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IbnabeeOmar blogs about organizational development at the Muslim Strategic Initiative. This article was initially posted there and is cross-posted here with a new epilogue.

Slate raised the issue of the salaries of religious clergy highlighting salaries of Priests and Rabbis. Data about Imam salaries was (un)surprisingly hard to find.

The topic of imams’ salaries is for some reason a touchy one, but it is not a complicated issue if approached objectively. We have previously discussed what to look for when hiring an imam. Communities though, set extremely high expectations of what they want.

If those qualifications and expectations were to be put on someone in any other working environment, I would venture to guess the salary discussion would start somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 a year.

If your community wants a Superman imam, then they need to be ready to pay a Superman salary.

Aside from that, an imam should be assessed by any other normal scale. Check a person’s qualifications. Someone with a Master’s in Islamic Law and 15 years experience leading a community should command a higher pay than a fresh graduate with no experience. Most masjids though, just have a set amount that they throw at whoever fills the position regardless of qualification.

Along with qualification there needs to be a built in growth mechanism (or career advancement). As the imam gains tenure in the community, the salary should be raised accordingly based on their performance [something ideally settled on in the interview process].

The problem that we run into is we want imams who will give 80 hours a week, but be paid based on 20. In our secular fields, if we have a 4 or 6 year degree, we expect a certain minimum salary to be commensurate with our experience and education. For some reason, we feel this does not apply to imams as if studying Islam and serving or leading a community do not really count.

If we need someone to spend 30-40 hours a week in the masjid, provide 10-20 hours a week of counseling, and on top of that be constantly on-call for marriages, funerals, and other emergencies, then a pay structure should be built to reflect that. Regular jobs that have such requirements will either pay high enough that they can make someone salaried and they will deal with the hours, or there are incentives built in (overtime and on-call pay).

Unfortunately, not only are we not there yet, but we don’t even offer the most basic of benefits yet such as healthcare and reimbursements for education and development. The fact that Slate could so readily collect salary data from the Jewish and Christian communities, but had no starting point for the Muslim community speaks volumes about how far behind we are.

If we truly want community leaders who lead us in prayer, deliver the khutbah on Fridays, counsel our families, and teach our children then it behooves us to make sure they are so well paid that they never have to worry about money. Buy them a house and pay them a full time salary on top of it. We need to take the benefits of a corporate pay structure and apply it to the masjid – with one huge caveat. We cannot adopt the ruthlessness and attitude that people are dispensable that permeates corporate leadership. These are our community leaders, the people we have entrusted our spiritual education to – make sure they are taken care of.

I personally feel that the imam position should be a 6 figure income (adjusted according to cost of living and so on). Smaller communities should still aim to pay at least 50-60 (if not closer to 80). These are simply rough numbers, but I want to throw them out there and move our communities past the expectation that we get tenured scholars who are on the same paygrade (or less) than most entry level positions.

Many communities are still living in a naive reality where they expect an Imam to take a pay of 30-40k just because they are “working for Islam” without any regard to supporting their family. Then we get upset when they take a second job to make ends meet, insisting instead that they dedicate their time to the community. In our non-Islamic professions we aim to secure the highest salary possible and feel insulted if someone offers less than our worth. Let’s stop doing that to our community leaders.

We don’t live in a Muslim country where there are endowments and government grants to support our scholars. Our communities have the money. Fund-raising is not the problem. We just need to understand that our investment in human resources should take precedence over our investment in architectural ones.

Epilogue


In the 2 days since posting this article on muslimsi.com, there has been an outpouring of feedback via comments, Facebook shares, and even personal emails. Based on that feedback I felt it important to highlight a few points.


Most obviously, this is an extremely contentious issue in our community, and it is one that must be resolved in a way that allows our communities to grow and move forward.

When it comes to opposing higher pay (or even pay altogether) for Imams, it comes from a few very specific perspectives. First is the view that people who do Islamic work should not be paid at all (a view that I feel is naive and somewhat ignorant). Second is the view that if an Imam is paid, then it means he must be a perfect human being, or at worst, be like one of the Sahabah in all his actions. Third is the view that if a board pays an Imam, then it means they somehow have total ownership of him.

In all these cases, the root of the problem is a lack of respect for the scholars and community leaders of our ummah. They are not perfect, but if they don’t guide us, who will? Our responsibility as community members is to help them grow, because the more that they grow, the better equipped they are to lead our communities. Instead, we find masjids that are expecting one of the khulafā’ al-rashīdūn to magically come and lead their masjid (and do so for a minimum wage salary at that). Many of our boards have yet to realize that the job description of an Imam in America is vastly different from what an imam does in nearly any other country in the world. The expectations we put on them are herculean to say the least.

This lack of respect comes from not understanding what function the Imam plays in the community. 99% of the people will never see the hours of marital counseling, family counseling, and late night phone calls that imams have to yield. They’ll never see the people who randomly walk into the masjid at odd hours dealing with drug abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sometimes worse trying to find help from the imam. They won’t see the hours of work that will go into preparing a 45-minute halaqah that is then only attended by 10 people.

Our communities are growing rapidly, and with that growth comes new problems and new situations that we must deal with. If we want to live our lives in a way pleasing to Allah, then it is imperative we supply our communities with people capable of leading them and helping us deal with those problems. I find instead that many masjids treat their imams even more ruthlessly than the worst of corporations, not realizing the need the community has for spiritual leadership. They nitpick at them in ways that make it appear as if they consider themselves to be angelic.

Aside from the arguments resulting from a lack of respect, the only other issue is money. I do not think money is an issue. In some smaller communities, it will be, and they’ll have to work through it. But I cannot fathom how seemingly every other masjid has multi-million dollar blueprints and expansion plans, but they can’t afford to invest in quality human resources. This is a joke. Without proper human resources, we will just have empty (but beautiful) structures. Put the money where it’s needed most.

One of the most promising developments I have seen is that there is a surge of people who want to serve this deen full time. They want to study Islam, they want to work for the community full time. But they are held back. Their parents will not stand for them taking a career in the service of Islam and instead push them into other professions. Now it may be easy to criticize a parent and say they are being short-sighted or materialistic, but I do not think that is the case at all. I think most parents have seen the way our communities treat Imams – the most telling sign of which is their low salary (as the saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is”) – and they do not want their children to have to face that.

If our masajid do not get their acts together on this issue, then we are planting a destructive seed that will prevent our development of sustainable scholarship in this country.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Twitter @ibnabeeomar. Check out his latest project at Fiqh of Social Media.

64 Comments

64 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Naseer

    January 16, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    Could you have said it better? NO!
    it’s pathetic truly, I wish we could wake up and do something, I’m doing my studies now and planning on furthering it soon overseas and my intentions on coming back are limited because I want to actually make a living. Being an Imam from the get go has a negative connotation, which is confusing because of their importance. Oh well, the youth who are interested in studying Islam will do one of two things.

