Maulana Khalid Dhorat
A few weeks ago, social media was abuzz at an incident that took place at a Masjid in Johannesburg. The Imam, a well-known knowledgeable, selfless and humble personality, had just polished off his biryani after conducting an excellent Jumu’ah service, and was about to lay down for his well-deserved afternoon siesta when he received a phone-call from the one-man show trustee of his Masjid. The said trustee wasn’t even present at the Jumu’ah, and so acting on the words of his “perfect” son, proceeded: “Maulana, I’m letting you know that you’re fired.”
“It’s fine with me, but be courteous enough to inform me the reason please,” asked the rather amused Imam.
“My son told me that you went against Masjid protocol by saying that by taking precautions against Covid-19 in the Masjid, you can still contract it. You said that social distancing doesn’t necessarily protect one, but Allah alone should be trusted.”
“So what’s wrong with that? You checked my lecture script yesterday,” queried the Imam, getting frustrated with an ignorant trustee who didn’t understand the basics of tawheed and tawakkul (beliefs in the Oneness and Trust in God).
“You’re fired because I said so, and that’s it. Come collect your money from my shop.”
“With pleasure. My last few month’s envelopes are still with you, so whenever I’m around, I’ll gladly do so.”
And that was it. Eight years of sterling service terminated by a mere phone call at the whim and ego of an ignorant autocratic trustee.
This article is not targeting any Masjid or trustee in particular, but if the caps fits, wear it. Nevertheless, it highlights the rather common trend on how some abusive trustees ill-treat scholars and Imams, not following any Islamic protocol or labour law imperatives when taking any decision. Some of these trustees are disgustingly scholars and Imams themselves which actually compounds the problem. It’s well known that government and world affairs are today led by the worst of people, the most corrupt, with the worst human rights record and with very little knowledge or morals, but hidden in plain sight are the leadership of some of our Masajid and Islamic institutions too.
Masaajid and Islamic institutions are today, by and large, not seen as a centre of service to humanity, but as a status symbol. So, those who have the ability of funding it, or who have social or political status, aspire to run them – and they run them just like their businesses, bereft of any moral compass, knowledge base and etiquette. Our Masaajid stand at the very forefront of our identity as Muslims, at our progress as a Muslim ummah, it plays one of the most pivotal roles as far as our role in this world is concerned, and our destiny in the hereafter. Our life and death revolves around the masjid, and it’s the yearning of many to die in a Masjid, on a Friday, whilst in sujood (prostration). It’s no ordinary building, and that’s why the first structure to be erected by our noble Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) when reaching Madinah, was a Masjid.
If the Masaajid is so pivotal to Muslims, then their trustees should be the most knowledgeable, the most pious and elite, and the most decent. Is this the case? How many attend five-times daily salaat in their own Masjid, are not involved in interest-based loans, do not behave nor appear according to the sunnah, who conduct community affairs with transparency and shura (consultation), and who have a dignified demeanour? A community who has such trustees ruling their affairs should remove them and replace them with better suited candidates. If this can’t be done because many Masjids are today built and owned by rich and arrogant individuals and families, then build an alternate Masjid and run it according to proper Islamic principles. Those who support clannism, elitism and exclusivism in the name of Islam can support the crooked Masjid and continue beguiling their fantasies, whilst those humble souls who genuinely want to serve Islam and obtain correct guidance, can attend the second one. The choice would be yours.
Scholars, Imams, ‘Ulema, Shuyookh etc would also make a choice as to which Masjid to serve in. If they choose to be lapdogs and sellouts of the rulers and the rich, let them sell their souls to the devil in the Masjid for a few extra rands. Believe you me, there are hundreds like these around, including some of the Imams of the Grand Haram in Arabia! When they get a grand kick from their evil masters one day, they’ll know if they mounted a horse or a donkey. The more sincere ‘Ulema, on the other hand, should seek out Institutions which are run closer to the ideal, and if such Institutions are not to be found, they have one of two choices, and a no-choice as follows:
- They could either rally like-minded in the community behind them, and build their own Masjid and Islamic institutions. There is no unity on falsehood and evil. Such unity is actually a deception, because it will cause further harm to Islam down the line, endorsing rotten people, and their rotten apples. If this is not possible, they should serve Islam in their private capacity, and seek their livelihood via business or some other trade or skill. In this way, they will serve the religion with dignity, and without compromise.
- The no-choice option would be to continue serving under the rich and arrogant, unhappily, whilst compromising the religion. Many scholars of the past, and till today, continue exercising patience in such positions “for the greater good of the community,” but they do not realize what they can achieve via another structure, or the harm they are causing the community in the name of Islam. Interestingly, many local scholars are not towing the line anymore, so the despotic trustees hire foreigners with no command of the English language, with no understanding of the local dynamics, who willfully take orders, and who are happy to slog for a measly 30 happy meals per month. What a disgrace upon such trustees who dishonor Islam in such a way!
Let’s ask a basic question here: Will the CEO of a huge hospital which handles many critical patients, be a non-doctor? Did you ever meet the head of an accounting firm who’s not a CA or highly qualified in his field? Can a person running a tyre shop or a construction company, who flunked out of basic Madrasah, be made the head of an IT company. The answer is “no”, but you’ll sadly find these in two situations: in politics, and in religion. The Masjid trustee will boss around the learned scholar, but will not know how to even recite Surah Fatiha with tajweed (rules of pronounciation). Many trustees, if asked the following basic questions, will not be able to answer. Go on, go quiz them a bit:
- What are rules and regulations pertaining to waqf (Islamic endowments) in Islam, the broad difference between Zakaat and Lillah and how should they be disbursed. Is there proper financial record keeping, and no criminal record or incidences or fraud or indecent behaviuour in their social and private life?
- What are the principles of shura (mutual consultation), how is it administered, is it inclusive, and is the outcome according to Islam or not?
- What are the principles of labour law, or contracts, in Islam and SA law? Remember that the Imam is more knowledgeable than you and has been employed to lead the community. Do you feel threatened by his authority and guidance, and want to dictate to him how things must be done? Will you “work him out” if he doesn’t toe the line because you pay his salary? Does his salary cover his needs, and if it doesn’t, do you feel threatened by his “side hussle” that will slowly make him independent of you? Sadly, most hired Imams make less than what the rich give their kids for school lunch.
- Pertaining to ghusl (bathing), wudhu (ablution), and salaat (prayers), what are the faraa’idh, sunnah, nafl and musthabbaat. Do they have the capacity of rectifying the Imam in salaat, or continuing the salaat if the Imam breaks off mid-way?
Lastly, hats off to those trustees who fit the above bill, and who run the show properly. If not, maybe it’s time you allow for others to get involved. Your Masjid may be suffering due to you. You may think you’re the solution, but you’re actually the problem. No one owns the Masjid, even if you donated every cent of the R20 million it cost. It belongs to the Ummah.