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Good Governance

Overview

Leading an Islamic center is a solemn responsibility that entails great consequences for both the community and the individual leader. The Qur’an stresses the importance of leading with wisdom and justice, and warns against complacency in conducting one’s leadership duties. “O you who believe! betray not the trust of Allah and the Messenger, nor misappropriate knowingly things entrusted to you.” (8:27) “God doth command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice.” (4:58).

Muslim communities that leave decision to the whims of individual leaders are in violation of divine commandments. Communities should strive to institutionalize their practices, by setting specialized committees, adopting sound procedures, and establish due process to ensure fairness.

Much resource is wasted in quarrel because the community has no clear and transparent rules to guide actions and relations. A great deal of confusion and friction can be avoided when the community adopts a well-developed constitution and bylaws, and when community leaders embrace a code of ethics that sets parameters for using their authority judiciously.

Decision making should be based on consultation, and should always be guided by established principles and the collective wisdom of the community. The American Muslim community is very diverse, and community leaders must strive to accommodate various practices recognized by various schools of fiqh or rooted in established cultural traditions, as long as the latter do not contravene established Islamic principles.

Guidelines

  • The leadership of the Islamic center should ensure that the center is governed by clear and fair rules and guidelines rooted in Islamic teachings and approved by the general body.
  • Islamic center leaders should closely and reasonably adhere to established policies and procedures.
  • Decisions that fall within the mandate of the governing body should be taken after proper consultation with elected leaders. Elected leaders should, however, consult with the general body in matters that fall outside their constitutional authority.
  • Community leaders must ensure that the rules and procedures that govern conducts in the Islamic center respect the diversity of the Muslim community. Enforcing limited interpretations of Islam, or practices specific to a particular Muslim culture or tradition, are bound to exclude important segments of the Muslim community, alienate Muslims who would otherwise add to the strength of the community, and inhibit the growth of Islam in North America.
  • Islamic centers should strive to hire full time imams and administrators, and ensure that they are well qualified and well paid to do the work assigned to them.
  • Imams, and other individuals involved in teaching Islam and providing religious and moral guidance, must be well versed in Islam and reasonably acquainted with American culture and institutions. The community should provide learning opportunities for its imams and public speakers.
  • Imams and community leaders should adhere to a code of ethics developed by the community, or adopt the one designed by ISNA, and pledge to uphold it and adhere to its stipulations.
  • Islamic centers must set a due process for handling all grievances. The due process must ensure fairness and be clear and sufficiently transparent.

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