Early this morning I started seeing tweets and emails about 'Muslim charity squandered money for the poor' and immediately opened the article up. The Toronto Star is reporting that over $600,000 were mismanaged by the organization. This was money intended for the poor, and according to their audit, it was mostly spent on other than the poor (including some personal perks).

My gut reaction upon hearing this news was shock, but not in the sense that you might expect. I was shocked that these types of stories have not been more frequent. On face value, it appears we are looking at the perfect recipe for bringing down an Islamic organization: the intersection of shoddy and shady masjid practices meeting a fishing expedition audit.

Before continuing on to the lessons that we can all learn from this episode, there's a number of things that must be mentioned.

Firstly, the article linked to is only one side of the story, and it mentions that the other side is legally restricted at this time from mentioning theirs. None of us yet know the whole story, so it is unfair to jump to assumptions, especially as it pertains to the veracity of guilt and innocence regarding the claims made.  If anything, our deen, and the law, teach us innocent until proven guilty.

Secondly, due to the popularity of this story [earlier today it was on the front page and at the top of the site's most read articles], it is worth taking heed of lessons that can be learned so the same mistakes are not repeated. With that in mind, please remember that what follows is written in a general sense, and is not specific to the context of this story.

***

One issue facing most Islamic organizations is a lack of implementing appropriate policies and procedures. A number of organizations struggle to even have the right policy on paper, and the vast majority that even make it that far usually cannot implement those policies in practice.

There are always extremely stringent regulations regarding the management of registered non-profit organizations. It requires a high level of transparency. Those who have taken it upon themselves to be in leadership, shura, or board positions at a masjid need to be familiar with these regulations. An example of this is something as simple as meeting minutes. Non-profits are required to keep meeting minutes. If they do not, it provides an easy excuse for someone auditing you to make an issue out of it.

In regard to finances, I am appalled that many organizations do not even take the basic step of having accounting sheets that are double-counted with the appropriate number of witnesses, and physically signed. Most of the time funds are simply thrown together and one person is given the task of counting them. Additionally, the budget and cashflow expenditures are not made public such that each penny can be accounted for. Personally, I have heard horror stories of $1.5 million dollars in a masjid construction project being accounted for “penny by penny” to the community in simply a half page “executive overview.”

These are two examples of shoddy and shady practices that Islamic organizations currently engage in, and in reality, they are a microcosm of other issues. The carelessness and laziness that is exhibited here is equivalent to a person slowly digging his or her own grave. Should someone take issue with the organization, or simply want to give them a hard time, the organization has left itself open to an easy attack.

By definition, an audit is a detailed examination of each and every penny, policy, procedure, and practice. If any of these are out of line, then there are negative consequences. This, of course, can be prevented by following the rules stringently. It is baffling though, how careless organizations are in shooting themselves in the foot in this manner.

Lastly, I want to mention two pieces of advice. The first is for those in leadership over Islamic organizations and the second is for the community in general. For those in leadership, you have a great responsibility on your shoulders. You are accountable for managing the affairs of the community, and laziness and ignorance is not an excuse. If you do not know something, go find out about it, and implement it. Think about your legacy if your (avoidable) missteps are the reason for the downfall of an Islamic organizaiton – if your actions are the reason that someone else's sadaqah jariyah is cut off. That's not a happy place to be in. Remember when you were busy lobbying to get yourself elected to the board of the masjid? This is the responsibility that came with it.

To the community, it is not enough to shift the blame to the leadership. We all play a role, and until the community steps up and holds its leadership accountable, change will not happen until forced. And if it is forced, it will not be pretty, nor good for anyone involved. In fact, in such cases, regardless of who is responsible, it is the average community member [aka innocent bystander] who ends up suffering most.

May Allah (swt) put barakah in all of our organizations and keep us steadfast on the truth, and give us the guidance to always do things with ihsan and in the most correct manner.

84 Responses

  1. Muggsy Bogues

    Great points. I have heard of other Muslim organizations not paying their employees after revealing they have ran out of funding a couple of weeks earlier even, among other shady practices. People should not be expected to do things for Muslim organizations just out of the simple goodness of their heart. While that’s definitely important, they are workers with rights and should be treated justly. Another popular case is what happened to IslamOnline.net. Contrary to what views one may have theologically/ideologically, the way the workers and families of that organization was thrown out was completely appalling. There were no process followed, compensation, severance pay or anything. They were just out like some mafia organization just took over: “Hey, our money, you have no say!” type of deal. That’s not a not-for-profit, that’s an authoritarian mobster. Fine, yes, some might believe they are misleading others regarding Islamic issues, but how does that in any way justify shady organizational practices?

    It’s funny that the solution to motivate Muslim workers is to undercut, short-change and put them on a guilt-trip. Common sense is enough to inform us that will not motivate people. The ability to exercise creativity, autonomy and to receive just compensation is what motivate workers. If people really want to motivate the ummah to work for Islamic organizations, they would adopt a different approach to motivation.

    It’s unfortunate that this has spilled over into the public arena like this. This is not a pleasant thing to wake up to in the morning at all. But, to be completely honest, I’m actually a lot more surprised that it has taken this long for something to be raised out in public regarding ISNA Canada. We all know that information (even the most tiny piece of irrelevant information) can travel extremely fast within the Muslim community. The gossip is unfortunate but the problems within the organization has been well known in the local community for years.

    I don’t know what can be placed into context or be defended by ISNA Canada, but some of the numbers shown in the audit are just completely ridiculous. If they are true, those responsible should be held accountable for their wrongdoings. Based on the numbers in the audit alone, I think the minimum standard of raising a red flag on the organization has been met. Nevertheless, again, I hope that ISNA Canada comes up with its own statement that does more than write an op-ed release.

    It is well known that there have been efforts made within the organization in general to fix many of the issues highlighted in the audit. Unfortunately, many of these changes have been met with resistance. Now it can never be known what they could have done on their own. All we could do now is to make sure that any injustices are corrected, people are held accountable and transparency is ensured in the future. Not just with ISNA Canada, but with ALL Islamic organizations.

    It is also important to note that those being accused of mismanagement have made their own share of enemies within the Muslim community. It is important that those pockets who will surely take the opportunity to pounce with excess should be kept in check.

