Tag: Masjid Operations

The Importance of A Good, Well-Written Constitution & By-Laws

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.

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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.

14 Questions We Need to Ask Before Building a Masjid

Many times we get eager and excited to build a masjid. We get excited when the cement foundation is placed and see the walls go up and the roof and get super excited when the masjid is complete. However, prior to even building a masjid the community and the masjid board needs to ask itself a couple of tough questions which if asked prior to the first brick being laid down will help the masjid prosper longer and grow much faster.

1) Why Are we Building a Masjid?

To some this is probably a simple or unnecessary question, but at a very fundamental level it will help keep the community and the masjid board focused for many years to come. It also helps orient the intentions of the community and masjid board to be for the sake of Allah instead of for egos or recognition. A part of this step would be to develop a mission and vision statement for the masjid. These two statements will help the masjid keep focused in achieving its goals.

2)  Are Our Constitution and By-Laws Solid?

Having a strong and clear constitution along with by-laws that are clear and easy to understand can help avoid several problems in the near future for your masjid. Some (if not all) masjids have some pretty awful constitutions and by-laws that are extremely narrow-sighted and short-sighted and limit the ability for the community to grow, function or operate properly.

A well-written constitution and by-laws will take into account the expansion and growth of the masjid and truly understand how to operate the masjid efficiently and effectively. A strong constitution and by-laws are the foundation on which a masjid is built. If the foundation is faulty the operations and execution of services and programs will suffer immensely over time and the masjid will never truly be able to realize its full potential.

 3) Can the Community Afford the Masjid?

Building a masjid is obviously a major expense for the entire community. It’s not easy to gain the funds necessary to build a masjid. Thus, it’s important to see if the community is able to afford the intiail costs of building a masjid.

4) What Facilities in the Masjid are Critical for its Operations?

Sometimes in our efforts to build a masjid we build huge beautiful structures and facilities, but often build masjids that don’t necessarily meet the needs of the community. Building a musallah (prayer area) is an obvious feature of a masjid, but our communities with the way they are developing need a lot more than a simple musallah. We need gyms, babysitting rooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and other facilities critical to the operations of a functioning masjid.

Thus, it becomes important prior to laying the first brick to know the needs of the community and meet those needs while keeping in mind future expansion and growth of your community.

5) Are We Leaving Space for the Masjid Facility to Expand?

Many masjids make the mistake of not leaving enough space land-wise to expand their facility or plan for their community to grow. Thus, in the blueprints or planning of the masjid facility it’s important to plan for the future growth and expansion of your masjid and community. In 5-10 years your community may grow, but will the infrastructure of your masjid grow with it? If not, then you need to begin planning how to accommodate the needs of the community as it grows.

6) How Will the Masjid Operational Costs be Maintained?

Many masjids make the mistake of building huge facilities which the community can more often than not afford to maintain. It’s embarrassing to see masjid fundraisers year after year begging the community to donate or the masjid operations will grind to a halt. Begging year after year for masjid operational costs isn’t just embarrassing and unsustainable, but makes the community lose its confidence in the masjid board and leadership to make smart financial decisions for the community and also make community members question how the donations and funds are being allocated and spent.

7) What is the Long Term Financial Sustainability Plan for the Masjid?

This brings us to the next question: how do you plan to financially sustain the masjid? Masjids in this day and age should not be operating on a fundraising model of depending on donations from the community. There needs to be long-term planning where masjid funds are being spent or invested in opportunities to generate revenue for the masjid operations and expenses. This may include but not be limited to investing in buying rental or commercial properties that can be rented out to gain revenue for the masjid or building an endowment which funds  masjid operations and expenses. Continuously begging and demanding funds from one’s community builds donor fatigue and frustration long-term when the donors don’t see progress.

8) What is the Community Demographic the Masjid will be Serving?

Knowing your community demographics is so important not just in helping you understand what facilities to have in your masjid but also help you develop programs and services that meet the needs of your community. It makes no sense to build a gym when the majority of your community is elderly Muslims in their 60’s or 70’s. Likewise it makes no sense to create programs and services targeting families when the majority of your congregation and community is high school or university students.

