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Rapid Reaction: ISNA Canada Accused of Squandering Zakat Money

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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.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

85 Comments

85 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muggsy Bogues

    January 20, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Yasir Dhia

      January 20, 2011 at 4:43 PM

      @ 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

      • Avatar

        Muggsy Bogues

        January 20, 2011 at 4:59 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Muggsy Bogues

          January 20, 2011 at 5:04 PM

          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.

      • Avatar

        Sam

        January 22, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        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.

  2. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    January 20, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    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.

  3. Avatar

    Safia Farole

    January 20, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Uncle Tom

      January 20, 2011 at 9:32 PM

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

      • Avatar

        Yahya

        January 22, 2011 at 8:15 AM

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

  4. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    January 20, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    Islamic Relief USA has a good affiliation with Charity Navigator, which rates non-profit organizations. You can see a general overview of their annual finances here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3908

    • Avatar

      Safia Farole

      January 20, 2011 at 10:21 PM

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

    • Avatar

      Zeinab

      January 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      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.

      • Amad

        Amad

        January 21, 2011 at 1:39 PM

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

        • Avatar

          Zeinab

          January 21, 2011 at 1:42 PM

          ISLAMIC RELIEF USA and ISLAMIC RELIEF CANADA too!

  5. Avatar

    PROFESSIONALISM

    January 20, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    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.

  6. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    January 20, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    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.

  7. Avatar

    HadithCheck

    January 20, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Linda (II)

      January 20, 2011 at 11:41 PM

      ^^ what is naive?!

    • Avatar

      Muggsy Bogues

      January 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        HadithCheck

        January 21, 2011 at 12:30 AM

        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.

  8. Amad

    Amad

    January 21, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      sister mariam

      January 21, 2011 at 6:56 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

        January 22, 2011 at 10:08 PM

        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.

    • Avatar

      UmmZayn

      January 21, 2011 at 9:57 AM

      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

  9. Amad

    Amad

    January 21, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Mezba

      January 21, 2011 at 6:33 AM

      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.

      • Amad

        Amad

        January 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        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.

  10. Avatar

    Muggsy Bogues

    January 21, 2011 at 4:59 AM

    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.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 11:07 AM

      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.

  11. Avatar

    U. A.

    January 21, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    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.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      Yeah, something doesnt add up.

  12. Avatar

    iMuslim

    January 21, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Sylvia Horton

      January 22, 2011 at 11:27 AM

      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.

  13. Avatar

    Yasir Dhia

    January 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    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.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 10:58 AM

      Exactly… This whole matter stinks with more than the findings.

  14. Avatar

    Truth

    January 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    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!

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      Good to know that

  15. Avatar

    Talha

    January 21, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    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

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 2:29 PM

      Reply below

    • Avatar

      SA

      January 21, 2011 at 11:13 PM

      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?

  16. Amad

    Amad

    January 21, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Uncle Tom

      January 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM

      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?

      • Amad

        Amad

        January 21, 2011 at 9:22 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Uncle Tom

          January 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

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

          • Avatar

            Kamran

            January 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

            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.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Khan

      January 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM

  17. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    January 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      muhammad

      January 24, 2011 at 5:48 PM

      you are absolutely correct.

  18. Avatar

    Aftab

    January 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    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.

  19. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 21, 2011 at 3:37 PM

  20. Avatar

    Muggsy Bogues

    January 21, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    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.

  21. Avatar

    sirat

    January 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    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.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 21, 2011 at 9:18 PM

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

  22. Avatar

    Omar

    January 21, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Omar

      January 21, 2011 at 10:28 PM

      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.

  23. Avatar

    Abubakar Kasim

    January 21, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    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

    • Avatar

      Mohammed Khan

      January 21, 2011 at 10:34 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        sara

        January 24, 2011 at 10:45 AM

        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.

    • Avatar

      mohammed guggen

      January 26, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      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 ….

  24. Avatar

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

    January 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    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

    • Avatar

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

      January 22, 2011 at 8:41 AM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Reggie Miller al-3point king

      January 22, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      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

      • Avatar

        Steve Kerr - clutch 3 point shooter

        January 22, 2011 at 4:18 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Steve Kerr - clutch 3 point shooter

          January 22, 2011 at 4:27 PM

          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.

          • Avatar

            Reggie Miller al-3point king

            January 23, 2011 at 6:27 PM

            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

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 22, 2011 at 11:14 PM

      Just wondering what’s up with your handle, Muggsy? :)

  25. Avatar

    Dan Majerle

    January 22, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    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.

