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How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?

Omar Usman

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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.

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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.

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

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. AnonyMouse

    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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#Current Affairs

Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

Published

The pursuit of justice is a core Islamic value. One of the important roles Allah, the Exalted, assigned to His messengers is the task of establishing justice among the people. Allah, the Almighty, emphasized the importance of justice when He prohibited Himself from oppression and declared it forbidden among us humans. Allah is the Lord of all justice and fairness. In His fairness, He commands us to not allow our anger or hatred towards any group lead us to injustice against them. “Be just,” He commands, “it is closer to righteousness.”

Allah, the Most High, commands us to be witnesses for justice, even against ourselves. The concept of “even against ourselves,” is an open call to all people of faith to rise to the occasion, especially where we see systemic or structural oppression. In most such cases, the oppression is carried out in our name, usually by our elected government.

Allah’s emphasis on justice leads many Muslims to worry that if they vote for a president who transgresses against another country, the fault falls on everyone who voted for him. This fear paralyzes Muslim engagement in the American political system. Let us examine the circumstances of responsibility in such cases.

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To be clear, the present governments of almost all countries on Earth, including the so-called Muslim countries operate with corruption and oppression. Taking Egypt as an example, the government’s domestic policies have led to the unjust death and imprisonment of thousands of Egyptian citizens, and their foreign policy enables the perpetuation of Gaza’s destruction. This, however, does not require the average Egyptian Muslim citizen to reject all relationship to the nation of Egypt. The question then arises: how responsible is the Muslim for the actions of his government? Likewise, when the American government acts with injustice at home and abroad, how responsible is the American Muslim for the actions of his government? When the average citizen is not consulted before the execution of military operations, to what degree are we held responsible?

Allah’s Messenger provided for us a balanced approach to engaging with the injustice around us. Abu Saʿīd al-Khudri narrates that he heard the Prophet say,

“Whoever sees evil should change it with his hand; and if he is unable to do so, then he should change it with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then he should hate it with his heart—that is the least of faith.”

Let us take a practical example:

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. To justify his action, he invented a series of lies that Iraq possessed nuclear capabilities. It took him more than a year to align the power brokers in America and Europe to enable this evil action to occur. Neither the opinions nor the interests of the American population were taken into consideration.

Before the invasion, the public had two concerns: that the justification presented for the war was speculative and unfounded, and the war would result in countless unnecessary deaths. These worries quickly materialized into realities as time proved them to be true. However before the war, various politicians, pundits and opinion makers helped sell this unjust action to the people in order to gain their consent. They are undoubtedly guilty of murder and should be remembered as peddlers of death.

But what was the duty of an average American Muslim? The hadith mentioned above lists three levels of engagement:

Level One:

Someone who was part of the military or legislative authority had a duty in front of Allah to attempt to stop the invasion with action. If he was a congressman, he had a moral duty to vote against the war. If he was a member of the military, any intelligence agency, or government policy group, he had a moral duty to challenge the claims of the war’s proponent’s and provide information to the public so that they can know the truth. This duty applied to the person despite the likelihood that such a course of action would have probably jeopardized their career or their life.

Level Two:

Most Americans were not in the position described in level one. In their case, their duty was to speak out against this act of injustice. They could have written letters to their legislators, participated in protest rallies, held events in congress, and even spoken to their neighbors, classmates and colleagues about how wrong this action was. Any American Muslim who was not under threat of arrest for speaking out, but chose to remain silent still, failed to fulfill his duty to protest the evil.

Level Three:

There is little likelihood that the approach of silence would be justified for most American Muslims. There are countries (such as Saudi Arabia), where people can be arrested, tortured, even murdered if they speak out against the government. A Muslim living in one of these societies has a duty to at least engage with the injustices around them on an internal level, detesting the action from the core of their heart. As for the Muslim who does not detest that millions of innocent people are killed, they should check their heart; they would be missing what the Allah’s Messenger described as, “the least of faith.”

What faith is left in the heart of the Muslim who is not bothered by the death of more than a million Muslims?! Even if his mind is polluted with patriotism, tribalism, nationalism, or an inclination towards military culture, there is no excuse for the lack of humanity that is required for this level of apathy.

