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Lying For Knowledge? Fixing the Masjid Announcements Problem

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How does your masjid handle requests to announce programs? What if you're hosting an event, how do you determine who you allow to market and who you don't?

These are some of the questions I began contemplating after an unexpected incident at the masjid one night.

My day had started innocently enough, running around in preparation for a class at the masjid. It was with a guest speaker and part of a larger program, but a typical masjid event nonetheless.

Print out the necessary materials needed, check. Get some snacks, check. Get to the masjid early to set up chairs and tables, check.

Things aren't always that smooth, and you often have to expect the unexpected. But the unexpected is never really the same unexpected that you were originally expecting, is it?

A person came up to me asking to place flyers for a particular event. I told him that I cannot allow any flyers to be handed out in our masjid without the imām's approval. The person immediately became argumentative, asking why 'other' flyers were put out for people to pick up. I politely mentioned that they were all promoting events of the particular masjid we were in.

Then this person said he spoke to “someone” at our masjid who okayed the flyer. A bit strange, to mention this now. I asked who he spoke to, and he said he couldn't rememer the name of who he spoke to. This was just met with a blank stare from me, at which point he said, “I spoke to shaykh……… [name]….yeah, that's his name right?”

I said you spoke to Shaykh [name]? He said yes. I had my suspicions but I knew it wouldn't be appropriate to act on them in this manner, so I simply said, if the imām said that, then go ahead.

I spoke to the imām afterwards (he was unable to attend the event) and he confirmed that no one had asked him about this program or handing out flyers on this night at the masjid.

Now, I fully realize the brother may have made an innocent mistake, and perhaps someone told them they had gotten approval or something of that nature. There are truly 100 different things that could have happened, but I no matter how you slice it – it was a shady situation. There's of course a few more details and things that happened along with this story, but suffice it to say – I felt very strongly by the end of the night that this was a 'hit and run' marketing effort: show up at another event where you know hundreds of people will be gathered, and bully your way into having your event announced and promoted.

If it is as it appears, then could someone seriously be so driven to promote a specific event, an “ilm”ee event at that, that they actually LIE to achieve the final goal of publicity?

So my question to you all is this:

What are the best practices we can compile in regards to cross-promotion of other events at your own event?

Here's a few things to chew on.

Should you allow promotion of other events with certain stipulations-

  • Approval of imām/Ameer?
  • Advance notice of 3-7 days to submit for approval?

What if you have an event for your masjid or organization, and someone wants you to advertise something that conflicts with your date?

What verification methods should be taken to vet these programs? How much investigation is necessary?

If you have a masjid fundraising dinner at 8pm next Friday, is it fair to say you won't make Jumu‘ah announcements for another event on the same date/time?

What if you are hosting another organization, let's say AlMaghrib or Zaytuna is holding a promotional event in your masjid, is it appropriate to market other classes/activities that may distract from the one at hand?

How do you feel about allowing promotion of an event in which you are unfamiliar with the program/speaker?

That's a few of the thoughts on my mind, what I want to know is how have you solved this issue in your communities? What is the best policy out there?

When do you say no to someone, and how do you say no?

Final question: How do you balance between cooperating with people upon birr and taqwa, not harboring evil suspicion, while at the same time being practical and not naive?

imam juma masjid

About ibnabeeomar

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @ibnabeeomar.

16 comments

  1. What if you have an event for your masjid or organization, and someone wants you to advertise something that conflicts with your date?

    And even harder, what if you don’t “approve” of this event… perhaps a “mawlid” and your masjid doesn’t agree with such events?

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  2. Everyone is trying to push their own ideology, all too often standing on the shoulders of people actually doing work. It’s a lot of work assembling a lot of people or reaching out to a wider audience, so those who are too lazy to do that effort themselves prefer to leverage the effort of others to serve their goal.