  26. Avatar

    Dan Majerle

    January 22, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    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).

    • Avatar

      F

      January 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM

      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

  27. Avatar

    Massoud V.

    January 22, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    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.

  28. Avatar

    sara

    January 24, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Reggie Miller al-3point king

      January 25, 2011 at 10:07 PM

      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

  29. Avatar

    Abdul

    January 25, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    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

  30. Avatar

    Nadim

    January 26, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    Response of the allegations by Mohammad Ashraf:

    http://isnacanada.com/doc/Response%20Package-Mohammad%20Ashraf.pdf

    • Avatar

      SimpleMind

      January 26, 2011 at 7:39 PM

      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.

  31. Avatar

    mohammed guggen

    January 26, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      HadithCheck

      January 26, 2011 at 7:42 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        SimpleMind

        January 26, 2011 at 7:53 PM

        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.

  32. Avatar

    I

    January 27, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    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.

  33. Avatar

    SA.Ahmed

    January 30, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    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..

  34. Avatar

    Anis Zuberi

    February 12, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    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.

  35. Avatar

    Mezba

    February 13, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    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.

  36. Avatar

    Anis Zuberi

    February 13, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    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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Black Youth Matter: Stopping the Cycle of Racial Inequality in Our Ranks

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

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As we joined the rest of America in celebrating Black History Month and commemorating the legacy of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., with tweets, infographics, and sharing famous quotes, racism and colorism continue to plague the Muslim community. 

When we hear of a weekend course about the illustrious muadhin of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Bilal Ibn Raba’ah, may Allah be pleased with him, or a whitewashed cartoon movie based loosely on his life, we flock to the location. When the imam retells his story during a Friday sermon, we listen intently and feel inspired, we smile in awe upon hearing about his fortitude in the face of incessant torture. We cry while reliving the part where he enters the city of Makkah alongside the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) victorious, and calls the adhan atop the Ka’aba. 

Then, we leave. 

We return to our homes and all but forget about it until the next time he is brought up— unless we are Black Muslims. Like King, his impact comes in waves, maybe once a year like MLK Day or like Black History Month, for many of us. Yet, there were more Black companions and renowned Black Muslims in our history, just as there were countless civil rights leaders who fought for racial equality in America. For many of us who are not American of African descent, we live our lives unperturbed by the implications of ignoring the racial disparities that exist within our own places of worship.

However, it is our youth that bear the brunt of this injustice. 

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an incident that made me reflect deeply on the effects of racism and fear on our youth and the Muslim community. After picking up my son from middle school in Baltimore County, I drove to a nearby 7-Eleven for some snacks. While I was standing in line to pay for my groceries, I noticed that the man behind the counter was Muslim. From his outward appearance, accent, and name tag, I guessed he was South Asian. We greeted each other with salaam, a smile, and a head nod of camaraderie.

As he was ringing up my items, a group of chattery students still in school uniforms, approached the entrance of the convenience store. The cashier looked up horrified, and in mid transaction swung his arm back and forth as if swatting a fly. I turned to look at who he was gesturing to and saw the children were swinging the door open to enter. They were about 6 African American children from the same public middle school as my son. In his school, each grade level wears a different color polo with khaki pants as part of their uniform, so I could tell that most of them were in his same grade level.

“No! No! No!” the cashier cried harshly, “Out!”

I turned to him grimacing in disbelief, surprised at his reaction to the kids and then I noticed his expression. He had a look on his face of fear coupled with disgust.

One child cheerfully told him, “I got money, man!” My head turned back and forth from the students to the cashier. He reluctantly said, “Fine,” but as more students followed, he added sternly, “Three at a time!” I wondered if this was a rule when one of the girls in the group said, “Yeah, three at a time y’all,” and the majority stayed back, as if they were familiar with the routine. Some of them rolled their eyes, others laughed, but they remained outside the door. The cashier followed the ones who entered with his eyes intently as he finished bagging my items. He looked genuinely concerned. I tried to make light of the situation and get his attention away from the children, asking, “The kids give you a hard time, huh?” He smiled and nodded nervously, but I was not satisfied with his answer. 