    1. Find the 4% of Masajid in the states that actually pay.
    Or
    2. Move overseas where they are better cared for and can continue to submerge themselves in studies in countries that will better care for them.

    • Avatar

      Joe

      January 17, 2012 at 11:29 PM

      Salam Alaikum

      This article touches on a few important issues, but in my estimate (and I say this working as an Imam) in all of our comments we have missed the mark. We are either concentrating way too much on measurable minutia, or on intangible feelings. We are asking the wrong questions, its not what he does or how much he makes. Those changes with time and place. We should be asking: “What is an Imam?”

      We have no shortage of funding, resources, or facilities in our community. What we also have no shortage of is disjunctive approaches to community advancement . We have a leadership crisis, in which competing visions vie for prominence in a closed environment. This results in hegemony and chaos. Our problem is more psychological than anything; we have a phobia of clear delineated leadership. We hold anarchy as “Shura”, we hold leaders as underlings, we hold trusteeship as oligopoly.

      In summary, the Imam is a leader. He lends organizational representation to his organization, he is a gatekeeper to the institution he is associated with. Due to his religious training, he is the person best fit to design and implement strategic plans for the furtherance of the Mosque’s mission, which at its core is religious in nature.

      We must realize that all other services support the religious nature of our Mosques, and that institutions need leaders to succeed. We will always remain marginalized, because we marginalize our leadership, by either not empowering them, or by not identifying and training potential leaders.

      The Prophet (عليه السلام) said: (إنما جعل الامام ليؤتم به) “The Imam is only there to lead.”
      Allow leaders to lead.

  2. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    January 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Great reminder. I think I had a similar debate over a decade ago. Some people would rather the Ambassadors of Islam lived on crumbs.

    The only point on which I disagree with you is good Imams have more or less the same responsibilities everywhere. In fact, those in the developing world face the added problem of lack of access to up-to-date information on some of the issues you mentioned. Some of these societal problems are considered taboo, unlike in the west where it is a daily reality in the news, except for those more comfortable with a conspiracy of silence.

    And is that 50-60 cents? Haha. I think you meant 50000-60000 dollars.

    Umm Sulaim

  3. Avatar

    Mehzabeen (iMuslim)

    January 16, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Masha’Allah, I agree: investing in people is paramount to investing in architecture. The first caliphs, radiallahu anhum were paid so that they could commit their entire time to the leadership of the Muslim community. Imams should not be made to feel like beggars – especially when it is we who are the needy ones.

    • Avatar

      The Shardul of Allah

      January 16, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      The first caliphs, radiallahu anhum were paid so that they could commit their entire time to the leadership of the Muslim community.

      Yes, the first Caliphs were allowed to take their portions from the national treasury, but they would only take the bare minimum. In fact, Abu Bakr (R) did not take anything from the national treasury. He used to live on his own. As for the Umar (R), he would also take extremely little. Uthman (R) did not need anything from the treasury because he himself was very wealthy. Ali (R) was also a great ascetic.

      Despite surviving on their own, the Caliphs had served the ummah in the best possible way. Despite being a caliph, Abu Bakr (R) would go out in the outskirts of Madina to milk the goats of some old women. Umar (R) saw this one day and asked those women, “Do you know who this man is?” They replied in negative. Umar (R) then cried and said,”O Abu Bakr! Indeed you have raised standard of khalifah to a very high place.”

      Uthman (R) had the highest number of camels among the Arabs. Yet when he became the Caliph, he had only two camels. He donated the rest in the cause of Allah.

      I am not saying that imams should not be paid. We should offer them a salary that commensurate their experience, knowledge, and the hours they spent each week for community service. However, it should be up to the imams whether they would take such a high salary.

      In my humble opinion, although imams are giving a lot of their time and effort in their professional role, it would be unfair to compare imamah with other profession. Because there will be no more prophets, and thus the duty of keeping the ummah guided has been transferred to the shoulders of imams. Thus the profession of imam is noble profession and people serve as imams for the sake of Allah and reward in the hereafter first, and for the sake of money second.

      Again I am not saying that imams should not be paid, but I will recall this incident only to highlight the nobility of this career: The Messenger of Allah used sleep in a bed made up of dates palm barks. When he would sit on it, it create marks on his body. Umar (R) saw this one day and cried, “O The Messenger of Allah! The Romans and the Persian Emperors sleep on comfy beds despite being kuffars and you sleep on such rough beds despite being the Messenger of Allah?” The Messenger of Allah become angry hearing this statement. He reminded Umar (R) that we have akhirah while the Roman and Persian Emperors had only duniya.

      • Avatar

        mw_m

        January 16, 2012 at 4:17 PM

        You make a very good point akhi. However, you have to keep in mind that being Muslim in America raises some new issues that the khulafa did not have to deal with:

        Transportation: It’s becoming pretty much a necessity for families with children to have two cars. One for the breadwinner, one for the parent who’s taking care of the children to drive them to and from school, extracurricular activities, Islamic weekend school, etc. Two cars means double the expense. Say the imam drives a Toyota Camry and his wife drives a Honda Accord (neither of which are extravagant). That’s a substantial sum of money.

        Education: Sure, public school is an option, but many imams might prefer to send their children to Islamic school or private school. That’s a substantial expense right there. Add to that children who are going to college. Even a public university where the child stays at home runs close to $10,000 a year. Three children in college at once ad you’re looking at $30,000 in tuition alone.

        Vacation: This might seem like a luxury that the khulafa did not have but in reality, this is a necessity. Families no longer spend as much time together and if the imam never goes on vacation with his family, you’re looking at some serious domestic problems. Add in some expenses here as well.

        And finally, take into account the high school student with a 90 percentile plus ACT/SAT score. He tells his parents he wants to become an imam, what do you think their response is going to be? 30k a year for the rest of his life, being a slave to the masjid board (since he has no way to save up and is living hand to mouth) or 300k a year as a physician where he can “learn some Islam on the side.” The fact of the matter is that, with the rare exceptions that we know so well, the majority of people who are able to actually go on to become imams in America are not the most intelligent young men we have. I can easily think off the top of my head at least 4 or 5 brothers who would have loved to become imams but because of the concern of their parents are currently pursing the path to become physicians.

      • Avatar

        James

        January 17, 2012 at 8:34 AM

        Salaam.

        You mentioned the poverty that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and some of the Khulafa experienced. Keep in mind that this poverty was optional. In hadith, the prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentioned that he was given the choice to live as a prophet and king or a prophet in poverty, and he opted for the latter.

