BTM Podcast #5 The Secret Ingredients of Masjid Management with Br. Rami Kawas
Channel: Mohammad Elshinawy
File Size: 59.96MB
And we're live Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala Rasulillah Allah Allah He was like ah Marine. Welcome in everybody back to behind them in a lot of blueprints for a better Masjid we're in sha Allah we level up one episode at a time and somehow some way I got that on your follow us in the chair.
Rami is my guy we share a stomping ground back in the mass Youth Center. We came to the masjid Scene As consumers
we drank the Kool Aid together and we can't stop thanking Alonzo dead for that beautiful brotherhood
and around me has since mashallah really carved the place for himself where I struggled to just call him but on me anymore. Big road on me, Michelle lies track the path and in leadership development, human resource management,
even stretched himself and may Allah reward him and his family to
really bonafide these things through his studies at Harvard. And now you serve at Oak tree and so so tell us a little bit about that. How you got here what you're doing and what oak trees about? Sure. Because they need to know. Yeah, I appreciate it.
So first of all, must love the initiative mailer.
And it's, this is I think it's these little new venues of how we can change and change a community I think, taking all the means that we can say love the I fell in love with the initiative when I first saw it launch. So may Allah reward you.
Yeah, I think, you know, yeah, to Brooklyn kids, right. That kind of grew up finding a passion for the deen figuring out how to serve Allah's agenda through the various opportunities. I think we're very blessed.
opportunities were given to serve the dean and in a very unique way.
I think that began Yeah, when we were really curious, start studying and diving into understanding your faith in a different way. Going to the masjid, how Masjid hopping seminars Halaqaat mentors, right you just start to immerse yourself as much as you can, particularly college years and then post college years in like in enriching yourself and you understand your deen your identity, your faith, connecting to Allah azza wa jal, and then naturally where that comes in, okay, I, I absorb all this and I have to reciprocate at some in some way. And I want to give back and I want to, you know, influence and change and bring progress. I think that was yeah, that was kind of through
college, and then post college. Just found that passion mass Utena, as you mentioned, like, found a very passionate giving back. I think the first time I ever volunteered was summer camp. I was 16 years old, watching young kids in the center, like you know, taking care of them. I was like, Hey, this is this is fun. This is exciting, good friends that we know. bobblehead another's, like you know, just like, hey, you connect with, with kids you see as yourself and he's like, Hey, this isn't my isn't my children. This is my these are my brothers. And how do I, you know, continue to serve them? I think from there. Just really quickly, I think I you know,
very quickly when you're young, ambitious person in the masjid, they're gonna drag you are in the center. You're going to drag into every every nook and cranny, right? You're going to be on a board, you're going to be a volunteer, you're going to be at this committee, that committee do this, do that do Jim our talk here, right. So naturally, you get grabbed into all the things and I think when you're young and zealous and you're trying to learn you're trying to teach you dive into everything. So I think I've ran the gamut of like being a volunteer, working part time for a senator hopping to different places, particularly across the city. Then being on boards and seeing some of the
functionality and this functionality. Then I'd be like, Oh, I'm gonna start working with some national organizations at a national level. I'm going to start to connect with different leaders different Institute's and all sudden Pamela like, you know, your journey and Muslim community leadership is very broad, very vast. And I think there's a lot of experiences a lot of challenges, being full time for a long time. I think you understand the nitty gritty, the heart, the tough days, and the days where, you know, you really see somebody's life change or somebody accepts the faith or, you know, you really see a young person evolve in front of your eyes and flourish. Like there's
moments panela that are very, you know, Allah kind of rewards us for that gratification of seeing the fruits of your labor. Yeah. You need that constant energy because community work honestly.
It's the most difficult work
My opinion, I mean, I think there's generally like, there's a, like a macro level you have, like, you have your for profit sector, where people you know, you go to work your business, whatever it is, and people go into that sector, then you have your government sector. And obviously, government
usually takes in a lot of things that we're not used to. So you know, your lights your this your that your streets, your schools, right, the government sector takes care of that. And at least in a capitalist society, then the for profit sector covers a lot of what government isn't, because somebody's going to try to make money over things that nobody else is doing private ventures unique, right? Yeah. Right. And then really, we're nonprofit fits is all the all the rest, right? What the government really doesn't want to do. I want nobody's making money from doing hence the term nonprofit, by definition, by definition, not profitable. So at a very macro level, think about it.
Where do we fit like, Yeah, who's gonna teach my kid Quran? Who's gonna lead Friday services? Who's gonna do a Sunday school? Yeah, that's gonna be an No, no government institution, you know, hopefully, it's got to come in, you know, do it. I mean, I mean,
for overrun by the government, the overreach of government. And then, sure, there's a there's a more of a for profit in particularly nowadays, like, hey, how do we, how can I, the capitalist, Muslim ventures?
Yeah, I want to be able to control everything here. And I want to do this and serve the Muslim community. That's grown a lot to Yeah, but still, the community heavily relies on for sure where messages fit so.
So there's something you mentioned here that I do want to double click on, which is the fact that you had your personal passion of serving this Dean, and your professional life dovetail before a lot of your higher level training, meaning you were involved serving directing leading before he got to Harvard before sort of you're collecting some of the data you're collecting in the very recent past. And so what because you know, those, we are impatient creatures who just said, we need a little bit of like, keep going, here's a fruit. Yeah, that actually can have a opposite reaction of getting us complacent, like, hey, things are going fine. We have. We've had a few shadows. Yeah, who hasn't had
a few shots? Sure. Sure. And so what made you feel this sense of need that? No, we need to now refine our skill sets further. Yeah. Because you're already a professional per se. Yeah. In your passion that's already locked in. What made you go back to learn what made you sort of be involved in something more systematic infrastructurally speaking
to do better, where did it come from? That you know, the episode is revolving around whether we agree or disagree on the name? Masjid mayhem right? Yeah, I'm sure there's something there sure. That you can benefit us with sharing? Great question. Great question. I think I hope inshallah mela except I think I've been trying to be very intentional of everything I've been trying to do.
Very early on, obviously, once you get immersed in community work, and you are like us, a CEO of you're doing everything, every everything from being up garbage serving food to like, I'm giving Joomla to like, Hey, I'm doing a strategic plan for this team. Like you're, you're involved in everything. And I think having great mentors, having great people around you is really important. You have to have like a good infrastructure of really good.
