Most mosques hold, at one time or another, elections for new majlis ash-shura (Board of Directors). The question often arises of what sort of persons should be nominated and then elected for this majlis. In this regard the Book of God gives us clear guidance. In unequivocal terms it tells us:
"Only those shall maintain the mosques of Allah who believe in God and the last day, establish regular prayer and practice regular charity and fear none (at all) except God. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance." (9:18)
Since the main function of the majlis will be to maintain the mosque, it is clear that its members should fulfill the three conditions mentioned in the above verse, i.e.
1) Belief in God and the hereafter
2) Practice of regular prayer and regular charity
3) Fearing none but Allah
Let us explain these conditions in some detail and see how we can recognize those who fulfill them. After reading this explanation, many will probably feel that there is hardly anyone in their community who fulfils the above conditions in their entirety. But while this is most likely the case, we should not make it a reason to ignore the Qur'anic guidance. If we cannot find brothers and sisters who fulfill the above conditions in their entirety, we should nominate and elect those who come closest to doing so.
Belief in God and the hereafter
Those who fulfill the first condition mentioned in the Qur'anic verse are not primarily motivated by the desire to gain importance or power in the community or by any other similar worldly desire. They engage in Islamic work for the pleasure of Allah (i.e. no pleasure of anything that is not God), for jannah (eternal bliss) in the hereafter and for their inner satisfaction in this life.
A sign of such people is that they will not go after projects whose main attraction is a glamour value, e.g. building a mosque whether or not it is the most needed project, only in order to be able to say to the community: "look! We, too, have built a mosque".
Those who have genuine faith in God and the hereafter will not concentrate on projects whose results can be seen quickly and in tangible form. They will go, rather, for the projects that the community really needs.
For the glory of Islam and for the welfare of Muslims in this part of the world, there is so much work that badly needs to be done. Many Muslims do not see the presence of this type of work and if it is pointed out to them they will not take it up because it requires patience and prolonged effort whose results may not be seen quickly, and in some cases, not even in one's lifetime.
But those who have faith in God and the hereafter and seek the pleasure of Allah will not only be able to see the work that needs to be done but also take it up, if they are able to. This is because in their hearts they are sure that if they do not see the fruits of their efforts in this short life of theirs, they will most certainly see them in the life that they are sure will come after this life.
Another sign of those who have genuine faith in God and the hereafter is that they keep a generously devoting part of their time, money and energy for Islamic work, whether or not they have any official position in this or that organization or center. They will give their time, money and energy to Islam and Muslims not only when they hold such positions but also when they are out of various organizations amongst us, no matter whether they are out because they never joined any organization or because they were ousted by an intriguing individual or clique or by an honest and fair election. This is because God and jannah for which they work exist regardless of whether they are in this or that organization or out of it.
Practice of regular prayer and regular charity
In addition to faith and sincerity of intention, those who should maintain our mosques must also practice at least the main injunctions of the Shariah (code of conduct). Of these injunctions, by far the most important are the commandments to practice regular prayer and regular charity, through which a person comes closer to his Creator and to his fellow human beings. If a person follows these two injunctions, both in letter and in spirit, then he has already fulfilled the main part of the Shariah and to fulfill the other parts will become easy for him. That is why in the verse under consideration here, Allah mentions only these two injunctions.
It is relatively easy to recognize those who are regular in their prayers. But charity is something that may be (and sometimes should be) practiced in secret. So by what sign can we recognize those who practice it? By a generous and open character. Those who practice charity are usually ready to forgive and forget. Instead of keeping grudges and talking behind the backs of others they prefer to settle personal differences by talking things over. They also welcome with open arms any cooperation with other Muslim brothers and sisters, provided such cooperation does not sacrifice any clear Islamic principles.
Fearing none but Allah
The importance of this condition is not fully realized by the Muslims these days, because most of our ulama (i.e. powers other than Allah) in their speeches and writings do not stress this condition in the same way in which they stress some other parts of Islamic teachings (such as prohibition of alcohol and free mixing of sexes, commandment to pray, fasting, etc.; in other words, those parts of Islam, promulgation of which will get these ulama into any trouble with the authorities). A result of this is that in choosing members of our mosque committees, etc. we never think of this third condition. We may ask ourselves whether a brother considered for membership in a majlis ash-shura or mosque committee is regular in his prayers, eats halal food, etc. but we never ask ourselves whether there are any signs that he fears only Allah (i.e. he does not fear anything that is not God). But the Holy Qur'an is crystal clear: fearing none but Allah is a condition that must be fulfilled by those who are to maintain and manage our mosques. This is, of course, because in Islam mosques are not just places of worship but centers of Islamic work in all its aspects, including declaration of truth and support of all just causes, and this is a task that mosque committees can by no means perform properly if the hearts of their members are full of all kinds of fears of powers other than Allah.
One of the signs of those who fear none but Allah is that they give more importance to what is right and good for Islam and Muslims than to "what people will say". if they see clearly that something is right and good for Islam and Muslims they will declare it and go for it, even if they know that some people will laugh at them or consider them "odd" or criticize and blame them or start a campaign of ghyba (or backbiting) against them. For, the Holy Qur'an says that one of the characteristics of the believers is that they are not afraid of the blames of a blamer in following and upholding that which is right.
Another sign of those who fear none but Allah is that they don't tell lies. They say what they mean and mean what they say, except when there is a good reason to do otherwise.(1) The Holy Qur'an says:
"Speak words that are straight" (33:70)
A result of the habit of speaking straight is the habit of fulfilling one's promises. Those who say one thing but have something quite different in their hearts often make promises that they do not intend to keep and therefore do not keep. Yet the Holy Qur'an greatly and often stresses the need to fulfill one's promises. At one place it mentions fulfilling one's word along with such important qualities of the believers as regularity and humility in prayers and avoiding adultery. (23:1-8)
A third sign of those who fear none but Allah is that they will be seen engaged in some form of struggle against batil and zulm (falsehood and injustice) and will be willing to face the dangers that such struggle (or jihad) inevitably entails. When in the way of such jihad it is necessary to raise their voices against corrupt and repressive regimes of their countries they will do so. But at the same time they will not make foolish steps but rather make calculated and effective sacrifices to advance the cause of truth and justice. In others words, they combine courage, bravery and wisdom.
One such good reason, for example, would be the need to protect a secret of a genuinely Islamic state from the enemies of Islam and Muslims. In this case, one can deliberately give wrong information to the enemy to confuse him.
First published in Al-Ummah, Montreal, Canada in 1983. Copyright Dr. Ahmad Shafaat. The article may be reproduced for Da'wah purpose with proper references.