        It is the responsibility of masjid boards to give Imams a decent salary that allows them to not constantly be worrying about covering expenses, etc. If the Imams choose to donate majority of it in the path of Allah, and live hand to mouth, that is their choice. However, there is a fine line between masjid boards imposing poverty on imams and masjid boards giving imams a decent salary with the imams deciding for themselves how they want to use it.

      • Avatar

        Zebram Zee

        February 9, 2012 at 9:30 PM

        I dont agree completely.  While Imams should not take ostentatious salaries, also keep in mind that the caliphs took little in part because taxes are forced contributions, and they did not want to force people to pay up so they could live a nice life.  In the case of Imams here, however, they are being paid through voluntary contributions.

      • Avatar

        ummabduWahab

        June 27, 2016 at 10:30 PM

        JAZAKALLAHUKHYRE for that brother MASHALLAH ALLAHUMAH barik lak you have spoken with knowledge and understanding of it may ALLAH reward you for reminding us.. I do agree that sometimes a Imam is over worked and sometimes doing what a scholar should be doing. There is responsibility on the directors of masjids that each person is in the places of there capacity that is another topic a very important topic that does need to be addressed. However if we concentrate just about the pay of the Imam this is what I have to say: What we know from the book of ALLAH is that this world is a delusion and most are deluded by the pomp and glitter of it.

        “Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that we may test them (as to) which of them is best in deed” Quran surah 18 verse 7

        ” But you prefer the worldly life. While the hereafter is better and more enduring”
        Quran surah 87 verse 16&17

        “And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion”
        Quran surah 3 verse 185

        Any Imam must first and foremost know that the service they are doing is for ALLAH and with ALLAH is the best of provision and reward in this world and the next and if one is sincere in their service to ALLAH, they will never regret, suffer or complain. However an Imam must live, eat, cloth and shelter himself and family and normal necessities etc but not to delude oneself to what the normal necessities are. So to ask or to be paid to what is necessary for his position and the rest he can feel safe that his reward is with ALLAH..
        There is no worldly price on this work and I have heard much people value the Imams work in worldly terms which is an obvious lack in faith or understanding. The Imam should be paid to live within his means. So he is able to keep his role as Imam so not to pass his time else where in order to provide. But if he has higher expectations or desire for worldly benefits maybe he could leave his role to a more humble sincere individual who has the right understanding and intention of being Imam INSHALLAH.
        The first and foremost the intention should be to please ALLAH and serve his deen for the sake of ALLAH and not for the pay check that’s if he wants to receive the real benefits and sweetness of being Imam and receive the true rewards in this world and the next. And ALLAH knows best.
        May ALLAH guide us and guide our Imams to guide us.

  4. Avatar

    Basil Mohamed Gohar

    January 16, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Baarak Allaahu feek wa jazaak Allaahu khayran, yaa akhee, for sharing this with us. I had just received a link to that Slate article a few days ago, and I debated whether or not to even share it with our own imaam – would it make him feel better or worse, given that we’re facing exactly this situation in our community.

    I think there’s another shade to this problem. Some people, especially in the administration and/or amongst the elders/uncles of the community, don’t even want an imaam in the true sense. They want a Quran teacher, an imaam only for prayers, and a worker for the masjid. Beyond that, they think that their (the uncles’) own secular education will be enough to lead the community Islamically. You’ve hinted at this, I think, in that the administration might want complete control over the imaam.

    There’s a real failing in our communities in accepting that we need to have sound and strong Islamic leadership to achieve anything close to the concept of an Islamic community. We should strive hard to find good leaders, compensate them appropriately, and once they’re in place, support them in all the good that they do, and most importantly, have a degree of trust in their choices and decisions, and follow them as long as they are in line with Quran & Sunnah.

    I could probably go on until I hit the comment length limit, so I’ll leave it this, and I just want to share that it’s a problem felt far-and-wide. May Allaah correct our understanding of Islamic scholarship and its worth and necessity in our communities.

    • Avatar

      mw_m

      January 16, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      I think there’s another shade to this problem. Some people, especially in the administration and/or amongst the elders/uncles of the community, don’t even want an imaam in the true sense.

      This.

      We actually had an uncle of the community stand up and say quite explicitly that American Muslims have no need for an “imam.” All we need is a hafidh to lead the prayers and taraweeh. Any “imam” duties can be taken over by the non-religiously trained uncles (he clearly stated this very sentiment). As long as communities don’t see a need for imams, we’re going to run into this issue.

  5. Avatar

    Teaching Kids the Holy Quran using toys

    January 16, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    I think the Muslim community should split the roles. An imam is someone who leads you in prayer (probably because he knows more of the Holy Quran). A scholar is someone who knows a lot about fiqh and can give fatwas. Every mosque should have a resident scholar who lives in the community and “gets” them. You can probably have 2-3 imams who rotate their schedule. Marriage counsellors should be separate and should work in hand with the scholar, but should be specialized to save marriages.

    It is hard to have a super human imam that can do all.

    Another idea that needs to take hold in the community is that these people should not be paid highly as they are distributing Islamic knowledge and “working for Islam”. Why should they not be paid? They are providing a service.

    And finally, I have seen many people illegally record lectures and made dvds from original lectures sold by the scholars, because “it’s for Islam” (so copyright laws don’t apply?). This also needs to be tackled with.

    — Mezba

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      January 16, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      Mezba, my thoughts exactly. Oftentimes, imams and scholars are lumped together in one bundle, but the needs of the community are becoming more and more compartmentalized and we’re finding it’s better to have trained specialists in an area rather than a jack of all trades.

      I believe another problem our community faces is the belief that knowing the Qur’aan or understanding jurisprudence equals leadership capability, marital counseling specialties, and so on. I think these and other skills have to be both trained in some academic sense and then practiced, otherwise it becomes on the job training with the barometer being the satisfaction of the board, and if their standard is too low, then the community suffers for it, and if it’s too high, too much stress is placed on the imam.

      Siraaj

  6. Avatar

    Jo

    January 16, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    as salaam alaikum,

    Actually, in my mind it makes more sense to pay an Imam a housing allowance than to buy a house.

    My father is the treasurer of his church and he knows all the ins and outs of clergy pay so that it is beneficial for both the church and the pastor.

    Maybe we as an ummah should use some of our interfaith connections to talk to churches who have been doing this for decades in order to learn what we’ve been missing.

    http://www.freechurchaccounting.com/housingallowance.html

    • Avatar

      ahmed

      January 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      this link is very interesting, jazakum Allahu khairan.

      • Avatar

        Jo

        January 16, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        waiyyakum

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      January 16, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      This is a great suggestion – it would be great if individuals could come together and put together a suggested package for taking care of Imams and community leaders, and researching models that already exist in other communities to brainstorm what is appropriate for their own.

