Note: Below is a response to Br. IbnabeeOmar's article, “How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?“
I read MuslimMatters articles from time to time but don't really comment on the things much. However, I felt it would be of some benefit to comment to this particular article, 'How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?'
Allāh blessed me to be around a very good masjid that was active and firm on the Sunnah in my late teen years. The imām was very respected by all of us and he was there for me even at the wee hours of night if I had any problems. Masha'Allāh the community understood the importance of knowledge and taking care of the one giving out the knowledge so that he is able to dedicate 100 percent of his time to the da'wah rather than getting a side job to support himself and his family. He was our imām for about 5 years. We used to have regular full-fledged explanations of texts and also would invite well known Shuyūkh (scholars) from USA for weekend workshops every now and then. On top of that, we would also have regular tele-conferences with the scholars in Jordan, Kuwait, etc.
In those 5 years the masjid produced 4 full-time du'aat, one of them being myself alḥamdulillāh. I'm finishing up my degree soon and another brother from that masjid is about half-way done at Madīnah University. The masjid was always the hub for the Muslims. Unfortunately, only in recent times have the Muslims forgotten the importance of the House of Allāh. Who wants to deal with ignorant bullies who run the masājid these days? That's why we find so many masājid across the United States that are void of duroos. They just have daily prayers, a Jumu'ah, and a terrible Sunday school structure, yet we see people flocking to these institutes because that is the only choice they have.
alḥamdulillāh I've had the opportunity to visit quite a few states and universities for da'wah programs during the majority of this past decade. I've also served as an imām for a few masājid and had the privilege to work with an Islamic organization/school. I noticed a few people raised concerns that imams/teachers shouldn't be paid but should do da'wah and look after a community for free because that would prevent them from corruption. Fear of corruption is great concern, but that also applies to fame. We've seen many tullaabul'ilm change as they got more and more famous. And as imām Ahmad said so fittingly – the less people know you, the better. In any case, I want to share my story with you all so that you realize what extreme cases exist out there.
My father is a scientist, MashaAllāh and my entire family is very well known in my country for their wealth and education. I've seen more money in my life than any of these masājid in USA can “tempt” me with. Ever since I broke the news to my family that I want to become a Da'ee bi idhnillaah, and I felt I can do more for this ummah by dedicating my time to seeking knowledge and spreading it, I became the black sheep of the family. From the moment I wanted to pursue being a Da'ee full-time, I had in my mind that I will do da'wah for free since my family has so much wealth. I wanted to spend a few days a week giving time to all the various family businesses with my uncles (even though my dad thought I should forget that and da'wah and just focus on being a doctor!) and the other days giving classes at the masjid from whatever little I knew. Qaddar Allāhu maa shaa afa'al, my family treated me like dirt and said since I'm in Allāh's path I should help expand their businesses as an act of sadaaqah towards them. After all, helping your kin is a great deed in Islam. So yea that plan didn't work out, alḥamdulillāh! My father, who does not pray, thinks science is bigger than religion (may Allāh guide him) and gave me a terrible time as I grew up. I never knew how to pray, never knew how to read one āyah from the Qur'an. It was through that masjid that I mentioned in the beginning, that I learned how to pray, read and develop a love for Islam and more specifically the Sunnah. There were times my dad severely beat me for going to the masjid and I would show up for the duroos severely bruised. Our imām would shed tears looking at me and told me no matter what happens he would always have a special kind of love for me and would give me more of his time whenever I needed it. As I grew older, obviously all that torture stopped. My parents moved back to the city where I grew up and my dad traveled a lot between the United States and other countries due to his work as he also was part of the government in the country he's from.
While visiting my mother after a couple of years, I gave a few duroos and khutbahs at a local masjid where she lived. One of them offered me to be the imām for them since they had nobody. They noticed the youth really liked me and thought I would benefit them. Let me tell you briefly about this specific community. They had teens doing drugs 20 feet away from the masjid, pre-teen girls getting pregnant by kuffaar men and fornication that happened inside the house of Allāh! The only reason why I made the move was because my mother had developed an incurable disease and her condition was terrible. I thought being with my mother and doing da'wah work is a huge chance for me to earn reward bi idhnillaah. Nevertheless, I was part of the community for approximately 1 year. For the first three months they did not pay me a penny. I complained to them that I cannot be doing this full-time and not be given anything in return. So they told me to take over a new project which was to teach kids Qur'an & Islamic studies and I'd be paid for being a teacher. I agreed. I continued to be the imām for free and took money for just the weekend school. They paid me $300 a month for teaching 45 kids by myself.