    Not-for-Profit organizations in general are the biggest violators of worker rights — at least, in Toronto, anyway, with new groups popping up left and right. It would be great if things were different for Muslim organizations.

    Just my two cents.

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    • Yasir Dhia

      @ Mugsy,
      “Not-for-Profit organizations in general are the biggest violators of worker rights — at least, in Toronto, anyway, with new groups popping up left and right. ”

      Please corroborate this statement, as you are inadvertently spreading suspicion.

      In my experience it is not very easy to get not-for-profit status.

      As salaamu alaikum

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      • Muggsy Bogues

        My apologies. I’m not pointing to any actual research but based on statements from qualified individuals with a legal-aid organization in downtown Toronto. That was not meant as a general statement regarding not-for-profits just starting out (let along Muslim/Islamic organizations). Obviously, it takes a really long time to get started. Nevertheless, I should have avoided making that statement as it distracts from the rest of my points. If you are interested in the organization, please provide me an email and I will send you the name of the legal aid you can contact about this matter. I’m sure there are local ones too that you can ask in your area. They often deal with a lot of issues regarding not-for-profits.

        In my experience, the lack of accountability and transparency of small not-for-profit organizations could provide an unhealthy environment in which worker rights are not met. Again though, I would advise going to a legal aid to ask about this. Preferably, those with a grassroots base in a local community.

        I would reveal the organization here but I don’t want to risk revealing my identity on here and getting trolled.

        I hope that clears things up.

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      • Muggsy Bogues

        Also, to clarify further. Those with an actual charitable number obviously carries a heavier burden from those trying to seek one out. With the latter, more flexible “worker rights” (sorta speak) are completely understandable.

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      • Sam

        It’s not that hard to get not-for-profit status. It’s loads harder to get charitable organization status i.e. have the ability to issue tax receipts.

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  2. Ify Okoye

    I really feel at a loss to effectively address much less correct issues of concern when some of our organizations are very closed-off in terms of access to the leadership, insight into the decision-making process, and certainly not any kind of critical thought/review process to see if things are being done in the best possible manner. I know I and others have seen things or have suggestions or questions about a serious how or why something is being done (usually something a bit shady) but no way to address it or hold the leaders accountable to the community. And quite often if you speak about an issue, other people within the community will try to shut you down with their circle the wagons mentality, why are you airing our dirty laundry arguments, or simple gossip and abuse to deflect attention from the real issues at hand.

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  3. Safia Farole

    I wish there was some sort of Muslim transparency watchdog agency that keeps oversight of Islamic organizations like ISNA. Perhaps as the older generation begins to exit public service we will see the emergence of such institutions, if they don’t already exist.

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    • Uncle Tom

      Agreed….maybe all these muslim charity organizations should publish their incoming and outgoing funds on their websites.

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      • Yahya

        Yes, this is what I have been demanding for years!!! Anything less than that is unacceptable in my books.

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    • Safia Farole

      Charity Navigator is a good model. I think it sets a good example for how a Muslim transperancy watchdog agency could report findings.

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    • Zeinab

      For the past seven years, Islamic Relief USA has earned a five star rating with Charity Navigator, ranking it among the top 2.5 percent of the nation’s charitable organizations. The Chronicle of Philanthropy just announced that Islamic Relief USA is among the top 150 non-profit organizations in the country. One of the criteria earning Islamic Relief USA these distinctions is that 93 percent of donations reach the intended recipients.

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      • Amad

        That’s why we r big supporters of IRW
        And the r also our biggest advertisers mashallah

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  4. PROFESSIONALISM

    Salam,

    I read the 26page audit report posted on http://www.thestar.com/article/924865.
    A case of…Usual Muslim slackness meets the Canadian whip!

    The report highlights mismanagement of resources, unregulated expenses, lousy book keeping, and documentation. ISNA has clearly violated Canadian law.

    HOWEVER – I also felt a persistent attempt to discredit ISNA as an Islamic authority.

    Going forward, Muslims, not just ISNA, need to maintain a high level of transparency and professionalism if they wish to be fully integrated and acknowledged in Canada.

    ISNA will remain my place of worship where I hope, as a charity donater, I would be able to have public access of fund allocation information.

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  5. Shuaib Mansoori

    Excellent timing and advice. A flurry of chain emails are already making the rounds and this piece was very much needed. I’ve started replying by linking your article :) JazakAllah Khair Bro.

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  6. HadithCheck

    To be honest, even if this does turn out to be true, I don’t believe it is the fault of the general people who work at the organization. And I definitely don’t think that there should be a “watch dog” or some agency that watches these Islamic organizations. Just make sure you appoint trustworthy and people who are known to be good and righteous among their communities, and that should be sufficient for them to do what they should, because they will be conscious that Allah is aware of what they do. When the Prophet peace be upon him appointed Abu Huraira may Allah be pleased with him to watch over the place where the zakaat is being kept, he (peace be upon him) did not appoint some one else or another companion to watch Abu Huraira and keep an eye of him. I don’t think that this is proper, because it sends out a message to those who run these organizations that the people don’t trust them.

    It was narrated that Mu’awiyah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say: “If you seek out people’s faults you will soon corrupt them or almost corrupt them.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood (4888) and classed as saheeh by Sheikh al-Albani)

    So I don’t believe that appointing a watchdog agency to oversee these Islamic organizations is a good idea at all. Just make sure you appoint the right people for the job, people whom are known to be righteous and upright and trustworthy and honest, and then leave them to do their job.

    Going back to what has been mentioned about this specific incident, I don’t think that this large amount of money which was squandered here was the fault of the people running the organization or because they are corrupt or had bad intentions of abusing their position and using the money improperly. Instead, I believe that the reason behind this recklessness or misconduct is because some of the shuyookh who work with these Islamic organizations or consult them have given them fatwas that are too lenient in terms of what expenses and spending qualifies to be “zakaat eligible” and what doesn’t. I have seen some times where a sheikh gives a verdict stating that this project or that event qualifies for zakaat money and encourages the people to spend their zakaat money on that project. Many times such projects don’t really qualify for zakaat money. People wrongly think that just because their donation qualifies to be a tax deduction it automatically becomes zakaat eligible. The recipients of zakaat are limited and have been clearly identified in Islam, and I think that because some shuyookh were too allowing with this matter and widened the zakaat eligible segment and included in it many projects and activities that in reality don’t actually qualify to be zakaat eligible, this is why we have such issues of not spending the zakaat money properly and this wasting and squandering of these funds.

