Tag: Accountability

11 Qualities of a Good Chairman/Chairwoman

A good chairman/chairwoman can steer a masjid board and the entire masjid in a direction in a positive direction and provide much needed stability and space for growth for a masjid and the masjid board. Here are a few good qualities a masjid chairman/chairwoman should have to be effective in leading a community.

1) Knowing His/Her Role

A good chairman knows his/her role on a masjid board. This includes knowing when and when not to exert his/her influence or authority and when and when not to troubleshoot problems. The worst chairmen/chairwomen either are too involved and micromanage or are too hands-off in their approach to managing a board and a community. There has to be a balance between the two extremes for a chairman/chairwoman to be effective.

2) Be a Source of Inspiration & An Example

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

John Quincy Adams

As a chairman/chairwoman of a board and the community  community members look to them for guidance and solving the problems facing the community. As a chairman/chairwoman they need set a good example for the board and the community. This means showing up on time to meetings, delivering on promises and deliverables and ensuring they are living up to professional and Islamic morals, ethics and values in all of their actions and interactions with both board members and the community.  As a part of a chairman/chairwoman’s inspirational leadership they should create a culture and an environment where both board members and community members feel inspired to do more and work harder for the community.

3) Showing Initiative, Innovation & Leadership

This quality is pretty obvious, but sometimes ineffective chairmen/chairwomen simply don’t take initiative or exhibit leadership in times of confusion or disarray on a masjid board or masjid operations. A hands-off approach to managing a board can cause unnecessary chaos and confusion. The buck needs to stop somewhere and a good leader in times of confusion is able to navigate a board and a community out of the storm, stabilize situations and bring order in times of confusion, conflict and disarray.

In terms of showing initiative, chairmen/chairwomen need to set a good example by putting in work on the ground and also spearheading and empowering new initiatives/projects/programs to help the masjid board and the community grow positively. A good chairman/chairwoman should be innovative and not afraid of going against the grain when it comes to coming up with better and more efficient ways to run and operate a masjid. Too many chairmen/chairwomen stick to the status quo and are not bold enough to make drastic and much-needed changes for a masjid and its community to grow. Innovation is a much needed skill in chairmen/chairwomen. Each and every masjid will need its own unique solutions to its problems/challenges.

4) Keeping Board Members Accountable

A good chairman/chairwoman holds their board members accountable and to a high standard of professionalism and Islamic standard of ethics, morals and values. This means starting meetings on time and ending them on time. Ensuring board members are following through on assigned tasks and keeping them accountable for tasks/projects/assignments not followed through on. A masjid board with a lack of accountability internally makes it much weaker and extremely inefficient. A good chairman/chairwoman will ensure that all board members (including themselves) are held accountable for any missed assignments/tasks or even behavioral issues/miscues that impact the board dynamics or community.

5) Ensuring Deadlines Are Met (on Anything)

A good chairman/chairwoman will ensure that deadlines are met on all tasks and projects as much as possible. This may include ensuring board members are following through on assigned tasks, contractors are meeting their agreements/contracts, bills are paid on time, and ensuring that all promises to the community in terms of delivering on construction, hiring of staff, and/or changes to masjid operations are actually met and communicated to the community effectively.

6) Providing Direction

A good chairman/chairwoman would be able to provide direction to his/her board and community. One of the worst things for a chairman to do is to simply stick to the status quo of what previous chairmen/chairwomen have set in place. There is always room for improvement in operations and masjid board efficiency. A weak chairman/chairwoman will not provide direction and stagnate the growth of a masjid and its community. A good chairman/chairwoman will provide direction and also communicate that direction not just to his/her board members but the community as well.

7) Delegating Authority, Not Tasks

A good chairman/chairwoman delegates authority, not tasks. This means empowering your board members to make decisions based on their expertise and taking ownership over key focus areas and tasks. When a chairman/chairwoman empowers his/her board members with authority then tasks and assignments get accomplished in a much more organized and efficent manner. Micromanaging board members is by far the worst and least sustainable methods of running a board. Empowerment of board members creates leaders and allows boards to function much more effectively.

8) Keeping A Board Focused & On Track

It’s inevitable for a board to have diverse opinions and points of view and personalities, but a good chairman/chairwoman is able to create a balanced board that is able to avoid clashes, roadblocks and gridlock when it comes to decision-making. As a part of keeping a board focused and on track a good chairman/chairwoman would be able to resolve conflicts and clashes on views in a productive and amicable manner. The buck needs to stop somewhere and a chairman/chairwoman has to act as an arbitrator, referee or judge in order to keep a board running smoothly.