You know, people that are able to teach you mentor you, coach you
very much direct you and I think I really have that in my circles like it, like you got a sense of like, wow, this is a there's there's a nuance to organizational growth. I think where that took me naturally and this was after a long time of exploring is first from personal experiences. I saw there was one, the ultimate correlator of success of a committee, a camp, a center, a region a masjid, anything. To me, the ultimate correlator was, look, it's the people in that institution. And particularly, it's the leaders in that institution. And I I used to immerse myself obviously, in a lot of religious leadership stories from the prophets of Solomon, and afterwards, but also like John
Maxwell books and Franklin Covey books. And really, I saw like, Hey, if you have good leadership, you have success in whatever that endeavor is. So leadership to me was like the number one correlator. So, hey, tell me about a good community. I guarantee you they have good leadership. Tell me about a great machine. I guarantee you. It's not and when leadership is, you know, I love the saying of the Prophet salaam, right? That translated really quickly. It's like, hey, people are like camels. And it's really difficult to find the one that
shreds the entire path of the desert. But that Rahila the one that's able to carry you across. That's the gem and the diamond in the rough if you think that what leadership is to me, like, hey, finding and forging these types, yeah, producing them. Yeah. And it's not about the, it's not about the quantity, it's about quality, right? It's not about having a lot of people, you know, it's like, it's about having a few really good leaders that are able to tread the path forward for let's just talk right now. Okay, organizational level, like they're able to build a good culture, create a good plan, mobilize people together, people feel energized, there's a direction, like, those are all
leadership things. So I think I was like, oh, I want to immerse myself in that I want to be able to first know how to change people. So I think behavioral change became like, really important to me the psychology of like, Human Development behavior. But then
interestingly, there's a lot of correlations to how organizations change. And I love that that piece. And so the hence the org psychology kind of came into, like, hey, I really love this I love the concepts of how do we get people to make these transformations? How do we get institutions to make the transformations? Something manage that people the right way to get them? So where do you see,
forget the shortfalls? Do you see the ideals? That by contrast, we will be able to introspect, be self critical and say, do we have this or not? What are the best
practices, prices for leaders values? Yeah. To manage the leaders you hire, or if you're not at that stage, yet, you are that leader de facto, let's talk about how to become a leader. Let's talk about like, okay, so what does it mean? Here, I preface this because I'm, I'm a student of the space, I'm not an expert in any way. But I think there's leadership, there's a there's a very corporate culture to leadership, because obviously, in organizations and you know, yeah, I don't know that. There's a huge corporate culture because because look, naturally, remember, if you can make money off somebody in this country, like, people don't do it. So you're not sure you have like your manager trainings.
And, you know, like, you know, like your leadership development in the corporate space, which is really good and important, a lot to learn from there. And I'm, I'm in that space, like, I understand that space. Then you have like, governmental leadership, which is a different ballgame altogether to like, Okay, how do I speak to the masses? And how do I pitch and how you know, PR? So that's, that's a different ballgame to get all together to. That's why I talked about the macro. I think community leadership or nonprofit leadership is very unique. I think some gurus actually say, Look, your best leaders are a nonprofit, because the sacrifice is the highest without the benefits the material.
Yeah, the material. Yeah, so in the government, I'm gonna get some kind of power, or in the court for profit, I'm gonna get some kind of, there's some kind of money, there's like an incentive that's there. In the for the most part, which is fine again, to with ethical considerations, but the community sector, they're like, I'm gonna I want to be a leader in a masjid. Well, I want to I want to have I'm gonna have influence in the Muslim community. No, that's, that's a different. There's a different standard. And like, that's a path we have to tread and create, like, what is the standard there? How do we develop leaders there? So that's been my, that's a completely different complete
value system that needs to drive it 100%, particularly with the Muslim Islamic values, right? Like what we understand in terms of
the simple things like clarity, yeah, sincerity, servant, theme, is it good or bad? Influence? What does that mean?
How do I how do I, what is power in the muscle? What is the power in the community? What how does? How does authority work? Where does it come from? There are many nuanced conversations that nobody's having, right? And we have a naturally you have this, I think, take a step back, like our community is really young, like you, our parents came, and they were just laying the groundwork of the institutions, the meshes are, you know, they started a few 100 Now that are a few 1000 in our lifetime, probably 10s of 1000s in our children's lifetime, maybe hundreds of 1000s. Right, so the growth is going to happen. But then it's not just the it's not the infrastructure is the problem.
It's the people capacity that that we're going to worry about, right? Like how do we make sure I think most semesters care about people just coming to the masjid. I care about what leadership will be in the masjid because that'll actually dictate if people come or not. Do we have the right leadership? Do we have the right influence of from from religious leadership to executive operational leaders? Like is that ready to meet the needs that will our community and I always tell people and I share this with the previous guests that I try to shake people out of measuring
their success as a community by Jamal like, Hey, listen, Jim was mandatory even if you can't stand your guts. Sure, Mr. Man on the alt right, that's not symmetric. And so how do you actually get people here? Yep. Yeah, that'd be
honest outside of Juma and Ramadan is how I will measure your impact as a community because those are because there's going to be those are going to be the ones where people Yeah, by default allows you to just wired in our DNA. As believers, the DNA of a believer like you're going to come, those are places that the the houses will are going to be filled. It's every, it's all the other times that you've made, like that's a maybe a metric, if you will of like, okay, how successful is your community? Follow us. So leadership itself, how to build out that leader? The value system is important. Yeah. What else can we share about the differences? Because I've seen of course, the
unprofessional mayhem is one thing. Yep. The other side of it is maybe not noticing the difference? The necessary difference? Sure. Between sort of corporate leadership, yep. And between nonprofits, servant leadership, yes. So how else do we mitigate appreciate you bringing bringing us back? So go back to what I was saying, what is what makes a successful community leader, I think it's really three critical things. A lot of things stem from them, for sure.
I think first and foremost, you have to have a strong ability to connect to people.
