Tag: Muslim

How to Create and Change a Masjid Culture

When we speak of creating and changing masjid culture we aren’t talking about ethnic or racial cultures, but creating an environment and a mode of operation for your masjid based on Islamic values, ethics and morals. Many masjid boards fail to create a culture or environment which promotes Islamic values or values that help in community growth and development. This can be due to a couple of reasons: losing donors, “rocking the boat” too much due to angering a large demographic of the community, and other factors. Unfortunately due to this many masjid boards tend to go with the safe route of keeping a certain status quo and are afraid of “rocking the boat” when it comes to changes at the masjid.

This means creating these cultures below (but are not limited to):

  • Creating a culture of leadership
  • Creating a culture of adherence to Islamic values, ethics and morals
  • Creating a culture of professionalism
  • Creating a culture of learning and education
  • Creating a culture of empowerment
  • Creating a culture of operational and financial transparency
  • Creating a culture of community development
  • Creating a culture of mercy and empathy
  • Creating a culture of community service
  • Creating a culture of interfaith dialogue and activism
  • Creating a culture of inclusiveness

How Do You Create a Masjid Culture?

A masjid’s role in creating a culture is done by creating policies and procedures for both operations and for the community. More than the creation of policies and procedures if implementation and enforcement of policies and procedures. You can write pages and pages of policies and procedures but they mean nothing if they are not enforced by staff, volunteers and board members.

How Do You Change a Masjid Culture?

Changing a masjid culture is a hard task, but is one that is extremely important if we are to see our communities grow and flourish. This means creating policies and procedures as mentioned above, but more importantly enforcing and creating awareness about the policies. The role of the masjid board is to enforce the policies and procedures along with encouraging community members to adhere to the policies and procedures. This can also be supported by reinforced messages in khutbahs and halaqas by imams and scholars to the community. Additionally, creating committees committed to enforcing the cultural shifts can include creating a Women’s Committee, Youth Committee, Welcome Committee, and other committees that create platforms that empowers community members to work on programs, events and projects that promote inclusivity in the masjid. Other committees could include more operational committees that assist with masjid operations like a Facility Management Committee, a Strategy Committee, and an Operations Committee, HR (Human Resources) Committee, and Professional Development Committee, Fundraising & Fund Development Committee and others.

Is It Possible?

The short answer is yes. However, when it comes to changing a masjid culture it takes speed, strategy and precision. Moving too slowly to change a masjid culture can allow for groups to form around issues and create unnecessary divisions in the community over the masjid cultural shift. A masjid board also needs to be strong enough (not in an arrogant way) to adhere to positive and Islamic changes to masjid culture. Wavering in committing to a masjid cultural shift can derail efforts and eventually cause more problems than necessary for the community. As was mentioned previously masjid boards need to avoid falling into being influence in their decision-making when it comes to making decisions for the community. This is particularly important that this doesn’t happen when it comes to pushing to change and create a masjid culture. Having high-income donors derail the masjid cultural shift by disagreeing with the masjid cultural changes is detrimental to community growth and development. Masjid boards need to avoid that influence at all costs when it comes to creating and changing their masjid culture.

Lastly, a masjid board also needs to empower community members to be change agents and leaders in leading the charge in changing a masjid culture. It requires an entire community at a masjid to change a culture. Empower the right community members and you’ll see your community grow and flourish.

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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.

 

Understanding the Role of the Board in a Masjid

A masjid board typically at any given masjid is heavily involved in operations and the day-to-day activities of a masjid. However, this model is simply not sustainable. The combination of limited board terms and high turnover and the lack of handover from one board to another hinders the growth of a masjid. Here are a couple tips for masjid boards to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Governance vs. Working Board

While in the initial stages a masjid may need a board that is more hands-on the masjid board typically after at a minimum of 5 years transition to a governance board. A governance board essentially makes major policy and strategic decisions for the community opposed to a working board which manages day-to-day operations, activities and programs.