9) Ability to Build a Team

A good chairman/chairwoman is one who is able to build an environment and a feeling of team spirit on a board.  When a board fully feels like they have to have each others’ backs and be supportive of each other real change happens. When trust, respect and mutual love, compassion and empathy is built at a board level board members become far more effective in terms of performing at a higher level, having a higher morale, and the comfortability to provide innovative and unique ideas to improve the board and the community as a whole. A good chairman/chairwoman would be able to create this environment and team spirit for a board. This means understanding how to balance different personalities, temperaments, views and opinions in an amicable and productive manner while encouraging healthy dialogue, discussion and exchanges of ideas.

10) Manage Multiple Projects & Tasks

A chairman/chairwoman should be able to keep organized and manage multiple tasks. There are several project management tools available online to help keep one organized and on track. Investing in technology can save a masjid thousands of dollars and also take a masjid’s operations and the community to the next level far more quickly.

11) Be Accessible to the Community

Some chairmen/chairwomen are virtually impossible to contact or even get time to talk to. The lack of accessibility knowingly or unknowingly creates and fosters a feeling of mistrust between the community and the masjid board in general. When community members feel they can’t even get their voices heard by the community leader then their trust and confidence in the masjid board plummets. This is not to say that the chairman/chairwoman needs to entertain every request or concern, but be able to triage or delegate requests and/or concerns to the appropriate parties or resources within a masjid organizational structure.



Masjid Board Accountability, Transparency & Oversight

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity

– Dalai Lama

Unfortunately many masjid boards operate with little to no accountability, transparency or oversight. This often festers community members’ mistrust and a lack of confidence in the masjid board. Combine this with the lack of transparency and you have a recipe for disaster. Mechanisms must be in place in the masjid constitution or by-laws to ensure that masjid boards are held accountable and have a level of transparency to all community members (not just a few or high-income donors). This includes having quarterly townhall meetings and emergency townhall meetings with the community in the case of special cases or emergencies, the publication of quarterly and annual financial and operational reports, and the ability for community members to voice their concerns and be heard by masjid board members.

Masjid board members who operate in the dark with little to no accountability, transparency and oversight while not listening to the demands, feedback, ideas and complaints essentially destroys a community. Masjid board members not entertaining and taking community members’ concerns and feedback seriously is a blatant abuse of power and authority. Masjid board members are elected to serve all Muslims who attend the masjid, not just a handful of high-income donors or just themselves. This type of mindset in some masjid boards reeks of arrogance and self-interest and is by far one of the biggest factors which holds back most masjids from progressing forward and growing a community.

We typically find that the destruction and division of most communities is due to the arrogance and egos of some masjid boards and their board members. The lack of Islamic ethics, morals and values in masjid boards and their operations is one of the core problems which plagues most masjids. Most community members who are unmosqued typically point to the masjid board and/or an instance where they felt unwelcome or unheard by a community member, masjid board member or staff. If masjid leadership (masjid boards) are making community members feel unwelcome and unheard then we most certainly need to hold our board members accountable for their actions. Masjid boards need to be held accountable and be reminded that they serve the community not the special interests of a few or even their own self-interests. However, this can only change internally from within with a board that is mature enough to realize its mistakes and weaknesses if not pressure must be applied from the community to ensure a positive change is made in ensuring accountability, transparency and oversight become a core part of masjid operations in masjid leadership.

If you’re a community member who has zero clue about how your masjid operates ask for a copy of your masjid’s constitution and by-laws. Call for a meeting with your board to ask them about how they operate and demand that a level of transparency, accountability and oversight is set in place to ensure there is no abuse of power or authority or breach of trust with the community. The only way we can ensure our masjids achieve professionalism is if we all work together to build our masjids and our communities. Just as is with any problem the first step is to recognize it’s there.

3 Types of Transparency Masjids Need (ASAP)

The Dalai Lama said:
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”

Most masjid boards and leadership’s biggest weaknesses is their lack of transparency. Many donors and community members complain about masjid board’s lack of transparency. A lack of transparency discourages donors from donating and discourages community members from supporting the masjid or even being a part of the community at times.

Transparency doesn’t mean revealing every detail about masjid operations. There is some information that should remain confidential for the protection of the community as a whole (for example employee salaries). However, what is meant by transparency is how funds are being spent, policies and procedures, elections and hiring and firing policies and procedures. A lack of transparency can virtually kill donor and community members’ confidence and develop a deep-seated mistrust  in the masjid board and leadership which will cripple a masjid’s ability to move forward and grow.

There are three types of transparency a masjid needs to have with its donors and community members: financial transparency, operational transparency, and strategic transparency.