Considering the hadith above, our minimum duty is to stand and speak against the use of our tax dollars for such acts of injustice. There were indeed many Muslim and non-Muslim voices of dissent that protested the American invasion of Iraq. In addition to the spiritual duty of speaking out against injustice, it was clear to many what was later proven to be true: the invasion was not good for America. The financial and human loss incurred by this war has not made neither America, nor the world safer.

Many propose that Muslims should react to the injustices in their countries by leaving them. But this evasive approach fails to actually address the injustice. There is a greater, though more challenging, expectation of addressing the injustices from within, especially in a country like America where criticisms are tolerated and protest can lead to policy that is felt around the world. A large amount of the pain, and suffering that is happening to the Muslims today can be stopped from inside America. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan are hoping that we will do something from our positions that will alleviate their suffering. They need our help.

Exonerating ourselves because our government acts without our consent may appease our consciences, but is of no benefit to our global Muslim community.

Such an approach is contradictory to the teaching of the Prophet as made clear by the hadith above. We have the opportunity and ability to speak out against evil, so passive dissent is not an option.

Allah tells us the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and al-Khadir 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  in Surah al-Kahf (peace be upon them both). When they boarded a ship of some men who agreed to give them a ride to their destination, Khadir pierced the boat’s basin, damaging their source of livelihood. Confused, Musa criticized this action, as it seemed like an injustice towards people who readily did a favor for them. What Musa didn’t know was that the men would encounter a tyrant king who had sent his men to seize all boats that were sound and intact. And as these men had helped Musa and al-Khadir, he wished to help them evade this king’s oppressive policy; the minor damage saved them from losing their boat!

The king was an oppressive tyrant. Musa and al-Khadir (peace be upon both of them) did not possess the power to remove the king or prevent the king from his evil action, and so they took action according to their ability. They knew that though they could not save everyone from the injustice, it was still their duty to act within their capacity to reduce the king’s injustice.

The Story of The Secret Believer

Allah also tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). We know he had a fairly high status in the government because he was part of their most confidential meetings. This secret believer did not exit the government after he saw the many evil deeds of the Pharaoh’s government. During the discussion in the Pharaoh’s cabinet where they decided that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was to be killed, this believer rose up and voiced his objections to the injustice, citing historical, logical, and emotional appeals. The meeting, however, concluded with the decision to execute Musa. Having been unable to stop this royal decree, he still made the effort to warn Musa so as to give him the chance to flee.

Allah tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa Click To Tweet

Instead of condemning him for participating in a government founded upon unbelief, Allah exalts his mention in His glorious book. He is our example of speaking truth to power, and the reason for Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)safety from Pharaoh’s plot. This man used his position to obstruct oppression, not perpetuate it.

As Muslim Americans, we live in a non-Muslim country. The decisions and actions of our government impacts all of us living in this country. Disengagement will allow selfish people to make decisions that will result in harm to our communities.

Participation will allow us to follow the examples of proactive engagement so as to prevent harm and ultimately change corrupt systems from within. An all-or-nothing approach will almost always lead to nothing.

Allah, the Exalted, provides these examples so that we can understand the practical role of Muslim in an overwhelmingly hostile society. Even though our environments have not reached that degree, we can still relate to the feelings of being oppressed and ostracized for our faith. Allah’s lesson to us in these stories is that our faith shouldn’t prevent us from trying to change these circumstances.

And to Allah is the end of all matters.

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#Society

Our African American Siblings Are Speaking, Are We Listening? Here Are 15 Things African American Muslims Want You To Know

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African American Muslimss

In the Fall of 2018, we surveyed Muslims of Hispanic/Latino descent and asked what is the one thing they would want the Muslim community to know about them. We gathered 25 responses and released an article called, “25 Things Latino Muslims Want you to Know.” The purpose of the piece was to educate the general Muslim body about the Latino Muslim community and its dynamics, to debunk common stereotypes about Latinos, and to lend a voice to a marginalized sector in the Islamic community and in the United States.

