The Failure of our Mosques, Imams and Mosque Committees

The Failure of our Mosques, Imams and Mosque Committees

With the recent terrorist atrocities in London, it is time for the Muslims communities of Britain to ask themselves serious and searching questions. How is it that a group of young Muslim men from Indo-Pak backgrounds, from relatively good families can end up causing death, injury and destruction to so many in their own country? Why have these men taken on the ideology of hate and why have they been whipped up into a state where they can kill and consider it a moral duty?I am certain that the current state of our traditional mosques has a major part to play in the alienation, disenfranchisement and disenchantment of the young. The traditional mosques of this country have by and large been structures of very little activity. You pray and then you go home. As children you get sent to the mosque to “learn” the Qur’an without its meaning, as a child you are learning how to read the script of a foreign language without knowing or being told what the meaning is of what you are learning. By and large, you have an Imam who you have nothing in common with not even language for usually they are imported from India or Pakistan. The imam therefore is culturally very different to you and he does not understand the social context of the society that you are living in. Often the imam is not trained properly, whilst he can go through the motions of all the rituals and has memorised a few verses and prayers, he offers very little by the way of pastoral care. This is also compounded by the fact that I alluded to before, social context. Most imams do not engage the wider community, they don’t read anything outside religious material or sub-continent newspapers, they are generally ill informed and very unsophisticated in their thinking and approach to world events. Their lack of contact with the wider community stems from the fact that most have embarrisingly an embarrasingly poor standard of English and grasp of the nuances of British culture. But, as bad or as lacklustre as they are, the Imams are not really to blame. The blame lies squarely at the way our mosques are run.

You see, mosque committees the length and breadth of the country do not exist to serve the community, they exist to represent the various ethnic, racial and sectarian groups that make up the community. They are there for grown men (and in some cases elderly)to play petty-politics and to create themselves a “position” and “name” in the community. Like many people, I have sat on various committees such as school governors’ committees, business meetings and other such groups, what strikes me is that even when someone has an “agenda” or an issue, it does not become all consuming and usually they are appeased by the ensuing discussion. Then a period of compromise occurs and a resolution passed and people move on. But in mosque committee meetings not only is it difficult to get those elected to attend the meeting in the first place, it is difficult to get them to agree when discussions are started. Some people are obstinate and will oppose everything without considering the benefit or otherwise to the community, some people will side with others in the hope that when they raise their issue they will gain their support. What it boils down to in the end is stagnation of our communities due to the backwardness of our mosque committees. Mosque committees should be the driving force behind initiatives for youth work, for offering proper religious studies, providing for women’s activities and education, they should be involved in improving the health of our communities, liasing with local authorites and other faith organisations and much much more. When there is life and vibrancy in the way mosques are run, then this permeates into the community. Each community should be identifying young people who are academic achievers and to encourage them to study Islam properly from qualified scholars and to then bring that back to the community.

Our youth eventually get to the stage where they either want to know more about their religion, and in some detail, or they want to party like there is no tomorrow. Both routes offer self-destruction, one quite clearly, the other, unless the seeker is guided and nurtured, will become radicalised and open to the poison that the likes of Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza pour into the searching young ears and the pliable young minds of many of the youth today.

In short our mosques do not offer our communities, let alone our youth, anything except looks of distaste and a ticking off when they demand something more than the five daily prayers from the mosque. If this trend continues we will be storing up a host of problems in the future not least the kind of problem that reared its diabolical head on July 7th.

wa’as-salam

Mas’ud
www.masud.co.uk

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12 thoughts on “The Failure of our Mosques, Imams and Mosque Committees

  1. Good post sidi. I’m not sure the answer is and sadly I just can’t see things changing in the mosques even though things seem to be rapidly changing outside the mosque. Perhaps the answer is to forget the mosques, use them as a place of prayer, then maybe set up teaching institutions or zawiyas. ie move on without the mosques until the older generations just die out. I really don’t know sidi.

    Even after everything which has happened the mosques still seem to have their heads buried in the sand of the subcontinent.