Understanding and knowing your community demographics and their needs is critical to building a masjid that is effective in meeting the needs of the community. Conduct surveys or studies on your community to simply understand who you are serving and what their needs are. Getting community input and feedback is critical to becoming an effective masjid. Demographic studies should be conducted every two years to keep pulse about how your community is growing or changing.

9) What will the Role of the Masjid Be?

Masjids have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Every masjid should identify its strengths and play towards it. Strengths may include location of the masjid or certain resources within your community you could use. For example, if your masjid is located in the middle of a city —perhaps your operations, programs and services may need to be different than one located in the suburbs. As for internal resources in your community perhaps you have a lot of doctors who may be able to provide a free healthcare clinic in your city/community.

10) What Services and Programs Will You Provide and How?

The basic obvious services a masjid needs to provide are: prayer, marriage services, zakat collection and distribution, Islamic classes, and funeral services. Beyond this the masjid leadership and community need to figure out what services or programs are needed to serve the community. This would require a survey to be conducted to figure out what the community needs.

11) What is the 5 Year Plan for the Masjid?

A 5 year plan for your masjid can assist and give you a roadmap of where you want your masjid and community to be. Simply keeping a status quo for 10-20+ years makes your community members lose faith and confidence in the masjid board’s ability to make decisions for the betterment and growth of the masjid and community.

12) What are Critical Staff (And Skills) Are Needed to Run the Masjid?

Many masjids simply think an imam is the only position truly needed full time to be a masjid employee, but honestly if we truly understood the needs of the community we would realize that masjids need upwards of 10-15 full-time employees to fully function and be effective. Simply having one imam at a masjid expecting  them to do everything from the adhaan (call to prayer), khutbahs (sermons ), cleaning and maintaining the masjid, conducting classes, and other responsibilities is simply not fair to the imam nor is it sustainable or effective.

There are so many critical services that masjids need to provide. We need to understand the needs of the local communities in which our masjids are built to provide critical services. Full-time staff with the necessary skills need to be hired who are given good salaries, benefits, and incentives to perform at a high-level and truly work towards meeting the needs of the community. High turnover can kill the progress of a masjid’s operations—thus hiring the right employees/staff is important and keeping them happy is critical to keeping operations smooth and consistent.

13) How do we Plan to Build a Community?

This is probably one of the most important of the questions in this list. We can build a beautiful masjid, but having the masjid empty 90% of the year except for Ramadan and jummahs then what’s the purpose of building the masjid in the first place? Our goal should be to have the masjid that is busy with programs and events throughout the week. There should be proactive efforts to build a community  that is inclusive, warm, welcoming and compassionate to all Muslims.
We may invest in beautiful masjid architecture, but do we invest in our communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to help build communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to connect the hearts of the Muslims to the masjid or do we feel that building beautiful masjids with soft carpets and expensive chandeliers are sufficient for our community?

14) Who are Our Neighbors and How Can we Work with Them?

While it’s important to build a community from within it’s also to understand the community that surrounds your masjid as well. If your masjid exists and is built and none of your neighbors know you exist then that’s problematic. Muslims should be known as community-changers and beneficial citizens to the communities in which they live. Your neighbors close to your masjid should be proud and happy that a masjid is being built in their vicinity because they know tha masjids are great resources that produce Muslims who contribute to the communities in which they live.

 

What is a Masjid?

 

This may seem a silly question, but it’s probably one of the most important questions that Muslims need to ask themselves prior to even laying the foundation of a masjid. There needs to be a common and agreed-upon understanding of what a masjid is and what it is not. This is not to say that we need to standardize what masjids are and make it a cookie cutter application to all masjids. Each masjid will have its flavor or strengths  and/or community demographics that it needs to play to.