Now, with the current climate of racial tension in the U.S. and the revival of the national movement for Black rights, I thought it not only imperative, but seriously overdue to put together a similar list of reactions from our African American brethren. Moving away from the obvious fact that there should be no racism in Islam, we want to open up about the racism and anti-blackness that unfortunately does exist within the Muslim community and how that affects our relationships with each other and hinders the struggle for change.

When I was collecting responses for this article what I found was that, unsurprisingly, Latino Muslims and Black Muslims have similar messages to send to the general Muslim community. Our shared experiences fuel a mutual call for justice and equality in society and within our own places of worship. I also had a difficult time gathering the same amount of feedback, because I began at a time when images of the murdered Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks were still circulating social media as a constant reminder of the injustice happening all over the country, specifically the targeting Black men and women. These wounds, so deep and raw were gaping in the collective psyche of African Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim, fueling sentiments of anger and mistrust, and rightfully so. Many people refused to comment while others could not find the right words to use to address the Muslim brothers and sisters who have often failed them, as well.

The following is a list of 15 things the African American community, not only want you to know, but have been saying for decades. Are we listening?

  • I think people should know that civility (avoidance of controversial topics for the sake of being polite and getting along) undermines anti-racism work. Anti-racism demands frank discourse, active listening, and reflection. None of that can take place if we cannot clearly define the problems we face. – Candice Elam, Nurse, New Jersey
  • Our culture is not the antithesis of Islam. We do not come from broken homes. Umm Layyan Zainab, Mental Health Counselor/Recovery Specialist, Brooklyn, New York
Our culture is not the antithesis of Islam. We do not come from broken homes. – Umm Layyan Zainab, Mental Health Counselor/Recovery Specialist, Brooklyn, New YorkClick To Tweet
  • We are not your religious underlings. Many foreigners, especially Arabs and Indo-Paks, feel as though they have religious and cultural superiority over us. Just to list a few reasons they may feel this way: Firstly, they never really took the time out to learn and understand the history of oppression the indigenous people have been going through for over 500 years. But when it comes to them and their people back home, it is a top priority and the world must hear about the tears of the people of Palestine, Yemen, etc. This mentality is counterproductive to our religion of Islam because our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a mercy to mankind, not just one nation, but all nations. Secondly, we are viewed as guests in their religion so, therefore, we should follow and adhere to their way, like somehow, we lack the ability and capability to understand and apply the teachings of Islam. I have always said that the slave master said we were 1/3 of a human, but now in the eyes of some Muslim foreigners, we are 1/3 of a Muslim. Our shahadahs are not truly recognized in their eyes. Thirdly, I believe some foreigners have the disease of racism in their hearts and it is present in their own countries towards dark-skinned people. What I am saying is based on what I and others have experienced. Abu Taahir Jalal, Islamic teacher/Youth Advocate/Mental Health Coach, Yonkers, New York
  • One thing I would like non-black Muslims to know is that not all African Americans are the same.  We have differences in culture depending where we are from.  I grew up in the Midwest. Our culture is vastly different from those who grew up in the South compared to those who grew up in the North. Then you have those who are Muslim compared to those who are not.  Lifestyles are different.  People do not realize this. – Zaneta Trent, Homeschooler/Health Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
  • All Black Muslims are not African American. There are also Afro-Latinos, Caribbean Muslims, etc. Halleemah Munoz, Educator, Atlanta, Georgia
All Black Muslims are not African American. There are also Afro-Latinos, Caribbean Muslims, etc. Halleemah Munoz, Educator, Atlanta, GeorgiaClick To Tweet
  • I would like the immigrant and/or non-Autochthonous Muslim community to understand that the Indigenous/Autochthonous “Black American” community facilitated the changes in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization laws through the Civil Rights Movement and we are the reason why your family was able to immigrate and prosper here. Therefore, we should be acknowledged and respected for our struggle for equality that led to your presence. Additionally, you need to understand that your opportunities here lie solely on the U.S.’s agenda to make us a permanent bottom caste and to deny our right to equal opportunity, reparations for chattel slavery and upwardly mobility. This is called the racial wealth gap inequality where, through structural racism, we have been denied equal opportunity and access to wealth accumulation and resources. Please do not conflate our poverty with lack of drive, lack of self-determination, laziness, or apathy. Please do not believe that we are criminals and vagabonds. On the contrary, we built this country and through our blood, sweat, tears, struggle, and resistance, you have benefitted. – Elenia Norman, disabled, former Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
  • All black Muslims are not converts/reverts to Islam. – Shareefa Carrion, Designer/Entrepreneur, Atlanta, Georgia Designer/Entrepreneur
  • We did not become, and we do not remain Muslim to switch slave-masters. We do not “convert to Islam in jail/prison en masse.” We do not aspire to be Middle Eastern/Arab, Desi, African, Asian, etc. via our religious adherence to al-Islam. We support #Blacklivesmatter. – Gareth Bryant, Chaplain, Muslim Afro-American, New York