  2. Bismillah

    Assalaam-o-Alaikum

    Our organisation in London was recently provided with funding by the Dapartment Of Health for a research project based on drugs misuse amongst the Pakistani Community here. Part of my brief was to engage Mosque Imams/leaders in this project. Over the course of our 9 month research, we found the same conclusions that sidi Masud mentioned. The Imams are not connecting with the youth and have almost no understanding of social problems facing our youth. This also tied in with the fact that a large number of drug users actually wanted to access their local mosque for support/guidance but said they found them to be void of any support. This is just the tip of our research findings.
    Some of the solutions we proposed were that future Imams have to either born and raised in the UK and have some understanding of the wider issues facing our youth or that current Imams are provided with training to equip them to deal with these issues. The first option seemed more feasble/plausable because we have would have no problem in appointing Imams/leaders who can speak english as their first language and can relate the youth today.
    On the whole, this is a big problem that we are faced with and like sidi Masud said, one that we cannot ignore

    Wasalaam

  3. Bismillah hir Rahmaanir Rahim

    Assalaam-o-Alaikum

    What Masud has said is very true about the functionality and daily runnings of our mosques, Going back say 35 – 40 years when these institutions started off (Usually humble 2 up 2 down houses)The objectives for our Parental Generations was to establish a place for 5 times prayer and more importantly Jumma Prayer, Obviously Quranic recitation for the youngsters was also a requirement.

    I’m sure you’ll agree these initial requirements are still there but as you hinted our requierments are now different…it must be agreed that 99.9% of the Moulvi’s who came to GB came so for better employment prospects etc hardly any came for the furtherment of the deen, hence you will see the affluency most of these guys enjoy, and we can’t blame them because we paid them peanuts to start off with.

    We should now only recruit Imams who have specific qualifications and are proper teachers Obviously we need to pay them well, but that should not be a problem because this generation can afford it and understands the need as well.

    I was born and bred in a Lancashire town in 1966 I went thru the whole system…My local Imaam felt I was worthy of being a committee member when i was 22 years old (mainly cos I could speak English I think)….Anyway it was around then I realised how fragmented, Racist, Obstinate, selfish we as a community were…I found that on the constitution it said that the Membership of the mosque was only open to members of a particular geographical area of the country of Origin !! and you had to be a Hanafi as well ???

    Our needs now are different, I think we as the current Working generation should introduce into our mosques a educational revamp, addressing todays needs drawing on resources from local Government in a co-ordinated way for example:

    Drug and Alchohol Awareness
    Dangers of Fast Cars at Eeds
    Awareness of National issues and Global Muslim issues
    Sex Education for male’s and females.

    Understanding these issues (and others)will promote a healthy community…and as we know deep study of any masla of our beloved deen will yield one common denominator not to harm another Human being in any way whatsoever…Because as the Hadith goes (and I give here what I understand of the meaning)

    “A maumin is a person from whos tongue whos Physical actions
    and intentions another Human being is safe from”

  4. I agree with Ahmed that we need to setup separate teaching institutes. The current committee leaders have too much power over the mosque and how it runs.

    Zaytuna is a good model to follow if people get to together and raise the funds to setup something like it.

  5. Assallamualiekum wa rahmatuallah
    Thank you for wording the very concerns and weakenesses of our imams and mosque structures.
    My father is the chairman of one of the many mosques in birmingham i can see all the things you have all spoken about at first hand. My dad and the mosque committee are mainly from bangladesh. There is no way (except by the will of Allah) that the mosque committee will change. Women are not allowed to pray in the mosque. Social activities and community building activities just do not happen.

    I was hearten to hear such a logical response from Br Anonymous. Perhaps the building of such institutions can start here.
    was-sallam

  6. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    Sidi, you keep saying what’s in my brain already. I watched BBC news last night, and they were talking about the 4 (now 5?) suspects / bombers, and this was the point I was thinking — how are these young men born in England and loving cricket and then they end up like this? — Umm Zaid

  7. Excellent post sidi, my love for your words increases by expressions. We are a community torn apart by conflict, political struggle and a power craze. We lack sincere competent and independent leadership. We are confused and our direction in Islam is one which is distorted. Islam has been has been hijacked by ignorant people whom have turned it into a sect of meaningless rituals. I pray to Allah swt that we unite and pray that our leaders fear Allah swt and try to follow the ways set by our predecessors whom follow the best of examples, our master and liege lord sayydena Muhammed (saw). Once again I congratulate you and share your views on this issue which is destroying the Muslim ummah of Britain.