      Siraaj

  7. Avatar

    Bader

    January 16, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Clergy = a term for and used by Christians about their own qississin;
    Imam (of a Masjid) is the proper term. Walhamdulillah.

    • Avatar

      ibnabeeomar

      January 16, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      the term clergy was used because it was in response to an article by slate that used the term [see the initial link in the article]

  8. Avatar

    AycaB

    January 16, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    It is permissable to take money for teaching our deen. A person has to earn a living, and the best way to earn a living is one which strives for Allah’s cause or to spread His message. So, for example, just like lawyers who fight for Muslims in court cases for the sake of Allah, just like doctors in Palestine operate on wounded citizens for the sake of Allah, just like judges want to do justice for the sake of Allah, it is no different than imams, sheiks, or alimas who teach and preach for the sake of Allah. I mean Allah didn’t expect people to work for free in dunya and beg people for money!! It is instructed for Muslims to go into professions for the sake of Allah, so this whole paying imams, sheiks, and alimas should be a non-issue. Moreover, Imams, sheiks, and alimas do more than teach and preach, they put up with their congregates myriad of problems! They remind me of college deans….they do it all. Moreover, Islamic religious preachers these days almost always have advanced degrees too. Who do you think will pay for their loans if they aren’t paid well?!

  9. Avatar

    AbdelRahman Murphy

    January 16, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Observation: interesting that people who don’t serve as imams or full-time community workers feel so strongly about the issue. For those who support adequate salaries, this is comforting. For those who are still a little stuck in the dark ages, this is frightening.

    I’d like to hear reflections from some imams or full-time community workers.

  10. Avatar

    bint

    January 16, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    jazakAllah khayr for raising this issue that certainly needs to be touched on. I completely agree with you. My husband serves as an Imam and I can attest to how much overtime hours he puts into his community. He even spends time at the masjid on his days off. Unfortunately, he hardly has time to spend at home with family. And he’s always on the phone, either counseling or dealing with masjid-related issues. The point I’m trying to make is that Imams definitely work hard and put a lot of time and effort into their jobs and should be paid accordingly. There is nothing wrong with taking money for serving the deen, after all they do have families to support just like everyone else.

  11. Avatar

    Nahyan

    January 16, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Excellent article akhi.

  12. Avatar

    Abdullah

    January 16, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    It’s interesting that we like to make fun of Jewish people and we have a stereotype about them being stingy, but in this case, it is the Muslims who are at the bottom when it comes to spending on their Imams. There are MANY communities in the US, that if you were to add all the wages of the community members, it would run into the MANY millions! Every year, so many Muslim communities are making tens of millions of dollars prior to taxes and they aren’t even ready to pay $50k per year to the Imam. Then they complain that their kids have gone astray and their kids have abandoned them in their old age and other complaints. Well, maybe if the kids were attracted to Islamic teachings because of having a good Imam, then they would be more religiously inclined. But your whole life was all about making money and religion played a very minimal role and your children saw that. So don’t go crying about your children not caring about you. They might have cared if they had a better Imam who influenced them in a positive way.

  13. Avatar

    Abdullah

    January 16, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    @The Shardul of Allah

    Masha Allah, beautiful advice for the Imams.

    I guess the advice to you would be to leave whatever you are doing and go and become an Imam because Masha Allah, you write like an intellectual.

    If you don’t want to, even though Islamic rewards wise, the Imam position is the most rewarding, then please make sure that you never buy a house. Make sure that your car does not cost more than $5,000. Also, please make sure that whatever money you earn, that ALL of it is donated to your local Masjid because that is what Abu Bakr r.a. did right?

    Along with financial hardships, the Imam must also bear taunts of certain segments of the congregation. Your recitation will always be compared to Shaikh Sudais or Shatri and every speech of yours will be compared to the speeches of Shaykhs Hamzah Yusuf or Yasir Qadhi. So you must recite like Sudais, speak like Yusuf, be as handsome as Pitt (that was so random :) ), and live on minimum wages with no health insurance for the whole family.

    God Forbid! If you get a house, or start driving a decent vehicle, or start wearing decent clothes, then you will once again have to face the jealousy and hatred of some parts of the community. Along with all that, you will rarely get a word of appreciation from the community. If you make a mistake, you will be compared to public figures who earn millions of dollars, but when it comes to actual pay, your pay will be paid less than a school teacher.

    But financial hardships can be tolerated, but what can never be tolerated is when Imams are disrespected when they are treated as the doormat of the community. Anyone can say or do anything to the Imam, but the board will not side with you. Welcome to the life of an Imam! :) Go and show your appreciation to the Imam the next time you see him. I know I am going to do it the next time I see him.

  14. Avatar

    Shirtman

    January 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Salaam,

    So it’s been like years since I have posted on here. But thank you Omar for bringing this into light. I have worked full time in the Islamic realm making a very modest salary, but having to go through alot of pain and suffering. I have also volunteered as an Imam as well, paying for gas etc. To be very honest, the salary should be greater than our Jewish cohorts. The reason is that the Jewish community focuses on one main ethnic group with a slight variance of Ethiopians, Persians etc. While American Imams have to deal with people from all regions of the world, following various madhahib both theological and jurisprudential. They also have to deal with the culture clash of U.S. raised Muslims and immigrant Muslims, converts, African American community and so on. The expectations are out of this world. It would honestly take someone about 20 years of study and experience to meet all of the demands, SubhanAllah and then expect them to take 30k, and be on call, is ridiculous. May Allah bring honor back to the positions of Islam.

    Shirtman

  15. Avatar

    Carlos

    January 17, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    The largest mansion near my house is owned by a televangelist. Makes me mad.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      February 9, 2012 at 4:02 AM

      It shouldn’t make you mad.  Our imams are supposed to be an example.  Zuhd is something this ummah is lacking, especially those of us in the west, and the imams ought to set an example for us in zuhd – and many do which is just fine alhamdulillah.

      If an imam had the largest mansion, that would make me mad.

  16. Avatar

    ِابو سهل الملون

    January 17, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum .W.B.

    a vital matter, and very enlightening contributions.

