In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
Shura and Nizam in the Context of Masjid Membership
Assalamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
Last year during Ramadan I gave a talk on masjid membership. And since we will be having a general meeting of the masjid tomorrow, it is again a pertinent topic for me to be talking about.
In my talk last year I elaborated the concepts of sadaqa, and in particular sadaqa jariya, to motivate the need to register as a member of this masjid. I explained the significance and meaning of sadaqa jariya by referring to the hadith reported by Abu Hurayra, in which the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said:
“When a person dies, no good deeds live on after him or her, except for three things: continuing charity (i.e. sadaqa jariyah), knowledge which can benefit others, and virtuous offspring who will pray for him or her.” (Muslim)
This hadith defines sadaqa jariya (continuing charity) as a sadaqa that continues to benefit others even after our deaths, and for as long as it does so, it brings reward to the donor even if he or she has passed on to the hereafter.
Using this understanding, I argued that becoming a registered member of this masjid and thereby making a pledge to contribute financially to the ongoing maintenance and expansion of the masjid, as well as the administrative and leadership support needed to sustain the masjid, is a sadaqa jariya. It is a sadaqa jariya because what we will leave behind through our contributions after we have passed on, are a masjid infrastructure and institutional legacy that will benefit generations to come.
In this evening’s talk however, I want to motivate the need to become registered and active members of the masjid by elaborating two further Islamic concepts.
The first concept is that of shura. The most common understanding of shura means to conduct public affairs by mutual consultation, transparency and accountability.
In Surat-us-Shura, Chapter 42 Ayah/Verse 37-38, Allah describes the attributes of conscientious believers:
Here, shura is identified as one of the attributes of a conscientious believer. In the context of a masjid, shura cannot happen without the participation of its congregants. At CMRM we have a masjid Board that is responsible not only for the day to day management of masjid affairs, but also for upholding and maintaining the vision and ethos of the masjid. As such, the Board should be accountable to the masjid congregation for its decision making.
I would like to suggest that the extent to which the Board can be held accountable for its decision making rests on the strength of the congregation. And the strategy we at CMRM have adopted to strengthen our congregation has been to promote this idea of masjid membership. In this context registering as a member of CMRM should be a commitment you make to participate in the processes of shura that ensures that masjid affairs are conducted transparently and by mutual consultation.
At CMRM we have had many so called controversial issues which have been subjected to prolonged shura amongst members before decisions have been implemented. Examples include the decision to allow women to pray downstairs alongside the men, and for women to deliver pre-khutbah lectures; the decision to celebrate ‘Id al-Adha the day after wuquf, irrespective of the sighting of the moon in South Africa; the decision to pray 8 raka`ats for tarawih. Hence, we should not dismiss the importance of participation of masjid members in such shura processes.
It is through the mutual consultation, participation and support of masjid members that CMRM has become renowned for its inclusive and compassionate ethos and vision of Islam and has developed a reputation of critically reflecting on and engaging with issues that affect us as Muslim citizens, locally and globally. Therefore, in order for the Claremont Main Road Masjid to continue to thrive, it needs to grow its active membership so that there are constantly new voices, new ideas, new energies that can take forward its vision, its projects and programmes.
The second concept I would like to elaborate is that of nizam. I would like to highlight two dimensions of the notion of nizam. First, nizam means to be organised and second, nizam means to conduct public affairs with organizational proficiency.
The first significance of nizam is usefully depicted in the early life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his membership of a voluntary organisation called hilf al-fudul–the pact of the virtuous – whose primary aim was to promote socio-economic justice in his society. Many years later when he adorned the mantle of prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) praised the virtues of this organization by proclaiming:
“I was present at Abdullah ibn Jud`an’s house with the formation of hilf al-fudul. I would not exchange this experience for any material gain even if I was to be offered a herd of red-camels. And if now, as a prophet of God, I was to be asked to defend its just cause, I will most certainly do so.” (Ibn Hisham, al-Sira al-Nabawiyyah)
Hilf al-Fudul thus holds great significance in Islamic teachings; not least the fact that it makes the joining of organizations with noble causes, a sunnah.
The second dimension of nizam, namely, to conduct public affairs with organisational proficiency, is a challenge that many organisations face, more so an organisation such as a masjid that is largely dependent on voluntary participation and contributions from its members. For an organisation to operate with proficiency means that it is able to harness the best skills and expertise available to reach success in its endeavours.
In the context of the masjid, this is only possible if it can grow the pool of skills and expertise that it can draw on through its membership. The programmes and projects of the masjid require amongst other things, administrative skills and expertise, social skills, technical skills and expertise and intellectual and theological expertise. I have no doubt that we have many talented people in this congregation and so we need more people with skills and expertise to become active members in masjid programmes and projects. In this way we can strive to become a masjid that operates with nizam, that is, a masjid that operates with organisational excellence.
In this regard, we particularly want to encourage young people to become active members of the masjid so that their voices can be heard and so that we can tap into their talents and skills. In this way we can nurture a new generation of leadership that will bear witness to Islam that upholds the virtues of social justice and compassion that this masjid has always espoused.
It is my considered view that both the concepts I have elaborated this evening, shura and nizam are key aspects of any responsible Islamic society. Although any masjid constitutes a very small community, it should endeavour to conduct its affairs with shura and nizam. And as I have argued this evening, it is only through concerted and sustained membership drives, encouraging old and new congregants to become active members of the masjid, that we can reach success in this endeavour.
Not only does masjid membership enable one to make a sadaqa jariya and to imbibe one of the key characteristics of the conscientious believer through participating in mutual consultation (shura), but becoming a member of a masjid also allows one to fulfil an important sunnah, namely that of joining a noble organisation and contributing to its organisational proficiency (nizam).
To this end, I would like to encourage all of you to attend the general meeting of the masjid tomorrow at 10.30 am.
And for those who are not yet registered and active members of CMRM I urge you to seriously consider becoming one.
Shukran, was salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu