Islamic Center Rules and Working Together

Our community Islamic centers and mosques are huge blessing in our lives. Unfortunately in recent years, due to our human nature, we have seen mismanagement, an inability to communicate and understand each other, and – the most damaging – a decline in youth involvement.

Having been a part of a community center for all the 24 years of my life, I have seen a lot. More importantly, as I got older I have seen the mismanagement which drives younger generations away from getting involved, rather than helping to add more building blocks to our centers.

Yes, it is professional for an organization to have regulation and procedures, but that does not mean they cannot be changed or even excused at times. Many of our Islamic centers are run by a “board of directors” or an “executive committee”. I’m all for organization and professionalism – but even those things have their limits because they begin to be unnatural when taken to an extreme.

When we look at today’s Islamic centers, we see cliques, unfriendliness, and the worst of dirty politics. Even though we call them comm-unity centers, we see a huge lack of the heart of the word. Our centers are full of committees and rules, protocol and paperwork. It leads one to wonder sometimes: was it always this hard to have a good, friendly group of Muslims get together and do good things for the world? Do we ever wonder how the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the Imams (peace be upon them) gathered ideas? How did they plan things out? How did they execute activities, or programs, or lectures for their fellow people?

Did they sit behind closed doors holding meetings in privacy, discussing what kinds of things to do for the “common, unelected, people of the community” without having the people there to help decide what was best for them?

Did they hold “open house meetings” in which they allowed questions from their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters only if the questions were written down, so that only questions which were “appropriate” in the committee’s view could be addressed aloud?

Our community was blessed in Muharram with the presence of Sayyid Abbas Ayleya from Seattle, Washington, where he helps to guide and teach his community. I asked him a question regarding board member/committee member elections in Islamic centers. I asked whether Islamic center elections were the only just or fair way to “select” those who will eventually be deciding what programs are offered to our families, who addresses gatherings in our centers – duties which pretty much may mean for some, indoctrinating our children with certain values and ideas. I added that if these “elections” which our communities think are so fair actually lead to very dirty politics and behind-the-scenes fixing, is it really the only way? The respected scholar proceeded to answer that actually, our Holy Prophet used to very simply handpick those whom he believed could get the job done right – no elections necessary.

That goes back to my point. Sometimes we make things so complicated that we don’t allow the beautiful logic, the Aql, and the human nature, that Allah has blessed us with, to do its work. Let’s imagine: if we were a community who were all aware of Br. Mohammad’s exceptional ability in event management due to his success in his career, would it be out of this world to allow Br. Mohammad to be the “lead”, and to even encourage him to take charge in helping to organize and plan programs for the community? Would it be illogical to ask Sr. Fatima to help in the finances of the center, seeing that she is has been working for a great company for 15 years, doing the treasury work? It kind of makes sense, right? It is human nature to be able to select, due to the abilities a person carries, someone to get the task done. Unfortunately we have gotten caught up in processes and referendums, and so much red tape and technicalities that we have forgotten the natural, human qualities that Allah has blessed us with. Sometimes we stop people from pitching in a helping hand by imposing rules that were not really necessary a mere 20 years ago – we limit the opportunities for volunteering by replacing our volunteers with paid positions.

When in a group, or a community, or a club, there are always the natural leaders who exhibit characteristics necessary to get the job done. Of course this all comes along with the qualities of trust, respect, honor, and honesty. With a little trust in our brothers and sisters, and most importantly with sincerity and Tawakkul, trust in God, we can begin to see the blessings of brotherhood and flourishing communities doing wonderful Islamic work like never before.

(Madiha Zaidi 10.04.2011)

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