, no expertise on how to manage non-profit organizations”

    What is qualification of Imam?

    Some cities have ” All Imam council of ——. Why they do not discuss this issue and fine solution and make some Guideline?

    Regards. Vali

  • Salaams,

    Unfortunately, the article itself and some of the comments are representative of what is really wrong in our communities. The article begins with a claim is is largely unsubstantiated – there is no empirical evidence cited, no studies, not even informal of where the author gets the many generalizations and analysis. One must conclude that it is purely anecdotal. I am not saying it’s wrong – but a serious study of such an important issue must be rooted in evidence and solutions must be much more tangible than some personal observations, sweeping generalizations, etc.

    A study such as the one cited here by Ihsan Baghby for example can give rise to a specific campaign because it is academic in nature and has specific recommendations.
    http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/The-American-Mosque-Report-3.pdf

    • Wa Alaikum Assalam Br. Mohamed,

      Having studied with scholars who were employed by the masjid, and then left the masjid, this informal analysis is hardly anecdotal. The intention of this article is to bring about real change by bringing up issues experienced by close friends and family who are Imams. Also having close friends and family who are and previously were on boards of masajid also provides me with insight. In my state alone, 7 imams left the masjid in one year. I chose privacy instead of name dropping in my article for the sake of keeping focused on issues, not personal stories.

      • AOA Sr Lobna Youssef Mulla,

        The issue is quite simple and the solution to this issue is also very simple. Having worked for MSA, Masjid’s etc. I was able to come up with a comprehensive solution. It took me over 10 years to attend and analyze lectures from at least 20 scholars such as Imam Zaid, Sh Hamza etc. The comprehensive solution I came up with is over 100 pages long. It outlines what the problem is and how to solve it. The bottom line is the Imams are not paid enough to be able to sit down and read the document. Let alone comment on it and implement it.

        Right now imams can only give you a 5 min solution to a general question. Anything that requires long-term planning needs an organization separate from the mosque.

        This is how a typical conversation goes. I show the plan to an imam. Masha Allah this is exactly what we need in the community. I need to give you feedback on it but I don’t have the time. You should implement it. Masha Allah amazing work. That’s where the conversation ends. Because the Imam need’s to pay rent etc.

        If anyone wants to really fix these problems then you will have to take some action. I need few people lets say three or four who are willing give a few hours a week to this work. Also; they would need to donate at least $30 to $50 a month to the organization. A master’s in social work or business administration would be an asset along with some knowledge of the Quran/ Hadith. Are you up to the challenge? Then mail me and let’s start implementing the solutions.

        Bottom line:
        We all know what the problems are and we all know it takes money and knowledge to implement the solution.

  • Maa shaa Allah is very goo wake up call 4 every individual Muslim
    And we shoul act more dan other Religion act coz we ar Muslims

  • Jazaki Allahu khair Ustadha Lobna for sharing this. I was an eye-opening read for me. May Allah swt humble and guide us all as community servants.

  • Asalamualaykum
    Dear brothers and sisters

    I have been an Imaam at a beautiful purpose built masjid in uk since 1998 and continue till now ALHAMDULILAH

    The younger imaams nowadays have so much talent and skills in running community affairs but choose not to become Imaam WHY?

    1- most of the people who are management are people when they reach a retiring age get bored and due to influence join the management committee who have no understanding of community needs and affairs
    2- from the management only a handful are regular to the masjid and when there is meetings they act as if they have the power to hire and fire
    3- when in reality in the management you need people who will have taqwa but also the dynamics of showing respect to ulama they are just as qualified as a doctor or a lawyer
    4- the salary is a shame my salary has not been incremented by a penny since 1998 and we are in 2016 someone might say maybe your not working ALHAMDULILAH I’m one who is accessible to the community needs always and continue more then my job description
    Even statistics show that the lowest paid in comparison to Jews and Christians are the Muslim imaams
    And that is why the highly qualified imaams work elsewhere !
    5- I’m shocked at the comments that they travel the world and free this and free that which imaams are you talking about ? Those who are not full time imaams under the management like shaykh Hamza shaykh Yaseen shaykh numan Ali Khan .
    If you want quality then the imaams duty is round the clock in fact his work starts when he exits the masjid who is there to see how many calls you get from the community to handle all affairs in fact in the uk the masaajid are locked after salaah during long hours
    One lecture has by the mercy of ALLAH given hope and love to a marital relationship which was at the brink of talaaq
    Drug users and gamblers have done tawba the list can go
    There is no money that can compensate for the great works our imaams and ulama have done
    Wslm

