The Decline of American Muslim Indigenous Communities, Part 1.

Here are the facts; 80% of American Muslim converts are African American, and African Americans are dead last in virtually every socio-economic category that measures well being; unemployment, access to health care, illiteracy, education, single parent households, broken families, incarceration rates, diabetes, hypertension, home ownership, and infant mortality, and the list goes on and on.
Indigenous African Americans have been converting to Islam for decades ; however, the phenomena of massive and continious conversion amongst African Americans to Islam has not  evolved generationally into indigenous Muslim families, extended families or home grown institutions that reflect our faith and it’s principles, and serve the best interests of the new Muslim .
Why is this important? Well, it matters because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims evolve within the family, the moral and religious values of Islam takes hold and are reinforced within the family unit and the extended family.
It’s one thing when a person is the only Muslim in their family, and becomes the odd man out at family functions, and must deal with the issues of doctrine, values, diet, and holidays while being the only believer. It’s something entirely different when a child grows up and not only are their parents muslim; but so are their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their cousins, their siblings, and even their great-grandparents. This will not make it a perfect world or a perfect family. However, it will help ensure that the values of tawheed , proper guidiance, islamic lifestyle, good upbringing will be preserved in the family. It also lays the foundation that helps to reinstate the notion of clan and tribe into the indigenous American Muslim family dynamic.
Families, tribes and clans are the natural order upon which Allah has assembled human beings;”Oh mankind , verily We have created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes in order to know one another” .
A great number of indigenous american muslim converts to islam are not making it to the next generation. The religion and value system of islam is not being passed on and subsequently,  new converts are having to reinvent the wheel over and over again . We will never be able to effectively address our  condition unless we prioritize strengthening these two essential elements that  contribute to the healthy practice and preservation of deen ; family , and community . Muslim families are important because they are the building blocks of society, and it is where the generational flow of
Islam occurs. When muslim communities fail, the family will still prevail. The muslim  family is a community by itself, and nurtured a sense of belonging, and identity. For many converts to islam, there is an expectation that they will find a family, community  and a sense of belonging amongst their new found co-religionists. in other words;  a spiritual support system. When that doesn’t happen , their is an almost immediate disconnect and disorientation coupled with isolation  . This leaves the new Muslim in a very weakened state. The weakened and isolated condition of many converts contribute to Islam not taking hold and moving on to the next generation. Thus when you enter many masaajid populated by indigenous American Muslims, it is either full of older people, or full of young converts starting from scratch.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad 12/21/2010

22 responses to “The Decline of American Muslim Indigenous Communities, Part 1.”

  1. Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer Avatar
    Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer

    As salaamu alaikum.

    Thank you, Imam, for another very well written document. What you have pointed out regarding the deficits of the African American community and the impact of conversion on the African American Muslim community is a very important. And one in which the dots are not well connected. The psychic disruption and long term trauma of slavery combined with the continued effects of discrimination, racism and social abuse has created a community largely ignorant and paralyzed. While Islam can provide the path to reformation and prosperity, it is not an instantaneous event, but rather a slow process. Much of social change occurs by dynamic leadership engaging individuals with interest and intellect identifying and modeling the change desired with fidelity and ethical fortitude. Basically, we have to shown how to do better by those who know. Unfortunately, as you know, so much of our leadership talks about how bad things are, and espousing what should be done and very little time actually taking action to do it. Our people must be shown especially, as you have pointed out, there are so many short comings from which the African American Muslim is emerging. Of course, we have the examples to follow in looking at how the Muslim community of Medina was established, and again there was leadership that established the method of improvement. Now, like then, literacy plays a huge part of advancing a community. Literacy influences thinking as horizons and perspectives are broaden. So many of our people are illiterate and therefore are dependent on the spoken and demonstrated way.

    I pray that the movement to improve the lives of Muslim community expands beyond the chastising rhetoric to demonstrating leadership by the example of movement.


