On what basis should the masjid committee members be selected?

A new masjid is being built and the brother who is in charge wants to know upon what basis should the members (the president, vice president, secretary, etc.) be selected?  Should they be selected based on financial status, trustworthiness, knowledge of dīn, ittibā’ of sunnah, etc.?  In addition, what is the proper way of election in the USA masjids?  Is the voting system the best way or should there be a Shūrā system like the Sahābah used to have?

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salaamu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullaahi wa-barakaatuh.

Indeed, it is from one’s great fortune that Allah Ta’ālā accepts him for the khidmah (service) of His religion. Allah Ta’ālā takes the work of this dīn from different people in various ways, one of which is through managing the affairs of His house, the masjid. To serve on a masjid committee is not an inherent right of any individual, as a masjid belongs to Allah Ta’ālā and is not anyone’s personal property. Rather, serving on a masjid committee is a great privilege, but this privilege comes with much responsibility, as well. Hence, it is necessary to be very selective in choosing members of the committee.

Before delving into the criteria for selection, it is essential to understand the role of the committee members. The individuals privileged to serve the Masjid are trustees, and they are trusted with managing the administrative affairs of the Masjid to the best of their abilities. Committee members cannot have any personal agenda, as this would be a betrayal of the trust. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

عن أنس بن مالك قال خطبنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال في الخطبة لا إيمان لمن لا أمانة له ولا دين لمن لا عهد له

There is no īmān for the one whom there is no trust… (Ibn Hibbān)

Masjid committee members conduct their affairs based on the Masjid constitution, which includes roles and responsibility of the members, their terms, the imam’s responsibilities, process for conflict management and resolution, and all other important policy. The Masjid may send us their constitution for review and feedback.

The following are a few qualities (in no particular order) to consider in any prospective masjid committee member:

  1. Practicing Muslim with a basic understanding of the dīn

  2. Regular attendee of daily congregational prayers

  3. Respected individual of the community

  4. Proven track record for community service

  5. Experienced in the relevant field (for e.g., a finance background for the treasurer’s position)

  6. Works well with others

  7. Respect for the imam

  8. Recognizes that the responsibility of the masjid committee is limited to administration, and that all matters related to religious affairs are the sole responsibility of the imam

The last two qualities are especially important, as a lack of them leads to friction between the imam and the committee in many masjids. The imam’s responsibility is the religious well-being of the community. He is selected based on, amongst several other characteristics, religious knowledge and leadership skills. Just as the imam should not involve himself in administrative issues, the masjid committee should not interfere in the masjid’s religious affairs.

In Islam, the proper method for making decisions is through consultation (mashwarah), and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was even ordered to adopt this method (Qur’an 3:159). Furthermore, when describing the believers, Allah Ta’ālā mentions one of their qualities as,

وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَى بَيْنَهُمْ (الشورى: 38)

And their affairs are based on mutual consultation (Qur’an: 42:38)

Hence, when it is time to elect committee members, the current members should consult with the local congregants of the masjid. The local congregants, in turn, may nominate individuals with the above mentioned qualities for different posts. The current committee members who are not running for reelection may ask the congregants to vote on the nominees. Although these committee members should consider the votes of the people, they are not bound to elect new members based on the votes. Hence, if a certain individual received more votes for a position, perhaps due to his popularity in the community, but the committee members find another person better qualified, then they may elect the more qualified person, even if he did not receive the most votes.

At all times, the current masjid committee members, those seeking membership, and the rest of the community should always keep the best interest of the masjid as their priority. Just as one would be concerned about his/her own house, one should have the same, if not more, concern for the house of Allah.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Abrar Mirza Chicago, IL (USA)

Under the Supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai (South Africa)

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