As I swiped my debit card to pay, I felt troubled. My maternal instincts were telling me that I should defend these children. I felt anger and helplessness at the same time. These kids were tweens or barely 13 years old, yet they were being judged because of the color of their skin. There was no other logical explanation. They were not rowdy or reckless, not any more than any other child their age. They did not look menacing; in fact, they were all smiling and joking with one another.

Yet, this cashier, my Muslim brother, was looking at them as if they were a threat. The same way some white American may look at a Muslim sporting a beard and thobe boarding a plane.  

I tried to find excuses for his behavior. Perhaps he had a bad experience, or he was having a bad day. Could some of the kids from the middle school have stolen something before and this prompted his apprehension? There is some crime in this neighborhood located in the southwestern part of Baltimore County, on the outskirts of the City. Could he have suffered from some type of trauma that led to his anxiety? Maybe there was a fight in his store one day? Yet, even if any of these assumptions were true, I still felt like he was overreacting.

After all, these were just kids.

In Dr. Joy Degruy’s book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, she mentions that policing continues to represent one of the most pervasive and obvious examples of racial inequality; one that even the youth are unable to avoid. She cites an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, highlighting a study by UCLA, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston, Massachusetts, Penn State, and University of Pennsylvania that investigated how black boys were perceived as it related to childhood innocence. They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. 

They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. Click To Tweet

On November 22, 2014, a 12-year-old African American child, like my son and his middle school peers, was fatally shot by police while he played with a toy gun in a playground. The child, Tamir Rice, was just a young boy playing cheerfully outdoors, but police officers regarded him a threat, demonstrating the ghastly reality of the above-mentioned study. After hearing about this atrocity, I remember telling my own children that they can never play outside with nerf guns or water pistols, out of fear of this happening to them. This is the type of world our children are living in. As Muslims, why do we choose to be part of the problem and not its solution?

Black youth

Junior football team huddling together

As I walked through the door and past the group in front of the 7-Eleven, all I could think about is that the kids were no different than my son who was sitting in the car, hungry, waiting for me to bring him some food. The only difference was that I was there to defend him, if need be. The children did not have an adult to stand up for them against the discrimination to which they were being subjected. I felt guilty for not saying more. I also remembered an incident where a group of African American youth were turned away from the tarawih prayers at a local mosque, not too far from the 7-Eleven, during the month of Ramadan, because they were perceived to be “too rowdy.” This prompted me to write about this incident; to speak up for them now, and to remind myself and other Muslims that the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us compassion. 

He said, “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Even when a bedouin came into the masjid, the House of Allah – a place much more sacred than any convenience store – and urinated, yes urinated there, he still treated him with dignity. (Muslim)

The students standing at the door of the 7-Eleven were just going in for a snack. Even if they had been misbehaving, the gentleman at the counter could have addressed them with kindness. Similarly, the youth at the local mosque just wanted to pray tarawih. Now imagine the impact it had on them to be turned away from praying with their brethren during the month of Ramadan. 

I sat in the car where my son was waiting and found him looking out the window, unaware of what was happening. We were parked far from the entrance.

“Do you know any of those kids?” I asked him. “Yeah, the girl on the right is in my gym class,” he said.

My heart sank more and as we sat in the car, I wondered, what would have been the cashier’s reaction if the kids had been white? More than likely, he would not have treated them the same way. This racial profiling leads to devastating consequences. A recent news report by WUSA9 revealed that the state of Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young black men, according to experts at the Justice Policy Institute. Their November Policy Briefs for 2019 entitled, Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland, revealed that disparity is most pronounced among emerging adults, or youth ages 18-24, where, “Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.”

“Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.” Click To Tweet

What was most troubling about the incident at the 7-Eleven was that the students had been conditioned; they were already used to being treated that way. It was routine for them and business as usual for the Muslim cashier. While he may believe that he is doing the right thing, by averting a potential “problem,” the harm that he is causing has greater ramifications. He is adding to the trauma these children are already experiencing being black in America. Black students in Baltimore County were not even allowed by law to earn an education past 5th grade in 1935, and 65 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, the county’s schools are still highly segregated. Local and federal leadership in America have continuously failed African Americans, and it is disheartening to think that the immigrant Muslim community is headed in the same direction. 