  • There are too many generalisations in the article made about Commitee Board members of Mosques, which I believe take aim at the generation of volunteers that may not have had a very high level of education, however, with good intention, helped build and maintain mosques in many western countries that later generations benefitted from to the present day.

    It is also important to remember that those Muslim communities, who left their homeland, were migrants in a new land with very little possessions, however with all the challenges they faced, they still managed to achieve a lot – again with little education – by establishing and maintaining Islamic centres and Mosques on a voluntary basis.

    Over the last 15 to 20 years, the 1st and 2nd generation of Muslims, who have grown up and also been educated in western countries, have joined Mosque Committees as volunteers and they continue to build on the foundations that their parents and grand parents established and maintained before they were born.

    it’s unfortunate when any paid employee, including an Imam, is not appreciated or recognised for good work that they perform, however, I’m certain that it would also be a little tough or possibly even tougher when volunteers, such as Committee Boards of Mosques, are not apprecited or recognised for all the work they perform too.

    Imam’s regularly leaving their post is not a good thing for any Mosque or Islamic centre, but a good and hard working Committee Board is also important to support for the well being of the Mosque and the community.

    • The article tells us that the “board is ready to spend millions on buildings but when it comes to paying imams they are not ready to do so”
      I had I big problem with a commitee member because I paid a young imam some money from the mosque account for giving Khutba.

      Some of board members are not like the above example. I know of a board member who would pay the imam from his personal account because the mosque account was empty. But that is 1 in a million.
      I noticed Some brothers here are defending board members, and some are defending imams. we should not be like that. There is a problem.
      The old generation imams are dying out. There is no one to replace them. Please tell me Why would I let my son be imam and be at the mercy of board members elections.

  • We get what we pay for. They might know Arabic, but their English and communications skills are generally weak. The ability to articulate properly and connect to the congregation is vital, but some of the sheikhs and imams are so utterly out of touch with the reality of life that their sermons don’t connect at all with the audience.
    Case in point one of the Imams I heard stated that Music is haram, also that we shouldn’t laugh or smile, too much. Seriously? With that no one is interested in listening to them.

  • Since I commented on this article earlier, I wrote an observation of my own.
    Please read:

    With a spike in Imam- Committee – Community disconnect, please take a moment and read my article.
    Feel free to comment on and share. As a former Imam for 14 years, this is an issue the community at whole needs to address.
    CRISIS OF IMAMS IN AMERICA.
    http://www.almashriqprinciple.com/1709-2/

  • So, is the author suggesting that having professional Muslims with managing skills give up their personal time (and surely some of their own wealth) to take on the ongoing responibilities that come with operating a religious and community organisation (ie. members, employees, bills, finances, meetings, governance, maintenance, etc) on a voluntary basis, while increasing wages for Imams is going to keep Imams in their desired roles?

    I’m not sure whether this is the right message – I mean, on the one hand we’re asking Muslims to work voluntarly for their Mosque (& faith), while on the other hand the article suggests that higher pay will keep Imams in their roles.

    Is the prospect of earning a high salary (money) in this life the reason why Muslims should aspire to become an Imam?

    • If the mosques are to deliver what they are there to deliver; then they would have to have a board who are knowledgeable in business best practices. Which means that the board members have to be professionals. If the imams are to engage in community building, there has to be a budget for it. One the key goals of having a mosque is to have a regular communication of healthy ideas with in the community. If both the board and the Imam are week at communication with no budget to address this issue; then the mosque is not serving one of the key purpose it is in existence in the first place.

