Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 16, 2008

Mosque Tyrants: Why and what to do


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

If you haven’t read that article because it lays the foundation for dealing with these self-righteous individuals in a conflict scenario- but how can you go beyond that?

Most of these community ‘leaders’ have the eggplant mentality; you put an eggplant in a plate and shake it around and the eggplant will move. The same goes for these leaders, they won’t do anything unless they are shaken or feel a threat. They have no virtue in themselves for leading; little character development, spirituality, and leadership mentality. Even these ‘leaders’ have the follower mentality expecting others to do things because they know they are fake and want to be led, yet still taste power and eat out of the mosque donations.

And in the midst of all this their are a number of very angry people who will develop a very narrow-minded and hate-filled mentality against these tyrants. Some of them are good but they are essentially no different than these leaders, in that, if they were the leaders they would be the same eggplant.

Now these leaders have a certain profile. I’ll go through a few traits and common scenarios:

1) I can do a good job: This is where it begins and the reason this is so problematic is not because they have the wrong intention but they don’t know what the job really entails. Think about how many ‘ideal’ Muslim leaders we have to look up to- ones who actually do a good job and whether or not the uncle running the masjid looks up to them, or even knows of them. They don’t know that it involves doing a great amount of work. And then because they don’t have the skills, that absence of proper skills is room for not-so-good skills to come in like lying, stealing, arguing and backbiting.

2) Background check: Often, you find the democratic mentality running in the masjid where ANYONE can run for these positions, by virtue of just running for it! And how many people actually check what their backgrounds are, where they came from, what reputation they have and their criminal record. Sounds obvious but if there are issues, giving 70 excuses is irrelevant because they will cause problems. You need to know about that dirt because very soon it will stain the rest of the community.

3) No one else can do as good a job as I: And they think after a while that because no one else is doing it that they have to do it. And the community doesn’t pay much attention. If this leader was a decent guy before pretty soon, he will become a bossy, I am in control figure. Shaytaan makes people think that they MUST have control in order to do everything and in order to do that they have to lead the community, where once they get there, they don’t know what to actually do. So this person is essentially a seat-warmer and occupies the place of

4) My race rules: There is often a dynamic of race in masjids and if it’s a community of mixed Muslims, it is the ruling race that can control things and others are left to feel as outsiders. And so what happens is people will push and even lobby together to have a person of a certain race stay in office, irrelevant of whether others who are running are better qualified.

5) If he can be corrupt why can’t I?: And one corrupt Muslim digs up the dirt on one corrupt Muslim leader and then guess what he says: rather then exposing him, I’ll just also try and run; if he can do it so can I. And so the cycle continues and eventually you have these leaders allying together in stopping certain benefits coming to the community because they all have a stake and lose out if the community gains.

6) The Duties of the mosque NEVER (or rarely) change: They have this attitude that 5 prayers, juma’ah, janazahs, Eid and meetings are the only things they need to concern themselves with. What does this really mean? It means to do what is sufficient, but not to do more than that. So a religious studies teacher commented to me how the people at my mosque ALWAYS do the same routine whenever non-Muslims visit the mosque- show the same movie (that the kids actually watched in class) and say the same things- nothing much else. This translates into NOTHING improving.

So HOW do you really deal with these guys?

Let’s go through some overlooked facts:

Yes they eat the money of the masjid but they also tie themselves down with the masjid- when they die they will leave the mosque but that means that they will also NEVER ABANDON the mosque. So if they see you at the masjid regularly and you are friendly with them, they will notice (and conversely they will notice when you are not there) and you can build your reputation with them (make sure not to get angry or reveal any bad traits to them). Now, since they have tied themselves down financially with the mosque (they take the mosques money and even spend on it at times) their money and the mosques is essentially one. What this means is if you can do it properly they will become your greatest source of funding for youth activities like sports leagues or dawah activities.

Keep that in mind- they are one with the mosque. If you need to raise money for something, you ask them. If you need permission for something to happen at the mosque, you talk to them. This is, more or less, politics, but it’s so passive and easy if you are patient that you will wonder why you couldn’t do this before.

What you cannot do as a result is to ally yourself with their rivals or rival organizations or build yourself up (because they know by now you are probably more capable than they are in doing something beneficial). This means you need to be sensitive of their ego and not offending that part and yeah, it doesn’t sound so great but it doesn’t mean sucking up but rather just avoiding them. But it also means that you commit any haraam either- such as have a bad reputation with people who may oppose this corrupt Muslim leader.

As you continue to do events and dawah in your community they will see what impact your result is having and be more willing to donate and fund you. This is about all you can really do because the mosque life is very limited in it’s reach. But I have seen some brothers pull this whole thing off and it is very enabling and fulfilling for the rest of the community- one simple brother makes these tiny sacrifices and then opens the door that these corrupt Muslim leaders had closed whilst arguing with another angry Muslim community member.

It doesn’t sound like much but when you really start applying it you will see how effective and beneficial this is. Remember the hadith where the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam said, “Do not be angry. Do not be angry. Do not be angry.”

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


  1. I didn’t mention this but one of the reasons these corrupt leaders remain in power is because they have mobs of people whom they make to come out to the masjid to vote for them.

    All you really need to do is persuade more people to come out and vote- and not tell them who to choose but to decide for themselves- and you will have the makings of dethroning them from power.

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