  • I want all Muslims, and people in general, to know and understand that Islam and Muslims are not “new” or “foreign” to America. In fact, Muslims have been in America since BEFORE it was even a nation by way of over 400 years of the African Slave Trade. Some scholars have estimated that between 30%-40% of the Africans brought to this country were Muslim. Slave traders actually identified those who were Muslims and sold them for higher prices because they were educated. Therefore, African American Muslims were the first Muslims in the United States of America. So, there are African American Muslims who have been Muslim for generations here. Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • Another thing we would like everyone to know and understand: Just because we are African American, and not from a “Muslim country,” do not assume we know nothing about Islam. Do not think that our knowledge is somehow “less than” someone from a “Muslim country” or that of our Arab and southeast Asian brothers and sisters. Many of us are well educated in Islam; many times even more so. Especially when it comes to areas of how to navigate being Muslim in America. We are way more equipped to answer these questions than someone coming from outside who does not understand the subtle ins-and-outs of this country, its laws or its history. The majority of African American Muslims, mainly those of us who have slave-trade ancestry (not with an African homeland e.g. Nigerian, Somalian etc.), don’t get caught up and lost in semantics, culture and traditions considering the Quran and Hadith. Therefore, we take the message as it is. Islam is Islam period. No cultural or traditional baggage attached. No matter what time you live in whether it is 6th century, present, or future.  Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • We are not new to Islam. Our ancestors were the vanguard of Islam in the Americas, starting with the Spanish occupations of the Caribbean in the 1500’s to the mass exodus of African Americans into Sunni Islam in the 70’s due to the influence of Islamic leaders such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, W. Deen Muhammad, and even members of the Black panthers. Abu Yazid Dumas, IT Tech, student of religious studies, Detroit, Michigan
We are not new to Islam. Our ancestors were the vanguard of Islam in the Americas, starting with the Spanish occupations of the Caribbean in the 1500’s to the mass exodus of African Americans into Sunni Islam in the 70’s due to the influence of Islamic leaders such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, W. Deen Muhammad, and even members of the Black panthers. Abu Yazid Dumas, IT Tech, student of religious studies, Detroit, MichiganClick To Tweet
  • I want people to know that Whites, Pakistanis, Indians, and Arabs do NOT speak for me as a Black American Muslim Woman. I have my own voice. WE have our own voices. Furthermore, I am tired of news outlets and reporters thinking that THE ABOVE ETHNIC GROUPS, especially Arabs, Pakistanis, and Indians are the ONLY voices of Islam. Moreover, NOT every Black American MUSLIM embraced Islam via the Nation of Islam or the Warith Al-Deen community. Barbara L., Islamic & ESL/EFL Teacher, Chapman University Graduate Student, Anaheim Hills, California
  • If you are truly sincere about helping in the battle against oppression in this world (and only Allah knows the hearts of His servants), I’ll say this: Whatever you do, understand that truly standing up against oppression has two battlegrounds. your internal world, and your external world. There is no standing up for justice in the truest sense without both of these aspects working together, and simultaneously—at all times. This is true for all social justice work, anti-racism or otherwise, and it is true irrespective of your “work experience” and ethnic background. If a single one of us—whether Black or non-Black, privileged or underprivileged—subtracts any one of these two components in our fight against oppression, then our efforts are false, insincere, or steeped in harmful self-deception. There really is no exception to this rule. Not a single one. This rule applies to every ethnic group, even amongst those who are underprivileged and oppressed, but it applies most especially to those who are benefiting from the system of oppression, even if they wish to live in self-denial about this. Umm Zakiyyah, Author/Educator, Baltimore, Maryland (Read more about how you can help fight oppression and anti-blackness in “First, Remove the Chains from Your Heart” on her blog: uzauthor.com)
  • Because our people were once enslaved, does not make us “less than” and somehow not worthy of marrying your son or daughter. Which, unfortunately, is how many of our other immigrant “Muslim brothers and sisters” view and treat us. Many of our Muslim “Brothers and Sisters” need to go back and read the last sermon of our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAWS) where he touches on many points, one of which is race relations, where he says plainly, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab…a white person has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” (Agreed upon) Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • As Autochthonous American Muslims, we deserve respect because our struggle has carved out a space for you among a predominantly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christian hegemony that would otherwise reject your Muslim immigrant identity. Join us now in the fight against anti-Black racism, anti-Muslim bigotry, White Supremacy, and Imperialism. Help us reach White Americans in the academic and medical institutions we have been locked out of with the message of la ilaha illallah instead of choosing the decadence of wealth acquisition, suburban comfort, and cozy seating  at the banquet table of White Supremacy. – Elenia Norman, disabled, former Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
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According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, non-Hispanic or mixed-race black people accounted for 20% of the Muslim population in the United States, meaning 1 in every 5 Muslims is Black, and that is not counting Afro-Latinos or Americans of mixed-race backgrounds. Just a little under half of that 20% are converts to Islam, and this also highlights the obvious fact that Black Muslims are not newcomers to our communities. In fact, they are pioneers who have been here since before the establishment of this country and paved the way for immigrant Muslims to migrate here to settle and build Islamic centers and schools. To deny our brothers and sisters fair treatment, companionship, or support based on the color of their skin is delusional and self-destructive.