  • The board members rarely spend from their own wealth, it is form the public funds that they spend.
    -and if they are five or six board members surely they can manage a masjid.
    – but usually they meet and talk excessively with little actions and out comes. And when they are busy with their work or job they will never spare their time. They will point at the imam and ask him to :
    Clean mosque
    Open mosque
    Maintain the mosque
    Speak and lecture
    Teach Quran to our Childen
    Why is he getting paid for …. He is having an easy job. The imamat I could do it, or that kid who is my cousin can lead us in prayer. He has beautiful voice.
    Khutba just read from the book. What os the big deal. Those imams are having a run with our money.
    – and after 10-15 years you find crazy, ignorant youths, cutting the head of people in the name of islam. Why because that “internet imam” took care of their spiritual needs and twisted it on the wrong direction.
    Where is the local Imam? Why are our Childen not adjusting and communicating well with the environment that they are living in?
    Paying an extra 10-20 k to the imam is not a luxury it is an extrem neccassity.
    The mosque must be open daily, circles or knowledge must be done daily. Our children must learn Quran and Hadith from authentic sources.
    Not from half imams and half khateebs.

  • Answering the brother who said the imam mentioned do not laugh,
    You are probably referring to the Hadith of the prophet when he saw a group of his companions laughing ” if you know what I know you would laugh little and cry more, you would walk in the streets screaming in madness, and you would not enjoy your women in beds.”

    This imam is teaching islam brother. He is telling you do not be unmindful from the hereafter, غفلة, … Laugh no problems but remember akhira.
    This is the full message.

  • Ordinary Muslims donate their time to organise and collect funds from their community to establish an Islamic Cemtre and/or Mosque.

    Ordinary Muslims donate their hard earned money to build million dollar Islamic Centers and Mosques for the benefit of the community.

    Ordinary Muslims donate their time and money towards Islamic Centres and Mosques by volunteering to serve on Committee Boards for the benefit of their community.

    Ordinary Muslims complete these fetes without receiving any monetary benefits or wage for their efforts.

    Surely ordinary Muslims performing such selfless and voluntary acts for the benefit of the Ummah should be encouraged to operate and manage Islamic Centres/Mosques.

  • AA
    Can someone please answer the following questions for me:

    – How much should an Imam get paid a year?
    – What work should an Imam perform?
    – How many hours per day an days per week should an Imam work?

    With my limited knowledge on Islam and experience in managing a Mosque, my view on this subject is as follows:

    I always thought that an individual persues the role of a religious leader to serve their faith and strive to achieve its mission, however it appears that being a religious leader today is more like a profession. This is how a lot of other faiths have become and it’s accepted as normal today.

    I don’t see why cleaning a Mosque is only a job for lay Muslims and not an Imam – unless God only rewards lay Muslims when they perform tasks such as clean Mosques and not Imams? I doubt that. Similar to the business world, your title and rank at work defines the work you are paid to perform ie. a Team Leader does not clean toilets.

    On the other hand, professional and educated Muslims, who hold high positions in the business world, still somehow find the time to clean their local Mosque without pay.

    I’d like to read the 100 page ‘Comprehensive Plan’, so can someone please provide the link to the file.

    I hope the answer to keeping Imams in Mosques isn’t simply $$$ because currency was not the driving force for Muslims and Imams who strived for their faith in the past.

    • AOA,

      I am just posting a small sample of the work I did to give you an idea of the kind of things that are needed to solve this problem.

      The Need

      We need an organization dedicated to research and development of Muslims in the globalize world. At present we do not have any organization which is dedicated to looking into social issues of Muslims in the modern world. Weather these issues originate from cross cultural marriage, family leadership question or simply not having access to the right literature and/or supports at the time we need them most.

      Benefits of Strategic Consulting

       Workshops designed to enhance communication skills of the community.

