A good, well-written and easy-to-understand constitution and by-laws can assist a masjid board in ensuring that their operations run smoothly for years to come. Unfortunately, the common problem most masjids face is their constitutions are by-laws are not clear, or are not adhereed to by the masjid board or simply don’t meet the needs of the community and the masjid’s operations.The constitution and by-laws of a masjid should be revisited every 5 years to ensure that the documents makes sense and take into account the growth and changes your community undergoes.
If a constitution and by-laws are unclear to the masjid board and the community then it may be time to revisit your constitution and by-laws to ensure the documents are meeting the needs of your community. Revisiting and revising the two documents can help in ensuring that there are no loop-holes that could be abused potentially by board members and also improve transparency of the masjid board operations overall.
A masjid’ constitution and its by-laws should be easily accessible to community members who request the documents. Deliberately hiding the constitution and by-laws increases the community’s mistrust and decreases confidence in masjid boards. Thus, ensure your constitution and by-laws are easily accessible and readily available for review or revision.
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.