  8. As-Salaamu ‘alaykum, ya akhi. I extend my prayers to you, your community and to all of the people there who have been effected by this tragedy.

    The problem you have elegently touched on is not just a problem in Britain but world-wide for Muslims. The very same situation exists here in the States: Muslims “learning” the Qur’an without understanding it (I would like to add that this is a problem although understanding the Arabic alone is not enough. The hijiackers of 9/11 all spoke and understood Qur’anic Arabic. The language alone is not enough). Having a sense and feeling of alienation with their imams and spiritual leaders. They have nothing in common with them. In many ways, there is a clash. The imams have a different agenda than the indigenous people who are there. They may even look down at them or invalidate their Islam. This is a huge problem world-wide. We must also realize that these young people have acted in the way that they have because of the vacuum that exists. If there was no space for this line of thought to exists, or at least other viable alternatives, the situation might have been very, very different. I see the Muslim world as having been very stagnant, leaving communities everywhere vulnerable to this type of problem. And a problem it is. It is a serious loss and tragedy when our young people feel it is a religious, moral duty to kill, indiscriminately, other people, as you stated. We must, MUST, educate our youth (and all Muslims, regarless of age, really). We must deal with their problems. Not allow them to adopt insecurities they don’t really have or go to extremes for causes that are not their own. In sha Allah, we can make this happen. If we don’t, we most certainly will suffer. All of us.

    The Blog

  9. Assalaam Alaikum,

    In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Kind

    Over a week has passed since the tragic events of July 7, 2005. It should not be lost on anyone that these criminal acts have no basis in Islam.

    However, it is shocking and disturbing that British born Muslims committed these criminal acts.

    They are Muslims who have transgressed severely against the Divine Law and have set themselves apart from the main body of Orthodox Muslims.

    It is therefore the duty of the Muslim community in Britain to root out the poisonous and tragic theology behind these acts. The story of Samson, the Israelite who pulled down the pillars of the temple on himself and Philistine civilians, as recorded in the Bible (Judges 13-16), is conspicuously absent from the Qur’an.

    It is a duty upon all Muslims to know their salvation: “Know that there is no God but Allah, and seek forgiveness for your sins.” (Qur?an 47:19). In Arabic, Allah is using the singular command form, indicating that it is an individual obligation to know what you believe in. Every Muslim must know what the Orthodox creed is. As a starting point, Orthodox Muslims do not believe in deeds based salvation. We base it on faith alone.

    In a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ” None of you shall enter Paradise by your deeds, but you will enter by the Mercy of Allah.” Heretical sects down the ages have always clung to deeds based salvation in addition to faith. The result is that they cut themselves off from the Mercy of Allah. They compare themselves to the Prophetic Companions, see that they pale in comparison, and all but lose hope.

    They despair of Allah’s Mercy, which is an enormity on its own, let alone the actions that can stem from it. These people believe that if they do not do a great deed they will be lost for all eternity. Hence, it should not be surprising that they attempt to don the robe of the timeless religious hero; the martyr.

    However, the martyrdom of Samson is not like the martyrdom of Umar, Uthman, or Ali, may Allah be pleased with them. These shining exemplars of the Islamic faith died for Islam, died protecting Islam and the Muslims, died in the path of spreading the Islamic message. They didn’t kill themselves, but rather they patiently waited for the Decree of their Lord. No deed or amount of deeds can make one worthy of Paradise, because it is a reward that is immeasurable. The Mercy of Allah, too, is immeasurable, and it is only by the Divine Mercy that the believers shall enter Paradise.

    The points mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg. A massive responsibility has now been placed on the shoulders of Muslims in this country.