    One might be able to declare his trip to Florida as a “business trip” and declare that expense as a tax deduction on his tax return, but that trip to Florida might not qualify to be eligible for zakaat money, even if it was on behalf of an Islamic organization.

    That is what I think is the root cause of such an issue, if it turns out to be true, that many of these brothers and sisters running these organizations don’t have a lot of knowledge in terms of what qualifies for zakaat and what doesn’t, in addition to the very lenient permissions of some shuyookh who work with these organizations and are consulted by them. Having those factors I believe are what cause the reckless spending and squandering of these funds.

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    • Muggsy Bogues

      Just to clarify regarding the report, it does not target everyone in general. The audit was very specific in terms of where discrepancies are. It even mentioned that many of those working within the organization are being underutilized and should be given more responsibilities. It sounds like the Communist Manifesto but that’s how you motivate people and how workplaces grow. Autonomy, room for creativity and responsibility. The audit is not a broad reaching condemnation or even a condemnation in the first place, actually. It was meant to be an internal audit that was unfortunately made public. Now the community has to deal with it. Hopefully, positively.

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      • HadithCheck

        Just to clarify regarding the report, it does not target everyone in general.

        Thanks for the clarification. I was talking more in general about the Islamic organizations and not just about this case specifically, because even though this case is what has been made public right now, yet I think that this issue is faced by many of our Islamic organizations, specifically here in the west.

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  7. Amad

    I went through the entire report, not thoroughly but sufficiently. I have so many thoughts on this but don’t want to make this comment its own article so I’ll condense. For starters, I want to be clear I have no vested interest in defending either part, I have no ties to ISNA or the auditor:

    1) I have a finance educational background and work in corporate planning and budgeting so I have some understanding of this sort of stuff. I have also been part of and read many audit reports during my career.

    2) I think the newspaper article and the auditor report were too sensationalist. Auditors are always on a mission to find something, that’s their job. But in this case, the auditor appeared to be almost on some mission.

    3) Having been part of Muslim organizations for over a decade, I do wonder about the background of the audit. What triggered it? Who pushed for it? I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a personal conflict going on in the board and that this became a sort of revenge. I am not saying this is what happened, but that I wouldn’t be surprised.

    4) The auditor went into many areas, speculated and then laid off. If the report’s mandate wasn’t to go into certain areas, then why “poke and speculate”?

    5) One of the big findings is on zakah. For instance, according to many scholars, zakah can be given to non-poor. See this article on MM by Shaykh Tawfique. As long as it meets the essence as laid out in the article, it should be okay. The more important question, NOT answered in the report, is if the organizations that received the money met this essence. Even if there is a difference of opinion on this matter, the benefit of doubt can be given, IF the conditions are met.

    6) Having said that, it’s hard to deny that the outfit was being run like a typical desi org

    7) Unless the auditor follows money all the way, there is no confirmed example of stealing, except for the double pay incident. But definitely tons of bad (or no) procedures, processes and nepotism .

    In conclusion, as ibnabeeomar emphasized, I have learned that not everything is the same as it appears and to give husnedhan to islamic outfits. Our Islamic organizations struggle everyday and us Muslims who don’t support them are part of the problem too.

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    • sister mariam

      Salaam:
      – I swear by Allah that I heard a sister who was doing funding for Muslim orpahns (to whom the Canadian government charged her with terrorism but in the end cleared her because she was innocent) that the imam of a certain masjid in Toronto stole from the funds of the orphans which was supposed to go to Pakistan – and that was according to his big son who has more taqwa of Allah.
      – may Allah guide us all.

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      • Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

        So you swear that someone said that someone said that an unnamed Imam stole funds meant for orphans? What’s the purpose of this statement? It does not advance the discussion.

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    • UmmZayn

      But also, alot of the money was not even distributed, it was just sitting in the account. Of the $800,00 something that was in the Zakat/Charity fund, less than $200,000 was distributed. I dont know about you, but when I pay my zakat to an organization, I expect them to do their best to use it as quickly as possible, to ensure that it reaches the needy in a timely, fashion. Its not like we have a lack of needy people, in our cities, in our countries, in our world. People are dying left, right and center. I would want my money to go immediately to help, not to just sit idly in an account

      My father-in-law is also an accountant and he was the treasurer of a mosque in our community. He used to get in so many arguments with the mosque BOD because the money they would collect for zakat and zakat al-fitr would just sit and sit and sit. For zakat al fitr, I remember learning in the AlMaghrib Fiqh of Zakat class that the obligation upon you is not discharged when you drop the money into the donation box, but when it actually reaches the poor. So imagine all these people giving their charity in good faith to the mosque, thinking the mosque will take their job seriously and ensure the money reaches the right people on time –and yet it just sits and sits and doesnt benefit anyone until who knows how much time has past! Its very sad

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  8. Amad

    Have laid out my thoughts, I would like to mention some solution suggestions, not dissimilar to what Omar mentioned.

    First, the investigation must be completed thoroughly at ISNA-Canada until all the money trail is followed and any stolen money return. If zakah was used outside the mainstream opinion of its permissibility, then it must be returned somehow.

    Moving on to the wider issues, if we want our organizations to run like well-oiled corporations, then they need the money to do so. Why do many employees work as contractors? Because the Islamic orgs can barely afford to pay them as contractors, let alone employees.

    Because most organizations cannot support independent auditors, it is important for the major orgs like ISNA, ICNA, MAS to get together and set up an internal audit team that uses economies of scale to do audits of smaller organizations (charging something affordable, enough to cover at least 50% of expense, rest supported by the biggies). Also, there should be a checklist of dos and donts, as well as canned budgets, processes and procedures.

