Conversations about Masjid Leadership 2: Finding the Right Imam

We've all seen the magazine ads that look something like:

Seeking well qualified imam for our masjid in the middle of nowhere. New facility with 50 families. Seeking an imam with the following qualifications:

  • PhD. in Islamic Studies
  • Bachelor's from American university
  • Fluent in English, Arabic, and Urdu
  • Charismatic khateeb (preferably with lots of popular videos on YouTube)
  • 15 years of imam experience
  • Can serve as principal of Islamic school
  • Can increase youth involvement
  • Teach children how to read Qur'an
  • Teach Sunday School
  • Perform weekly halaqahs
  • Provide around the clock marital and family counseling
  • Leads Tarawih with a voice that sounds like a CD recording
  • Accounting, janitorial, and website building experience is a plus
  • Superman cape is optional.

So what is a more realistic way to figure out who is qualified to be the masjid imam, or community leader? That's the question we tackled in Muslim Strategic Initiative's Part 2 of Conversations About masjid Leadership – Finding the Right imam [for Part 1, click here: The Role of the masjid].

Check out the video below:

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16 Responses

  1. Abdullah

    Does welcoming and accessible mean he bends over backwards and attends every party and function in town. What I have observed is those who are “welcoming” do not know where to draw the line. They will attend marriage functions in halls where there is all types of fitnah going on and he wouldn’t even turn his face away, let alone leave the place of sin.

    So how does a person become welcoming?

  2. ahmed

    jazakum Allahu khairan for an excellent discussion once again.

    Some questions:

    – Since it’s been seen that the usual “Islamic Studies” / “Sharia” degree may not be the best background for a generalist imam, what might that best background be theoretically? What makes a good community leader?

    (this brings up a very interesting side discussion as to what would be the ideal degree for an imam. Contemporary Islamic studies degrees are too academic and too focused on certain theological and jurisprudential issues as opposed to mentoring and counseling. Perhaps we need to brainstorm on this…)

    – What has been your experience as to Imam compensation offers? Are we starting to get close to the point that a young person could realistically consider such a position vs some other degree-requiring profession?

    – I’ve seen several masajid now where there is no Imam, or no full-time Imam, and almost all of the programs are run purely by volunteers, including Jumua khutbas. I’m really not sure what to make of this. Any comments or feedback on this trend?

    • ibnabeeomar

      best degree: they need some sort of islamic background, but again it depends on the role they’re playing. a larger community will need a senior or resident scholar who has an advanced islamic degree. a general community leader would probably need to be well versed in islamic studies and probably have a secular degree in management, communications, psychology, counseling etc.

      imam offers = getting huge for the right people. if someone got focused on developing themselves for that, it could be an extremely solid career option

      those communities that dont have anyone should really start investing in their core volunteers. send your khateebs to khateeb training [coming from qalam institute new years weekend], or send them to islamic intensives that are taking place in the US. they should also invest in sending them to leadership workshops and things of that sort. often times these are ppl volunteering on the side, and can take a couple of weeks here and there from their jobs and start getting some development. its not an idea solution, but if you have, say 4-5 competent guys who are level headed, and growing/developing, you can still have a strong community

  3. sara

    Assalamua alaikum

    I get it, but not…also. Too many egocentric people are scrambling to be Imams. It doesn’t require a Ph.d. but it does require an extremely sound ground in Islamic History, Fiqh, Arabic and English and a solid grasp of the issues facing American Muslim communities, American culture, social service systems and general laws. These things, in 90% of people, require a formal education both in Islam, and a useful field in America. In addition, the personality must be suited to the position which means humility, true fear of Allah, empathy, and strength of conviction at the bare minimum. These are, unfortunately, among the rarest qualities in the Muslim Ummah.


  4. sara


    I forgot to add that our mosque is looking for an Imam, but run completely on volunteers. Why? Can’t find anyone qualified who doesn’t have his own agenda. Is anybody out there?

    Benefits: forces us all to self-eduate more about Islam, keeps it real

    Drawbacks: no authority or legitimacy in eyes of brothers and sisters who insist on misbehaving and flaunting it as understandable or allowable in Islam, misleading others and often harming their love ones.

    • ahmed

      Can’t find anyone qualified who doesn’t have his own agenda

      as salaamu alaikum,
      Can you explain this, i don’t quite follow what this means. What kind of agendas?

      jazaky Allahu khairan,

    • newboy1331

      Can’t find anyone qualified who doesn’t have his own agenda

      Yeah, I also don’t get what you mean by this. I think most people who think this are quite paranoid, as if everyone has their own agenda is out to get them.

    • Talib Ilm

      Where is your mosque? Can you please provide contact information.
      I know an American Imam who might be exactly what you are looking for.

      • sara


        I would love to leave contact information–is there a way to do this without making it public?–I could give you my husband’s, or the Amir’s. Can those who run the sight send you our email if I give permission?

  5. AbdulQ

    Awesome video mashallah, very informative!

    I once sat with a masjid administration that almost hired an Imam based purely on his parental lineage. lol, that was a close one, inshAllah, I can pass on this video.


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