Dispute in Masjid Administration

By Mufti Ebrahim Desai

Q.) In our city (in USA), an ongoing dispute pertaining to the issues of administration of Masjid/Muslim association affairs has come to a head recently. Please bear with me as I will try to provide a background with a request to guide people like me regarding some specific questions on what to do in this case.

Some of the community members had been demanding that the financial records be open to Muslim public, that the Board of Trustees work in consultation with the members so that the activities such as major expenses and new Masjid project (for which many in the community donated money) do not take place without consulting / informing the members. The Board of Trustees were also not helpful in looking after the Masjid maintenance, rather they tried to impede such efforts. In approx. November last year, it became known that the funds for the new Masjid had been in a Savings account for quite some time, thus accruing Riba. Several members were opposed to this in light of clear injunctions against Riba.

However, one person "A" who has been most vociferous and in the forefront in raising these issues has also resorted to methods or tactics that most members did not approve of such as: sending faxes to the Board of Trustees to their offices, using indecent language and sometimes using the ahadith to justify using such language (e.g. the authentic hadith that states Riba as being worse than adultery was quoted - to imply as if such people were really adulterous), shouting in the Masjid or outside, threats to take the issue to court etc. A couple of the Board members also have made threats to members and their supporting colleague indulged in verbal abuses. This person "A" and one of the Trustees have a long-standing personality conflict and so it appears that personal conflicts and egos are being played out in the Masjid environment. Efforts at reconciliation or solution to issues have failed since both sides are entrenched i.e. the person "A" refuses to change his offensive methods/tactics in seeking solutions to issues (many of them are genuine issues such as Riba, Shura, accountability) whereas the Board of Trustees refuse to accede even to those demands/requests that are valid. It appears that the Board eventually got rid of the riba account and disposed off the interest, but they were reluctant to open the financial records for review.

The last straw in this episode is that the Board secured a court order prohibiting this person "A" from coming to Masjid. They changed locks so most members now can only go to that place for Jumu'ah. Sunday school (for children) also has ceased to function because of this. They had long suspended phone service at the Masjid. Subsequently, they also sent a letter through their lawyer to another person in the community prohibiting him from going to Masjid since he had also written a letter protesting the attitude of Board of Trustees who behave as if mosque is their property and also protested the order banning person "A" from coming to Masjid.

Board members had originally been "elected" for life and as such removing them would require a majority which is difficult because several members who disapprove of Board's actions still would not be willing to support their removal (One reason being that they are also indignant and upset about the methods used by this person "A" but there may be other factors).

I apologize for the lengthiness of this description. Please advise me especially regarding the following specific questions:

1. Is it permissible to pray Jumu'ah at another place under these circumstances. There used to be 15 to 30 people for Jumu'ah in the past at the Masjid although Muslim population is much more than that. A few people including this person "A" have already started praying Jumu'ah separately at a house while several others continue to pray at the original "Masjid". I am in a dilemma.

1a. How many people are needed to make the Jumu'ah valid. My understanding is that 3 people beside the Imam are needed.

2. Is it permissible to continue to pray at the original "Masjid" given the egotistic and often arrogant, uncooperative & dictatorial behavior of Board of Trustees who have made several decisions as mentioned, that adversely affect not just person "A" but others too.

3. What is the extent of responsibility of the Muslims in such circumstances? Specifically,

3a. Some of us have tried to convince person "A" to abandon his wrong methods to no avail. We have also tried to get the Board of Trustees to agree to genuine concerns of the members to no avail. Should we continue to have dealings with them as Muslims or should we boycott/isolate ourselves from any of these two parties?

3a. Is it permissible to adopt the kinds of methods that person "A" used although the ostensible purpose is to stop something evil taking place in Masjid affairs?

3b. Is it permissible to go to court in such issues despite the fact that the issues involved would probably need knowledge of our religion and the courts here would not have that? [Abu Hamza]

A.) We deeply regret the conflict between member 'A' and the trustees and the negative consequences.

However, according to Shari'ah, disputes and differences should be addressed and resolved as amicably as possible. Conflicts should be confined to its areas of dispute and should not be a cause of disunity. Rasulullah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, advised to perform Salat behind every pious and impious person. He did not advise to disassociate and disunite.

After having exhausted every effort of reforming the wrongs and evils of the organization, if one is unsuccessful, he has fulfilled his injunction of 'Nahy anil Munkar' (prohibiting evil). He should now make Sabr and Du'aa. It is incorrect to resort to un-Islamic activities to reform a wrong as that will be an additional evil. And Allah Taala Knows Best.