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    • Mezba

      Amad,

      A friend told me this while scanning through the report:

      in section V.3 – Significant Portion Zakath and Firthra collection is not Distributed to poor and Needy. (page 16) $256,813 was collected in the year 2009, $66,570 was distributed (merely 26%)

      under section VI.4 – Personal Expenses paid out from ISNA Canada (page20)
      4 people who are NOT employees of ISNA (2 with the surname of Ashraf) had their personal expenses such as legal fee’s and Manulife Health premium paid out of the ISNA account. The sums range from $1,935 upto $14,555.

      also under section VII.4 – Overtime and Day Off Time (page 24)
      Qaiser Naqvi had a total of 58.5 overtime days off

      Now, I agree we must also look into the source of the information. In this case it’s Fareed Sheik who has composed this audit. His website http://fareed.ca yields him as a Chartered Accountant from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and also from the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants and a certified fraud examiner. He has over 12 years of experience in Audit, Tax and Consulting engagements across different industries. He has worked for Ernst & Young in India and Deloitte in Canada and is a volunteer for the free tax clinics organized by the CICA to prepare free tax returns for the low income group. Fareed Sheik also organizes park clean up programs for the city of Mississauga through ICNA Community Link.

      So I don’t think the auditor was “on a mission” but simply doing his job.

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      • Amad

        Auditors are always on a mission– that’s their job and depending on their mandate, they can be more or less aggressive.

        It would have been nice if they had gone to a more recognized firm so no question of political motivation may have come up. Id really like to know who called for this in what context and if anyone in the board was having a personal conflict with the management.

        Again I am not blaming anyone, just voicing my concerns over the background of the issue.

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  9. Muggsy Bogues

    Thanks, Amad. Those are very interesting insights.

    Can you expand on the typical desi org comment? Sorry, I’m not desi and I need some context to understand better.

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    • Amad

      Desi- like politics back in the indo Pak region. No real rules, just uncles running it as they see best. Kind of seeing it as a mini kingdom instead of an organization.

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  10. U. A.

    Another thought to add to the discussion.

    As I understand it, an audit such as the one being discussed in the Toronto Star article is not something that is generally released to the public. It would normally be requested by the Board of Directors and would only be released to them. So I wonder, how did the audit end up in the hands of a Toronto Star journalist? Was it leaked? Did the person or persons who leaked the audit have an agenda that is served by making the information within the audit public?

    On the audit itself, I hope the Toronto Star article serves as a wake up call to all of the other organizations (Islamic and otherwise, big or small) to get their financial houses in order. For the Islamic organizations it’s an absolute necessity in the current political environment.

    On the leadership of Islamic organizations, the organizations really need to become more democratic and transparent. Many of our organizations have a leadership that directly reflects the dictatorial influences of the countries that leaders migrated from. I am hoping that we will see this change over time, as our educated youth step leadership positions.

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  11. iMuslim

    In the US, 501(c)3 Tax Exempt Organizations are mandated by law to make financial statements public upon request. They also must complete a IRS Form 990 every fiscal year which is made public as well. People need to start asking to see financial statements from Non Profits, especially donors.

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    • Sylvia Horton

      Salam Alaikum,

      That’s one of the first things I said after the report broke. In the US, we always knew where our money was going. The Masjids always gave the people updates every 3 months, or twice a year on where their money was going. Also, the Masjids did a lot of community events. They paid for them!!! I cannot ever remember being in the dark about our money and how it was being used. As a matter of fact, the community that my daughter is in now, has their budget posted and how their money is spent, posted inside the building.
      People, I find here, just go on blind faith. They never ask questions! And if someone from the outside starts asking questions, they are seen as a trouble maker.

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  12. Yasir Dhia

    Someone close to the matter pointed out to me yesterday that there are always ‘political’ themes underlying these types of disputes, so its entirely possible a group of people are using this as a means to ‘take control’ of the masjid. I am stating this possibility only to help keep your mind open. And Allah knows best.

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  13. Truth

    Just so you all know Br. Fareed is not the one who leaked the information. He is one of the most respectable memeber of the community and practising muslim mashaAllah. It was probably an inside job. And Allah knows best!

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  14. Talha

    A good and trustworthy friend of mine just attended the Jumah Khutbah at ISNA today, and here is his account of it:

    <<Friend's Account begins

    Asalaamu alaikum

    I arrived at the masjid 45 mins before the first khutbah. Overheard pockets of conversations with words of "issue of trust", "the article said…" … I made my way to the front row and took a seat 3 feet to the left of the podium.

    I recorded the entire lecture and will put it up soon.

    12:25: Dr. Ashraf, the man in the centre of this, came to the mic and made an announcement. He said the following:
    – He will respond to all allegations in a few days – he is working on the response
    – This is a smear campaign against him
    – Shed more light on the issue of a secret bank account. He said that the man who accused him of having the secret account is the very man who signed the approval for this account so that money can flow to Dr. Ashraf's account for salary purposes. He said it was not secret and everyone knows about it. He held up a paper which showed the signatures of the accuser and other information to bring legitmacy to his claim that he was not stealing from a secret account. He also said if anyone wanted to see the paper can come see him and that for time being the paper is not available for mass distribution due to information such as account number etc.

    He comes and sits 2 feet across from me and cried throughout the lecture while wiping his eyes several times.

    12:30 Dr. Idrees Starts khutbah with specific arabic reminders. Then he mentions the following important point.
    – Everyone is shocked, confused and angry while some are sympathizing and supporting as we get thorugh dificult times. he said everything will be answered and presented in due time since there are legitimate concerns to talk about.
    – Allah tests us with difficult situations once to twice a year as a test. This is a test. Mentioned, did you think that you will be believers and entered into Jannah without being tested.
    – Everyone should pause and let information flow from all sides to get a grasp of situatoin because the panic is gone to such extreme that his daughters who are in Sudan have heard about it and everyone is asking them what their dad is up to – (it is worldwide) at this point, he began to cry and said that if this is my situation and my name has not even been mentioned I cannot imagine what Dr. ashraf and his family must be going through.
    – Mentioned that in the Quran Allah has asked and commanded everyone to verify each and every news before rushing to judgement. Surah Hujarat I beleive.
    – Right of the brother is to be helped and supported to guidance when he is wrong. Ibn masud stated that you should hate the sin not the sinner and help the sinner overcome his sin (summary)
    – Asked to stop arguing: mentioned hadith where promised jannah to those who stop arguing who are right.
    – Allah knows your hearts …. (I took that as .. he knows your hearts and what you harbor against those who are in this and why you are concerned …)

    ————————————–
    Final thought of mine: having worked in many muslim organizations and following their progress it is very clear how political these institutions are. Yet, still people went on an on-slaught as if all the facts were out and the initial reports of accusations were absolutely accurate and objective devoid of any malice of backdrop politics. Things just are not that simple and I wish people would realize this to restrain their emotions and let the full picture develop before they rush to judgement, spread gossip, backbite, slander and dishonor an honorable man and an honorable institution. Why risk incurring the burden of these significant evils and sins by letting our emotions go wild? Esp. when time after time in your life and mine, in every possible realm of life we have learnt that the first impressions, first perceptions, first information has never been completely accurate or ever spot-on, but in fact always has some of its aspects corrected and proven wrong. So what is the rush, what are we trying to accomplish by rushing to judgement and spreading possible misinformation? Things very well maybe troublesome, but does it hurt to just wait to see exactly what happened?