       Questionnaires on issues affecting our community so that we have the necessary data to put in place right programs and services

       Providing a basis to conduct research into the needs of the individuals and families in the community

       Providing a basis so that we can plan each community based on their local mosque so every community surrounded by a mosque will have a personal development plan. This way we can develop communities as per our community vision.

       Provide the necessary financing so that we can produce scholars and empower them to research solutions to our problem from the view point of communication, management and leadership

    • It is not money for sure. Omer bin Alkatab said to ABU Bakar on the first day of him (abu Bakar) becoming Khalifa, as he was going to the market to sell cloths, where are you going?
      He said to to the market.
      Omar said what ? The Muslims had made you an oversear on their affairs and you are leaving them to the market.
      He said who will feed my children?
      He then made an allowance for him from baitul mal (Muslims communal treasury).

      Here is your answer regarding the money issue. The community should take care of The children’s of the imam in the same way like your own children.
      Imams duty:
      Well prayers, teaching children and adults, fatwas, community liaison, cleaning when the brother who is there to do it was some how busy ect
      The buck falls on him when the job isn’t done. Yesterday the (professional brother didn’t turn up to open the mosque and prepare it for the Jumaa prayers. The responsibility fell on the imam).
      Hours of service full time 24/7 .

  • Can someone name a Mosque or Islamic Center where Board is professional, Imam is happy and everything operates well for community, so it can be a model for others to look and learn from in either America, Canada or Europe?

    I would also like to read the 100 page Comprehensive Plan.

  • Some Islamic Centers rotate the Imam every 3 or 4 years by employing a new Imam from overseas.

    Which system is it better – employ Imam for long time/life time or to have a new Imam every 2, 3 or 4 years?

    • Dear Omar:
      The Turkish government do this , rotating imams every 5 years (here in australia).
      Living here for the last 30 years I have never seen a problem with the Turkish community. The government finances the imam, salary, training, holidays, sick leave etc…
      The only problem with this is as the imam developes a strong relationship with the community specially the children he is taken away and replaced. They Usually serve their own community and not the other wider Muslim diaspora, and there is a language bariar. All imams are not locals.

  • Jzk Mohamed for small sample of report.

    Ha,
    Please excuse my ignorance, however, are you saying that every Imam today is a Khalif?

    I only know a wife of a Board member of a local Mosque who said that her husband is basically on call 24/7 and he (along with the others) receives phone calls, emails, sms and deals with a number of other tasks and issues related to the Mosque too and commits much of his personal time towards this work for the sake of God.

    Come to think of it, I’m actually surprised that Muslims who work on Mosque Board are not the ones that are leaving Mosques because they actually get zero (no money) for their time and efforts; even less appreciation for the time they somehow manage to contribute between daily jobs and family committments.

    Really, I don’t understand the benefit, so I wouldn’t want my son to waste his time joining a Mosque Board.

  • Dear Ha,
    If in your 30 years of experience as an Imam in Australia you “have never seen a problem with the Turkish community”, then maybe they have the best system in place today for Imams at Mosques.

    Are their any other Mosques from your part of the world that have a good or better system in place?

    It may be good for your local Mosque Committee to simply try to follow what they do.

    Peace.

    • Dear Omar:
      The Turkish government do this , rotating imams every 5 years (here in australia).
      Living here for the last 30 years I have never seen a problem with the Turkish community. The government finances the imam, salary, training, holidays, sick leave etc…
      The only problem with this is as the imam developes a strong relationship with the community specially the children he is taken away and replaced. They Usually serve their own community and not the other wider Muslim diaspora, and there is a language bariar. All imams are not locals.

  • With all due respect to the Imams, they don’t work 8 hours a day like most people – it is much less – no where near 40 hrs a week.

    Being contactable 24/7 in this day and age has become quite common in many different organisations and professional careers, but this does not necessarily increase pay because you are not actually working 24/7.