  2. As-Salaamu ‘alaykum Imam Luqman. You have drawn our attention to some disparaging numbers and statistics. As a native of Philadelphia, you are all too familiar with these realities. The question is, when is Muslim leadership in Philadelphia and points beyond – and here I mean Blackamerican Muslim leadership – going to address these disparities? As we spoke when you were here, so much of the indigenous imagination has been colonized by a make believe Islam, an Islam that has never really existed anywhere, and in doing so, has syphoned off an incredible amount of our creative energy. We no longer look to solve our existential crises with Islam, but instead, actually seek to perpetuate them in the name of Islam. We lack faith in ourselves: We’ve come to doubt blackness and Americaness as equally viable contenders to the authenticity of Islam. It will require, as Dr. Jackson said, a paradigm shift, though without a pair-of-dimes to rub together (a la your aforementioned “socio-economic” discrepancy), that shift is going to remain aloof and unobtainable.

    Again, I point to the same question: What occupies our imagination as a group? It is not attacking truancy, it is not attacking joblessness, it is not attacking a moral contrariness on a social level; it is none of these. It is occupied instead with putting all efforts into hyper-individualistic attempts to gain a short cut path to glory: “I don’t have to address any of my personal and social ills to be a Muslim, I’ll just put on a special costume and voilá!, I’m a bona fide Muslim!” We have become so deficit in our self-esteem that we are desperate to cling to that which will provide us a sense of identity. What is most even more tragic is that these feelings are not blameless; to the opposite, they’re quite natural. As a people who had their languages, their cultures, their religions, their histories taken from them, while being kept in the status of an irrevocable “other”, it is no wonder that so many of us sought an identity-based redemption in Islam. I do believe that there is something comprehensively holistic in Islam for us (and for all people for that matter), but when identity trumps devotion, when identity becomes a tool to coerce an articulation of Islam that is, as a first priority, pleasing to our nafs, and not as an effort to please God, then we wind up with what we have today: The verge of a secularized, nihilistic bastardization of Islam. The blowback from this is the continued descent into existential oblivion.

    When we look at the immigrant Muslim community, we can see that they too are fraught with challenges. However, the one thing that works in their favor is the family unit. While not a not a monolith and all discrepancies withstanding, immigrant Muslims succeed in the areas we do not primarily because of their family units and how that unit functions as a safety for members of the family. Their families have stigmas which demand a certain amount of appeasement on the part of all family members. This is not to foist immigrant Muslims up as the paragon of Muslim family achievement, but there are many important lessons that might be learned; from them, and from other religious and ethnic communities as well. Until we demand the best from amongst our own families, we will continue to produce the same results, albeit, on a downward slope.

    In a recent set of notes from a gathering of various Muslim scholars about Muslim life in America, one of the under riding themes was that of loneliness and isolation. There are so many Muslims who long for a healthy community life as well as a healthy private life. We can see now that our numbers for divorce are coming into line with those of the dominant culture. We are coming to see that while we are Muslim, we are not immune to the effects of modernity, of which one of its primary characteristics is loneliness and isolation. This is not simply backwash of what’s in the drinking water; it is a byproduct of modernity’s mechanisms: They churn night and day to produce human beings, who at the cost of all else, become individuals. We see this manifested in our pop culture, which relishes and rewards “the rebel”, the “cowboy”, the “self-made man or woman.” Modernity is, at its heart, anti-community and anti-human. It makes of Bani Adam isolated blips on 18% grey screen, individuals floating through life, latching on to this or that object or ideology which can temporarily deaden the angst of nihilism.

    So we must strive to find a way to build not just communities, for that has become another meaningless plastic word, but lived-in communities, that raise and build and support and love!, real God-fearing, God-loving people, who strive both within and without, for God’s sake and in hope of God’s Mercy. With so many of us spread out, especially the link-minded ones, how do we begin to tackle this quandary?