    Wsalaam

    Friend's Account Ends

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    • SA

      Why was Dr.Ashraf allowed to address a congregation obviously there for Friday prayers?Shouldn’t they have taken up this matter at some other time or some other day?

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  15. Amad

    Would love to get hold of the audio for MM… Pls email to us if available.

    JazakAllah khair for this. I really feel Muslims across the board became too judgmental about this even in the absence of so much knowledge of the affair.

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    • Uncle Tom

      you can always rely on Muslims to sensationalize and add their “masala” to the mix.

      What good would it do you getting the Audio other than getting more hits on this website?

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      • Amad

        Since u r constantly harping against what we post, perhaps u r part of the problem. Every time u come here, u r adding a hit for us. Doesn’t it bother u that u r making mm more popular?

        On a serious note, pls don’t think ur constant berating comments r going unnoticed. Pretty soon u may be an uncle without a voice on mm.

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      • Uncle Tom

        thanks for the threat ‘bro’ and also for ignoring my question.

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      • Kamran

        So what if they want to post the audio on their website? It was a public announcement made in the mosque for everyone to hear regarding this matter.

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  16. Mohammed Khan

    I never give my Zakat money to any organization which uses it for their day to day activities. I agree with Mufti Taqi and other scholars who say that Zakat money can’t be used to pay wages and for Islamic institutions and other similar uses including giving Zakat money to CAIR.

    USA Muslims can easily afford money to take care of their own organizations without taking the money of the poor and the needy. But Islamic organizations don’t want to work to collect donations and now they have started taking Zakat money whilst living in their million dollar houses! $60,000 of Zakat money for security cameras? What! Is that another Fort Knox or what?

    All that other stuff in that detailed report is like a page out of a Mafia movie!

    Nowadays, every other month, another Zakat collecting organization is opening up and they use Zakat money to pay off the wages. Do we need any more Zakat organizations? No we don’t! We have enough but still, because they can use the Zakat money to pay off their wages according to some scholars, they are happy to start such organizations and they fix their own wages with no body watching over them.

    I never give my Zakat money to any organization which uses it to pay their wages and also I never give my money to organizations who use Zakat money to maintain their lavish extravagant buildings.

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  17. Aftab

    The biggest problem with the muslims (not ISLAM) is that they keep up their horses glasses (sub-continental proverb) and do not want to face the reality. They just imagine what the reality should be and go with their blind-sighted belief.

    In every thing there should be accountability. Absence (not lack) of accountablity is the major source of suffering and a source of corruption in almost all of muslim societies and countries and is the main reason for no progress in muslim societies.

    When a person is entrusted with a responsibility, there is a trust involved. The problems arise when that trust is broken – similar to the current issue.

    Trust can be broken in two ways, either by negligence – then the person entrusted is as incapable as the people who entrusted him with the responsibilty and should face the consequence of being booted out,

    or by fraud – when the entrusted person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    The writer of this article should not come to defend the incumbent nor should he ask for the incumbent to be hanged until the second audit is completed – when opinions should be expressed.

    Remember the country you are in – innocent until proven guilty but the system has to allowed to take its course.

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  18. Muggsy Bogues

    Thanks for the typical desi org clarification, lol. I guess that’s similar to a lot of cultures coming in from overseas. Where I come from, I know it’s the same too.

    I am looking forward to a more detailed response. Thanks for posting the khutbah. Personally, based on what I saw in the audit, it is going to be very hard to dismiss all the mismanagement that occurred. I could be completely wrong though, who knows. It happens in a lot of not for profits though, not just Muslim ones, and it could get the organization in A LOT of legal problems. People should avoid stating that this is an isolated issue amongst Muslims (a general statement, not aimed at anyone on here). Laziness, inattentiveness to detail or lack of professionalism is across the board. One I worked for I know could not account for a couple of hundred dollars (and they have a pretty substantial funding base including government funding) during the audit (as in, they could not find receipts or the money trail) so they went into a massive panic mode. Personally, I couldn’t account for 50 bucks (I know, sounds ridiculous, but I was a broke student, lol) on a smaller program within the organization and I panicked. That’s to put into context my reaction to the audit.

    All of that said, I agree with everyone else in that people jumped the gun on the whole “corruption” thing. Some have stronger opinions on the matter because of how close they are to the internal politics, but I’m not. So I am very uncomfortable when people make these type of claims until I hear both sides. Or, going further, until it’s taken to court because corruption is a pretty serious accusations which can ruin a lot of lives for nothing. Ensure accountability where it’s needed. Provide justice evenhandedly if anyone has been wronged. Don’t jump the nuke.

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  19. sirat

    Br Amad,

    I know br fareed personally, have worked with him a few times, and am a CA myself. I know for a fact that Br fareed was not on a “mission”.

    Infact, after the audit was completed he tried his best to keep this confidential. When the news report came out yesterday, he was as shocked about it as you & me. His intention to keep it confidential was to make sure that they change their ways while at the same time not lose trust of the public. However, it appears that someone “within” ISNA leaked this audit report without his consent.

    Wallahu ‘alam.

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    • Amad

      I responded to a similar comment earlier. being on a mission is a neutral term when it comes to audits.

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  20. Omar

    Regarding zakat, the $600K may not necessarily have been ‘squandered’ but rather put into various “dawah projects”. The audit report even mentions ISNA management’s response saying it is a fiqh issue. And this wouldn’t be a surprise as ISNA takes weak/modern opinions on other fiqh issues as well.