Strategic Decision-Making & Avoiding Micromanagement

Staff/employees should be empowered to make the day-to-day decisions and take care of daily operations. Micromanagement of staff/employees can render not just a masjid board ineffective, but hinder the entire masjid operations and growth. Masjid boards that are still in the working board model after 5 years is problematic and shows a lack of growth of the masjid operations and organizational structure. Masjid boards need to focus more on the high-level strategic decisions and major decisions for the masjid and community.

Internal Roles & Responsibilities

In addition to knowing the overall role of the masjid board it requires an internal understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each board member. Masjid board members should all be focused in one area and be held accountable for those focus areas in board meetings. Roles and responsibilities should be laid out in position manuals and the constitution and by-laws of the masjid.

Accessibility to the Community

Many masjid board members remain virtually anonymous and inaccessible to the community.  This lack of accessibility festers mistrust between the community and masjid boards and doesn’t make community members feel a part of the decision-making process. This may be done knowingly or unknowingly by some masjid boards, but this practice has to stop immediately if we want to see our masjids and our communities grow. At a minimum masjid boards should have quarterly General Body Meetings to discuss any community issues and challenges and also have a Suggestions Box or email addresses clearly on the masjid website for community members to email.

Understanding Your Community

In order to serve your community effectively it’s important to understand what your community’s demographics are. This includes knowing your community’s ages, marital statuses, family sizes, ethnicities, races, and even educational levels. If a masjid board or leadership only caters to one demographic over another it alienates and discourages other demographics from even attending. An example of this is if a masjid decides to only have Urdu halaqas for the Indian and Pakistani demographic of the community or this may include having khutbahs (sermons) only in Arabic.

Likewise if programs, classes and events are only geared towards families over youth or single un-married Muslims, new Muslims and university students then it creates an unwelcoming environment for 90% of your community. Thus, it becomes an extremely important task by the masjid board and leadership to ensure that its programs, events, classes and overall services are catering to as many demographics as possible without neglecting or alienating any particular demographic. This process won’t be a perfect one, but an intentional and strategic effort needs to be made.

One thing masjids need to avoid is having one predominant culture or ethnic group take over the way a masjid is run and what type of programs, classes and events are conducted in your masjid. Many times we may see masjids that are strictly one ethnicity or culture in the way they operate the masjid. This may for some masjids be an achille’s heal to creating a diverse, warm, welcoming and inclusive environment for Muslims of other ethnicities. Unfortunately for most masjids they lack a warm and welcoming environment when the congregants are composed of one culture or ethnicity.

While it’s ok to cater to a community’s ethnic or cultural group that may make up a majority of your community it’s important to also remind the larger ethnic/cultural group to be inclusive of other groups. Just as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) paired the Ansaar and Muhajir together we must do the same with the various diverse ethnic and cultural groups we have in our communities to encourage cooperation and appreciation or different groups in your community.

Masjid boards and leadership should create surveys to understand who their community is and tailor their programs, services and events around those demographics to truly be an effective, warm, inclusive, and professional masjid. Not only will this show that the masjid board and leadership cares about its community but will build up the community’s confidence and trust with the masjid board and leadership. It will also show that the masjid board and leadership truly cares for the well-being of the community rather than simply sticking to the normal status quo. When deliberate and strategic steps are taken to ensure all demographics are taken care of it’ll help sustain and grow your community.

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.

 

The Importance of Masjid Reform

It’s important as we start the discussion of how to improve our masjids to emphasize just how important this initiative is. To put it bluntly, the future of our community depends on the health of our masjids. Masjids are meant to be the heart of the community. Right now most masjids are undergoing cardiac arrest.