I was haunted by this incident and returned to the 7-Eleven a week later to ask the cashier or the owner of the store about their (mis)treatment of the middle schoolers. I parked directly in front of the glass doors of the entrance and it was there where I saw a sign typed in regular white computer paper that read, “AT A TIME NO MORE THAN THREE (3) SCHOOL KIDS ARE ALLOWED IN THE STORE & please do not bring bags inside the store. Thanks.” I had not seen the sign before, maybe I overlooked it the day of the occurrence. Nevertheless, I went inside and spoke with the owner of the franchise, a Muslim gentleman who greeted me with salaam. I asked him about the sign outside the door and the reason why the middle schoolers were treated like would-be criminals. He explained that students from local schools have stolen goods from the convenience store on many occasions. To prevent this, they established a rule that only three unaccompanied school children could enter at a time and they were not allowed to bring their backpacks. The owner further added that crime and vandalism were prevalent in the area. Unfortunately, because this side of town is predominately African American, the blame falls disproportionately on this group. 

Nevertheless, patrolling and intimidating the African American youth in the area is not the solution. As Dr. Degruy stated in her book, “The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity.”

A thirty-four-year veteran police officer named Norm Stamper wrote a book about racism in the criminal justice system entitled, Breaking Rank, (2005) and he mentioned that, “It is not hard to understand why people of color, the poor, and younger Americans did not, and do not, look upon the police as ‘theirs’… Do the police protect ‘the weak against oppression or intimidation’ or do they oppress and intimidate the very people they’ve sworn to protect?” Likewise, this young generation will begin to see Muslims of all colors as no different, if we take the role of the oppressor. 

When Abu Dharr insulted Bilal ibn Rabah, may Allah be pleased with them, by calling him, “O son of a black woman!” and the Prophet, peace be upon him heard of this, he rebuked Abu Dharr and said to him, “By the One who revealed the Book to Muhammad, no one is better than another except by righteous deeds. You have nothing but an insignificant amount.” We may have read or heard this and other narrations before, however, we fall short in implementing these teachings.

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

Sometimes it takes one person to stand up and point out the wrong to set the right tone. The sign at the 7-Eleven in my neighborhood has been taken down.

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No-Nuptial Agreements: Maybe Next Time, Don’t Get Married

marriage
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 “Nikah is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me.”

–Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Narrated by Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)

Many Muslims have experienced marriage, then suffered a subsequent divorce as a financial, emotional, and social meat grinder. Some critics have noted the divorce system seemingly exists primarily to benefit itself; the lawyers: mental health experts, investigators, forensic accountants.

They form an entire industry dedicated to extracting the wealth of a disintegrating family, often forcing the middle class or working class into poverty and bankruptcy. All of this happens without any noticeable benefit to society. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

For many, divorce happens multiple times. A divorced person who gets remarried is more likely to get divorced again.

While men often complain about how the “family court” system is against them, the reality is that women often bear the financial brunt of divorce. Divorce is more likely to drive women to bankruptcy than men.

After one or two divorces and a few lost years of retirement savings or a decade or more of home equity, another “marriage” starts to look downright irrational. My advice to such people: stop getting married, at least under state law. Get a nikah and a “no-nuptial agreement” instead. Allow me to explain.

Fun with Words

It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about virtually anything unless we have a common understanding of the meaning of words we are using.

In law, even ordinary words have definitions that defy conventional understanding or even common sense. Basic familial terms like “son,” “daughter,” “father,” and “mother” have state law definitions that are different from what those words mean in Islam or our understanding. Under state law, “parents” can adopt adult “children” a similar age to them or even older, and have the same status as a biological child. In Islam, an adopted child is not the same as a biological child and does not have rights to inheritance in Islam.

In law, even words like “life” and “death” don’t always mean what you think they mean. A living person can go to court to dispute his death, demonstrate he is living, breathing, speaking, and everyone agrees he is the “dead person” in question, yet, he is ruled legally dead. Famously, corporations are legally people and are immortal.

Law is not the same thing as truth.

Similarly, it is folly to conflate nikah, the thing that exists in Islam, with marriage under state law. In different states, rules for who and under what circumstances people can get married can vary. One thing that all the state law definitions have in common is that they are not marriage in Islam.

What is Marriage?

For marriage, there is a state law definition, there is an Islamic definition, and there is the definition that the individual married couple has. Under state law, two men can be married to each other, but three men cannot be. In Islam, marriage (let’s call it nikah to be more precise) is a halal social and sexual relationship, and there are rules in the fiqh that are different from state law.

Under some state laws, “secret marriages” with no witnesses or publicly available registration are part of the law and commonly used. In Islam, there is a witness requirement for nikah. None of the rules in Islam require the state’s approval for nikah.