    So, please don’t compare holding a mobile in your pocket with actually getting real work done because it’s not an honest argument to have with people that actually work a full 8 hrs 5, 6 or 7 days a week.

    • Do u like to go to work at 5 am, and then go back home then come back and go 5 times aday , 7 days a week. Even if the hours of your attendance are 20-30 minutes you would not like this. Of course the reward of attending the masjid is not compensated except in the hereafter by Allah alone.
      The problem with your way of thinking is that your are comparing your job with the imams. The hours of work, the working conditions are not the same.
      Very rarely people call the imam when they are in a happy mode and they have no problems in their lives. Always people ring the imam when they are at a crises point. When there is a family break down, when their son/daughter runs with a girl/boy friend, when their children have drug and alcohol problems. Just listening to them for 5 minutes and supporting them in these difficult times is beyond measure or beyond any worldly compensation. Also these types of Problems are not problems like a machines breaks down at work. These problems are of a persistant and continues nature. I listened to a domestic violence problem from one of my musalees 5 years a go , and I’m still listening to the same problem.
      Please don’t compare your job with the imam’s. You may compare them to set a monetary compensation to the imam as he still need to take his children to the schools and universities.

      Also When I said hours of work is 24/7 I didn’t mean he is on call holding a mobile phone. What I meant is that he must be ready if there are any issues with the mosque or the community.

      The wife of the commitee member who said that her husband spends countless hours solving mosque issues and he is not paid for it. He just does it for the sake of Allah.

      Maybe what we need is an organisation like what the Muslims have back in their countries “ministry of awqaf, (Islamic endowment)” ,
      Which takes care of every thing mosque related.

    • Br Ali, we are talking about full-time Imams. If those kind of positions exist, they are not the subject of this article. As I mentioned many of the full time Imams work 60 hours a week and that’s not just answering phone calls by any means.

  • AoA
    Sr Iman, I agree. Who in their right mind wants to join a Board of a Mosque to work without any pay in addition to their day job? That would only limit ones time to do anything else and I’m sure come with many other problems.

  • A mosque or a masjid is a non-profit religious organization which qualifies for tax benefits. It cannot be and should not be run by the state. If the community is worthy and feels that its something that they need then they should invest their time and resources to build a faith organization that reflects their value systems. The state should not be setting up Islamic Centers. We already know that in too many “Islamic” countries the Mullahs and Imams are on the public dole courtesy of the state. No one can fire them and some of them spew out nonsense in terms of unqualified “fatwa’s”

    • Ministry of awqaf have served islam for hundreds of years. This is a recent phenomena that the Muslims have detached themselves from their governments institutions and Their “mullahs” in a massive disheartening way.
      Also please note that corruption is rampant in all government sectors (finance , defence, education etc ). You will find that the religious ministry is also affected by this corruption.

      My question to you Mr Husseiny is what makes think that the organisation will run in a corrupt way as is similar with the Islamic countries ?
      I believe that the organisation is just a reflection of how the country is. Because there is rampant corruption in the so called Islamic countries you see problems with their institutions . In the west there is a lot of transparency. I feel that It will be different.

  • AoA
    Dear Lobna,
    A daily prayers takes no more than 20 minutes to perform.
    A visit may take anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes.
    A phnoe call may take 10 minutes to 1 hour..
    Preparation for a weekly hutbah may take 2 hours.
    Even if you doubled the above list of duties, they do not add up to 10 hours a day.
    How can you claim that Imams work 60 hours every week?
    Imams are generally free between prayers, therefore people, who are not at work, will contact their Imam for a social chat / coffee / tea. Do you consider a social chat over tea as work?

    • Br. Ali, I see we are talking about different Imams here. I am not talking about an Imam who leads prayers and answers phone calls. I am talking about someone who is a religious director who prepares for lectures, khutbas, reminders, counsels, attends interfaith meetings, works with the youth etc. I am talking about Imams who cater to a large community. In any profession, chatting over tea is considered a break. I don’t think anyone will disagree about that. Also khutbas do not take 2 hours to prepare. As a speaker myself, I know it takes several hours to prepare for a lecture let alone a khutba.