    Firstly, if ISNA considers spending zakat money on projects/etc to be valid, is the donating public made aware of this? I would estimate that upwards of 90% of the donors probably believe their money is going to the poor, and not spent on ISNA-related activities. The default assumption of most Muslims is that zakat money will go to the poor, if this is not true then they should indicate as such to avoid any deception.

    Secondly we have to ask ourselves, if the zakat money is being spent on projects and masjids then what will happen of the poor people? This is their right, and according to most if not all RELIABLE ulema this is not valid zakat, and does not discharge the obligation of zakat.

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    • Omar

      To add to this a suggestion, if you are not giving zakat to poor people directly and are doing so through an agent, you need to inquire about how the money is going to be used. I asked another large GTA masjid if they spend zakat money on projects/dawah/etc and the answer was YES. Also many organizations will deduct administrative charges from all donations, which is not necessarily wrong but the problem you might end up with is not all your zakat money went to eligible Muslims, so you still need to pay a bit more. Rule of thumb: if you are giving your zakat via an agent, do your homework, talk to reliable ulema to learn the rules and clarify any questions/concerns.

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  21. Abubakar Kasim

    Very useful comments, advice and thoughts about the serious allegations.

    The alleged corruption at ISNA Canada, the largest Muslim organization in the country and the icon for the faithful community is certainly troubling.

    A believer hearing this news will be disturbed and shaken to the core especially since he has put his unconditional support to the leadership of this renowned and respected organization.

    It is heartbreaking to say the least especially for the hardworking members who have been supporting the organization with their sweat and blood at a time of economical hardship where one struggles just to make the two ends meet.

    I must caution everyone to avoid generalization and sensualizations at all cost.

    The faithful believers and everyone else hearing this should remember that everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

    It is saddening to see how our today’s media does its business.

    It is not necessarily after the facts as it is towards sensualizing the news.

    While it puts such disturbing news on its front page, it does not bother afterwards to give the story its due coverage and how it has ended as it does not care whether the accused is innocent or otherwise.

    When reading the news from today’s media, one ought to be careful and not start jumping to conclusion.

    Sadly, the media is no longer what it ised to be.

    The majority of the media industry, with the exception of few including Aljazeera, have lost their credibility.

    It has lost its sense of direction altogether. It is after rates and popularity and does not care about the truth anymore.

    One ought to be extremely careful with it.

    Even Imam Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Tariq Ramadan in their recentl lecture at Oxford University has said the same thing about the media towards quesion and answer session. The lecture can be watched at http://www.halaltube.com/hamza-yusuf-rethinking-islamic-reform

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    • Mohammed Khan

      I don’t understand why you are trying to discredit the Toronto Star’s method of reporting this issue? Actually, all of us should be writing to them and thanking them for bringing this out in the open. There are many more Islamic organizations who run in a similar manner and they all should be forced to do a detailed audit every single year. The Toronto Star contacted Dr. Ashraf multiple times but HE repeatedly refused to comment. That is his fault and not the newspaper’s fault. He had all the time in the world to respond even by writing and he didn’t. Reading some of the stuff in that detailed report should make us all get angry on how the money of poor and middle class Muslims has been abused by ISNA. If I had given them my Zakat money, I would go up to them and tell them to return my money.

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      • sara

        I completely agree with your comments. People are choosing to live in fool’s paradise and blame it all on some conspiracy instead of THANKING the Toronto Star for breaking this story.

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    • mohammed guggen

      Abdul: “The majority of the media industry, with the exception of few including Aljazeera, have lost their credibility.”

      Guess to each his/her own. Credibility is in the eyes of the viewer/reader. You consider Aljazeera as credible. I find Fox News and Toronto Star credible. So there ….

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  22. Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Mason, David Wesley & Grandmama

    I heard about management issues years ago. Even when I wasn’t asking for information. It’s just people here and there, venting individually, one at a time. It happens when you’re always out and about, which I was years ago. After around the first 10 complaining, you kinda get the feeling that something’s not right. It wasn’t journalistic vigor on my part, it’s just common sense. I find it hard to believe that some people are surprised that this has turned into a public spectacle though. The internal politics was bound to spill over.

    A quick note about “opportunism” though. Man, I just received an email forward talking about ISNA being funded by wahhabi’s, blah, blah, we need more of these books, etc. Usually, when there’s a lot of opportunistic bantering (note their impeccable timing), you know there are politics involved. I can smell it from miles away and it always stinks no matter where it comes from, regardless of what issue. It bugs me like no other. This isn’t the type of opportunism that’s good. It’s the one where it attempts to make a change (or a whole plethora of changes) during an extremely vulnerable situation. When the target has its back against the wall sorta speak. That’s implementing it by force, even when stated in the “nicest” of manners. I pay attention to people’s syntax and it’s fascinating how people veil it.

    So people should watch out for that. It’s already happening. Some are going to try to gun for some influence over the mosque as it’s clearly easy picking. People should shield those carrying on with the management of ISNA from these opportunistic outside forces (which includes those in the media) so they can do their jobs effectively. You can’t do that when you constantly have to look over your shoulder. If some of these forces don’t get their way, they could cause more damage. It’s good though that people are discussing this openly. I’m glad that MuslimMatters.org made a comment on this.

    Sincerely,
    The Charlotte Hornets Starting Line-Up

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    • Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Mason, David Wesley & Grandmama

      Oh, by more damage, I mean, something like ISNA Canada actually losing their charitable number. If there’s something I’ve learned regarding ideological and theological rivalries within the Muslim community, it’s mad vindictive when not kept in control in some way.

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    • Reggie Miller al-3point king

      Great points

      Someone definitely needs to audit the AUDIT. From my perspective, a third party with no direct or secondary ties to ISNA should have done the audit in the first place!

      If this was in fact an internal audit that wasn’t supposed to leak and blow up in the Toronto Star like it did, the leaker may have actually done Dr. Ashraf a service in the long run. The instigators of the audit may have thought they were using a clever “official” audit to smear, dethrone, and conquer, without any intention of actually following the money trail and adding credence to a real accusation. Ain’t happening brother. Now that this much scrutiny has been applied to this case, any swift actions will be thwarted- i.e. attempts to place blame on staff members,lay them off, and curiously hire replacements.