    I would think this is a two pronged issue, As a preamble… No community would ever be able to pay an Imam for any service of Deen that he has offered, remember that if He taught me or my son / daughter to read a surah nay a verse or for that matter even a word, the worlds riches would be small to repay him. AND THIS IS NO SUPERNAL/PLAIN SPIRITUAL REPERTOIRE, THIS IS A FACT Which we need to concede to and accept. However, as SHARDUL of Allah correctly states that this position is similar to the post held by the Khulafaa and Hukkaam of the Golden Era (khayrul Quroon), and the directives or inspiration we draw from their blessed lives should be the benchmark and blue print of a scholar today too. A student of deen who studies the sciences, pursues this NOT with the intention of enhancing his absorption in worldly pursuits, instead one is motivated by a far more loftier and nobler purpose. and thus one will accept ineluctably and naturally that pursuing this career would not yield to me a lavish “living like the Jonses” kind of life, instead I would be inheriting the legacy of the Prophet A.S. which is “I eat one day and I thank HIM and I stay hungry one day and say Alhamdulillah….” (bear in mind that The prophet S.A.W said that amongst the signs of the hour is that KNOWLEDGE WILL BE PURSUED FOR PURPOSES OTHER THAN THE PLEASURE OF ALLAH. (Tirmidhi) ” so the student of Islam attempts for a degree in philosophy, arts religion to enhance his/her vehicle of delivering the message or even understanding, and NOT for the sake of adding another appellate , title to one’s name hence increase the bid or stakes… Now heres the twist, all this is for the STUDENT/scholar to know and digest and internalize and NOT, yes NOT for the committee members to brandish when interviewing him!! otherwise priorities are messed up and muddled. The committee on the other hand should be focused on sustaining and maintaining that Imam somewhat like the way the Ansaar of Madinah did for our Nabi S.A.W and the muhaajireen, that we will take care of you, your needs your requirements as we would do for our own folk, NOT BECAUSE WE DOING A FAVOR TO YOU, BUT VERY MUCH THE OPPOSITE,,, YOU are DOING A GOOD TURN TO US. This attitude can bring about the correct ideals in both. Now a practical step: we pay the Imam for the time He gives (not his service) so Have the Imaam do office hours e.g 9-5 including mornings and pay him for that time as we would pay a community worker as per his credentials/experience etc. the Imam will run the Masjid office for all social/domestic/school visit/ official work.(Believe me there’s alot of work out there , open an office and you’ll see for yourself….. the Masjid will become a hub, the Imam could then be sent for training/qualifications as per the need) counselling, rehab, support worker . that time spent should be
    remunerated for. Over and above that time , the community should take it as his favor upon them, He’s our asset and thus it is our duty and we need to make his life easier in what ever way possible. decent house, However, individual gifts of money etc. should be avoided as it carries the risk of polluting thoughts of the Imam as well as that of the community.
    Dearest Brothers, in conclusion let me say that this is workable, and it is currently happening. I share this humbly because I am an Imam, and the last four years this is how we’ve “brokered the deal” and sincerely request your Duas.

    • Avatar

      ummabduWahab

      June 27, 2016 at 11:28 PM

      JAZAKALLAHUKHYRE, may ALLAH reward you for your efforts. And there’s alot you said I agree with may ALLAH guide us on the path of guidance and cause us to be among the best and most pleasing to Him.

    • Avatar

      ummabduWahab

      June 27, 2016 at 11:42 PM

      JAZAKALLAHUKHYRE to the brother post ابو سهل الملون ALLAH reward you for your efforts. And there’s alot you said I agree with may ALLAH guide us on the path of guidance and cause us to be among the best and most pleasing to Him.

  17. Avatar

    Abdullah

    January 17, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    Brother ibnabeeomar, Jazakumullah for the wonderful article. I just hope that picture of the check with something like the $150 amount is not an Imam’s monthly pay check. : )

  18. Avatar

    ummMaryam

    January 17, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    salamu ‘alaykum,

    my husband is the principal of an islamic school…was wondering if the author would agree to apply a similar logic to such positions. the community expects the principal of the school to also be the janitor of the school and consider it a huge favor upon him that he is paid over 40000. when he works 70 hours a week like a doctor on call. shouldn’t imams and those taking care of the youth and the “spiritual hearts” of the muslims be valued a bit more? when i say doctor on call, i am serious. muslims use the “akhee” factor too much. you see the islamic school principal in the masjid for isha, catch him for a one hour discussion about your child. would a person ever think of calling their child’s middle or high public school principal on weekends or evenings on a regular basis, and think they own him like that? or if they see him at a restaurant, would they say : do you have a few minutes and then chat for a couple hours? likewise, anytime there are community events to be held at the school, who do you call to open the building and clean up aftewards? oh yeah the school building maintenance person (ie principal).

    then, when the board discusses a possible salary increase, they put the guilt factor on the person by saying something like: “you know the financial situation of the school, but how much of a raise would you need to be comfortable?” and a person as nice as my husband, will only ask for 1 or 2 thousand increase when what he really needs is at least 10 more so that he can visit his old parents and take care of basic needs.

    inshallah he’s planning to quit islamic schools within a year or two so he can work for a public elementary school or a school district to earn normal pay for his education and experience.

    • Avatar

      ahmed

      January 17, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      subhaan Allah sister, these problems are so widespread