Financial Transparency

Transparency at a financial level includes showing how donations and funds are being spent and allocated. This can be as simple as releasing income and expense statements, but doing so in a way where the average community member can understand. Using charts and pie graphs can help immensely. Releasing financial statements that only an accountant or individuals with an finance background would be able to understand really isn’t helpful in helping your average community member understand what’s going on financailly at the masjid.  Keep it simple and easy to understand.

Releasing quarterly financial reports to the community can go a long way in building donor and community members’ confidence in the masjid board and leadership. It also allows donors and community members to keep the masjid board and leadership accountable for their expenditures and allocation of funds.

Operational Transparency

Transparency in operations is critical. This includes clearly outlining what masjid policies have been adopted from everything from how the facility is to be used to how zakat will be collected and distributed. Having a policies and procedures PDF or text available on your masjid’s website can go a long way in clarifying a lot of policy positions that the masjid has adopted or taken. This can help avoid a lot of confusion and problems in the operations of your masjid.

New policies and procedures adopted by the masjid need to be communicated to the masjid via its email newsletter or even at quarterly General Body Meetings with the community.

Strategic Transparency

Communicating strategy and masjid strategic plans to donors and community members can also go a long way as well. Explaining where the masjid board and leadership plan to take the masjid in 5-10 years or more can help build confidence in leadership, but also allows for donors and community members to offer critical insight, feedback, ideas and potentially resources to achieve the goals more effectively and even in less time than planned.

Masjid strategic goals need to be shared with the community on a quarterly basis to report progress and report challenges and obstacles that may be hindering the masjid from reaching its goals. This allows community members to provide feedback, ideas and resources to overcome the obstacles. This also gets community buy-in in the strategic plan and goals of the masjid board and leadership. Empowering community members and making them feel a part of the process goes a long way in building confidence and trust with masjid boards and leadership.

Being Donor-Driven vs. Community-Driven


Money is essential to the operations of a masjid. This much is understandable, however when a masjid board or leadership is influenced in its decision-making by how much a donor donates then this becomes problematic. Islamically speaking donations should never have strings attached to them in the sense of influencing decision-making of masjid boards or leadership. If a donor donates specifically to a particular program or construction project that’s ok, but to influence board decisions is problematic and can hold a community back from truly growing.
If a masjid board or leadership is held hostage by high-income donors then they won’t be able to make critical decisions to help move a community forward and help make decisions that may contribute to the growth of the community and masjid. Some masjid boards and leadership may feel that if they antagonize or disagree with high-income donors that masjid operations, programs and services will cease. This is a valid fear, but again Islamically speaking trusting in Allah and His ability to provide financially for the masjid needs to be a factor in the masjid board’s decision-making.

A masjid board is not just accountable to the high-income donors, but to the community as a whole. A masjid board that makes decisions based on the opinions (and donations) of a few is not only un-Islamic, un-ethical, but also a breach of trust with the community who’s put masjid board members in charge to serve…wait for it….the community. When a masjid board makes decisions about the operations, strategy, and ideology of the masjid based on  a few high-income donors it is a breach of trust and a blatant abuse and misuse of authority and power. Masjid boards  and leadership need to understand that making decisions based on the opinions and donations of high-income donors can literally destroy communities. People will leave the masjid out of frustration for their voices not being heard nor being taken seriously. A poor Muslim should be as likely to be heard as a high-income Muslim donor. A Muslim who donates $5 to the masjid and a Muslim who donates $50,000 should be treated equally by masjid boards and leadership. To show favoritism to a Muslim based on his or her donations is un-Islamic and totally against the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Masjid boards and leadership need to break away from this model of being held hostage by a handful of high-income donors who influence masjid board decisions and operations. Continuing with this mindest and status quo will destroy communities over time and alienate many generations over time and dissuade and discourage certain demographics (ethnically, racially and financially speaking) from attending the masjid. If their voices and concerns are not be heard then why support masjid boards and leadership who don’t listen to them or respect them?

Masjid boards and leadership need to realize that this is happening, create methods and policies to avoid donor-driven decisions from being made, and commit to being community-driven in their decision making. This means making decisions based on betterment of the community, not high-income donors. Masjid boards can break the chains, influence and dependancy on high-income donors if they create a financial sustainability plan to bring in income and revenue for the masjid. However, for this to happen requires masjid boards to realize and recognize this is happening and be willing to break away and change the status quo.

Lastly, transparency is critical and can be accomplished by establishing systems and platforms in which community members can voice their opinions, suggestions, complaints and ideas. This can be in the form of town halls or panel discussions with the board.