Leadership is all about people. People change people, I really believe that relationship. And so your ability to connect to people you want to, you want to talk about it, and in how to influence how to manage how to delegate, how to communicate, how to be emotionally, it sounds like everything that you can imagine leadership would find the connections, but you got to be able to connect with people well, right, like there has to be. Leadership is about driving people forward. It's about influencing people. So if you can't click with people, then then you can be a leader, a different type, but not what the community, that communal leader that we're aspiring to the you know, I
interrupting your list, it's important, maybe even just to reset people.
I that was actually one of my biggest regrets. I mean, we're gonna have many more of them. But I realized that the management struggles in religious institutions, so I went down the rabbit hole of just, you know, I'm not sort of trained at all.
I'm a pseudo and an amateur by every measure of the word I really am. But I was so sold on, you know, management. Yeah, and so much of the literature out there, and the training out there is corporate. And I didn't realize until years later that it's actually at best in my head right now. 40% of the job, share the personality of a leader. Sure, the relationship building acumen for sure the ability to forbear and absorb and win over and bring the best out of people and all of that sort of reset when things hit the fan and get past the bottleneck without you know, amputating anything. That is like 60%, at least. Yeah, it's obviously the Prophet said, I'm emphasizing the concept of
manner, like we're talking about manners, right? And how the Dean came to spread manners. And that's really a very, very important, but I think leaders don't realize they have another standard that they have to live up to, like, there's a there's a, so there's the, like, everybody has to have good manners. But then there's a leader, a leaders manners, or their ethical standards have to be much higher. So and I think we see that throughout littered in our history, like, from the Sierra through the great leaders of PESA. Of course, the ones that and we know in the books, like who the ones who are great, and who the ones that are not. Right. But the the ability to connect and influence, and
people willing to follow you.
By the way, for even without the ethics. Those are leaders, like you can have bad leaders, you know, bad ethics, bad morals, but they're hit they're able to. Exactly.
Hitler and so many others, right, like, so there's no there's actually no consideration of the ethics. If you can connect people and mobilize people, that's why it's good or bad. It's a double edged sword. Yeah, that's, that's, I think, the pillar of leadership. Right? Now, you know, talking about from a communal or Muslim consideration, we'll definitely want to consider like with the ethics, of course, okay. I think that the second really important driver of community leadership, in my opinion, is your ability to drive results and, and get what we say get wins. Like, what are the results that you're looking at? Like, okay, is leadership just somebody that's socially cool? Are
they able to get things done? Make an impact? Change? Yeah, take us somewhere, take us exactly. Lead us. What do we what does it mean to lead us everybody thinks, well, well, they're gonna tread the path and we're gonna follow them. But what's the board the path going? Where are we what are we trying to do? So I think this is where its vision right? Is that I think a lot of things fall into that create vision I think the ability to create vision I think ability to create small wins out of a vision. What I mean Okay, we can have a vision love the destructive love the big picture stuff. That's great. What does that mean everyday to us? How do we build that?
do that every week, every month every what does that look like? You got to be able to not just give me the vision, you got to tread the path for me. But you got to also tell me, Hey, we're we're hitting the milestones that we want to like, Are you like in a kid? If you're in a community after a year? Is there progress? How do you measure progress? Can be after the fact. Exactly. Yeah. So maybe we'll get more I'll get more kind of more practical because I think this ties to the massager today, but I think a lot of us, I've been in, I've been in the role boards, directors, imams, how do we measure their success?
The only way is that the leaders or elite leader or leaders, they create the plan for success, and the benchmark themselves against it.
So I've got to, it's almost like, look, I always say community work is like being a CEO, you got to know how to do everything. The hardest part is how do I create the path forward for my youth? My youth, my youth department, my message it? What are we? What do we want to do? What are the goals that we're trying to hit? And how do we make sure to deploy the right strategies and means to actually get them done? I'm hearing for you. And I mean, right there. Your leadership do it. She's the best person to employ. She said to her that referring to Musa they said I was probably the competent, yes, I mean, the person of integrity, trustworthy, right? So integrity and efficacy, or
competence, competence. I remember Amara de la and also
he would complain to Allah that he couldn't find someone to relieve him of his position. He wished he could find what in front of Allah he couldn't find. And of course, someone can lie to themselves and sort of beat Sadie's out of conceit, but he was saying this in the depths of, you know, and the whispers of his suju he would say, Oh Allah, I complain to you of the, the weakness of the person of integrity, and the durability of the person of mischief. Right? So like, I can't find the guy who is going to have those two qualities and we of course, complained to Allah so Jen of ourselves to be more competent and have better integrity, I'm not projecting anything or throwing shade anywhere, of
course, well, we all gotta just keep each other accountable. And you know, and I want to say I want to say this because it's a little tie in to some of the mayhem
you can get triplets one or the other in community leadership and from a board level Imam, Imam level across in the in the masjid space.
Sometimes you have somebody who's really competent, not able to connect well. And sometimes people that are really good connectors, they're great social ambassadors, but they're not competent. So you will eventually find now you can fix both like we're not saying these are immovable traits, no, you there's a, an a personal investment, we're talking about individual leaders that you have to put into that, okay, I have to, I gotta improve my planning skills, I can't get around that I've got to be able to improve my my ability to measure the impact of someone I'm teaching for for a year. I have to be able to be better at that and show competence to your point right? I think a lot of times
we should be open to the fact that we sometimes need to also splice our personal journeys from our communities journeys because I need to do better Yeah, but what if there's someone who can do better now with while I'm working on being better later? Yeah, in the long term, like and sometimes even perpetual, the only one the Prophet SAW Selim said to a brother
Yeah, but versus like a Muslim in America if and I see that you're weak and I thought it was anything but weak the weakness here was a weakness of discretion. He was too passionate about sort of social justice and sort of the heavyset actually I don't have a whole lot is that I see that you're weak you have a weakness particular weakness All right. And I love for you what I love for me like I'm doing yourself a favor because I don't want to see you hurt in front of Allah I love I love for you I love for me. So do not fill out a moron nallathanni Allah to Allah and Nevada team don't accept to be a leader over any two people. Yep. And do not accept responsibility for the wealth of
any orphans. Yes. And that we can sort of analyze that and unpack it later about why those two particular things but being able to tell yourself that that hey, wait, I need to do better and so long as I'm stuck here, I'm going to try to do better right but at the same time if I can find someone I'm not going to make the community wait for me right like if I can have someone right now that can lead the Salah with veterans we Yes. I should not hesitate in saying beautiful you must lead not me. Yeah, beautifully said. I think so. Go back to your point. I love that.