However, in general terms we need to truly understand the role of the first central masjid in Islam that was established in Madinah. We all are familiar with the story and the journey that built up to the building of the masjid and the subsequent events that followed. We need to study the events that built up to the actual building prior to the masjid and would like to point out a couple of factors that will highlight the role of the masjid according to the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

1) Community – Building  vs. Building a Masjid

When you ask most Muslims what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did when he first came to Madinah most would say he built a masjid, however when we study the seerah more deeply we find that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) focused on building a community prior to the building of the physical masjid itself. He paired the Ansaar and Muhajir together and literally built a community. The building blocks of the community were not the clay bricks, but the people who would eventually become the sturdy foundation on which the first Muslim community would be established.

Unfortunately we see the opposite strategy is used by most masjid boards and communities. We want to see beautifully built and designed masjids that are empty most of the week except for jummahs and Ramadan. We must invest in community-building and emphasize this area much more if we truly are to see our masjid communities flourish. This means hiring imams and staff who truly understand the importance of community-building and building a warm, inclusive, non-judgmental and welcoming environment for all.

2) A Center of Community

Typically when you ask any Muslim what the purpose of the masjid is they’d say prayer. Which would be 100% correct.  However, one of the outcomes of attending the daily prayers was to build a sense of community. To truly know your brother or sister in faith and at a very practical level to know who is in your community attending the prayer in congregation helps you know who is who in the community, what their challenges are, their hopes, their dreams, their fears and you’re able to help them overcome those challenges and also build meaningful friendships based on a common bond: the love for prayer and the masjid.

The masjid in Madinah also was inclusive of women, children and youth. No demographic was repelled or discouraged from the masjid. The beauty of the masjid in Madinah was that it was literally and figuratively an open door masjid.

3) A Center of Worship

The masjid is a center of worship and should be focused on ensuring the prayer experience for all attendees is the best. When we hire imams or have individuals lead prayer or even say the athaan we should be choosing the best of the best. To not provide a quality worship experience in all daily prayers and even the jummah prayer is doing a grave disservice to the words of Allah, the prayer, and the Muslim community at large. Also, when it comes to quality worship this also extends to the quality of khutbahs. We must find khateebs and imams whose messages and khutbahs resonate with the local community. To have any khutbah or khateeb/imam who is subpar is again another huge disservice and disrespect to the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

4) A Center of Learning

The masjid of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a center of learning where learning of the Quran would take place and explanations of surahs/ayahs and other Islamic subjects would be discussed. Likewise our masjids should have high-quality classes, halaqas, and educational programs that cater to the needs of all age demographics in the masjid.

5) A Center of Social Services

The masjid in Madinah played a critical role in helping the poor, needy, oppressed and widows in the community of Madinah. There was the collection and distribution of zakat,sadaqah and food at the masjid to the low-income community members of Madinah. Thus, the first place individuals seeking financial difficulties would be the masjid. Likewise, our masjids today need to invest far more energy, efforts and resources into developing social services within the masjid including financial support and also counseling/therapy and other critical social services for the community.

6) A Center of Interfaith

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would host non-Muslims in his masjid and would use the masjid as a place to teach non-Muslims about Islam. Likewise our masjids should be centers of interfaith dialogue and cooperation

7) A Center for Civic Engagement & Dialogue

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s masjid was a center for key decisions being made in regards to the functioning of the Muslim community and political decisions were made in regards to the political events of his time. Unfortunately, masjids today shy away from politics and civic engagement completely. While it’s understandable why masjids are uneasy about politics and political issues, it’s important to at the very least to encourage masjid community members to be heavily involved in civic engagement.

This doesn’t mean to go run for office (although that’d be great), but to get their children internships or volunteer opportunities in their mayor’s office, congressman/woman’s office, police department, etc. The key is to teach our community to be well-aware and well-educated about the institutions  around us and simply be present in order to voice our concerns to those in positions of authority and power. To simply be passive in our approach to countering Islamophobia is not an approach that will help our masjids or our community’s grow.

8) A Center for Counseling

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the best of counselors and therapists. He understood the conditions of people and didn’t make religion hard on his community members. This isn’t saying imams need to become professional counselors or therapists, but make the masjid a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental space where people seeking critical mental health support can find those resources at the masjid. It would be an amazing achievement for masjids if they were to hire full-time counselors/therapists along with social workers at every masjid. The demand for those services is enormous and our community is woefully underserved when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.