    1. Ameen, brother Marc. Well said.


  3. As Salam Alaikum! Welcome back…I missed your comentary; and as usual it’s on time. When can we expect part 2 or an extended kutba version?


  4. Assalaamu alaikum, Imam!

    I must say that as a “convert” to Islam, I am rather offended by the tone of this article. It reeks of glibness and gives no credence that perhaps we (converts) ARE actually doing somethings right.

    First of all, we conscientiously embraced Islam (monotheism); at the expense (perceived or real) of alienation from our family, friends, neighbors, co workers, etc. We dare to uphold principled beliefs regardless of what those closest to us (our families) may choose to believe or not believe. Many of us are educated, literate, rational, homeowners, parents, employed with health benefits and contributing members of society. Islam was not handed to us by lineage. We were gifted with a choice-and we made a rational decision to forgo the religion and customs of our forefathers. So, if Allah wills that He skips a generation or two as we lay the foundation of truth- then so be it! His will not ours be done!

    And, oh yes, when our ‘spiritual support system’ fails we may become disorientated, isolated or subsequently weakened. In layman’s terms it may even be labeled a traumatic event, (which it usually is) and this hurts as we are all only human. Imam, it’s also very sad. Many masaajid have no problems accepting our money but when it comes time for counselling, education or guidance- well, you know…

    Yet, al hamdu’lillah yaa Rabbil alameen! during these tough times and beyond, many of us converts too, can still find a nurtured sense of belonging, grace and self worth within our respective families regardless of differences in doctrine, dress, diet, ideaology, etc. It’s called reciprocated love and respect which Islam teaches. So, a decade later into my journey, I still remain the only Muslimah in my family, the odd man out, the one whose ‘different’ and I am very proud of that! I am the voice of reason in the face of foolishness, the calm in the storm and a living example to those around me that we can strive to do better. I seek proper guidance and reform from Allah regardless of my lineage or upbringing.

    My question to you, Imam is: what wheel are we converts constantly trying to reinvent?
    And if the generations of muslim families, i.e. tribes, nations are the “building blocks of society” why are you blaming us (converts) for the present day problems? Perhaps upon closer observation, you may recognize the converts contributions, willingness, time, efforts, money and allegiance to the cause of Islam and find that everything’s not quite as grim and uneventful as you point out. We (converts) still have hope for the future generations as we continue to struggle on past the hype.

    In closing, so what if the masaajid are filled with the elders and the newbies? They may very well be the purest, best and most pleasing to Allah among us. And Allahu alim.

    to Marc Manley:
    There are so many Muslims who long for a healthy community life as well as a healthy private life. So true. So true. So true…


    1. na’m , na’m azeem- shukran.

      Subhanna Rabbiya-I-A’La


      1. Make this clear Ahab’s reply is for Aminah .


  5. Alhamdulillah! This is most valuable and credible insight from one who knows. May Allah bless you to persevere and be heard and be followed. I for one am with you.


  6. Al Hamdulillah! Thank you, Imam Luqman for contributing your effort to help the Ummah escape the epitome of denial.


  7. As salaamu alaykum, brother Luqman.

    Do you, or anyone else, know how many of these converts are male and female? My guess is a huge portion of that 80% are male, and a not insignificant number of these have had contact with the criminal justice system, if you know what I mean. Much has been written in recent years about the splintering of the blackamerican community (not that this “community” has ever been monolithic). The sad reality is that most of the converts among black americans derive from a class segment where social and economic capital is least developed, and to build the kind of enduring institutions that foster familial and communal progress aspired to in your article we need a solid middle and working class. If man cannot live on bread alone then certainly communities and families cannot be built and sustain on ideology alone.



    Very good post Luqman. What is the internal and or external motivation factor that we can implement to change our way of thinking so that our focus is on keeping islam in our hearts and in our family structure?