    I recall a few years ago, I was writing an article in a Muslim newspaper about a new Islamic school that was opening near Toronto. One editor of the paper, who was a staunch al-Maghrib guy, kept insisting I also mention the new al-Maghrib course that was coming up, so “people know they have other options”. I kept stating, the article isn’t about al-Maghrib, it’s about a different school and program, but he kept coming back and saying that “we don’t want people to think that we only support one type of school” even though there were probably already a handful of al-Maghrib related articles in that particular newspaper.

    That being said, at least he didn’t lie about anything. All too often, people are willing to compromise Islamic principles in promoting Islamic events, which makes me always wonder, is it really worth it?

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  3. Simple Solution:
    The masjid should have a common community bulletin board where people can post anything from rooms to rent to local businesses to events. Someone from the masjid board should occasionally run by the board to see there’s nothing un-Islamic on those boards.

    A more complicated solution:
    Have three boards – mosque board for masjid events, community boards where individual people can post notices (rooms to rent, things for sale etc) and a business board (for local businesses or corporate events). The business board should be commercial and charge for the notices. A mosque official’s duty should be to regulate all the boards on a weekly basis.

    Most complicated solution.
    Form a committee to study the affect of the various mosque notices. Do a market sampling to see actual response rate and whether anyone notices the notices. Perform an environmental assessment on the amount of paper wasted. The committee reports to the Masjid Shura Board to debate the notice issue. A fatwa is tendered which is then open for community consultancy process for three weeks at a public meeting to be announced during Jumah. After the three weeks a final report is tabled to the mosque imam who will then file it somewhere and forget about it until next Ramadan.

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    • your simple solution is the most complicated. who decides whats unislamic? :) and what do you tell to said “unislamic” group when rejecting their flyers?

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    • Our masjid follows your 2nd option. For businesses, they pay the masjid so they can post something up. The bulletin is encased in glass and has a lock so anything can’t be just put up. Its a great way to control what gets put up and generate some funds for the masjid.

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  4. Introduce a policy that no flyers/leaflets can be distributed/left unless an approved copy is also on display on the noticeboard. To get the approval they have to get a stamp and or signature from the masjid/imam on the back of the noticeboard copy.

    Then it’s pretty simple to implement any left flyers that don’t have a copy on the noticeboard are binned. If your suspicious of the flyer that you see just turn the noticeboard copy over and check for the signature/stamp.

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  5. I really dislike my masjid’s way of dealing with this, but after reading this article I understand why they do it.

    1. Any Islamic class that requires people to pay is not announced after jum’ah, but with approval they can hand out fliers.

    2. Free Islamic classes or events are allowed case by case basis. Some are give a jum’ah announcement and many are not.
    You won’t see any fliers for attending some Sufi tareeqah, but as long as the ameer or vp allow it, u can hand out your fliers.

    3. In general, any charity event is announced after jum’ah regardless of overlap with masjid events (although more time and emphasis is given to masjid fundraiser).

    4. Halaal Muslim businesses are not given announcements, but they are encouraged to hand out fliers and leave some in the masjid.

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  6. The best way to go is a strict system:
    Anyone wants to advertise something, they have to call, email, or personally present it to the Imam and/ or his specially designated assistants. ONLY with written proof of some kind can advertisements for Islamic events, etc. be put up. Have someone regularly check up once a week with all the advertising posters to verify that they’re legit… if the people responsible for the posters don’t have the approval paper, it comes down, no questions asked.
    Harsh, maybe, but it makes people realize the seriousness of it.

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    • Agreed.

      As soon as I read the original post, I thought of many masaajid Ive already been to where written permission is required from Masjid authorities, on a copy of the actual flyer or poster being put up or distributed.

      That way you can’t just make a verbal claim, or imply that a slip of paper granting permission is for ABC collateral when in fact it is for XYZ.

      As for your other question – who decides what is “Islamic” or not – there should be a plain, clear public notice that final decision rests with the masjid authorities. They can refuse to allow aforementioned advertising without reason.

