Tag: Muslims

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.

8 Skills Board Members Need to Lead a Community

 

Empty Conference Room — Image by © Bill Varie/Corbis

Many times community members may have good intentions when they run for or join a masjid board. However, becoming a board member isn’t as simple as it looks. Becoming a board member is a large and extremely important responsibility. The entire community is trusting you to make the best decisions for the betterment of the community. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 community members who join masjid boards lack the skills and experience needed to lead a community. Not everyone with good intentions is necessarily a good leader.

Now this isn’t to speak despairingly about masjid board members or place undue blame on them or expect them to know everything it takes to be a board member prior to joining a masjid board. However, masjid board members need to understand that they need to be trained and gain essential skills in order lead a community. The following skills need to be a part of any on-boarding for any masjid board member:

1) Leadership

The most important skill needed is to understand how to be a leader. Many community members when they get elected to the board immediately feel a sense of authority and power. Unfortunately, for many being on a masjid board can be a spiritual test of their egos. Some succeed in their test and others fail. Thus, it becomes important to learn leadership skills and what it means to truly be a leader and know what it means to lead an entire community based on your decisions.

A leadership training should be required for all masjid board members as they transition on to the board.

2) Management

The second most important skill that masjid board members need to have is how to manage. This means management 101. Masjid board members need to understand and learn how to manage a board, a masjid facility, and a community. What does it mean to be a board member in a position of authority? How do you manage staff? How do you manage board meetings? How do you delegate tasks in a board? How do you effectively get the job done and tasks done in a timely and efficient manner?

3) Team Building

A masjid board will most likely have a diverse (hopefully) group of individuals from various diverse backgrounds. This can and will be an asset to the board if managed properly. However, in order to make this an asset rather than a hinderance it’s important to learn how to work together as a team. It’s important to learn to work together as a team rather than individuals with separate agendas. There should never be a feeling in the board of me vs. you or me vs. everyone. This is toxic and will create unnecessary tension and problems down the road.

Learning team building skills can assist in improving communication, keeping people’s intentions pure, improving the ability of the board to make decisions faster and more effectively, and just overall operate at a higher level to serve the community in a more professional and efficient manner.

4) Project Management

The fourth most important skill to learn or acquire for board members it project management. This means learning how to effectively manage resources and people to get a particular task or job done. Several times masjid projects get delayed due mismanagement of time, resources and people. Miscommunication can occur, misallocation of resources, and other mistakes can hinder a project or task from getting done in a timely and efficient manner. Having a strong understanding of project management can help a masjid board move from mediocre to excellent.

5) Strategic Planning

One of the biggest mistakes masjids boards make is they typically run or operate a masjid the same way their predecessors ran the masjid due to the fear of shaking up the status quo and also not having the knowledge or expertise how to change the status quo. This unfortunately impacts the masjid operations negatively. This alone stops masjids from progressing forward and moving forward. Masjid boards need to invest in learning how to strategically plan for the future of their masjids and communities. Simply keeping the status quo because it’s safe and easier to manage is not a long term or sustainable strategy.

6) Conflict Resolution

Another major factor in hindering the progress of a masjid is the inability to resolve problems and disagreements in an Islamic, ethical, constructive and amicable manner. Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, family or organization. The key is how to resolve those conflicts in an amicable manner. Too many times we’ve seen entire communities torn apart based on the egos of a handful of individuals. It is critical masjid board members learn conflict resolution skills not just to resolve conflict internally, but also learn how to resolve conflict between community members and the board, between community members and other community members, and between the masjid and external institutions or organizations.

7) Cultural and Community Sensitivity

It’s important in today’s times to truly understand the diversity of our community. We are blessed to have a diverse community with individuals from virtually every ethnic and racial background and also are diverse in our age demographics and professions as well. To truly become effective board members we need to understand our communities and the backgrounds that exist in our community. Typically what happens is masjid boards tend to be one ethnicity or race and cater to the needs of their community while neglecting the needs of others. This not only is a blatant abuse of power and authority but not something sustainable at all and will destroy the community long-term.

Masjid boards should be required to take cultural sensitivity training or have an outside party come and educate the board about the diversity of the community. A good way to get to know your community is to conduct a survey on demographics and then based on that survey seek resources to learn more about those demographics and then begin strategizing how to effectively serve those demographics in your community.

8)  Financial Planning, Budgeting & Accounting

A good masjid board will know how to create and balance a budget. However, some masjid boards lack a strong understanding of financial planning, budgeting and accounting. Understanding the basics of financial planning, budgeting and accounting can assist in making stronger, more effective and more data-driven decisions for the community. Taking a workshop or training the masjid board on the basics can do wonders for making a masjid board far more effective in decision making and improve in transparency of the financial operations of a masjid. If a masjid board knows precisely where each and every penny is being spent and allocated it allow for them to communicate that to the community and be much more transparent.

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.