      May Allah bless you and your family with Jannatul Firdaws among the Prophet SAWS

  19. Avatar

    Filisteeniyyah

    January 17, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    MashaAllah a great article! Alhamdulillah I’ve been blessed to be a wife of a full-time da’ee, and let me tell you I’ve seen some very shallow minded Masjid admins over the years that my husband had to deal with. By the Qadr of Allah we came across some really bad admins, e.g. at the last Masjid my husband was Imaam, we used to get 800-1000 people during jumu’ah! During his regular weekly halaqaat about 100 atleast would show up. For the weekend school we had more than 200 kids. Ya’ni a very big community. Yet the admin paid my husband literally peanuts to the point that we couldn’t even afford rent for apartment! We didn’t care because this is what he loves. Then the admin used to have meetings with my husband every few days complaining that their sons were becoming too religious and their daughters were starting to veil up through hanging around with me. They wanted to control my husband’s mouth and removed me from teaching at the weekend school. So my husband told them “you pay me an amount with which i can’t even afford rent and with this lousy amount you even want to buy my mouth!” We left that community Alhamdulillah.
    This is just one example. I can give worse stories about how he was seen as nothing but a doormat by the “elite uncles” of the community. He actually served as Imaam for 3 different Masaajid over the past 7years. My husband mashAllah is very good with money management and we were able to get by the Rahmah of Allah. But eventually guess what, we both really got fed up with administrations and he has not served as an Imaam any where during this past year. He just teaches classes here and there on a weekly basis and helps brothers & sisters with their personal problems.
    But wallah, the youth of the community, the mothers, etc still keep in contact with my husband and are happy with what he did for them.
    And I am witness to what my husband does and I say wallah I could not be happier than to be married to someone like him who never cares about how deep of a financial crisis he’s in but he’ll never water the Sunnah down just to please mafia administrations. These admins do not care to see what good Imaams do for the community. SubhanAllah even at 2AM my husband went to do ruqyaa for a family that was effected by sihr. This is what he learned from his shuyookh and this is the effort he puts in towards the Ummah. This is what it means to be caller to Tawheed. Doesn’t matter what the elites do, but you can not deprive the innocent laymen of the community.
    We struggle a lot and I mean a lot Alhamdulillah. There have been times when we could only afford one meal a day due to our circumstances but wallah my husband always tells me that no salary will ever equal to knowing that there were teens who used to commit zina but after sitting through kitaab at tawheed gave up that life and now is doing his best to follow the Sunnah.
    Gone are the times of ‘Umar radiyaAllahu ‘anhu who used to personally make sure the governors, judges, imaams were being paid proper salary. Most admins in the West do not even understand the value of a Sheikh, Taalib ul ‘ilm & du’aat. Some admins do understand as long as the Imaam will speak according to their watered down and deviant ideologies. At the end of the day we’re left with an extremely small percentage of Masaajid admins who value a da’ee based on his adherence to the Sunnah.
    And you know, my husband had some of his engineer friends tell him on his face “bro quit and do something else, people don’t understand these days…just take care of your family”
    To all the hyped up kids who think life of a da’ee must be very cool…yes Alhamdulillah for some it is very easy financially but for a lot of others, Alhamdulillah, it is filled with obstacles. You must always prepare for such hardship. Like the saying goes “hope for the best but be prepared for the worst”. And remember once you put your foot in this profession, you cannot quit and go do something else. How will you face Allah? Just because Allah gave you some financial hardship you quit calling people to His Deen & Sunnah of His Messenger??
    My husband has options of leaving USA and teaching in a school in some other country but he feels (and I do too) that there is a far bigger need for du’aat upon the Sunnah, even small ones like himself, here. The younger generation are hungry for knowledge and the door to perverted ideologies is easily available too and therefore every Sheikh/Taalib ul ‘ilm/Da’ee…famous or unknown…big or small timers…need to play a collective role in calling people to the Tawheed of Allah and the authentic Sunnah of His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
    Once I’m done with my own studies InshaAllah I really want to write a book about all the things I’ve faced and seen my husband face being a da’ee. Sincere Muslims need to hear these things more so that they can work together and build better communities away from mafia admins that are so common these days.

    • Avatar

      ahmed

      January 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      Jazaky Allahu khairan sister, a very important and heartbreaking look into the life of an Imam and his family.

      May Allah bless you and your family with Jannatul Firdaws among the Prophet SAWS

  20. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    January 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    What I find ironic is that people are so willing to fork over hundreds and thousands of dollars to take a course by a superstar shaykh, but are unwilling to part with a couple hundred dollars for their local Imam who shows up for salah 5 times a day, teaches Arabic, Qur’an, Islamic studies, etc. another X number of days a week, and on top of that, serves as a counselor in practically every other field as well (all during totally random hours, including the very wee hours of morning)!
    These are the people who don’t just spend a weekend or two with you – these are the people who are living with you and serving you every single day!

    • Avatar

      mw_m

      January 17, 2012 at 7:04 PM

      but…..but….they’re not FAMOUS!

  21. Avatar

    Abdullah

    January 17, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    A commentator mentioned this previously, and the same comment is used by some people to look down on imams when they try to insinuate that you only became an Imam because you weren’t doing well in school. Do you know how offensive that sounds? I would totally disagree with that generalization. I have come across so many Imams and Islamic scholars who were amazingly smart. They could easily have gone to work in the most rewarding of professions. The way I see it is like this. Parents who are not religiously inclined will never permit their children to become Islamic scholars and Imams even if their children are not doing well in their secular education. Most Imams and Islamic scholars had parents who cared about Islam and that is why they encouraged their kids to become Islamic scholars. From these, there are intellectuals and there are others who are not. Just like in any other profession. But I find it offensive that we dismiss Imams and Islamic scholars by saying that they only chose that profession because they were weak at school.

    On another point, if you look at all the major famous Islamic scholars and speakers in the US, majority of them are not Imams. They are running their own thing because they don’t want to deal at times with low wages and power hungry board members. I’m surprised that Shaykh Yasir is an Imam in Memphis and I notice that he only delivers two Jumahs a month even though Masha Allah, he is an amazing scholar. (http://www.memphisislamiccenter.org/) I would be EXTREMELY surprised if Imam Suhaib stays in the same Boston masjid as an Imam for five years (http://isbcc.org/).

    • Avatar

      Fezz

      January 18, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      No I think you misread the point. There was a time where parents would love for their children to take up a full scholastic education and go on to become scholars/imams (look at the time of the early generations etc). We need to acknowledge that ON AVERAGE this is not the case anymore. However many of the top scholars/Imams are – of course – exceptional talents and inshAllah will continue to be so.

  22. Avatar

    Brother

    January 17, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Unfortunately the local scholar in my community has attracted hoards of youth to his nightly talks yet the masjid hasn’t even considered paying him. The actual Imam of that masjid only comes on specific days and leaves the masjid on the days that he isn’t there for the laymen to lead the prayers. Yet the uncles have all the money in the world to make the masjid even larger than its original form even though it’s been in construction for 5+ years! Also, the youth in my community are scared of even considering a life as an Imam/Scholar to serve the community due to the fact that their is no one that will help them maintain a living if they do come back. Tawakaltu Al Allah.

  23. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    January 18, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Bismisllah,

    The one who sets on the path of dawah MUST prepare for a life of austerity and prepare his family for limited resources.

    Sometimes it would cost considerable money to attend a conference for a speaking engagement.

    You take unpaid leave from work, travel around the world, leave your family, park your car at the airport at 30 dollars a night, buy gifts for the family, and receive a box of chocolates as a gift after speaking to an audience of thousands who paid tickets to see you and others live.

    You return home to line up in Immigration and be picked up/taxi/drive home out of pocket and seek Allah’s reward.
    WALLAHI it is a blessed life that you cannot appreciate until you experience it. Allah provides Alhamdulillah.

    That is the reality. Wa Alhamdulillah. You must have another career to survive.

    Eventually some give up, or begin charging a modest fee…even though it pains them to do so.

    I ask Allah to increase our rizq and put baraka in our families and preserve our health and honour.

    Some superstars of course do not experience the above anymore, but 100% of them have in the past.

    yahya
    http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

    • Avatar

      ahmed

      January 18, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      That is the reality. Wa Alhamdulillah. You must have another career to survive.

      Subhaan Allah, this is the truth. A relative of mine is kind of on the board of a couple of masajid and he sees how the Imams get treated, but cannot do anything about it. He says exactly the same as you mentioned Shaikh.

      Jazakum Allahu khairan.