    May Allah grant us the good in this life and the next and may He facilitate all of our affairs. May He , Allah allow us to receive correct knowledge so that we dont become dwellers amongest the ignorant roaming the earth. ameen


  9. As Salaamu ‘Alaikum,

    I appreciate this post, as well as part two. As I understand it, the main thrust of this piece is essentially asking “How can Indigenous Muslims stick with the Deen, while maintaining a healthy relationship with the wider culture, while at the same have protection from the harmful aspects of that dominant culture?”

    Whatever the answer, it won’t be easy, nor will it occur overnight. I have been exploring this topic for quite some time, and discussing it with people of knowledge, and everyone makes simple suggestions such as arranging for ‘Umrah trips and the like, but that may not be the ‘one size fits all’ solution.

    Some solutions to this quandary may include, but are not limited to [A] Imams and Shuyookh having some training, either formal or otherwise, in areas such as marriage counseling, drug rehabilitation and the like [B] the leaderships of the Masjids, Imams and councils, should have long term thinking and[C] Adequate support.

    Muslim neighborhoods, Muslim schools, Muslim groceries, even, I dare say, entertainment that is Islamically acceptable. Admittedly, the supporters of Imam W.D. Mohammed [ Rahmatullahi ‘Alayh] have had this as an agenda for most of their history, but I tend to think that their methodology is somewhat dated [for example, you will find a love of Jazz and Blues, with even Muslim musicians, but these days, the young people don’t go for Jazz, they go for the Hip-Hop style]. So perhaps we can look at what already exists in terms of the agenda and approach of other groups [and I will even include Non-Muslims and Non Muslim immigrant communities here ] , studying their strengths and weaknesses, and formulating a detailed, step-by step approach to creating healthy, vibrant communities that can live in their local environment, while adhering to the spirit as well as the textual guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    Another idea may be to study the Muslim communities struggles in places such as England, Australia and other places as an avenue for perspective, if not answers.



  10. Abdullah Ibn Mumin Avatar
    Abdullah Ibn Mumin

    Assalaamu Alaikum!

    I’m much pleased to see that our brother Imam Luqman has put forth the effort to address some of the issues that face our communities. Too many leaders turn a blind eye to the issues of the day & would much rather romanticize about the Prophet (s.a.w.) & the “glory days” of Islam. Though I disagree with the approach (not most of the content), I am VERY THANKFUL that it has sparked some lively responses & will insha’Allah inspire some action to follow.

    I’ll get right to it. The influence of the popular media (and media in general) on our thinking can be devastating! Just the fact that we can quote every negative stat regarding African Americans & none that are necessarily positive shows that some entity has made it their business to drill home the challenges we face rather than what we have overcome. WE CAN NOT BUY INTO THIS NEGATIVE PORTRAYAL OF OUR PEOPLE! For example, here’s some stats most of us don’t know:

    Percentage of African Americans over the age of 25 in 1940 who were high school graduates: 7.7%
    Percentage of African Americans over the age of 25 in 2009 who were high school graduates: 84.2%
    (U.S. Department of Education)

    Percentage of African Americans over the age of 25 in 1940 who held a four-year college degree: 1.3%
    Percentage of African Americans over the age of 25 in 2009 who held a four-year college degree: 19.4%
    (U.S. Department of Education)

    Number of African Americans enrolled in degree granting educational institutions in 1990: 1,247,000
    Number of African Americans enrolled in degree granting educational institutions in 2008: 2,584,500
    (U.S. Department of Education)

    Percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old African Americans in 1988 who were enrolled in higher education: 21.2%
    Percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old African Americans in 2008 who were enrolled in higher education: 32.6%
    (U.S. Department of Education)

    We have made MANY gains over the years & that’s with opposition, seen & unseen. So the very 1st thing we must do BEFORE we can solve any of our collective problems is to STOP VIEWING OURSELVES IN SUCH A NEGATIVE WAY. Furthermore, we should ignore all stats that compare African Americans to Whites where financial well being play a factor. Why? because that’s like comparing the performance of a runner with a mile head start to his competition who was held down at the starting line! It’s not a fair comparison & it’ll only make the runner who was CHEATED appear to be inferior.

