I had the pleasure of having an engaging conversation with my good friend Ray about being Imam, the role and objectives of being an Imam, and what to think of modern authors.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
The Muslim community in America is at a very important and urgent crossroad. At the center of this crossroad is religious leadership. It is a line of work fraught with many hardships, but also great rewards. I have been blessed to experience them both. But due to a number of persistent issues at the Islamic Center of Inland Empire: abusive and racist treatment from congregants (something I encountered my first day one on the job), lack of institutional support, and discordant community vision, it became clear to me that I must make a very difficult decision: it is time to move on from my post at ICIE. There is not an Imam out there who will not inevitably face challenges, but in order to succeed, he must be supported by the community and institutes leadership.
Believe me when I said that I do not make this choice lightly: my family and I moved here from across the country with great hope of making real and sustained changes in the Muslim community and in fact, we still harbor this hope. We also moved here at great risk to ourselves, leaving behind stable careers, all with hopes that the trade off would be worth it. We still believe this and we will be actively looking carrying on this search, this endeavor, and this struggle, in a new setting. But regrettably, after months of introspection, peer discussions, and of course asking for God’s guidance, I have concluded that tendering my resignation is what is best for the wellbeing of myself and my family.
I am very blessed and am grateful to have worked closely with so many amazing people in the community. I have witnessed shahadahs, weddings, and funerals. This position has opened my eyes to the needs of the Muslim community in a way I could never have known as a lay member, no matter how committed. I also could not have done my job without the immense support of Malek Bendelhoum, ICIE’s brilliant administrator. To you, and to the host of remarkable ICIE volunteers who repeatedly stepped up to the plate to support and assist me, I am greatly indebted.
I pray that as one Ummah, as one community, locally and beyond, we move to sync our operational and organizational functions to meet and address the challenging and dynamic needs of our Muslim community. It is paramount that our mosques move beyond the petty tropes of ethnic enclaves and theological fiefdoms and provide havens and sanctuaries for humans to reach their true godly potential. I realize this is no easy task given the diverse backgrounds and histories that must be reconciled under one tent, but I believe it’s a challenge we must, in sha’Allah, rise to the call of tackling if for no other greater reason than the future of our children.
My wife and I have met so many kind and welcoming souls here in Southern California. For all of you, we are eternally grateful for helping to make this transition livable and dignified. We eagerly look forward to continuing to build that key component of our community: a genuine sense of connectedness. For the time being, we will be hard at work on the next chapter in our lives right here in sunny Southern California.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to ask forgiveness of anyone that I have ever wronged. Let me repeat: This is not good-bye. I am actively looking to get my hands dirty in planting seeds in new, fertile soil. I can be reached by all of the regular avenues: website, Facebook, social media, etc. Please pray for our family and all of our families, communities and children. May God bless all of you and accept your good deeds and bring us together as one united community.
Some commentary on the growing imam crisis in the Muslim community. I do find this odd, though, in that many communities, while saying they are in dire need of an imam, refuse to offer dignified compensation or anything close to job security. Jihad Turk, president of Bayan, a new Muslim seminary in Claremont, California, offers some thoughts:
“The older immigrant generation has to understand it doesn’t matter where you’re from, your kids are American. And there’s a very real concern that that younger generation will not find the mosque a place that resonates with them if imams aren’t prepared to help them with their world,” said Mr. Turk.