      There are multiple laughable sections, but check out section VII.5 on p. 24 (Job Roles and Responsibilites are not in line with the qualifications). With this logic, I think we should all write a letter to Apple, telling them to immediately fire Steve Jobs for being a college dropout! The idea of gaining expertise in anything outside of your academic training through experience and having broader skills that can be applied to other areas (such as Halal certification) is just unthinkable.

      That being said, at least the audit might help resolve any inefficiencies or within the organization or shed some light on the definition of zakat as defined by different groups. The way I look at it is that the numbers could be correct, but the red flag should be people’s general ignorance on how non-profits work or where their money goes. One way this might play out is that once transparency improves, people might stop giving money to the zakat fund or might call for a fund whose recipients have nothing to do with mosque expenditures. This could lead to forced reductions in force, curtailed security measures, and an incident where the mosque is vandalized due to a lack of employees or security. Then people would get up in arms about why funds don’t go to the mosque and the board beefs up security and personnel, and act to donate more to the mosque fund. Let’s NOT LET this scenario take place, and realize that if nothing flagrantly criminal has taken place (laziness in accounting and borrowing money from the fund may be inappropriate violations, but nothing criminal), people need to calm down, fix the mosque’s accounting and procedural flaws, and move on.

      – Reggie Miller al-3point king

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      • Steve Kerr - clutch 3 point shooter

        Yeah, there are definitely some things in the audit that made me wonder. First of all, it kept misspelling “losing”. That’s kinda irrelevant to the bigger issue but it’s a personal thing, lol. But yeah, I think the whole people not qualified thing was stupid. That being said, I do agree with the suggestion that job descriptions are cleared up as to increase efficiency and that the bleeding administrative costs are controlled. Like the other non-affiliated ISNA stated, it’s just really bad protocols across the board that has to be reviewed thoroughly. Control protocols and the financial bleeding and everything should fall in place.

        “Now that this much scrutiny has been applied to this case, any swift actions will be thwarted- i.e. attempts to place blame on staff members,lay them off, and curiously hire replacements.”

        My thoughts exactly. Reminds me of like the French Revolution or something. It’s so common when it comes to things like this: the opportunistic hostile takeover. Again, you can spot it in people’s syntax even when they try to veil it.

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      • Steve Kerr - clutch 3 point shooter

        Damn timer, I was updating my post and it closed it. Anyway, I was going to add that ISNA Canada seems determined to have another, more thorough review. If there are any “moves” made, I assume they would be reasonable/even handed and make it based on the independent review.

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      • Reggie Miller al-3point king

        The only danger I see in all of this is the potential for the findings to be scrutinized in a vacuum. That is, without consideration of the context or appreciation for similar cases. But I guess if this ends up going to court, that won’t necessarily happen. I think that founders of decades-old organizations who are viewed as a patriarch of sorts are known to overstep their legal rights at times. These instances deserve reprimands or slaps on the wrists as reminders that the organization is now greater than that person and their clique, and do not deserve to turn into a witch hunt as appears to be going on here.

        For example, to draw from my previous post’s example, Steve Jobs was in some heat not too long ago on an options back-dating scandal. On paper, it’s tantamount to stealing money from the stockholders – changing the date of offering to reflect a lower offering price so as to realize the stock gains during that period. But the smoke eventually cleared for the co-founder and leader of the company, who simply wanted better recognition for his huge contributions to the organization he founded and led for many years. I guess they could have fired him on a technicality, but it didn’t happen. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

        – #31

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  23. Dan Majerle

    ISNA encourages ISNA Canada Board to Continue Investigation of Alleged Mismanagement

    http://www.isna.net/articles/News/ISNA-encourages-ISNA-Canada-Board-to-Continue-Investigation-of-Alleged-Mismanagement-.aspx

    I thought people might want to read that.

    And F, please don’t drag this discussion into irrelevant and broad-reaching topics such as “ideology”. Stick to the topic at hand, discussing the facts and reasonable assumptions. Personal issues (loaded ones at that) with the site in general is a completely different topic. Also, nothing more was said in the audit regarding Farhat Hashmi aside from she was on the payroll for immigration purposes. Or, something like that. She wasnt’ attacked or anything. It just stated a discrepancy.

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  24. Dan Majerle

    Ad hominems are completely pointless and annoying. If any was thrown at Hashmi, it’s wrong. The same goes to accusations made against this site. I personally think labeling this site as progressive is hilarious, in light of the scholars overseeing and the other content on here. If you have a personal problem with the “Islam” of this site, discuss that on a separate thread. In the context of this discussion, this is pure ad-hominem on a Palin-like tip. It’s the inability to create different branches of thought (objectivity) like this that brings about so much confusion about complex issues (ie. this ISNA hoopla).

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    • F

      Actually, my response was to someone who was taking shots at Farhat Hashmi. That comment was removed by the mods I believe so now my comment doesn’t make much sense by itself :S

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  25. Massoud V.

    I think everything we can say right now regarding this issue is mere speculation; the facts are limited but the ideas and suspicions are endless . . .

    The charges seem to be very cold and conjure all types of images that the whole media would want to exaggerate upon.

    We have to remember that there are two sides to every story and that should be dealt with at a more appropriate time.

    The media has already delivered its verdict: guilty until proven innocent. This is not how our attitude should be.

    I believe that it was quite a poor decision to reveal this matter to the Toronto Star. There are far better remedies than this . . .

    The evil that will come from this is far greater than the benefit; the people of desires and innovation will… use this as a pretext that Zakah is not required in the West anymore due to the rampant unverified “corruption,”or even worse should be annulled.

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  26. sara

    I must add that I really admire the newly elected president of ISNA Canada Mohamed Bekkari for having the courage to lead this investigation. It is a testament to his honesty and commitment to ISNA and the truth. I hope he doesn’t bow down to pressure and continues the investigation to bring the accused to justice. The zakat money should be helping the poor and not going towards the health plans of someone’s daughters.

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    • Reggie Miller al-3point king

      Yes, it is good that he has the courage to lead this investigation and put to shame frivolous claims that better belong in People’s Court or an episode of Judge Judy. Go read my other posts for some perspective.

