4 Matters that Eliminate Disputes in Jamaats

With increasing frequency, we have noted incidents of discord among co-congregants at different masaajid.

The story is becoming far too common that with each and every outcome in leadership changes, especially following an election, disputes are taking root. In particular, there is so much of animosity between new committee members and those who have been replaced.

Serving a house of Allah, be it through up-keep of the masjid itself, running of a madrasah attached to the masjid and all other affairs of spiritual, community and social wellbeing, is a noble affair. Those who have the ability should endeavour to do so in their different capacities, in the best way possible.

On that note, competition among believers in the service of the Almighty is a sign of good spiritual healthy among members of the Ummah. However, the aspects which foment ill-feelings need to be dealt with and rooted out.

We outline some four of the broad areas that give rise to disputes among co-congregants:

1. Change Management
Management of transitions from old committees to new ones through elections has been a challenging affair for many congregations. An election for a reconstitution of a masjid committee does not need to be a contest that results into ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ Such a scenario creates alienation and disaffection of sections of a community.

In cases where the new team taking over had agitated for wholesale change, there is often loss of institutional memory as the less-experienced fail to tap into the wisdom and resources of the so-called ‘old-guard’ in the running of affairs of a masjid.

Smooth transitions are possible with succession plans that include the old and new working as a team with no one of them holding the community at ransom. In fact, witholding of resources, talents and skills with which one can support a masjid, out of spite of the personalities that are in charge is a form of miserliness in the Cause of the Almighty.

Rather than change becoming a zero-sum game, the old acumen and new vigour and skills need to come together for the greater good of the community and, ultimately, for the Sake of Allah. After all, isn’t it that: “The Believers are but a single Brotherhood”? (Qur’an 49:10)

2. Transparency
In a number of cases, the road towards transparency in the management of jamaat affairs has not been a clear one. As a matter of consequence, sections of the jamaat tend to view the others in control with suspicion.

Suspicion and the questioning of the sincere intentions of another Muslim has led to unnecessary disputes, sometimes ending up with parties taking each other to courts. We view this to be inappropriate. Avoid suspicion as it is a transgression. (Qur’an 49:12) In doing so, much of the discord we see today would be avoided.

Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; do not spy on one another; do not look for other’s faults; do not be jealous of one another; do not envy one another; do not hate one another; and do not desert (shun) one another. And O Allah’s servants! Be brothers! (Bukhari & Muslim)

The privilege of holding a trust such as in the management of jamaat affairs demands the responsibility of accountability. Where there is accountability, transparency becomes a natural consequence. In other words, when transparency is part of a policy, its complement is compliance.

3. Consultation
Deciding on matters that affect the rights of others, is a responsibility one has to share with them and not to be taken lightly. If the Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam would consult his wives on domestic affairs, what more with us when we decide on behalf of an entire community?

Mutual consultation is one of the characteristics of those who heed and are true to the Call of the Almighty. (Qur’an 42:38) In this verse, consultation is mentioned in the same breath as prayer and charity.

Consultation should not be only symbolic but also take into consideration sound advice and critical appraisals given in good faith by the consulted.

4. Leadership Qualities
It was the understanding of early Muslim communities that not any leader has the right to force himself on the Ummah. At the same time, only the best of the community should take positions of leadership. Good leaders have the qualities of being upright, trustworthy and responsible enough to execute trusts with integrity and virtue.

It does not befit a leader, especially one who wants to manage the affairs of a house of Allah to be an architect of intrigue, fomenting personality clashes just for him to remain at the helm of control, for selfish reasons.

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib Radhi-Allahu anhu reported that the Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said: ‘If my ummah (nation) bears fifteen traits, tribulation will befall it.’ Among the traits cited in this hadith as recorded in Tirmidhi, two are “when the leader of a people is the worst of them” and “when people treat a man with respect because they fear some evil he may do.” May the Almighty save us from such apocalyptic tribulations.

A true leader is a unifier, tolerant, inspires and uses all available knowledge to bring about the best possible solutions under every circumstance.

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