Alḥamdulillāh, I really wanted to help and I didn't care about being an imām for free. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children and young adults. The day I said in the masjid, “Ar-Rahmaanu 'alal 'arsh istawaa” was the day I got fired. I don't know how they can call it “fired” when they never even hired me in the first place to be the imām. Hire would mean you pay a salary to the one designated as an imām but I was doing it for free! The admin started complaining that I ruined their kids, made them into “wahabis” and that I needed to go. So their kids doing drugs and committing zina was much better for them then to have their kids learn that Allāh is above us. SubhanAllāh! To this day, children and teenagers that I taught and counseled regularly keep in touch with me through emails and tell me how much they miss me, thanking me for the help I happily and readily gave to them. Many of them still remember everything I taught them and they carried it throughout their lives growing up, māshā'Allāh.
While being part of that community I visited other masājid regularly. So after I left them, I became the imām at a suburban masjid. I was the imām there for three years. I faced a lot of resistance continuously from about 30 people out of 250; but the admin was on my side and alḥamdulillāh, together we were able to do a lot of good in just three years. We even had to expand the masjid to accommodate more attendees at Jumu'ah. My salary was not that great at all. I was getting $1,600/month for those three years. During that time I visited my native country to see my relatives. While I was there, my own father (who was part of the government) wanted to imprison me with the excuse that I was a fanatic. Let me be clear, I know very well that killing non-combatants, women & children is not the Islam brought by Muḥammad . He wanted to do that so I couldn't come back to the USA and continue da'wah work. He thought keeping me in prison would be the best way to make me give up the path of da'wah. Alhamdulilah, he was not successful in his malicious ways and I made it back safe to the United States.
I never complained nor ever made any demands. I did not get into this field for the money. If I loved money so much, I could have just stayed with my relatives. I was a single man. I did not have rent to pay since I was living in my parents' house so I rarely had any expenses. Rather, I lost out in something great. Marriage! I simply wasn't able to afford to get married. I got rejected by about 7-8 prospects because of my financial situation. Alḥamdulillāh after being patient for 7 full years trying to get married, I finally got the wife of my dreams. I was invited by the MSA of a university in New York to do a non-Muslim da'wah program. I did it, and from there I got re-invited another two times at their local masjid. It was when I went there that a sister from the administration asked if I was married or not. So I told the sister I'm looking. She suggested the daughter of her friend for me. So I took the girl's father's number and after a month I called him up. My wife is Arab and I'm a desi, but alḥamdulillāh there were no racial problems because her father told me that he does not care simply because of what my profession is. The marriage cost me an arm and a leg. Both our families wanted to have typical weddings that cost thousands & thousands. Alḥamdulillāh, the only good thing my dad ever did after I took this path was pay for all the wedding costs. I truly believe it was from Allāh and a reward for my efforts over the years.
My wife, mashaAllāh, understands what it means to be the wife of a da'ee extremely well. So now that I was married, obviously $1,600/month was not going to cut it. The masjid got taken over by those same 30 people that were always being resistant to the da'wah. They played some sly games to prevent the good brothers from being re-elected. It took them three years to plan this out, but they finally were successful. They got rid of every previous member from the administration as well as me. This is the reality of typical dirty masjid politics. After that I moved on to another masjid. I signed a contract with them, but obviously typical Muslims don't care about any contracts. The contract was for $2000/ month. They only paid me $1,200/month. If I did not care about the image of Islam and only cared about money, I could have taken them to court and sued them for not complying with the signed contract. Instead, I made du‘ā’ to Allāh to remove myself from this situation and to guide the brothers to Haqq. HasbiAllāhu wa ni'mal wakeel.
I and my wife still made it by simply because we didn't have rent to pay. But my parents' house was 1 hour away from the masjid and it was not feasible for me to travel such long distances every day. In spite of everything I still did this for 6 months. I then told them I needed a pay increase so I can afford an apartment closer to the masjid. I never tell people about my family background because I know how people can be and what I worried about came true. One of the admins found out the wealthy state of my family and told the rest of the administration. At the next meeting, the administration told me, “Your father and family are very rich, why are you asking for a raise? Just take money from your family.” HasbiAllaahu wa ni'mal wakeel.