    In regards to the statement “A great number of indigenous american muslim converts to islam are not making it to the next generation. The religion and value system of islam is not being passed on…” If you go back a generation or 2 in any practicing Af-Am Muslim family you will find a convert who has managed to pass the deen along to his family who in turn chose to take it on for themselves. However, there are a number of Muslim countries that are full of generations of Muslims & the government is largely corrupt & the people are oppressed. So, passing along the deen in itself is not enough to secure a vibrant future for the indigenous Muslim communities.

    That being said, Islam has the answer to ALL of these problems if we actually believe & implement it. However, Allah only promises success to the Believers… not the Muslims… not African Americans… ONLY Believers. In regards to Believers, Allah promises “Allah will not leave the Believers in the state in which ye are now, until He separates what is evil from what is good…. So believe in Allah and His Messengers: and if ye believe and do right ye have a reward without measure.” (Q 3:179) The truth of the matter is that many of the people who call themselves Muslim today are not qualifying themselves to be included amongst the Believers… so accordingly, Allah “separates what is evil from what is good”. Allah is the only one who can guide & allows whom He wills to stray from the path. Our brother Malcolm X used to say that we as a people needed to clean ourselves up & get on God’s side & that only then would God intervene on our behalf & release us from oppression & suffering. Allah confirms this in the Qur’an when He says ” For those who respond to their Lord are (all) good things. But those who respond not to Him― even if they had all that is in the heavens and on earth, and as much more, (in vain) would they offer it for ransom. For them will the reckoning be terrible: their abode will be Hell― what a bed of misery!” (Q 13:18) So ultimately, if the ills of society are affecting the Muslims at comparable rates as the Non-Muslims, it demonstrates that we are not living a life much different than those who do not practice Islam.

    The main question then becomes, “If we have the superior religion preferred for mankind by All Mighty God, the most perfect guidance & superior revelation in the Qur’an, & the most excellent example of human character in the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), why are Muslims in what appears to be an inferior position around the world?”. I’ve addressed one aspect of this earlier regarding our collective actual practice of the religion but there is one other important aspect that our brother Imam Luqman pointed out. This involves an impotent practice of the deen. That is to say, we will see an increase in the influence of “foreign” entities encouraging a non-political, non-activist, non-engaging, non-cooperating, subdued, & separatist “version” of Islam. This is similar to the “Heaven will be better” Christianity that kept many African slaves from overthrowing their oppressive “masters” & changing their circumstance here on earth. The main culprit is a culture of obtaining knowledge that does not in turn DEMAND ACTION. For, the purpose of the acquisition of knowledge is ACTION.. not to merely be knowledgeable. Our Prophet (s.a.w.) did not just memorize Qur’an & teach it to his companions. He actually engaged society by settling disputes among feuding parties, engaged in business, was a political leader & so on. That is to say, his teachings were not just academic theories. He put them to work! However, all main culprits usually have a close accomplice. In this case, it’s the leadership model most of our communities employ. The “Imam runs everything” model has overwhelmingly failed our communities namely because it usually doesn’t make a provision for REMOVAL OF BAD LEADERSHIP & usually snuffs out “rival” talent within the community (which in turn leads to splinter communities & the division of talent & resources). Communities where the leadership model allows for smooth transition of leadership & decent criteria for one to become a decision maker for the community are able to survive, recover, & flourish after bad leadership. I know all this may seem like a tangent but I find it important to mention because these are all part of the circumstances that brought about some aspect of what can be considered a decline in the Af Am Muslim communities.

    However, one symptom our brother Imam Luqman observed ( “when you enter many masaajid populated by indigenous American Muslims, it is either full of older people, or full of young converts starting from scratch” ) but in my humble opinion mis-diagnosed the cause with ” The weakened and isolated condition of many converts contribute to Islam not taking hold and moving on to the next generation”. I feel I can speak on this with some level of authority because I fall into the “missing from the masaajid” group. The observance that the masaajid are largely void of the middle-aged veteran Muslims is due to 2 main factors.