    • Avatar

      ummMaryam

      January 18, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      alhamdulillah, you are right. Allah ‘azza wa jall takes care of everyone. The point is rather, so if an islamic school principal with a family of 6 is not making enough from the “poor” school whose board is pouring in thousands to have hi tech facilities and take seniors on an school paid senior trip during spring break, and then the principal chooses as a result to take a different job because he can’t even pay his own rent or visit his 80 year old parents across the country once a year, THEN it is up to the community to decide how much do they really want this principal (or same could go for imam scenario) with whom they are entrusting their kids. it’s not about having a huge salary, it’s about the following:

      for the sake of da’wa to the whole community and their kids, a person may not be able to fulfill the rights of old parents…so then yes, it’s the right of the person to change jobs, but at the community’s loss.

      it is not fair to expect the islamic worker to be there round the clock and not give him a chance for the tarbiya of his own kids (i’m sure everyone knows the scenario of the imam with the naughtiest kids in town)…

      alhamdulillah, we are content with our situation, but at some point, my husband’s parents and our own kids must come before the kids of the rest of the community… we have to save ourselves and our families from the fire before the rest of the town,,,

      so the smart thing: if there is a really talented imam/principal: ask him: what do you need to stay here? what tutoring needs do your kids have? we wil pay for those since we are taking you away from your own family. it’s not about having the designer clothes, nice house or sporty car. we’ll stick with our ’95 corolla.

  24. Avatar

    Sabour

    January 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Great points in the article and in the comments.

    I agree that our resident imaams, scholars, counselors etc. should be selected carefully based on their relevant qualifications – and as a result they should be paid well and taken care of thoroughly.

    The biggest concern should be mismanagement of masjid funds for other expenses, because masjid boards and leaders may not be carefully chosen based on qualifications, and as a result they can be horribly incompetent. How many of them have the years of education to manage such a huge community structure? Almost none.

    Considering the embarrassing and unprofessional levels most communities go to to collect donations (especially during Ramadaan), and the sheer magnitude of funds that are collected, it should set off an alarm that we’re even discussing the pay of our highest priority expenses. How many million dollar masjids do we have with half a dollar khutbahs?

    Our management and finances are at the crux of the issue, and if we don’t fix this we’re going to be paying the price (pun intended).

    • Avatar

      ibnabeeomar

      January 18, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      agree completely.. we’re hoping muslimsi.com starts making small inroads in fixing the management issue :)

    • Avatar

      ummMaryam

      January 18, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      salamu ‘alaikum,

      jazakAllah khair. you are spot on.. thousands will go into facilities without a single raised eyebrow, but pay an islamic worker over 40,000 and the rumor mills abound…”Wallahi, how could he? Take that much from the community?” And if he tries to do private tutoring or other programs on the side for the income his family needs, everyone is taking account as if it’s their own bank savings they’re worried about losing.

      Remember the one saved on the day of J is : illa man ata Allaha bi qalbin saleem. so shouldn’t the spiritual heart doctor of islamic communities be considered of value?

  25. Avatar

    Fezz

    January 18, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Are they that desparate for a pay increase? I disagree that we should regard this as another “labour market” issue. Being an imam is not “just another job” There are many Imams already on MM who could comment better.

    More money would probably help and form reading the above seems warranted. But I suspect what many would value far far more is primarily respect, freedom and the autonomy to lead and develop services for their community. Give them the funds to invest in professional development be that futhering a specialist interest (educating children / marriage counselling) or even on general scholarly development (budgets to expend on overseas courses, seminars and workshops etc)

    The modern western mosque is evolving from being merely a prayer area to a community centre/educational establishment/youth centre etc. (infact as it orginally was and should be!). The role definitions of imams are changing (although not uniformly) and I guess there is a lag behind in this for renumeration.

    Ultimately, we should look at the transformative effect highly motivated scholastic imams can have on our community. Their salary is not just a paycheck. Given to the right person its a crucial investment in the community and our future.

  26. Avatar

    Fezz

    January 18, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Arrgh! My orginal post got lost but the essence of it was;
    Do imams want more pay? MM has many people better able to comment but perhaps not all do. I supect many are underpaid (although I dont know what the average available supply of mosque funds would be in any case). I hesitate about looking at this as a ‘labour market’ issue; its not ‘just another job’.

    I suspect what many would much rather have just more respect, and the freedom and autonomy to develop services to meet the needs of the community. Particularly funds for develping specialist interests (marriage, educating children etc), profressional developement (overseas study, courses and seminars) and also to bring in other committed and talented people to support them in this work (yes that includes bringing in the YOUTH)

    We need a better understanding of what we want from Imams as they evolve from just someone who reads the prayer to a Leader of the Community. The prayer centre is now a centre for youth work, marriage counselling and so much more. Centres and talent vary; a ‘one-size fits all’ salary is clearly inadequate.

    We can see what a transformative effect some of the scholared imams can have not just on their community but on the regions around them as well. Utlimately paying an imam is not just a salary, its an investment in the commnity.

    jzk

  27. Avatar

    none

    January 18, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    The issue at hand is not for the present but also investing in our future. There is a bright, young hafidh of Quran somewhere today who can soak up knowledge and dispense it with wisdom who might be goaded towards an attractive profession in the dunya because of some needs his family has. If you want to be a zahid, please feel free to pack up and get out of America because zuhd over here still requires money. Zuhd can’t be practiced at the expense of someone else’s life. These imams are not celibate, they have families, kids, expenses.These imams are born of parents and may have to provide for them especially after they invested 25K in that special islamic school to keep the imams away from loose women in junior high school (rolls eyes) .

    Having said that the salary range is ridiculous. Many people have to wear numerous hats at their job and are not blessed with a 100K salary. It should be region specific and it should be based the masjid’s viability in the business arena. Masjids have to figure out how to generate income and get their communities involved. My dollars will get stretched thin if the leaky roof has to get fixed, the electric bill needs to get paid and an imam hasn’t gotten his $7000 paycheck, apart from the barakah Allah puts in the donation. We have blessings and we have miracles, we can’t count on the imam’s paycheck materializing from blessings. They aren’t Maryam (alayhis salaam).

    And while Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Hasan, and Muawiya are excellent examples, we are going to have some bad imams, some worldly imams, some imams who want to be ballers. We are talking about a budding industry, a profession, not about character. Their talents need to be utilized not shunned due to poor income.

  28. Avatar

    Yasmin

    February 6, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Jazakallah khair for shedding light on this very important issue! I was one of those naive people who thought Imams didn’t get paid. However, after reading this informative article I am confident that our Imams should be paid a reasonable and fair salary!

  29. Avatar

    Patent A Program

    February 8, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    After serving our community for the past five years, I have come
    away with certain lessons. We have gone through our fair share of
    challenges, and we have been blessed with our fair share of success by
    Allah (swt). The next few essays are my personal opinion on what worked
    for us and what I suggest may work for you. Again, its just an opinion.