The prophetic model on situational leadership is tremendous. person was able to really quickly understand what situations leaders are
I have to put a leader in this position. And those are the they break some of the myths that we have of what we want leaders to be. And again, we've got to be,
you know, kind of pivoting off the, like personal leadership journey, like, understanding how you fit into the community and community leaders understanding how people fit in very important. The Prophet said, um, you know, how does Osama bin Zayed at a very young age, I mean, we're talking about 16 1718 years old, whatever the age might, might have been. How's he How was he the general of an army going up against the Romans? Like what what with the likes of Abu Bakr and I'm gonna end and Omar was loud and vocal against it. So why is inspirational in the abstract, but how do you actually not misuse that anecdote? Yeah, exactly. So how, why so why was he there? Why was Khalid mobileread?
You know, or the Alon, you know, he becomes Muslim after talking about he he was essentially in and removed from Senate for nearly 20 years. How did you do not came became Muslim very under Islam before? Yeah, maybe last two years. The problems life. So for 20 years, he had been an enemy of the process. He accepts Islam for the line. And immediately the person like within a few months, he's leading armies, never stretches and he was never dispatched. Even though he had made some grave grievous mistakes grievious mistakes
he had made some grave mistakes. The The reality is look at the problem understands. There are situations where people use Excel and of course, the famous one with Hallett relatively famous story that he would have trouble reading Kalia, you will Catherine Salah leading the army, but he had just, you know, like, what institution today? The thing about it? Like, from our perspective, what institution would make an executive director of a masjid an 18 year old kid? Or what institution would allow a convert? After five months? They didn't they don't they? They barely maybe know how to pray. But they're on the board. We're not and we're not saying do it. Why categorically reject?
Exactly, exactly. It's like hey, what what the problem under?
No, he understood look competence in a situation. It actually it overseas leads certain what we would call disqualifiers. Like, he doesn't even need it. does somebody need to know how to remember recite the Quran to help us organize the management of the governance structure of our board. You think it's a different? It's a different paradigm, again, not to there's the there's the I think what I was trying to say the third, stay tuned, I think it's really important, I want to neglect it. So competence and connection, we're agreeing like these are really important, particularly what kind of leader you're trying to be think the last one. And we sometimes
under Hispaniola, there's this weird balance with this one, we are too loose on it or too strict on it, which is what I believe like the ethical aspects of being a leader, the state of the leader, the values of the leader, who the leader is within themselves. That is first that's a that is a kind of logic first and foremost. So that's the amongst the first people that are punished by Allah azza wa jal is is a is a leader, that transgressors because the insincerity was there, right?
Several examples of Imam and the scholar that's, you know, just the nuance being, look, your your faith, your values, your ethics as a leader, that internal, what's kind of called the corpus of the leadership psychology, very popular kind of space now. Yeah, it's like, Hey, this is what's happening within the leader. And how much is that?
Yeah, consequential from what? So I'll give you just because I'm, this is new to me. And I don't know how to process it even
some organizations I know will require of you
to not purchase a house on an interest bearing loan, for instance, for their membership for their members. Wow. Right. So what are we measuring? Like what is consequential in your eyes versus what is Sir, this is a personal issue or this is a jurisdiction controversial issue. What are we looking at? I think first and foremost, I think there's a lot of work that needs to happen to unpack that because concept. Again, I'm our paradigm. I'm an amateur. I'm a student I'm trying to learn and I think I think there's so much in the depth of the Islamic sciences and history and Fick that still needs to be unpacked for our community because the reality is reality as the Muslim community has
never dealt with this with this pair.
Time of management that we're in right? Managing ourselves as institutions. Like that's not a paradigm that our parents know. Our grandparents don't know there's no, there's no muscle memory to how to manage a masjid or community. Right? So it's a government and the nonprofit as we call it today, nonprofit, exactly. There was a merger. Exactly. It was a sort of a healthy cycle. Exalt call off the endowments with funding, enabling us and, and to be able to manage without government intervention institutions. Yeah, that's a it's a tough reality. It's, again, there's no muscle, there's no backbone, there's no precedent I think we can lean on. So hence, there's a lot of paving
the way I think from the Islamic sciences, but also the Management Sciences. But let's go back to your point because I love it.
Let's talk about let's talk about the the most standard position of leadership is the amount I've never been any ma'am. Your your the default, at least in this conversation, an expert on Imam Imam ship?
What are the ethical standards that we can we have to judge an imam by?
I don't think there's there's no book or manual for that. Right? It's right now I'm calling for one.
Again, in my whatsapp groups, right? Exactly. Because because you have like, Okay, we have, let's just say 5000 messages across the country. The first, the first and foremost leader of each of those plays are like the natural, who are gonna hire as a community, we need to bring an email. So you have 5000 open jobs for email. And these are, I've been able to I don't want to belittle the role of Imam is tremendous. It's the community builder. It's the it's not, it's not we and you know, like, it's not just you come in you lead salon, you read and you leave. It's no, no, I'm here to build this community. I'm the the linchpin, their lifestyle, exactly. Face to the community.
We have no manuals, we have going back to the man like, well, what's the you consider that I actually wanted to ask you a whole lot of questions about root causes. But let's start with religious leadership. Would you consider that one of at least the greatest root causes for
turbulence may have? Yeah, on the religious leadership level? There's no standard? I think it can be identified? Yeah, great question. I think, I think principally, there's three root causes. Okay. One of them is the leadership, start with leadership. I think, first and foremost, I love the quote of John Maxwell. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Right. So if we fix leadership, we will fix a lot of the challenges that we're having. What does that mean? What does that mean? Well, first and foremost, I need a community that elects people
that know how to lead and manage an institution. So there has to be this embracement of not just look where I think the nonprofit you generally get people that are the financiers of the institution returns, or Yep, where they're the servants are like, they're the most dedicated volunteer, and which is great. But then you have to be able to mix in some level of expertise of leadership management into that, like, who understands how to how do we operationalize this? Now you can get that from outside, I'm fine with that. Or maybe we need to create more of those. But like the lead that leadership culture is really important before I choose who is eventually that community is
going to choose, like, who's the leader that we want to bring in?