    1. The masjid is NOT the place where they make their living & they’re socio-economic issues are increasingly NOT being addressed in that forum.

    2. They most often are not afforded the opportunity to demonstrate their talent & skill, are denied meaningful leadership positions, & are largely marginalized by leadership that has been in place in some cases for 20-30+ years.

    Now, I personally know of many masaajid where this is not the case. Largely, the masaajid that engage this population & take advantage of their ideas & energy are doing quite well. They are currently building community centers & schools nationwide & there are dozens of them! Alhumdulilah! However, there are far too many masaajid that take the aforementioned position. The fact that you would not make it your business to include the men & women approaching their years of full strength (40 years of age as stated in Qur’an 46:15) is absolutely ludicrous! So, what we see is the energy & strength of the Muslim community being employed & advantaged to the various entities that provide a mechanism to fulfill their goals & addresses their wants & needs. The masjid model is currently UPSIDE DOWN. What u primarily hear from the leaders of such institutions is WHAT THE MASJID NEEDS rather than how the various members of the masjid can get together to address the needs of the people ( as Sister Aminah put it, “Many masaajid have no problems accepting our money but when it comes time for counseling, education or guidance- well, you know…). A significant change in these types of communities can take place in a rather noticeably short time span if 3 things are implemented.

    1. Involve the disenfranchised talents of the middle-aged & talented (of all ages). The baton must be passed & it’s best passed while both parties are in motion. The building of thriving communities is a relay race not a single sprint. Our old & wise are needed for their guidance & wisdom, our middle-aged are needed for their strength & stability, & our youth are needed for their fearlessness & energy.

    2. Adopt a leadership model where no one party rules over the masjid. It must allow for removal of bad leadership via a board or membership that in turn has decent criteria such as attendance, zakat, etc. Intelligent & talented people of all walks of life rarely suffer fools. They’ll take their talent, resources, & skill elsewhere before they waste precious time & energy under bad leadership.

    3. Kill the negativity! This is a hard one because it’s deep rooted in the society. The evening “news” is really “all the negative events of the day”. But consider this, Allah says, “And remember! your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you; but if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Q 14:7). How can we expect Allah to bless our communities to thrive if we train our eyes to focus on the decline & decay rather than the blessings He has bestowed upon us? Our numbers have exploded, we have an increasing political presence & impact, we have institutions that have been in existence for 30+ years, we’ve added many more educated & skilled individuals to our ranks, & raised countless righteous men & women. Sure we have much more work to do but the ground work that has been laid is an abundant blessing! Allah only promises to ADD MORE FAVORS upon us if we are grateful! So, insha’Allah if we change how we view ourselves & our condition, perhaps Allah will see fit to increase His blessing upon our communities. The message the Imams & Sheikhs of the community is vital to this end. Do they encourage & uplift OR beatdown & condemn? Change the mind, change the man, change the society.

    May Allah continue to grow us in wisdom which is the proper application of knowledge. Thank you for your kind attention! Assalaamu Alaikum!!!


    1. Alaikum salaam, jazaaka Allahu khairan brother Abdullah! Subhaana Allah, I humbly accept and appreciate your comments and advice on this issue. You have made me aware of a nobler, better informed, and better suited perspective from whence we may begin to address this issue. It makes me somewhat embarrassed of my narrowmindedness and reminds me once again value of good advice and insight. As an imam, I want to work in the best interest of our community. This confirms for me just how much I’ve yet to understand about the nature of our condition, and how little I know our people. After reading your comments, I also have come to the conclusion that I had the wrong approach. Please promise me brother that you will never hesitate to offer me your advice as you have just done.Every one that visits this blog should not leave until they read your invaluable comments and perspective on the matter. You have both my respect and my gratitude. Imam luqman.