If we are not pained and haunted by the images of African American victims of police brutality and hate crimes, then we need to take a long look in the mirror and really check ourselves. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, clearly defined true brotherhood when he stated, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Right now, we should all be breathless, we should all be restless. Until anti-Blackness is eradicated from our own families and communities, we should not feel comfortable to worship freely and go on about our lives. We may not be able to extinguish the ugly flames of racism worldwide, but we can start with ourselves.

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#Life

Drowning In Bottles: My Muslim Story Of Addiction And Substance Use Disorder

Karen Kaiser

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I want to talk about a topic that I haven’t been able to discuss openly for most of my adult life; alcohol addiction and acute substance use disorder. I’m an African American Muslim and I grew up in the Washington, DC area. My intention is mainly to discuss my alcoholism, how it began, why I felt so secretive, and how I pulled myself out of it. I want this to be a source of strength and support for others like me who may feel hopeless or helpless in the face of such a situation.

I was addicted to alcohol. It wasn’t because I liked drinking, it’s because being drunk made me forget the things that made me sad and anxious. I drank to calm my nerves in social situations or because I didn’t know how to say ‘no.’ Or maybe because I felt I couldn’t say no. Additionally, if I became embarrassed in public or anything, drinking was my way out. Right before you lose your balance and your inhibitions, being intoxicated is like being at a carnival. 

When I was drinking, my tongue was looser and my jokes funnier. I was the life of the party. I sucked up the oxygen in the room until there wasn’t anymore. And then I kept going. It’s as though my stomach was bottomless. I drank until a trapdoor opened and all the contents of my stomach dropped out onto the floor; along with the bile and my guts. It’s a painful experience. But then, so is alcoholism. 

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I remember taking sips of my parents’ wine from their glasses at holiday parties as a teen, feeling like I was doing something wrong, but excited at the same time. I loved holding my father’s mugs and thinking I was as adult as he was. 

He kept his liquor in a cabinet on our entertainment center, right above his records. The cabinet made a creaking sound when you opened it. The pull of alcohol was really strong. I liked how it made me feel and how it numbed my emotions. I felt ashamed that I was taking something that didn’t belong to me; something I didn’t have permission to consume. But regardless, it became a routine. 