What does that mean? Like? What kind of community do we want? What are our what are our what do we believe is the most important thing in the community that we're in? Like, what's most important? What are the primary? What are the what are the primary objectives? Like, is it
and I know it's probably because communities go from a little masala to this massive building. It's hard to project that forest Pamela, you know, the gross community was like, Hey, look at this current state for the foreseeable future, like, Hey, we got, if we have 300 families around, we need somebody that can connect the families, if we have a blue collar, in and out community. Transient, right? If it's a college town, like you've got an understand your realities pretty well to be able to decide that right? I can't just pop somebody in and we're like, for lack of a better term, like, I'm just gonna import somebody, whether from overseas or from somewhere else, and they're just gonna
fit in here. Like, I've got to figure out like, what kind of community we want, what are we trying to do?
What's the size? What's the what's the, what's the ethical considerations? What's the I mean, it might be tough to say, but diverse communities. I want to kind of a diverse religious leadership.
Whereas a lot of foundries Wait Yeah, I know you mean that and I want to make sure that what that does is well within boundaries, of course within boundaries, but like, I think,
let's talk about a few realities, like the suburb realities are very diverse in nature. And I think the the like, do we leave
On one ethnicity, so the other one is sidelined. Or if there's like two or three major, how do you choose an imam based on ethnicity? Do we just go with someone that's not there? You know, like there's there's all these considerations that happen. And I think that simply, those are, again, new realities, new challenges. I don't know how to answer those. But you know, if I may, that was one of the
I just easier for me to point out where I've been wrong, than the places where I feel like I've learned a lot, we've made some strides. But in this community, one thing that I was very keen on and to notice, and I did was that when we hired
a staff member that was African American chef, Ibrahim, Jasmine, and he started getting into the rotation of the hotel, and he's a very competent, healthy person. This was not tokenizing or anything.
It was very obvious, and I wasn't expecting it. It just you couldn't not to notice it. It was impossible. African Americans started showing up in greater numbers in our Joomla. Yeah. And for me, I was like, wow, we're sitting here harping on, you know, the fact that we need someone who speaks good English. And here I am American born healthy. So I speak good English. But no, it was representation that matter to them. Exactly. Not just sort of the language dimension. So it was humbling for me to realize that, like, you think you got to figure it out. But there are elements here, you got to sit there and say, you know, am I just confirming my biases? Am I really open to
realizing what my community needs right now? Yeah, like, for example, a diversity in leadership to feel validated and represented. Yeah. Beautifully said, I think it's fine when I was very young in the Manage messaging management space. I remember, like the Youth Center, we were very intentional as a team. You know, there's your preset themes. They're there. You know, we've defined them.
Again, speaking to this reality, like we did surveys of our dramas, actually audited our dramas for several months, asking the congregants, what they're looking for topics that they're looking for their demographics, or like we did, so it's not just anecdotal. Yeah. And then when you realize, okay, look, and we made a hardship that I remember, Matthew and I were like, we're trying to spearhead we were shifting from an Arabic
a longtime Arabic hotbar, to shifted completely English like that in the inner city, maybe, you know, suburbs here.
But in the inner city, there's,
it's not exactly till today, there's communities 40 years old, it's only one language, right. And the reality is, you again, the disenfranchisement of a younger generation, because of just persisting in that. But anyway, we were we were very insisting like, Hey, we're gonna bring never presets, but you're gonna bring different ethnicities, different caliber of leader of the IPS scholars, different ages, their major cities, different colors, different communities, like Yeah, it's a great actually, actually is a phenomenal community networking opportunity, that I'm sure you do that here. I know. And other places, like you bring Imams from different areas to give, you know,
the ability to connect with different communities. I absolutely love that. But again, root causes you're saying if I'm not going to be interrupting a major thought here is not identifying the objective enough. And based on that,
we're going to just be random, really arbitrary, not realizing it. Exactly. Yeah, understanding really well, exactly your community, I think, making
thorough thoughtful decisions, let's just say like, the thoughtful decisions that are required, is really, really important to resolving the mayhem. Understanding your congregants understanding your community, your reality. I think that's really important. So there is something that I'm sure is on different people's minds. It's definitely on mine as well, which is not just the age groups, the ethnicities, of the community, the location, the demographic, but the size that you refer to and the face right. I'll never forget that. I'm very grateful Islamic Relief. They had one sponsored a nonprofit Summit, where they brought in experts
in management in fund development and in legalities and legal
counsel, that will responsible a lot of them for the building and evolution and stabilization of some of the mega churches in the south even. So, I mean, they got a lot under their belt, a lot of credit street cred. And so one of the things that they did with us all Muslim leaders, you know, a nascent Muslim communities trying to like figure out our way is that they explained to us what governance models are, right. So they said this is called the advisory board model. This is called the team management model. This one is called the cooperative model. This one is called the patron model and
They explained to us what each of that is, that's where the board is everything. And this is where they hire someone, and they offload almost everything. And this is where it's an honorary seat. And they use them to sort of finance and network to other financers sort of sustainably. Yeah. And then after they told us all of this, they said, they made us vote on what's the best model? And we're all voting and you know, so sure of ourselves. And like, after all this, the guy smiles and it was a trick question. Yeah, sure. He says, the biggest problem in infrastructure in the nonprofit world, is when you don't recognize when you need which of these if you ever get stuck in that fixed
mindset, if you ever sign out of the growth mindset, because, um, you know, we spoke about in the previous episode, many communities who are saying, no, no, no, no, we're not at the stage yet where we can afford to hire an email. Yep. And I'm always arguing that you need to hire an imam. So you can grow Sure. Some communities will move past that they've hired one or two or three people and then get very sort of skeptical or uneasy about Moving a bit further. Should I continue building and they will come? Or are they done coming? Yeah, you know. And so I started seeing it unfold in front of me, and I said, Wow, this is a very delicate conversation. But at the very least at the
fundamental model, like being practical, I'm sure you've seen tons of success and horror stories. More than me. What do you advise? Like the small message, the medium message, the big message? Yeah, yeah. Great question. So great set of questions. I'll start with, yeah, I unloaded I'm sorry. No, no, no, no, I'll start with
that. That was the main takeaway from sort of beautiful stories, like look, your realities change, you've got to be adjustable with your union on an unimaginable amount of flexibility and agility and nonprofit work, you've got to be understand, like, the phases that you go through. So let's start with the small space, like you're the startup messages, or those small messages, for whatever reason, maybe you've been around for a long time. And you're just that small message. I think generally at that level, you're right, your your your board is going to take needs to play a bigger role in supporting the infrastructure and the building method, we would say, and I think we're,