We’ve all heard the unmosqued horror stories and drama that happens at masjids, but unfortunately that’s all we hear is the horror stories, the problems and complaints. How many of us are proactively working towards solutions? We can complain and complain, but it is time for us to come up with viable solutions. There are too many of our Muslim brother and sisters who have been victims to the mismanagement of masjids by masjid boards, staff and community members for this to continue any longer. There have been our own Muslim brothers and sisters who’ve completely stopped coming to the masjid altogether because of one incident that turned them away. This for us should shakes us to core when we think of it. Imagine you being the reason someone stops coming to the masjid or stops believing in Islam or Allah altogether. Imagine Allah asking you on the Day of Judgment why you repelled that person and what excuse you have for yourself?
Our masjids are meant to be spiritual and peaceful havens and places of refuge from the chaos of the world. If people are not able to find peace in masjids of all places where do we expect them to find peace? It is for this reason we’ve embarked on this journey to reform our masjids and improve their operations to help create warm, inclusive, welcoming, community-driven and professional masjids.

Now, let’s be brutally honest. Our masjids are failing us virtually at every level. Thankfully, the basics of daily prayers still happen, but let’s ask ourselves honestly: who are the ones who come to the daily prayers at our masjids? Is it the children? Is it our young adults? Is it our youth? Is  it our new Muslim brothers and sisters? Who comes to our programs and classes? What are the numbers? Are our masjids packed or are they empty?

Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is no. The majority of masjid-goers is typically the older generations. Sadly, go to any masjid at fajr or Isha and you’ll get an idea of who actually comes to the masjid on a regular basis. These two prayers are the bookends of the daily prayers and will tell you a lot about the level of love for the masjid by who comes. This isn’t the only way to gauge masjid involvement or attendance, but it is one of many.

Yes, the masjid’s primary purpose is worship, but when we reflect back on the programs and services the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s masjid provided we know that the masjid in Madinah was not just a center or worship, but provided so much more to the Muslim community and community-at-large. Unfortunately, we have a mindset in most of our boards and community members that a masjid is just a center of prayer and worship and that’s it. However, the masjid especially in the US needs to be providing so much more. Especially as a minority community living in a majority non-Muslim country maintaining a belief system and an identity becomes so much more important.

We invest in our children’s education, but not in their identities. What do I mean by this? We invest in them doing really well financially, academically and professionally, but when it comes to the core identity that will sustain them throughout their lives we totally neglect it. We have not invested fully or effectively into the development of our masjids. I argue that we have the money and funds in our community, but they simply have been either misspent or misallocated altogether. This is further exacerbated by the lack of transparency of most masjid boards and staff.

We may have built and invested in beautiful masjid structures, but have we invested in imams and full time staff that can help grow our communities? We can complain and moan about the woes of our community problems and even the state of our youth, but truly are we investing our own time, energy and efforts into solving the problems? If the answer is no, we need to begin investing in full time staff who can serve the community at a high level and professional level. We must not short-change our staff at masjids by paying them pennies and asking them to work overtime and do more roles/responsibilities “for the sake of Allah.” Not only is this blatantly un-Islamic, but un-ethical and unsustainable. The reason we have such high-turnover at our masjids is that we are not creating careers for people passionate about serving the community. We create jobs, but not careers. We may be paying a salary, but at the end of the day is it sustainable? Is it matching the skills or experience of the employee? Are you compensating them properly? Are you providing them incentives? Health benefits? Perks?

Lastly , (this will be discussed in more detail in other blog posts in the near future) is that our masjid leadership truly needs to be community-driven, not donor-driven. What do we mean by this? Masjid boards should not bow their heads to the donors who give the most money. The masjid board decisions should not be influenced by the donor who gives the most. This is not only un-Islamic and un-ethical, but also not a good way to make decisions for the betterment of the community. There should never be strings attached to donations to a masjid. Yes, a donor can be specific about where his money is to be spent, but to influence board decisions is totally un-ethical and un-Islamic.

Our masjids are in cardiac-arrest and we truly need to have serious discussions about how to improve our masjid operations from everything from the facility layout, the policies, procedures, the hiring/firing of staff, programs, classes, community-development, and financial sustainability of masjids. The very future of our community depends on us having these discussions and not just venting about them but coming up with viable solutions to them.

We can do this inshaAllah. With the help of Allah and your help, input, ideas and feedback we can make this change possible.

Bismillah.