My mother, even though being permanently disabled, is the ONLY person in my entire family that truly understood what I do in my life. She told me that I could not live like this any longer and have to think about myself and my wife. My mother didn't know the exact details of my finances but she knew it wasn't a lot to live fairly and comfortably with a family. I made a very good relationship with a lot of youth in the city and I just didn't want to go to a different city. I knocked on my family's door again and asked him to give me my inheritance so I can do something with my wealth. That way I can do da'wah for free and not have to deal with ridiculous administrations. My father wrote off about $10-$12 million worth of property (meaning what I'm supposed to inherit from him) to my paternal cousins. He did that right in front of my eyes and then said to me – “ You're in the path of Allāh, so Allāh will take care of you, you said you live in this world for Islam so go and live your life.” To this day, I will never forget these words.
I moved to a different state and took a job with a famous Islamic organization. QaddarAllāhu maa shaa afa'al I had a big car accident which limited my mobility for more than six months. I showed up to work as much as I could. But guess what happened? I eventually had to quit because I simply could not take hearing the things I was hearing around me and even behind my back. You would expect RELIGIOUS Muslims to be more understanding. Staff members would tell my wife (not knowing whose wife she was) “this new brother that Sheikh fulaan got, he is so lazy, doesn't show up every day, doesn't deal with the youth properly, he's probably just getting the free money that he's getting.” I just couldn't go back because of the way staff members were looking at me and talking about me behind my back and criticizing me without knowing the full truth. It was not going to work out and so I had to quit on them.
There have been times where I was invited to deliver khutbahs or do weekend programs in other cities but I refused to accept the invitation because I could not even afford the gas money. I have been prevented from doing what I love to do for the sake of Allāh due to malicious games and beliefs that Shuyūkh and du'aat should not be paid. Where is the logic in that? In between I developed diabetes, liver problems, arthritis and few other things. No health insurance, no medication. I even had to sit helplessly at home while my wife suffered through a life threatening illness without proper medication because I could not afford it.
I summarized a lot of details in between because many people do not know the reality and the suffering a sincere Da'ee/Sheikh/imām/Taalibul 'ilm go through. I've been physically tortured for wanting to seek knowledge, nearly imprisoned and cut off from any family wealth for being a Da'ee, mistreated by terrible masjid administrations, wrongfully accused by the so-called religious community, insulted even by my friends — but I do not regret this life even for one second. I will never ever be able repay what Allāh has blessed me with. I do not mean repay Allāh, I mean repay society for what Allāh blessed me with. Giving me access to Shuyūkh who taught me to be this way and what it truly means to follow the Salaf. No matter how much effort I put in, I will never be able to do justice in spreading Islam.
So no, I'm not in it for the money… but it is my right just like everyone else who does work to be fairly compensated. No, I will never dilute the Sunnah for a better life and to be accepted by the society. Alḥamdulillāh, all my physical problems are gone except for diabetes and arthritis and I know my financial difficulties will be gone very soon, too. WAllāh my dear brothers & sisters, the greatest gift you can get from this world is a spouse who truly understands the Sunnah and a mother who will constantly make du‘ā’ for you and encourage you never to stop working for Allāh's sake. Mistreatment from people will not make me give up doing da'wa. The only sorrow I have in my life is that I was never able to convince my own father to come to just one dars that I gave and the fact that I have cousins who do not even know how many raka'aat to pray in which waqt. After marriage, Allāh gave me in-laws that are equally ignorant about the religion as my own family and added to the “headache caused by family!” I always make sure that none of my relatives nor my wife's relatives find out about my intricate financial difficulties. I firmly believe that knowing how difficult the lives of du'aat can be is not good for the hearts of those who are not serious about their deen. Shaytaan will make them think “see this is what religious people go through, you're doing great the way you are.” Allāh created man weak and most of us cannot handle too many shortages in life. It's upto the Shuyūkh and du'aat to protect the weakness of people from causing them to go further away from the Deen. Learning the religion and doing something for this Ummah, no matter how small it may be, and having a wife who is not confused about the Sunnah…no bad situation can outweigh these good things. Alḥamdulillāh, I am able to eat and sleep at night without hearing bombs explode unlike the people of Somalia or Palestine. I'm not worried about anything except about whether my deeds will be accepted by Allāh or not.
I ask Allāh to make what I wrote a reminder to myself first and foremost about my purpose in life and to be of benefit to others.
Assalamualaikum wa Rahmaatullahi wa Baraaktuhu