    • Dear brother Ali:
      Please do not compare your 9.00 – am-5.00 pm day job with the imams hours. You only go to work once in the morning, having an hour lunch break, and 30 min break for brunch. And at the end of your day you get back home at 5.00. With annual paid holidays, sick leave, health insurance etc…

      Very rare do the above working conditions you find them available for imams.
      We had an imam years back he didn’t have Medicare card and his wife gave birth, the mosque said to him he has to pay her medical bills (close to $7000). It was an absult disgrace. If it wasn’t for the generosity of the hospital director (by the way he was a Christian) the poor imam would have suffered a lot.
      I taught a brilliant child 15 years ago the Quran and he became hafiz, he now works as an electrician. Why ? because people do not appreciate the ulema.

  • Dear Lobna,

    Thank you for your response.

    So, what do you believe an Imam that caters (ie. Youth, counsel, interfaith, etc.) for a large community be paid and how much should an Imam that leads 5 daily prayers, visits and makes phone calls be paid an hour or every year?

    I’m sure you can appreciate that if Imams are paid wages similar to that of lawyers and doctors; there would be nothing left for the Mosque, which ordinary Muslims built to serve the faithful – not to line the pockets of Imams with money, capital and wealth to keep for themselves.

    Dear Ha,
    With all due respect, however I, like I’m certain many other Muslims in the workforce, experience regular and also ongoing issues, problems and pressures at work.Many of us are overworked and take work at home and also work on weekends too without receiving any extra pay.
    Maybe I have misunderstood you, but I don’t quite understand why the Mosque needs to pay for medical bills associated to any family member of the Imam?

  • Medicare is a free health cover given by government for all citizens. At the time he was not a citizen yet, he was newly sponsored by the mosque as an imam. So the mosque should be responsible for having his health insurance. Some how the committee member might have overlooked it. Maybe he was a person who thinks exactly like you, why should the mosque pay for the medical bills of the family members of the imam, so to save money he just did the imams health cover.
    In australia if you do not have Medicare or health insurance you can not afford health treatment unless u r a millionaire.

    Why don’t you think the imams should be paid like lawyers? Although imams didn’t ask to be paid like them. All what they asked is a dignified life with a decent income for themselves and their families. Why your child should dress and go to a better school than the imams child.

    Also please note imams study more than lawyers. Hifz Quran 3 years, Arabic and fiqh 4-5 years, fatwas 1-2 years. Some of them have masters and doctorates from regular non Islamic universities. So they finished all their traditional Islamic studies and they also study at secular universities. And believe me brother Ali from my observation if the imam didn’t do both kinds of studies (traditional and secular ) he can not serve us properly.

    ” ما أرسلنا من رسول الا بلسان قومه ليبين لهم ” سورة ابراهيم 4

    “And we did not sent any messenger (but) speaking in the language of his people. So that he might clearly convey the message to them” sura Ibrahim 4
    Speaking the language means knows what is the culture, way of thinking and how do people do things in a particular community. Even here in australia a South African imam who is well versed with the English language will have problems settling in, because he does not understand the culture of the people. He was not brought up in the community.

    A mosque not having enough funds to spare for their imam is like a company who spends exorbitantly on an office building while neglecting its employees. The prophets mosque was a simple structure. It’s roof could not hold off heavy rain. Why would a mosque need a dome which will cost 1/2 a million when they can do with a simple regular roof. Why an imported minbar from Turkey which will cost 100k while a 50 bucks chair can do the job.
    The key to solve this problem is to attract young and talented youth from our community to become our imams.
    Brother Ali, if we don’t do this islam will die with us. If our knowledge of Quran and Hadith is 50 percent in this current generation, it will be 20 percent in our children’s generation. It will keep on declining.

    Imams role is very very important brother Ali. It is one of the most important roles for the preservation of our cultural and Islamic identity.

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