Beginning in 9th grade, I often slept through my classes, because of poor mental health and exhaustion. Even as an athlete, I felt rundown on a constant basis. I later found out I have excessive daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy. It took years of tests to receive a proper diagnosis but by then, my life had been so disrupted by sleeping that I’d become severely overwhelmed. This caused me to feel worse about myself. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I drank as a result of how I perceived my health status. Drinking was my escape. 

There were a few times where I got blackout drunk. This kind of thing started in my third year of high school. I wanted to numb my feelings and feel happy, but I’d drink too fast and too much. I’d consume alcohol until I got physically ill. Drinking like that is extremely dangerous. I realize now that I was passively suicidal and severely depressed. I was also dealing with many impulsive behaviors and had no safety net. 

At my mom’s house I used to collect bottles of beer in large plastic trash bags in my room. I was ashamed for anyone to discover I was drinking, so I hid it. I’d finish a six-pack and shove the empty bottles into the bag hoping that somehow hid my ‘crime’. Eventually when the bag got too full, I’d sneak outside when no one was looking and stash it in the trash can. I got tired of that routine and I got tired of thinking people would find out. Sometimes I’d keep the bags in my room. I would hoard 3 and 4 bags of bottles at a time. I was drowning in my alcohol addiction. I couldn’t see my way out. 

By college, my narcolepsy got much more debilitating. It was exacerbated by bipolar depression, anxiety and my response to trauma. I was bullied so much throughout childhood that my self-esteem suffered. No one knew how much I hated myself, and they didn’t know I had been molested and sexually assaulted at least three times in my life. My mom suspected something, but wasn’t sure who the culprit was. I couldn’t talk to my father or other family members because I was too shy and introverted; though my father was always supportive. So I drank to hide my pain.  

During beach week I drank until I passed out, but before I blacked out, I went canoeing at midnight. I could have fallen overboard. I want this to be a lesson for my kids and other youth. When I woke up, there was so much vomit on my shirt and on my face. I was crying. My friends said they couldn’t stop me from getting sick and they didn’t know what to do. They tried turning me over during the night, but I still woke up on my back. 

What they don’t tell you about an alcohol overdose is that it hurts. By that I mean it’s physically painful. It’s as if you can feel your cells shrinking, trying to get away from the poison of the alcohol. I’ve felt this too many times to count. When you OD or have alcohol poisoning you first feel really bad, like something is going to happen. It’s an aura, of sorts. You know you went too far with the drinking, and you wish you could take it back. 

But it’s too late at that point. You feel queasy and you start sweating. You feel hot and dizzy. Your skin gets clammy too; first your hands, your upper lip, and then the rest of your skin. You start to experience a cold sweat even if you’re hot. Then your stomach starts to hurt. Like all the way at the bottom. You realize the vomiting is inevitable.

It took me two days to fully recover and sober up. My parents didn’t know where I was or who I was with. I’ve never felt that awful before. Unfortunately, even after that, I still drank. This cycle is how substance use disorder and addiction work, and it’s deadly. I went through this painful ordeal many more times in college and even afterwards, subhanAllah. 

I always found a liquor store or a beer and wine place wherever I lived. I knew exactly where to go and what time they closed depending on what part of the area I was in. You become a slave to your addiction. People think you’re a low life or you’re just a bad person if you drink. They think you have poor character and that your parents raised you wrong. I hate that mentality. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t a character issue. It’s about trauma and a lack of proper coping skills. It’s about connection, and for some of us it’s also about impulsivity and self-will. And an underlying mental illness makes things more complicated. 

Religious Conversion

I was 21 years old when I converted to Islam. I felt as though I didn’t have anyone to turn to in order to share my past. I was scared that people would find out how chaotic my life had been, so I didn’t tell them anything. That left me feeling like I couldn’t trust anyone in my Muslim circles early on. 

I think this was irresponsible, even if unintentional. I think I should have been counseled by a licensed therapist and Imam, screened for mental health concerns and substance use disorders, and formally welcomed to a community.Click To Tweet

When I converted, people told me to forget my old life. They said it wasn’t necessary to think about what had happened and that Allah had forgiven my past mistakes, but nobody asked me if I had any trauma, addictions,or  mental health issues. I think this was irresponsible, even if unintentional. I think I should have been counseled by a licensed therapist and Imam, screened for mental health concerns and substance use disorders, and formally welcomed to a community. And furthermore, I should have been guided in what to do if I developed any of these issues subsequently. That would have been ideal anyway. 

Since none of that happened, I ended up trying to quit alcohol cold turkey, several times, and trying to manage my addictions and substance use issues without professional help. I tried to hide my trauma and anxiety and was not forthcoming with clinicians when I did finally find them. This was dangerous and proved almost deadly to me on multiple occasions. 

I thought quitting cold turkey was best for me and my Iman. For some reason, I thought Islam distinguished me from other addicts because I’d only ever heard of recovery from a Christian perspective. 

I remember my first Ramadan when I was in college. I stopped drinking so I could pray and fast, but I didn’t have guidance, so I didn’t know how to taper and pray as a dry alcoholic. I’d go back and forth, wrestling with my alcohol addiction. I’d stopped going to parties of course, but memories of the alcohol kept attacking my psyche. I still had strong cravings and some withdrawal symptoms. It was so hard to put the bottle down, metaphorically speaking. Sometimes, I’d make a mistake and take a drink. 

When I met my future husband, I’d pushed all this down and forgotten it happened. I’d repressed memories of the abuse, my visits to the psychiatrist, my sexual assaults, the alcoholism, and so on. Anything I did remember, I kept to myself out of fear of judgment and shame. We didn’t have marital counseling; in fact, it wasn’t even recommended to us. At that time, there was no counseling center at the masjid, and of course, no place to discuss addictions or alcoholism. My marriage was set up to fail, in a way. 

Going Without Alcohol 

The first few Ramadan’s were peaceful for me. I forgot my old life and never told anyone about my addictions. I didn’t seem to need any additional support. I was in a kind of mental health remission, but then I had my son and it triggered something in me. The stress exacerbated my symptoms and my addiction resurfaced. 

I had kids back to back, every two years. The hormones and stress of being a new mother made my bipolar disorder and anxiety return with a vengeance. I developed poor coping skills as a result. I wanted to drink, but couldn’t. I wished I had told someone that I’d been a heavy drinker in college, so I’d know what to do. When my midwives asked me about alcohol and substance use, I wasn’t honest. I also didn’t remember or realize the importance of the emotional issues I was dealing with. 

I found other ways to soothe my pain and anxiety. When my husband wasn’t home, if there were pills in the house, regardless if they were mine or not, I’d take them. I was right back into my addictive behaviors before I knew it. I didn’t know how to reach out for help. I realized later I was substituting one addiction for another. So quitting alcohol cold turkey, without a support system, didn’t do anything positive for me at all. I began to use my husband’s work tools to cut myself, resorting to a teenage coping mechanism I used to employ. Self-harm was something I indulged in when I needed help managing tough situations. I’d cut, scratch my face, wring my hands, wrap things around my neck, injure my limbs, or re-injure them. I did anything to feel pain or hurt myself. I still have scars on both arms.

This morning, I opened my nightstand drawers. They were a mess. I had pill bottles everywhere and drugstore receipts. I found a few loose trileptal pills (for mood regulation) too. Tops to empty bottles. Nail clippers. Trash galore. This is also a part of my addiction. It’s called hoarding and ocd. It’s a part of my ADHD and anxiety disorder, and it’s representative of my hectic life. I don’t drink anymore, but I’m disorganized. So I bought a lockbox, a pill minder, and pill pouches to organize things and it helped. 

I still have a long way to go though. I don’t know how to take my meds properly, therefore my behavior still mimics addiction. I have the lockbox, but I don’t yet use it properly. I can’t figure out how to tell my doctors I need help with this entire process. I want to make a difference for others, and I wish I’d met someone like me along the way. I wish I’d been to a place like the women’s shelter I was at in Texas much sooner. What I miss about that area is someone coming to my room and asking me to go to a meeting. It was such a nice feeling. 

Funny enough, when I was in Senegal, it felt much the same way. My family members would come to my door to give me attaya (Senegalese tea) or something. It’s about camaraderie and connection. 

