By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
In Southern California, during the last 15 years, in a radius of 3 miles four masajid have sprung at a cost of at least $5 million. Most of them remain empty most of the time and when they are frequented by Muslims in large numbers it is for either the Friday prayers or education of their children, or funeral get together or dinner in memory of some one. Sometimes lectures are offered, but the number of those attending can be counted in fingers. Masajid have yet to offer dynamic to galvanize the community and attract people to its programs and functions.
There are several reasons for the lack of involvement of people. One of the reasons is the way the Masajid are run by organizers. We have different type of models of mosque ownership. Even though all the masajid are built with donation from people but the pattern of ownership reveals their inherent weakness to attract people in general.
1. Mosques donated by people but run by an individual or a family.
2. Mosques donated by people but run by a religious party or group
3. Mosques donated by people but run by an ethnic group
4. Mosques donated by outside religious entities and run by the followers of that entity.
5. Mosques built and run by an individual or a family
There are no standards by laws for the mosque. No one has ever attempted to draw by laws that demonstrated the spirit and dynamism of Islam, Most of the by laws are designed to ensure that the power stays in the hands of those who are controlling the management. The by laws are amended to suit the interests of those controlling power. If it suits them to cancel election, they do so, if it suits them to have election they do so.
By and large, there are not many Masajid and Islamic centers that can claim that their rule and by-laws are not designed to help a particular group of people to lose their grip.
Ironically, this kind of mechanism is played with an institution that is established in the name of the Creator, God, the source of all guidance. The very fact that most of these religious institutions are irrelevant to the needs of the people speak volumes of the divine relations with them.
In other words, most masajid serve the interest of particular group. They are like shops and businesses and their attitude is not different than usual shopkeepers. This is our shop and if you want to come here play our rules, otherwise get out.
Islam offers a different style and functionality than what is being offered. First of all, it builds any institution on the concept of God consciousness. Without being accountable to people in running affairs meant for them, one cannot be accountable to God in real honesty. Wen people manipulated behind doors and use all sorts of means to deceive ordinary people they are not honest to God or people. This is one of the most important problems that our mosque managements face. Most are not honest with people. They manipulated events. Hundreds of examples can be given to substantiate this.
Interestingly, the people involved in manipulation often claim that if they leave the board, the future of Islam will be in jeopardy. They defy the Quran in logic here. The Quran addressing the Prophet (s), the Messenger who delivered the divine message to people, said: even if you leave this world or killed, the Divine guidance would continue. Some of these people think that Islam and God depends upon them for their survival in that masjid. It is a very arrogant claim and obviously, if everyone start thinking this way, there would be no place for any change.
The cruz of the matter is that what is happening in most of our masajid is not demonstrative of Islam. It needs to be changed to serve Allah and His creation better.
The only way is to develop a model based on the values of the Qurn and the life of the Prophet (s) as substantiated by the Quran. Without that it is almost impossible to think of any other ways of bringing about effective chanages.