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  7. On a recent trip to VA I decided to put flyers out for Shaykh Jamal’s classes for the benefit of the community there as they could attend the lectures online. I casually walked in, offered salah with everyone and politely asked the main office if I could leave these fliers there and post some on the bulletin board, to my surprise, the brother replied, “We have to get approval from the committee, you have to fill out this form, pay 25 dollars and then we can post it up.” I was like “I am here only for a day and leaving tomorrow, dont you know who Shaykh Jamal is, why would the committee need to review this?” I mean what is there to review? The guy looked at me and directed me to another person. At this point I said to myself maybe I should just talk to the Imam otherwise I will just go in circles.

    I went to the Imam after asking around and explained my situation to him. He said leave them on the counter, I will post them.

    In short, the fliers must go through the Imam for review and then posted but this should be a fast process. It shouldn’t take ages. Wallah u alam

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  8. Allow people to decide for themselves which event or class they would like to attend, in the end it is all about growing in deen and knowledge. What if someone can genuinely benefit from the event you are withholding because you have an event (that they might not go to) at that same time? In addition, communities should be trying there best to not let this happen anyway and denying another organization’s right to flyer may cause greater division where their freedom to flyer may actually benefit people and encourage cooperation- it may even spark some healthy competition (like whose event can be the most beneficial to the people and professionally administered). This being said all flyers must still be approved by the Imam or the one in charge of the event out of respect for the work that they put into it and the fact that they are in charge, but they are advised to consider this advice.

    There are some events that come up that create debate among the community due to their possibly un-Islamic nature. It is advised that we don’t give our own fatwas about it, but rather consult a person of knowledge and act upon his or her advice. If there is a known deviant group, or one that conducts controversial events, in your community it would be advisable to have a 2-3 day prior notice for any flyering to give time to consult the right people about it and so you don’t have to respond (with or without proper guidance) on the spot. Allaahu ta’Ala Alam.

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  9. I would like to highlight the added troubles sisters often face when trying to advertise events at masjids. I am often told speak to the Imam ( not very accessible) so then I am given his email address or his designate’s address. And ofcourse the email is often not replied to, or sometimes after the event.
    The only real way I find is to locate the Imam’s wife and have her speak to him, which quite frankly I am not fond of doing. I don’t want to disturb the wife, I just wish the designated methods were actually affective.
    Its great in theory to say, email the info to the imam, but inshallah lets find someone to check his email.

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  10. ibnabeeomar:
    Jazaka Allahu khayran for bringing up something relevant! Masha Allah!

    Some of the masajid in Toronto use online booking forms. You simply go online and book the relevant facilities on the masjid website. Websites like http://torontomuslims.com/ come in handy also (there is one for Houston and Chicago I believe). All in all, the stronger the community, the less likely these things are to be an issue.

    Personally, I do not think marketing is an Islamic science, nor should we try and make it one. Fliers are nothing but pollution, we don’t even read them- and I wonder how much benefit these events even have on the community…they never seem to go as we want them to.

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  11. oh this si simple…

    If he had permission from the ‘Shyakh/Imam’, why would he ask you?

    I’m in Houston….
    in particular order

    ISGH Stamp or Masjid official Signature on one of the cards/posters means its okay

    see that event on the official announcement list means its okay…

    if ur part of the board, just call up the other board members and ask shura and see what they say and let him do it if its cool…..

    worse comes to worse, make independent ijtihad of the issue and asses the arms and benefits

    allahu’Alam

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  12. “If you have a masjid fundraising dinner at 8pm next Friday, is it fair to say you won’t make Juma announcements for another event on the same date/time”

    Salam,

    Recently we had this same problem at the Masjid. There was a Family Night going on, and on the same day there were 3 other events going on. All of them wanted exposure at Jumah, and so we gave it to them. If there is choice in which events you can go to, then all the better. It makes the Muslim population in that area feel more empowered and really helps people feel included. When it comes to Jumah announcements, I strongly feel that to have just one person very un-emphatically announce everything is just wrong. People who are passionate about the event should be given the time to go and appeal to the people (albeit in a short time period) so as long as the announcement has been screened before hand for objectionable material/speech.

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  13. Unbelievable…

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