The third definition is how each couple sees their marriage. It is a flexible institution. To the extent it is an economic, social or familial partnership can vary widely. Couples may live together or apart. They may have one income or two.  They may share the same social circles or share none of them. The variations are endless.

Domestic Partnerships

For most of the history of legal marriage in the United States, marriage can only be between one man and one woman. States started allowing for “domestic partnerships” to give some “benefits” of marriage to same-sex couples, like employer health benefits and hospital visitation.

In many instances, these were available almost exclusively to same-sex couples, even after same-sex marriage became part of the law in all states. However, as of January 2020, California opened up domestic partnerships to everyone, including different-sex couples.

As a practical matter, domestic partnerships are simply state-sanctioned marriage by another name. It is notable though some jurisdictions may have limited domestic partnerships that are something less than marriage. In most states that have it, the same family law system, for good or ill, that comes with marriage under state law is also true of domestic partnerships.

While domestic partnership combined with a nikah is available to Muslims in states where it exists, there is no real advantage to using it.

No-Nuptial Agreements

For decades now, in the United States, there has been no taboo against men and women openly having sexual relationships with each other, living and raising families together outside marriage. Courts have long recognized these people should have contractual rights with each other.

When a man and women live together, those involved may be gaining something and giving something up. So if a man promises a woman something, and the agreement is not founded merely on sexual services, the state should enforce those promises, not in family court but civil court.

Marvin started it all

The principle case that established this is the California case of Marvin v. Marvin in 1976. A couple broke up, but the woman wanted to enforce promises made to her by the man. The man felt such a commitment should not be enforceable because, among other reasons, he was legally married to a completely different woman when this non-marital relationship started. Under California law, at the time (abolished by the time the case got to the court), this was criminal adultery.

No-nuptial agreements (sometimes called cohabitation agreements or Marvin agreements) can be used by couples when they want to have enforceable contracts but do not want to subject themselves to the family court system or the family code. They can include provisions of mahar, sharing expenses, equity as well as dispute resolution processes like arbitration and mediation.

The couple can also document limits on what they agreed to to what is in writing. For example, during a breakup, one party may be able to claim an oral promise the other party never made and potentially have it enforced in court. A written agreement protects both parties and the understanding they had when they entered into the relationship.

These agreements have a broad utility for many different kinds of couples. However, for some couples, the main benefit would be documentation that nobody is under the illusion that this is a marriage under state law. It is a private contract between two individuals.

Example of a No-Nuptial Agreement

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren. Both want to put their adult children at ease that this relationship does not exist for predatory financial reasons – a common fear when parents marry later in life.

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren.Click To Tweet

Salma and Sheher Ali do not plan to live together, which is common for couples their age. They mostly pay for their expenses themselves. They may spend the night at each other’s homes whenever they want but will split time with their separate children, grandchildren and social circles. Sheher Ali pays for joint vacations and outings. He agreed to a mahar. Both agree in writing they did not marry under state law.

Sheher Ali and Salma can still call each other husband and wife, since that is true for them and everyone they know. Both keep all of their finances separate, and each does their independent estate planning where they name each other as partial beneficiaries of their estates as required in Islam. The two also complete HIPAA forms allowing each to see the other’s private medical information and name each other in Advance Healthcare Directives so they can make healthcare decisions for each other.

Legal Strangers

Unmarried couples are “legal strangers.” Doctors won’t share healthcare information. Islamic spouses don’t get an inheritance from a no-nuptial agreement spouse by default. They don’t get things like tenancy by the entirety, community property, or elective shares in places where such things exist. As I described above, though, this can be remedied. However, as I described in the example above, the “legal stranger” aspect of the relationship may be more of a benefit than a downside in some cases.

Some “benefits” of marriage under state law are against Islamic principles.  For example, some state laws that provide for “elective shares” are diametrically opposed to the Quran’s share of inheritance.  Muslims must follow Islamic rules of inheritance anyway, which are different from default state rules, so being under state law is no special advantage. Even with proper planning, the downsides of the “legal stranger” problem still may come up in extraordinary contexts, however, such as lawsuits.

Immigration and Taxes

Another concern is that employee benefits to spouses and dependents don’t generally extend to those with no-nuptial agreements. Immigration law does not allow a path to the United States through the “family unification ” process for those with a no-nuptial contract. Marriage under state law (or the law of a foreign country recognized in the United States) may be the most practical solution in such cases.

