Posted by: Dawud Israel | July 30, 2007

Shaykh Control (part 2)–Dealing with ‘corrupt’ Muslim leaders

Here is the scene: A young group of peaceful, Islamically active youth and a corrupt Muslim leader being the head of the masjid. Let’s call the leader Bilal and the leader of the Muslim youth Harun.

Harun and the young muslims want to hold an event in the mosque. However, Bilal and his executive friends are making it difficult for them. Harun is patient and he keeps his calm but eventually some of the youngsters get upset and start to lose their cool. They argue with Bilal and speak about all the faults of the executives. Harun agrees with the rebelling youth but he is the leader and he doesn’t know what to do?

This is a scenario that has been replayed throughout masjids in North America and elsewhere. How does one handle this difficult situation?

I’ve been troubled by this for a long time and it was while reading the Iliad that something clicked. In this story you have Agamemnon who is the king of all the Greeks. He is leading an army made up of other kingdoms, each with their respective kings. Now at one point in the story you have one of the kings (Achilles) argue with Agamemnon. Achilles more or less makes a scene, threatens to kill Agamemnon and Agamemnon punishes him by taking away his mistress. Now the point that was raised was that, since Achilles made a scene–Agamemnon didn’t have any choice but to punish Achilles, because he is challenging someone who everyone believes should go unchallenged and so opening the door to more rebellion, damaging the unity of the army. If Agamemnon didn’t do something he would be seen as being ‘weak’ and this would undermine his leadership. Furthermore, it would be as if to say, ‘Agamemnon is powerless and doesn’t disapprove of such rude behaviour’. In other words, if you were in his position you would have no choice but to do the same, although you may not want to.

The same dynamic applies to masjid leaders. If you make a scene–they WILL respond, because they want to maintain the position they are in. They really may not care what you have to say, they just need to deal with how you are saying it and punish that. So what do you do now?

Realistically, you don’t have much chance of changing things by talking to them about their behavior, or arguing and making a scene for that matter. You simply have to work with what you got. You must remember that although Bilal (the typical head of the masjid) may not be the best guy, he still exercises much power, influence and (I guess you could say) tyranny over the community–such that he can be manipulated to help you achieve your goals, far more easier and sometimes far better than you could. You should try and make friends with him, but not too close as you will always see his faults, but just enough for him to help you. Think of it as an informal business deal.

So to sum it up: use what you got, because Allah made it that way as a) a test and also b) an opportunity. You could fail the test and lose the opportunity or get both and come out having succeeded what you were hoping for.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


  1. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  2. I may continue this later…anything specific you want to see?

  3. […] This is a continuation of this old article which discussed this very pertinent issue: Shaykh Control (part 2)–Dealing with ‘corrupt’ Muslim leaders […]

  4. Salam,

    I liked the article, mashallah.

    Has some valid points.

    In fact I was reading a Time Magazine article on Nelson Mandela recently.

    In it they showed that one of the traits that made him a successful leader was to “keep his friends close, and his enemies closer”

    Here is a list of his 8 leadership qualities:,8599,1821467,00.html



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