  30. Avatar

    K1hay

    February 11, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Is there a clergy(priest) class in Al-Islam? When did it start? Was there such a group in the time of PM(saw)? If there was no clergy class during the time of PM(saw) Is this then bida? Helllp me 

  31. Avatar

    Jamilah

    February 13, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Very interesting. I agree that they need to get paid more in general but I also really believe most masjids need TWO imams because between the prayers, counseling, marriage rights, death rights etc…no matter how much you pay one imam you are going to be stretching him too thin and his family life will suffer too much. Perhaps paying a bit less than what you stated and having TWO imams at most masjids is the way to go.

  32. Avatar

    Gailani90

    February 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM

     who will be paying the money, it depends on the community. I believe no imam should be hired to work in the masjid full time, unless he is really exceptional like Imam Siraj Wahaj or Hamzah Yousif, they already know what is going on in the street. Brining an imam from overseas and ask him to work full time is a crazy decision. what is he going to tell people???

  33. Pingback: Life of a Da’ee – An Anonymous Response to ‘How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?’ - MuslimMatters.org

  34. Pingback: Life of a Da’ee – An Anonymous Response to ‘How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?’ | Peachy Parenting

  35. Avatar

    Asma

    March 7, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    “But I cannot fathom how seemingly every other masjid has multi-million dollar blueprints and expansion plans, but they can’t afford to invest in quality human resources. This is a joke. Without proper human resources, we will just have empty (but beautiful) structures. Put the money where it’s needed most.”
    Gold. 
    JazakAllahu Khair for the insightful post. 
    hats off. :) 

  36. Avatar

    Abu Hafsa

    March 17, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Same problem in Islamic schools. I’m an Islamic studies teacher and I’ve been working for almost 8 years in this field making low 30’s with no insurance. I have an IT background and am now considering to go back to that field rather than serving Allah swt’s deen.

  37. Avatar

    Adam

    March 18, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    May Allah subhanahu we ta’ala reward you with nothing less than being the neighbor of the prophet peace be upon him. ameen

  38. Avatar

    Asim Esen

    April 12, 2014 at 3:39 AM

    I was taught that a major difference between Islam and Christianity was that Islam does not have a “Ruhban” class, namely a paid clergy and institutions similar to those in Christianity. I was taught that there was no pre-designated Imam to lead the prayer and perform other religious functions and rituals. Each time, Muslims gather and form a Jamaat, whoever is most qualified among the Jamaat leads the prayer and perform other functions. Thus, imam would change from prayer to prayer. In fact, my father was an imam. He led Friday prayers, perform burial prayers, and other functions; he was never paid a salary or its equivalent. Once a year, during the month of Ramadan, some people would bring gift as a way of appreciation for his services. He used to say “When I lead a prayer, I am also praying myself and doing my duty to Allah, why should I accept payment for something that I was going to do it anyway?”

    There were other qualified prayer leaders like my father in those days; they attended their daily business (farming, storekeeping, etc.) and led prayer, but did not get paid a salary. I see now, especially in Turkey, Imams are government employees and paid salaries from government treasury. They are a privileged class that did not exist during even the Ottoman time and in the Republic of Turkey until the 1980s. What Ayat (or Surah) in the Koran and what authenticated hadith says that there is designated and paid imam in Islam? I do not accept excuses and traditional reasons that people often use to legitimize the things they do that are not in the book. So, I would appreciate if an Islamic scholar would comment on this matter.

  39. Avatar

    ElvenInk

    April 12, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    The concept of hired Imams isn’t something I agree with. At least not the way it’s implemented here in Canada. People often want to bring in an Imam from overseas and pay them to sit in the masjid and give halaqas, advice and fatwas to people. But how can we expect someone who just moved to the country and doesn’t interact with the outside world or face the struggles that his congregation faces in terms of work, school, etc, to be able to give sound advice and fatwas that are relevant to specifics of the community?

    I think Imams should be volunteers – people who are respected in the community and willing to give a couple hours a week to give a khutba or answer people’s questions while at the same time having another job and life to support themselves. It should also be a shared responsibility with many volunteer Imams sharing the hours of work at each masjid.

    The problem, I think, is that people expect too much. They want an Imam who will sit in the Masjid 24/7 and be available for them to randomly drop by and ask him for advice whenever they feel like it. Nothing works like this.

    Keeping in mind that I say this with a distinction in my mind between an Imam who leads prayer at a masjid and answers day to day questions and an Islamic Scholar. Islamic scholars will of course be people who dedicated their lives to learning about Islam and passing on their knowledge and usually they will have formal/paid positions in universities or islamic conventions, etc. Often, however, these scholars will have other professions anyway because our religion as someone already mentioned before me doesn’t have this concept of rahbania.

  40. Avatar

    Gio

    August 2, 2016 at 7:17 PM

    The author lives under the delusion of bourgeois privilage (six figure salary?)…most of us are struggling to pay for rent.

  41. Avatar

    Dr Umar Khalid

    August 4, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    Imam should not paid , this is called selling Islam for petty gains. IF they need money they should earn other than just leading Prayers or friday sermons..
    That is why now a days every second mosque in world fight for Imams. because this is very lucaritive offer.. See Dr Yasir Qadhi , Omer Sulaiman etc imams in West living on Imams salary luxury ..

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#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within the Muslim community.

The first in this series, the MuslimARC Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. It is a tool and resource for engaging in conversations about racism and provides guidance in how to truly be a good ally to Muslims of color in this anti-racism work.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

We cannot always be aware when we say or write something that reflects our own white privilege and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of color. In our own experience in developing this Guide, we worked to practice that approach when we received feedback from other MuslimARC members and incorporated their analysis to strengthen this work.

My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of color especially women, when I had to not only check my white privilege, but also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you. As one behavior the Guide suggests we avoid, “Don’t assume what People of Color need and try to swoop in to deliver. Instead, ask what you can do.”

For the white Muslim audience of the Guide, in reading this you will automatically feel defensive either that others may do these things but not me or that none of this behavior is based on racism or white privilege. Our advice is to examine that defensiveness and take the opportunity not to act on it, but instead, consider some of the alternative approaches we recommend in the Guide. 

The Guide provides a review of our role in addressing racism in the ummah; description of some of the ways white Muslims perpetuate racism; and specifically, how to be actively anti-racist in our work. A list of educational resources is provided including available training; articles on white Muslims and allyship; and guides to anti-racist parenting. A last and very important part of the Guide is organizations like MuslimARC that you can be involved in to do this anti-racist work.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” (49:13) One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” the different races and groups Allah has put us in, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire self-knowledge about our white privilege as Muslims and help us to get to know how to be better allies to our brothers and sisters of color.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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