again, we have a number of workshops that kind of dive into each of these phases. But like, let's say, number one, you want to be able to define your roadmap for the next few years, right? So you have to have clarity on like, Hey, we got to get together, we're gonna we just got elected, we're a new board. What do we want to again, go back to what's the metric of success? So we want to do what are we trying to do? Right, we want to increase our funds by x, we want to, we want to hire any man, maybe we need an amendment or another two Imams or whatever it might be, we need to increase the capacity of our Quran schooler Sunday school, like you've got to be able to sit down and defined
really quickly, you, you can't keep operating the same way. You've got to define a path forward. That's I think the first kicking the ball down the road when the goalposts exactly is a killer, for sure. Second thing is like, look, hey, we were gonna, we're gonna manage the masjid more closely. And as a smaller institution, like the board has to play a bigger role. And it's got to really be good at elevating volunteers around like, you've got to be able to lean on volunteers, usually a small subset of volunteers, and you've got to be able to lean on them, they complement your Imam hopefully, in some of the other activities that you're doing. But you're gonna lean on volunteers to
build programming again, I think we're, we're trying to build an oak tree, we're trying to do this model of like, what is this growth look like? Each level? What are you supposed to be doing? But there's like, you know, the knowledge track is like, hey, we want to want a family night, like you've ever thought of as of course, like maybe we add a family it add to the knowledge track, maybe our our programs track across audiences, hey, maybe we add one youth program, we had one preseason program, we had one kids broke, like, you've got to have, again, build those metrics. So as a smaller institution, you're going to take on bigger roles. I think the complexity is okay, now, what
about our medium institution? What are they supposed to do? Yeah, they have to start.
At this is the hard part, empowering people. And by empowering, we mean either hiring, or start more and more defaulting to like, Hey, we're gonna bring in any man and a religious director. And we're gonna bring in a youth director, we're gonna bring in a Facility Manager, we're gonna like you're at that, that's size, where you as a board cannot, you can maybe manage a few functions of like programs, hopefully, still, the strategy is still there. But you're gonna be start to offload more and more. And then I think at the, from a capacity perspective, I think at the highest level,
the biggest what we call mega meshes are the biggest institutions. They're in the crisis right now of the reality of there's two big tracks of leadership they need to think about. One get harmonized. Yeah, one is the religious leadership track. So we need a team of religious leaders not one person, right. We need a resident scholar, an Imam, substitute, you know, Assistant Imams, you know, you need a religious leadership.
And then some people really successful this one.
But then you need an executive or operations leadership team, you need an executive director, the Imam can be going to the media for PR, and doing the interfaith banquet and going to each donors like, like you can't only lean on your religious leadership. There's a lot of executive things, programs, services, activities, facilities, any dedicated staff, they need dedicated, independent. So really, the complement is trying to run across both tracks that's more hard, difficult, I think, again, we can help pave the way forward, but you need a pronged approach for your leadership capacity. So let's say someone recognizes this. They have the growth mindset.
They're decent at identifying what phase they're in.
Where do you find these good intentions and plans in principle on their way? Do they run into unforeseen obstacles? major obstacles towards this? It's telling me that fine, what do you mean by major obstacles?
So is it
the right leadership is one example that may come to my head? If you were to ask me that? Yes. So identifying right leadership, like there are communities that wait on a religious leader for 510 years? Yes, yes. Yes. Perhaps they could have built one by then. Sure. Yeah. So great, great point. So
I can go in many ways. I don't know. I think it's time we have about basically 15 minutes or so on the hours. Okay. So let's you know, and we only have one or two questions, and I want to be I want to be mindful, we're gonna do the superstar. Exactly. So you don't have to give too much. Okay. We'll always overlap. Yeah, that's fine. So let's go with, let's go with
let's go with the obstacles. Okay.
How do we overcome obstacles? Well, number one, what is the obstacle?
If it's a resource thing, you've got to you've got to really attack that if we're talking financial resources. Yep. You got to get creative as a masjid. I think we're trying to help in that space to like, hey, if we're a masjid, and we our community's not able to sustain us, so how can if I'm going to bring somebody on, I need a year's worth of that funding ready? Before we bring that person on? Ideally, I'll tell you about this horror stories. But like, Hey, we're, we've thought like, we need an X amount of fund to bring somebody in, we're gonna just work on that fund for a year or two. But once we once we trigger that fund, it doesn't go to like, oh, well, let's just expand the building.
No, no, we've committed to the Empire. Yeah, let's just renovate the bathroom. No, no, no, let's, let's just let's let's, if we want to invest in people, we've got to be thoughtful and planning about it and allocate the resources to it, again, being more creative, financial obstacle, right. So dedicate the time resources to it. Now, let me speak about this.
Too many big and small institutions
do the travesty of bringing somebody on they can't even pay their paycheck more past three months. I mean, I know people personally, that have worked for institutions and been back paid for four or five months in a row. That's absolutely unacceptable. Like you no doubt about it. There's no way the salary itself is above the salary, but then you're like, oh, not even if somebody will, will back pay them. That's absolutely unacceptable. It should be again, the thoughtfulness it's like, the planning the strategy, the thoughtfulness of like, yeah, we want to bring on a new person. Okay. Do we have there? Do we have what we need for this person for six months a year to sustain them in
their frame? Like, that's just just that mere fact of doing that? It goes a long way. It takes us two years, three years. Okay. I mean, that's okay. So financial obstacles. Let's go to the second obstacle like, hey, look, we're we have external forces that are there are hindering us. Like the community or small town. Yes. Small Town. Exactly. Like there's external fort wherever. Yeah. So there's, if there's external forces, again, I think small and steady, like it's okay to build to your point like that. Yeah, maybe we need five years, 10 years to find the right person. That's okay. That's okay. Or to just be where we want to be. I think the last one is the most difficult. I
know you want me to get to that is one of the people dynamics in the institution are just chaotic. We have all the resources. Before you get to that. Let me just add that I've seen some very nice success stories of at least religious leadership, because that's my neck of the woods in these projects, where they say, you know, we do have a call to hire. It's been sitting there forever. Yeah. But we have actually sponsored a student to go to law school and go to Medina. They've graduated Mischka. I know people who say I remember this Imam when he was a little kid in our community. Look at him now. Yeah, he's our pride and glory and Subhanallah you know, just,
like be ready to adapt. Have a plan b Don't wait. We're already playing catch up. I think
relativity, you hit it on that organic is really important. You can always import but organic, I believe in the
seminary. I'm being surprised to be honest shout out to follow them. Yes. Because I don't I was not very close to follow my nose, essentially, who they are and what they do. And I'm very happy and proud of them and hearing about growth. But now on the receiving end, I'm traveling to massage it. And it was sort of like a three and three months type thing where I'm a column graduate. Yeah, the Imam that I meet at a local Masjid. Yeah. And that just so inspiration.
