Monday, October 29, 2007

New Assistant Imam? InshaaAllah!

Yes I'm going to write about it.

The Islamic Center here in Raleigh recently decided to add a new member to its non-volunteer (i.e., paid position) staff--an assistant imam. After the shura had confirmed the position, and privately interviewed candidates, they approached the community in general asking about whether they felt a need for this position, and whether this was the right time, etc.

Now, to start with, I love the imam. I have yet to talk to anyone here who doesn't love the imam, actually. The idea behind getting an assistant is partly because he is so overdrawn. The community here is very large actually, over 1500 people attending jummah each week usually, and 5-6000 attending the Eid prayer. And only one imam. He teaches classes for the children, a class for sisters every week (plus extra ones once a month I think), a couple general classes for adults on weekends, in addition to jummah khutbah responsibilities and helping with marriage and marriage counseling...

It was not a "tough sell" to convince the community to support a new (assistant) imam. Once I heard the idea myself I was won over, thought it was quite brilliant, of course we need one. The center is expanding, you see, about to nearly triple it's square-footage, and is trying to fill up that space with new programs. I try to attend at least four different classes during the week, two with the imam, and am now actually attending a third which will last for six weeks inshaaAllah that is also with the imam (five total classes a week!). I've tried to make good use of the programs offered at the masjid for learning Islam, which in addition to the aforementioned classes also has a program on Friday nights with various kinds of lectures and guest speakers.

There was one man who spoke up criticizing the current imam (and then began receiving dirty looks from the rest of the room actually) about how he handled a marital issue in his family. You know... I was shocked. The imam admitted upfront that he was not strong as far as marital counseling (and he is so strong in so many other ways it's easy to forgive him for this) so I was kind of surprised that the brother felt the need to be so... irate. He said the imam had "failed," by what sounded to me (and others in the audience) to be not forcing the man's wife to go along with the man's own opinion. I don't really know the facts, but the way he was talking, that's what it sounded like. He wanted his wife to act a certain way and was disappointed that the imam could not get her to act that way, so he said he failed. (Anyone who knows anything about marriage counseling should know that it's actually a process that involves both sides of the couple... AHEM!... so my face was one of the smirking ones.)

A few people pointed out that a new imam should be someone from here, someone who they think is able to deal with "issues" of living in America. I scoff at them. Here, publicly, on my blog, I scoff at them.

The reason this came up at all is that someone was being interviewed quite rigorously for this position prior to the community forum. (And I have to say, I love him too!) And he happens to be from Egypt. A few members of the community seem to have the opinion that if an imam is imported despite being a hafidh al-Qur'an, holding undergraduate and graduate degrees from Al-Azhar university, and having taught English (so that's not a problem) he's not worth anything because he wasn't raised in America. SCOFFING AGAIN! The community in Raleigh just like anywhere else has it's problems, with certain people (the youth perhaps in particular) getting involved in unsavory crowds or habits. And these community members then take the opinion that an "imported" imam (by this I mean only that he was not raised in America but rather a Muslim country) has no qualifications or ability to address these problems in the community, or any other America-specific issues.

And I scoff.

Why? Because I believe that what this community needs more than anything else is just real knowledge about Islam. I really believe that there are answers in Islam, solutions in Islam, no matter what the problems are. I also think that the candidate, especially by virtue of being so strong in English is well-equipped to address these problems as he comes to them, and I don't think it requires an American upbringing to do so. As the Eastern world continues to Westernize, and adopt many habits of Americans, I think that the problems we face are really universal and not exactly particular.

So when someone approached me today about his "protest" of this particular candidate, I explained why I thought that yes we need an assistant imam and yes this candidate is excellent and a great fit for this community. (And he has been offered the position, which I hope with all sincerity he will choose to accept.) I think that sincerity will breed sincerity, and a community that sincerely wants to practice Islam and educate itself will find leaders who are sincere and seek to educate the community. I think that ignorance breeds ignorance, and that as long as the community remains ignorant of Islam, they will continue to seek other solutions to their problems, outside of Islam. And I think the community picked this candidate out of sincerity, and that the only objections are out of ignorance.

But that's what I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey Amy,

You're on point when you said that the community needs knowledge of Islam more than anything else. That's true of the whole world too though!
But, as far as the issue with the Imam, I don't think his brithplace should have anyhting to do with his qualification or disqualification as an Imam. And the balony about not understanding "amercian issues", please. Some of the muslim countries are more "americanized" than us! lol
If the Imam leads people by Allah's word and is strong in his practice of Islam, then he will be succesful regardless of where he came from. That's what should really matter to the congregation when an Imam is chosen.Because, no matter where he came from, the laws in Islam are going to remain the same and that is what he is going to lead with.
And, as far as the current imam giving some faulty marriage counseling, these people need to back off. This man is human, and is not immune from making mistakes, especially if this is not his strong point. You know, when I read that, I immediatly thought of what Abu Bakr(ra) had told the community when he became caliph. He told them that, (this is not exact words) Whatever he orders them about that is correct, to follow, but whatever is incorrect they are free to leave.
And, Abu Bakr was chosen as the leader after the prophet (saaw), So, if he is not immune form mistakes neither is the imam.