People often tell someone like me to reach out for help when we’re struggling with mental ill health or having an addiction problem. Often hotline numbers are passed around as well. This is helpful, but only to a point. The person who is in need isn’t always ready or able to ask for help when they need it the most. And the people who need to help don’t always know instinctively to reach out to their loved ones and check on them without prompting. This causes a disconnect. Maybe instead of all of us simply saying “reach out” to one another and “take care of your mental health,” we can direct these phrases and make them more meaningful. We can explain how we want people to connect with one another, that way we’re working on community building skills and creating better experiences. 

They say addiction stems from a lack of connections. I’m noticing throughout my narrative, that what I’m often missing is a connection to family and friends, and a lack of a genuine connection with myself and to Allah. 

When my iman is higher, I don’t want to drink or give in to my addictions. My impulse control issues, even if they do come up, are easier to manage, and I’m less apt to reject help than when my iman is lower. When I’m away from my deen, though, this isn’t the case. 

It’s summertime as I’m writing this and getting pretty hot. I live close to two alcohol establishments. I don’t feel compelled to buy anything at the moment. But in the past I would have. I would have been so tempted to go grab an alcoholic beverage. I wouldn’t have been able to control my cravings. At times like this, it feels like my veins are reaching for the haram, day and night. I can feel it like I feel my heartbeat. It calls to me. 

With alcohol, I’ve experienced acute intoxication, extreme drunkenness and poisoning. I don’t like to think about how many times I’ve had alcohol poisoning because my behavior was so self-sabotaging.. Hopefully now I’m taking much better care of myself. And I don’t have the need to tempt fate or see how much punishment my body can handle.

Overdosing hurts. And I’m never sure if the last time will be my “last time”. I don’t want to keep thumbing my nose at Allah’s mercy without realizing how many times I’ve been saved before. 

When I notice a craving, I think back to the mindfulness steps I learned in therapy. Though a trigger can produce powerful results, I’m often able to get control quickly. Depending on where I am, I’ll sit down and meditate for a few minutes and notice my breathing and my body. I’ll sometimes close my eyes and just try to focus my attention on what may have happened to bring about the feeling of anxiety in that moment. By then, the craving has usually passed and I feel better. If not, I take steps to alleviate it. Thankfully I have a good community with whom I feel safe and comfortable and I can communicate when my needs properly. And I have a mentor who always reminds me about my prayer. This helps tremendously. 

I don’t think about drinking alcohol much anymore. By this, I mean I don’t fantasize about drinking when I’m alone. But sometimes when I’m out, I do get tempted. I don’t know what to do in those moments and sometimes I get nervous. The idea of getting drunk makes my stomach turn in knots, but when I pass a liquor store, I do check to see if it’s open. If I see the window sign flashing, my heart pounds. I actually feel butterflies in my stomach. I wonder if I’ll get the urge to go inside. 

I wouldn’t want people to see me walk into a liquor store as a Muslim and as a muhajjaba. So I think about altering my appearance. I’m sure people think that means I unequivocally know right from wrong, I sometimes do. But what they’re missing is the impulsivity and the compulsive disorder outside of my control, with mania and psychosis both significantly altering perception and judgment. You cannot consent to anything in those kinds of conditions. 

The first khutbah I ever heard was about depression and anxiety disorder. The Imam said if you need to take medication to stabilize your brain, you should feel free to do so. I enjoyed that lesson. But I didn’t think much about it at the time. I moved on with my life as a Muslim and forgot his words of wisdom. Years later, I remembered that sermon and regretted I hadn’t taken heed much sooner. Remembering that  khutbah might have saved me from heartache and turmoil. 

I want others in this situation to know it’s ok to embrace your feelings and own your relationship with alcoholism. It helps me keep going when I remember Allah’s mercy and ask my friends for help. A sober network can also be helpful. My long-term goal is to be a successful mentor for those with substance use disorders in our communities, particularly the youth and anyone dealing with trauma/anxiety.

Having Islamic resources for Muslims with addiction issues is important, because faith and spirituality can connect directly with recovery. I would like people to know that alcoholism is a lifelong illness which can affect people of any age. Someone can be an occasional drinker, a binge drinker or only indulge in social settings. As Muslims we need to educate ourselves about this issue and make sure those who need support feel safe to reach out to us.

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