      -RM

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  27. Abdul

    It is better to read response to publication of newspaper. Response is available on http://www.isnacanada.com. I just went through that response. You can analyze by yourself that this is personal blame game. One person, who is employee, has been been singled out while all the affairs are being run by the Board of Directors. All the financial reports are audited and are public information available with CRA.
    May Allah give Taufeeq to realize that some one’s just tiny personal desire to gain popularity can do how big damage to community.
    Jazak Allah ho Kherun

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    • SimpleMind

      I want to side with Br. Ashraf here.

      Why?

      Muslims should avoid suspicion and give their brother excuses where there are possible excuses. Unless of course the facts are fully established. Which they are not. (I have read the internal audit report – which legitimately casts doubt/raises flags. But it is not conclusive and the onus is on the Board to investigate to get to full facts).

      To be fair to Br. Ashraf a detailed independent audit reporting to an independent body (not the current Board) should give a verdict on the initial report.

      If there is blame and wrong doing – then the Board of Directors need to take the blame for allowing such potential non-compliances to build up over the last 5 years.

      It is particularly telling that the management’s response to the issue of not spending zakat on poor/needy is ‘This is FIQH issue’.

      I am not a supporter of Sh. Qardawai and his verdicts on what are halal and haram – as many things other scholars hold to be haram he holds to be halal/permissible. However I am sure even in Sh. Qardawis verdict on what Zakat funds can be spent on he does not make it permissible to spend more than 75% of zakat/zakatul fitr collected on likes of:

      *Cleaning
      *Repair and Maintenance
      *Utilities

      Which of the 8 categories do these expenses fall under???????

      Just because an organisation is ‘Islamic’ in name does not mean its management or board are Islamically literate or care much about the Islamic rulings on Zakat or prefer to apply the most liberal view.

      For too long Islamic charities have been allowed to do as they like with Zakat money and everyone should ask these organisations exactly and on what and WHO their zakat fund is spent and how that is verified.

      Start with the biggest Islamic charities and go down the list.

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  28. mohammed guggen

    HadithCheck: “Instead, I believe that the reason behind this recklessness or misconduct is because some of the shuyookh who work with these Islamic organizations or consult them have given them fatwas that are too lenient in terms of what expenses and spending qualifies to be “zakaat eligible” and what doesn’t.”

    Oh come on now! Instead of listening to these stupid fatwas, those incharge should use their own Allah-given
    common sense. Pure and simple.

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    • HadithCheck

      On one hand, you have a point brother, but Allah tells us in the Quran to ask the people of knowledge if we do not know. The common people who run our organizations don’t usually have a lot of knowledge themselves to know what is Islamically permissible and what is not, so they are right in asking the scholars for guidance. The thing is though that many of them aren’t referring back to the scholars and taking these random fatwas given out by anyone. As a side note, I am speaking here in general terms, so I don’t mean this applies to all of our organizations, and neither am I talking about this case that is specifically mentioned here in this post.

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      • SimpleMind

        Many organisations (with Ikhwaani influence) are run by people who take strongly from Sh. Qardawi. Suffice to say, as far as I’m aware most of the scholars of the 4 madhabs as well as the salafi/ahlul hadith scholars disagree with a number of Sh. Qardawis fatwas including those on what and who Zakat can be spent on.

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  29. I

    I am not shocked, this stuff is very common in the Muslim community. Couple years back some Muslim men in the community decided to collect money for a new masjid they wanted to build for the community. I think they got over 200K and in the end instead of a masjid being built one of them took the money and went back home. The only solution to this problem is to NOT give money to any of these so called charities and to send the money back home to the needy.

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  30. SA.Ahmed

    Having read about the issue of squandering fund by isna ca. in the media and in the openion expressed on the website on this issue, I feel that contaray to the openion expressed on the website that by initiating investigation, Br.Mohamed Bekkari has shown himself to be courageos person holds no merrit, It is my humble openion that by taking such a step in the manner he did , Br. Mohamed Bekkari comes accross a person having a very poor insight. His act has done tremondous harm to Muslim Umma in Canada. If some one in the family is suspected of doing wrong, you dont torch the wole house.There are other sensible ways to deal with the problem. What a pitty..

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  31. Anis Zuberi

    Unfortunately this dispute revolves around money. Does any body know the pay-package of Dr. Ashraf? I have heard different figures but I do not know the facts.

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  32. Mezba

    Was anyone at the ISNA on Jummah Fri (Feb 11) ?

    I heard the imam said something about Ashraf and other people tried to stop him.

    I also got a notice that a meeting called by Mr Ashraf was not in order and illegal and therefore was rescinded.

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  33. Anis Zuberi

    For the last so many years I have been going to ISNA mosque for Juma prayers like many others. Out of nowhere I saw front page news in Toronto Star on Jan. 20, 2011, based on the June 2010 audit report of Freed Sheikh CA. The report contained serious allegations against Dr. Ashraf, Secretary General that he repudiated on January 20, 2011.
    The Center is well run and pride of our community. I am an outsider and not privy to the truth but like so many well wishers and donors I am interested to know the facts and do not want that the infighting should result in locking up the Centre.
    In order to settle this dispute I propose that a prominent non-Pakistani and non-Arab audit firm like Deliote, PWC, Ernt & Young or KPMG should be appointed to conduct a new audit. Both parties in dispute should accept the result. A new elected body and administration should be formed in light of the proposed audit report.
    In the meantime, Dr. Ashraf should be treated as innocent. However, as an honorable person he should step aside till the investigation is completed. He should resist from addressing the Juma congregation or calling a meetings to fight back. It is most uncomfortable to majority of us who come just to say prayers and have nothing to do with politics.
    If Dr. Ashraf is clean then he will be vindicated by that impartial audit. His retirement benefit, if any, should wait until the completion of the audit.
    There are two arguments against my suggestion: The leading audit firms are expensive but the expense is worth it if it can save the Center from the current chaos and need to avoid washing dirty laundry in public but we know what happened when Vatican tried to keep the sex scandal secret.
    Lastly, the Center should not be monopolized by Pakistanis or Arabs. The new elected body and administration should reflect out universal character; cross section and preferably from younger generation

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