The options to drive you away from the masjid are many, it’s simply a matter of picking your poison. I move around a lot and I’ve seen many of the social-media shared gripes up close and personal. I’ve seen masjids where:
- Kids are welcome to riot during the salah, and kids are unwelcome to make a peep.
- Partitions are the source of power struggles and partitions are accepted with no complaint (and preferred by sisters).
- Masjid boards are elected yearly and masjid boards are set for life
- The community is small and people pray and leave, as well as pray and socialize.
- The community is small and everyone knows you and you feel closeness and togetherness, and the community is small and one wrong action blacklists you for life (btw, in the same community where you feel closeness and togetherness).
- Women are welcome, women are not welcome, and leaders think they are accommodating women and don’t realize they’re not.
- The people attending the prayers are gentle and wise, and people attending the prayers are harsh and narrow-minded.
- Fundraising never ends (I think that’s pretty much all of them), and funds raised are badly mismanaged.
This is just a small sampling, there’s no doubt more can be added to the list, and many masjids will have not just one of these problems, but a number of them. I realize that many come to the masjid to re-connect with the community, to get knowledge of the religion, and more, but these problems can cause what I like to call Masjid Community Fatigue ™. What follows is my own approach to Masjid Community Fatigue ™.
It’s All About Worshiping Allah (SWT)
Often times when inviting less-than-practicing friends to the masjid, the response was, “I don’t want to be like those masjid hypocrites,” meaning the people who come to pray, but may have attitude issues, or perhaps show a face of religion within the community and another one outside of it.
If the reason someone is not coming to the masjid is because of the community, I have news for them – no matter how pious a person is, he is human at the end of the day and will make mistakes, even the imam. No matter who your masjid board is, they’re human. No matter who is standing in line with you, he’s imperfect and will not meet your ideal muslim. You likely don’t make the cut in someone else’s mind either.
If we stop attending the masjid because of the flaws of others, then we’ll always have a reason not to attend. When I attend the masjid, it is to re-connect with Allah (SWT) despite whatever irksome surrounding issues exist in the community. At a minimum, I like to just get in, pray, and get out. If the community has peculiarities I don’t agree with, I really don’t care, I’m flexible and I simply adapt. As an example, my first and favorite masjid community experience was in West Lafayette, Indiana, a relatively small campus community with a diverse ethnic profile due to the student population. Kids could run wild there, and for the most part, no one complained.
When I moved to Chicago, I found the ethnically Arab masjids more accommodating to this type of atmosphere, whereas I found the ethnically desi (indo / pak / bangladeshi) masjids to be strict about keeping the masjid quiet at all times (except for Qur’an memorization). Yes, I was and remain irritated at the latter approach, especially since I have 3 young children whom I want at the masjid.
At the same time, I’m there to worship Allah, and being able to do that with little opposition is more important than standing up and protesting this cultural difference. There are many ways to make children attached to Allah (SWT) and our faith, and the masjid isn’t a requirement. I myself spent 18 years almost never attending a masjid or Sunday school, so I know it can be done – I’ll simply look for an alternative method until they’re mature enough to not run around. This brings me to my second point.
Take Responsibility and Find a Way Through
In many communities, the facilities and accommodations fall short, particularly for sisters. Many of the people who built our communities came from areas where women had almost no accommodation. I know many of these brothers (and even some sisters) have no concept or reference point to really understand what is being asked of them, whether it’s with respect to amenities in the masjid facility or bringing children to the masjid so that mothers can attend Tarawih occasionally.
If you want something in your community, then either take responsibility to make it happen or be content with what you have. If you want to change the board, gather as many people as you can sympathetic to your views, pay the membership dues, and vote in the people you prefer and vote out those you don’t like. Make sure to keep your membership count high thereafter. This is not theoretical, I’ve done it myself when I felt the need was there. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done.
If you can’t accommodate some activity at the masjid, then find a venue outside of it. For example, if a group sisters wants a weekly group halaqa and there’s no good imam in the community, set up a virtual online program with an imam or teacher of your choosing, invite the sisters to the best home, pool money together for a babysitter (in the worst case where your husbands are too manly (or incompetent) to watch their own kids), and make it happen.
My own personal criteria in determining a course of action is simple – how can I accomplish my goal while causing the least amount of fighting in the community? How can I work within the rules and the cultural nuances to bring about my objectives? And if I can’t, is there a way for me to do it outside of the community?
No one is perfect, not the people in the community, and certainly not ourselves either. If we’re leaving the masjid because people aren’t perfect or to our expectations, we’re missing the point altogether. The point of the masjid is, at a minimum, to get in and worship Allah. I would advise people irrespective of what community they find themselves in that they be flexible and try to work within the system to bring about change, and if they cannot do that, they should still keep coming and praying as much as they can while taking initiative and finding other means to accomplish their spiritual goals. Don’t let anger at others and needing to make a point via confrontation or social media whining be your calling card. Instead, let it be positive solutions and activities that carry you and others forward.