Division, I did a year of column sharpness as an outstanding leader. I think he's very thoughtful about what he's trying to do. And like this community engine, we absolutely need an engine of,
of someone that's pumping out religious leadership, like it's, it's not it's got to be nonstop and, and no disrespect to anyone else. I just I noticed that like, Wow, they're so happy to hear that. And there's honestly other institutions to that they don't get into that community, the community, take on community worship is tough. And you know that. So I love I love that piece.
If you I think another mistake or major obstacle. I think another mistake is just on that point. I think sometimes communities have a leader, and they don't trust that leader to build leaders around them. Enough. They don't like, hey, we don't want you from the religious perspective. We love that you're teaching 15 classes. But we'd like to give you three young people that you can develop for us. Like, hey, tell me you think it's a trust issue? I personally don't. I think it's multifaceted.
Be honest, sometimes the leaders themselves don't want the competition. I think sometimes the leaders themselves either they keep themselves too busy to build the next leader. The succession plan. Really?
For sure, yeah. Sure. Tragedy, I think I think I think that that
it's tough, and then we're gonna believe it. Yeah, we're human. Yes, there's a human, there's a human side of it. But I think like, we don't, we shouldn't be. The takeaway should be invest more time and more folks around you. I love the habitat boss. He's a great mentor of mine in the space. He used to tell us like when you're a leader, you find your replacement. They want a nonprofit, like, who's going to replace you? Are you? Do you have that person? Is it clear to you? Because everybody's gonna, it's everybody saying hello, and goodbye. So I'm like, Oh, my axon. Yeah, exactly. So make sure that your day one prepping that person. I love that. The concept just yeah,
the mindset. So our religious leaders need that. But then yes, you're right. Our institutions are not patient enough. Like, oh, we're gonna send somebody that column? Well, we got to wait six years. Like, are we willing to, we're willing to be patient when you can just kind of like do it quickly. So that there's the there's the balancing act of it, for sure. There are obstacles now. Yeah. The the people dynamics to the obstacle of like, Hey,
you we elect 12 people, 15 people 70. I don't know how many these boards get crazy. Like all these, you know, it's a revolving door, two years, four years. And we can never get the the continuity and the synergy of leadership because the reset button is always gonna there's always right. Yeah, exactly. So. So that is the governance structures. Another very big challenge. It's chaos, because everybody does their own thing or replicates what next door is doing, essentially. So you know, a mentor of mine and I, I'm not Republican or Democrat, but he said to me something very profound. He said,
America is a great country, because it was able to withstand Trump. Sure, like everyone, if you remember, before Trump got into office, at least his detractors. Were going bonkers. Sure. You know, he's gonna do this. And he's threatening to do that. And he's saying the internet conspiracy videos, were actually getting a little bit more colorful in the Yeah, in the prophecies, they were prophesying. And then my mentor said to me,
like America is not a masjid.
America has the infrastructure, and the checks and balances, to withstand even someone as eccentric as Trump. Yeah. And look, he came, and he left. And yes, of course, there is a there's a decline in every empire show in America still America. Sure, sure. And I was blown away by that. Yeah, the governmental apparatus didn't fall apart because someone came out of left field to take started slapping is when I realized exactly basically, it's a great if I think in a lot of trains, so we talk a lot to boards. I was like, Hey, if you guys all left and didn't come back, how much would be left here? Like what's the what's the thought? what's your what's your effect after you're gone? And
that is that is a lot of up Yeah, you got to operationalize things. You You have to have a
robust way. And this is tough to, because even us as leaders on the ground don't do that. We don't we don't even.
We don't even write on like, we don't even have contracts. And we work, just verbal agreements on the most important people that are hired by the institution, it's just all verbal, or like, yeah, hey, how often? I think I think I think the lack of institutionalizing the institution is one of the key causes of the man. Nobody wants to spend time doing it. What about I want your take on this, even though it's a can of worms, the concept of so that's a little bit of like, the free for all concept. Sure, another shade of this, which is what some may call the, like, over democratization of share, where you hit these stagnation points, because there's just too much yeah, so so much so much
stagnation, that one party will sue the other, or will break off, right, like you too many opinions not enough, sort of like this.
opinions. 100%. And look, I think I've been there. I've been there. I've been in the board meetings where one person wants to talk about, you know, the balloon parade and one verse he wants to talk about.
I really hope these are two stories. One person's video, hey, let's do a parade. I was talking about, hey, let's, you know, the landscapers and the lizard like my Hey, why don't we invite you know, Chef XYZ to our next Youth Conference? That's, you know, some international star, you know, it's like it's all over. Right? There's, there's absolutely.