      1. Abdullah ibn Mumin Avatar
        Abdullah ibn Mumin

        ASA my brother! I humbly accept your invitation. These issues are bigger than any one of us. It’ll take collective thought & action to address them. I, for one, am again very thankful that leaders such as yourself have these issues on the radar & are giving them the much needed attention they deserve. May Allah guide & bless us all!


    2. As salaamu alaykum.

      Good points, brother Abdullah! I particularly liked your recommendation about leadership and accountability. I also share your observation that we do at times forget the progress that’s been made over the past 40 years or so, especially the expansion of the black middle class. I think “decline” is a bit of a misnomer because there really never was a “golden age” in black muslim communities to begin with.


      1. A common oversight some American Muslims make when discussimg issues relating to Imams in America, is to not look at the matter from an islamic perspective. Religious leadership in islam is not only an islamic legal necessity (daroorah shar’iyyah ), it is subject to particular rules, conditions and protocol just like any other scriptural ordinance in Islam. The first step to holding an Imam accountable is to have an Imam.
        Many if not most indigenous American Muslims are without religious leadership in the first place and it becomes a moot point to hold lmams accountable if you, yourself don’t have one. Otherwise you can go about indiscriminately criticizing this of that imam without having any real idea about his actual status or functional posture within his community. if that’s the case, we’re better of going after those individuals who do hold sway over our lives and to whom we do entrust many of our affairs, like our bankers, mortgage lenders, school boards, and even the cable company, or any other entity to which we devote time, money, resources and commitment. Many people are more commited to their cell phone carrier than they are to any Imam

        Before you can hold and imam accountable, you must first have an Imam. Even then, it ‘s not the primary duty of a Muslim to hold every Imam accountable; before that , you must first follow him in what is correct and accept his leadership. This is true in the most basic forms of imaamate, which is the imam of the house, and the imam of congregational salaat in the Masjid , and extends to every rendering of Islamic leadership imaginable; from the imam of a congregation here in the United States, which is a limited and restricted type of imaamate, to a Khalifa, which is the highest form of religious leadership after prophethood itself.
        An Imam is not accountable to you if he’s not your imam. Even if he is your imam, your first priority after followship, is to render advice. This is the sunna. Everyone is accountable to Allah first and foremost.


  11. Alhamdulillah for this needed discussion. I wish we could spread this discussion further, and reach those Imams and community members who are not aware, or not “hearing” the needs of the people.
    I want to second the need to eliminate negativity, but want to add that we also need to eliminate racial tribalism (encouraging within our Muslim communities social connectedness regardless of race), and distrust/slander. We can change, but we have to trust each other, give each other the benefit of the doubt, keep our manners. Negativity creates apathy, and leads us astray. I have seen this happen in others and in myself. We have to trust each other and give our fellow brothers and sisters the 70 excuses they deserve. We have to keep our mouths shut and not backbite. We also need a polite way to educate immigrant Muslims on racial prejudice, seriously.
    I don’t want to be angry with my community anymore. It’s not going to solve anything, and it is killing my iman.

    Trust, is another issue. If there is an known and visible committee, that can elect an Imam or engage the community in issues that would be FANTASTIC! I think this does happen in some masjids. Those that are dysfunctional are going to stay dysfunctional until there is transparency and TRUST. How can you give money when you have no idea where it goes? How can you effectively volunteer or start something needed when there is no one to work with or back you up? You have to be able to trust your Imam and any committee. It is essential. I know money is always an issue, but I think you can make a lot happen even with out it if every one is getting along and trusting each other.


  12. Brother Luqman,

    Good points about the importance of having an Imam. What I take away from Abdullah’s suggestion, however, is that we not conflate governance of the Masjid/congregation and Imam. The Imam is certainly part of the leadership equation, but what is lacking in some cases is a system of “checks and balances”. Accountability is not just about the Imam. It’s also about the Governing Board, Staff, and the entire congregation.


    1. Bashar I agree with you whole heartedly.


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