In some cases, state-sanctioned marriage may lead to lower taxes. Other legally married couples may experience the so-called “marriage penalty” and pay higher taxes than couples with a no-nuptial agreement. Couples may often find they will pay less in taxes with a no-nuptial agreement than they would if they were married under state law.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

One may wonder, to avoid the “meat grinder” of the family court system, why not just get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? It’s accurate that in general, having such arrangements are superior to not having them. These agreements offer greater certainty, though by no means total confidence, on how a divorce would end. There are disadvantages to such an agreement over no-nuptial agreements, however. A big one is that divorce is still in the family court system.

Many Muslim men, especially immigrants, may perceive cultural biases cause a stacked deck against them in family court. The nature of these agreements may make this perception worse. Sometimes, courts treat prenuptial and postnuptial agreements with a presumption of coercion. It is different from an ordinary contract. The family court system is often free to be more paternalistic and make a husband prove he did not force his wife to sign a document.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which will be worded differently in the different states that adopted it, provides for a process to make these marital agreements harder to defeat. However, the process is perhaps arguably more expensive, cumbersome, and awkward for a couple than a no-nuptial contract. Talking about a prenuptial agreement with a fiancé may be more uncomfortable than bringing up a no-nuptial arrangement and nikah. Without a state-sanctioned marriage, a written agreement is essential. Many people perceive the pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements as both optional and, perhaps unfairly, as a sign of mistrust.

Custody and Child Support

Unfortunately, there is no agreement you can come up with that will pre-settle child support and custody. A judge will decide those things.

It does not matter if you have a “plain vanilla” marriage governed entirely by your state’s family code, a prenuptial agreement, or a no-nuptial agreement. Children are not parties to such a contract. No court anywhere will subject a child’s care and welfare to such things.

For custody and child support, courts in family court will use the sometimes hard to define standard of “best interests of the child.” One Massachusetts family law attorney in a popular divorce documentary cryptically joked that she called children in the system  “little bags of money.” They are often a significant reason family law cases are so profitable for lawyers, mental health professionals, investigators, and everyone else.

No Protection for Poor Life Choices

A good rule to follow is never to do nikah with a person capable of having children unless you are sure she or he can be trusted to raise your future children, and you have made peace with making child support payments to this individual if your relationship ends. If you have a child, you may be suck with a child support order. There is no getting out of this one.

As an Islamic estate planning lawyer, the most important advice I can ever give anyone is not to get a proper estate plan. It is not to get a good lawyer. Of course those things are good, indeed no-brainers, but they have limits. The most important advice is to choose a spouse wisely. If you fail here, there is no law, no lawyer or document in existence that can turn back the clock. A no-nuptial agreement may make a future breakup easier than a family court divorce. There is still no guarantee it won’t be a complete mess anyway. Good documents are never a substitute for poor life choices.

“The Law of the Land”

Islamic institutions like masajid are conservative don’t like taking needless risks, as they should be. Many will not officiate a nikah unless there is a marriage license. They usually will not officiate bigamous marriages, on account of it being illegal.  Of course bigamy, like marriage, has a specific legal definition under state law. One almost universal refrain is that as Muslims we need to follow “the law of the land.”

No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the 'law of the land.' It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is. Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam.Click To Tweet

But what if that term did not mean what you think it means? No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the “law of the land.” It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is.  Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam. Recently, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, a large masjid in the Los Angeles area, changed its nikah officiating policy. Instead of always requiring marriage certificates, they will also recognize no-nuptial agreements.

Masajid Should Welcome No-Nuptial Agreements

Masajid should have standardized policies and procedures in place. Every masjid should have carefully considered policies to protect the vulnerable and the institution. No masjid wants to open themselves up to a “drive-by nikah” or other nonsense. One policy may well include mandating a no-nuptial agreement when there is no marriage certificate. There is no reason to believe one protects people and institutions better than the other.

Nikah is a vital sunnah for us. It is not something that should be in the shadows, secret, or something shameful. It is fundamental to how we organize our families and communities. When it’s done right, it helps us strengthen our iman, bring us closer to our communities and our loved ones. State definitions of words should not always be your guide to right and wrong.

It is appropriate that Muslims want to do the sunnah of nikah at the masjid, publicly and with friends and family watching.  We should recognize and celebrate every new couple that has done a nikah in our communities. Never mind the state has not sanctioned it.

The state statute book has its definition, we have ours.

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The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

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Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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