Because there isn't 100 the checks and balances and institutions, actually, there should be. There's no, what a seniority mean and msgid? Like, how do I get to the level of being at the top of like, making really critical decisions? What's that? What's that journey like it? Well, it's, if I'm a rich doctor, that gives the most money, I'm just going to be on that board. Or if I'm, if I'm a dedicated mom that serves that I'm going to like how if I'm a aspiring good speaking, 20 year old guy that gives the buzz that are motivating, I'm gonna be on the board, like, what is what is the what is how do you how do you measure the progress, right? Like, typically, by the way, I need to
say, because I laughed so hard at the balloon thing,
within religious leadership, as well, we hear a very difficult, of course, sort of tensions that are because of how wide the spectrum can be on what is going to fix experience the OMA or the local Oma. And so the priority debate
can't be open ended, we have to get past decision paralysis. So we need some way to move this forward. Exactly. I'm not sort of like dogging on any sector. That's not my own. And here's the conundrum. And I think this is important for board members to hear this. A lot of times, board members might be sitting in the highest level of the,
the, the safeguards are the custodians of the institution, but they're not the most important people in that institution. It's probably, if it's a strong Imam, it's probably the Imam. If it's a strong leader community, it's probably the leader. And so you've got to hopefully lean into them supporting you and helping you tread the path of priority again, goes back to competence. Like, if I'm like, if I'm a good emaan
good meaning like I'm able to like steward my board, like I've got to be able to lead up. Yep. Hey, all like, hey, let's, let's create a path forward. Let's be key on like, what are the strategic object like? Just these simple terminologies are very important, or else we're always stuck in Palestine today and Bangladesh tomorrow? And oh, you know, somebody poor? Let's create a food pantry. Let's create a let's do it. When are we going in every direction? You're not going anywhere? I think yeah, the the point I think for leaders is important to know.
The saying is,
effort does not mean effectiveness. Just because you're doing a lot doesn't mean you're doing a lot. So you've got to be able to understand clearly like, yeah, sure, there'll be moments where we can steer off. But look, where I've been for are giving a specific example. I joined when I moved to Dallas, the I was a youth director the first few years there and it was hard for me to leave you know, Brooklyn kid leaving for the first time it's it's tough to leave family and nuances. If I didn't see unimaginable synergy with the leadership like hey, we believe in youth. We believe that we're not we are built like
that. We're all about the youth and I said very clear. Hey, look, love it. Everything is about the youth. That means okay, we're gonna build a youth team. We're gonna build youth work, like everything is going to be synergized around these young people. Right? And that's, it's tough because when you break the door, or there's a hole in the wall from the soccer ball, or like the you know,
Like, Hey, are we really like, are we gonna shut everything down? Or do we really believe? No, that's our priority part of it no matter what. You have to have that commitment on like, it's clear to us the focus is youth. That means everything that comes with that is going to just happen. Same with community. Yes. Like, hey, we have we're serving families. Okay, that means that means your speech got to be committed to moms with babies, everybody find everybody fine with a baby crying during a show or no, everybody ready for that are like, what are we trying to do? I think leadership has got to set the tone. And we've got to kind of mobilize around to your point, what's the values?
What's the priorities? And I think there's no way around that. I'm actually happy that I don't have time to ask you the last question. Sure. On My Mind, which is how do we overcome these obstacles?
In scale? Right. And I think a better question to be asked if you want to sort of speak to it in a minute's time, fine, but I think it's a perfect reason to tell people really what oak tree can offer them. Sure. Because there's probably gonna need a customization about overcoming some of these obstacles, sure, with the particularities of their projects or institutions. Sure. So I'm talking about actually kind of a at its foundation, because a lot of people
don't know, it's
a nonprofit that's been around for over 10 years, things started off, the vision of the initial founding board was,
you know, education around leadership. And then that really evolved throughout various phases. And till today, I think we we really are, our focus is to support Muslim leaders within the nonprofit spaces. And I think that's a very humble myself on our team, like, we've all we've been on the ground like we've been, the frontline leaders and community work for a long time. And then we became kind of experts in different aspects of that leadership. And so what I'm what we're trying to do is really bring a tailored customized solution to our community across these difficult problems. Like, what does a strategic plan mean for a masjid? How do you create a strategic plan? Like what is the
path forward? And what are all the stakeholders a part of that? And how do we actually synergize and align around it will actually help works through that? Hey, how do we actually structure programs and activities? How do we scale that in msgid? What are the different programs activities we should be having? We help kind of train and I would say we kind of consult because we do a lot of, you know, discovery work with with with massage and understanding what their budgets are under volunteers and their leaders and their history. But I think we help tread the path forward for me, how does that differ from consulting in my little
consult? It is consulting work, but we're, we're not gonna do it for you like a lot of times, hey, can you guys come in speaks to our Imam and performance manage him? Can you guys come and help us write our bylaws? Like, we're not we're not at the level, we don't have the capacity to do it. We really are just trying to train on best practices and the experiences that we that we were bringing from various other communities and ourselves. Awesome. So and that's, I think, look,
let's be honest to people don't want to learn. Like, I've personally been in the space for about five years, this kind of training and development for the Muslim community.
It's a it's a hard sell people we're not maybe because of the reactionary nature of our organization, just so head down, focus on the next thing. But
trying to train your volunteers, your staff, I mean, we, we we've done some of the things we do staff wide training on the customer service, like How does everybody from the Imam to the janitor and all the volunteers? How do they think about serving their customers in a Massachusetts setting? Make it a pleasant experience? Yeah. What does that mean? Yeah, exactly. And training on some of those things. And, and a lot of times, it's them, figuring it out, them giving us scenarios that they've gone through, and we pop it up and we tell them Hey, okay, how are you going to tackle this? You know, Mom spilled yelled at this the middle of Ramadan that was going on, you know, we know the
chaos like, Hey, how are we coming together to solve this problem? And that's the stuff that I think our institutions just not investing enough in the willingness to learn the best practices and to try to elevate their standards. No, that's fantastic. May Allah reward you guys in ways that that will continue to live on in the communities and in your offspring in sha Allah azza wa jal alone, I mean, and I know putting this podcast together that this is not meant for scale. This is a very niche subject. Yeah. And so I do want anyone who's listening and interested to, to connect with the likes of oak tree and benefit yourselves and invest in it. And you know, let's professionalize. Let's be
people of Sanic Islamic work right? With excellence in sha Allah azza wa jal, the spirit of our deen and May Allah help us May Allah help us pass the baton the day that we pass it with our heads up high in front of Allah azza wa jal for the little bit that we did in our little corners of the world is like leather on me. I look forward to having you again on some future subjects in sha Allah Tala. It's all our viewers. Please do share this and leave your
comments so that we can We know what needs to be addressed and we're not speaking in a silo Subhana Allah Hi I'm Nick shadow Allah in Atlanta Mr photocatalytic Santa Monica toma