    We have to get rid of this horrible theology. We ask Allah to assist us in the great task, and with Allah alone is every success.

    May His Peace and Blessing be on The Messenger, Muhammad bin Abdullah, the one sent as a mercy to all the worlds, amin.

  10. I don’t think changing the mosques is going to solve this problem long-term. It’s a much bigger thing than a few embittered youths. Today Muslims in the West publicly denounce terrorism – tomorrow the governments are going to gently ask them to keep an eye on potential troublemakers. Next step will be full-on spying on the community by those who wish for their own short-term “safety.” After that, who knows.

    Pushing the burden of an unjust war onto one community, while studiously ignoring the deaths and destruction caused by an illegal war, will eventually come and bounce back. I mean put yourself into a ways-and-means frame of mind for a moment and think: statistically what are the chances of killing 25,000 people in a foreign land and not suffering *a single death at home?* Slim indeed

    Muslims in the West face a frustrating dilemma of being squeezed on both sides; and in this giant civilizational conflict they really don’t have much leverage; the best they hope for is basically preserving their own skins amid a hostile general populace.

    The solution to this problem lies in the end in Muslims lands. If our countries had their act sufficiently together that Western countries thought twice before invading the problem would go away. Negotiations? When did a military occupier give up his spoils because he was talked out of it? Did anybody in history invade a country and then just leave unless they felt pushed by the pain – military and economic? And this realism is something entirely lacking in discussions by our community leaders too. And believe me, it would certainly lead to its own group of young discontents. You could bring in as many British-born imams as you want, but if they maintain an ostrich stand they’d suffer a credibility crisis and be ignored by.

    What a sticky situation we find ourselves in!

  11. Yes mosques could do more to engage the youth but reality is mosques and similar instituitions are competing for time wih other mainstream activities such as TV, socialising, extra curricula activity.

    We do have a problem in the UK in having too few scholars.

  12. Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Brothers
    The educated muslims have never tried to understand the illiterate – in the worldly sense-Imams but the most pious humans on this planet. I have great respect for them. The simple and the most effective solution I have to offer is-we-the doctors,engineers, scientists,professionals should go through the process of becoming Aalim and then serve as lifetime Imam in any Masjid in the world.And,we should devote at least one-the most genius child of our families to become an Aalim and Imam.Our input should at least commensurate with the great expectations from our Imams.I would quote the example of Imam Nawawi(rahimahullaah) who at 19 left his home for Damishq,taught and wrote there for 28 years-among them Riyaadus Saliheen and Sharh Saheeh Muslim-and when he returns to his hometown, he falls ill and leaves this Dunya.
    I am an electrical engineer and I work with Tableeghi Jamaa’at, and I hope the course of action I have suggested would bring a global spiritual and intellectual revolution in the next centuries InShaaAllaah.
    In the end:
    Qaala Rasoolullaahi sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam Al ‘Ulamaau Warasatul Anbiyaa
    Rasoolullaah sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wasallam said:Ulamaa are the inheritors of Anbiyaa.
    Since, no new prophet is going to come, Allaah has chosen ‘Ulamaa for doing the job that was done by Anbiyaa in the past.
    Brother Mahdi Lock,
    You said that:Orthodox Muslims do not believe in deeds based salvation. We base it on faith alone.
    Heretical sects down the ages have always clung to deeds based salvation in addition to faith. The result is that they cut themselves off from the Mercy of Allah.
    In fact,Orthodox Muslims-the Sahaabah(radi Allaahu ‘anhum) didn’t believe in faith alone.Nor, does faith-and-deeds based salvation cuts you from the Mercy of Allaah. In fact the Hadith negates an idea of self-sufficiency of good deeds. Soorah al-’Asr emphasizes both Eemaan and A’maal along with exhoratation to Haqq(Truth) and Sabr(Patience/Perseverance) as pre-requisites of Falaah(Success) the antonym of Khusr(Loss) mentioned in Soorah al-’Asr.
    The use of proper terms as used by Sahaabah(radi Allaahu ‘anhum) would simplify our discussions.
    I look forward to your replies at:
    neorient@gmail.com

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