So How Much SHOULD Islamic Clergy Make?

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Slate raised the issue of the salaries of religious clergy highlighting salaries of Priests and Rabbis. Data about Imam salaries was (un)surprisingly hard to find.

The topic of imams’ salaries is for some reason a touchy one, but it is not a complicated issue if approached objectively. We have previously discussed what to look for when hiring an imam. Communities though, set extremely high expectations of what they want.

If those qualifications and expectations were to be put on someone in any other working environment, I would venture to guess the salary discussion would start somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 a year.

If your community wants a Superman imam, then they need to be ready to pay a Superman salary.

Aside from that, an imam should be assessed by any other normal scale. Check a person’s qualifications. Someone with a Master’s in Islamic Law and 15 years experience leading a community should command a higher pay than a fresh graduate with no experience. Most masjids though, just have a set amount that they throw at whoever fills the position regardless of qualification.

Along with qualification there needs to be a built in growth mechanism (or career advancement). As the imam gains tenure in the community, the salary should be raised accordingly based on their performance [something ideally settled on in the interview process].

The problem that we run into is we want imams who will give 80 hours a week, but be paid based on 20. In our secular fields, if we have a 4 or 6 year degree, we expect a certain minimum salary to be commensurate with our experience and education. For some reason, we feel this does not apply to imams as if studying Islam and serving or leading a community do not really count.

If we need someone to spend 30-40 hours a week in the masjid, provide 10-20 hours a week of counseling, and on top of that be constantly on-call for marriages, funerals, and other emergencies, then a pay structure should be built to reflect that. Regular jobs that have such requirements will either pay high enough that they can make someone salaried and they will deal with the hours, or there are incentives built in (overtime and on-call pay).

Unfortunately, not only are we not there yet, but we don’t even offer the most basic of benefits yet such as healthcare and reimbursements for education and development. The fact that Slate could so readily collect salary data from the Jewish and Christian communities, but had no starting point for the Muslim community speaks volumes about how far behind we are.

If we truly want community leaders who lead us in prayer, deliver the khutbah on Fridays, counsel our families, and teach our children then it behooves us to make sure they are so well paid that they never have to worry about money. Buy them a house and pay them a full time salary on top of it. We need to take the benefits of a corporate pay structure and apply it to the masjid – with one huge caveat. We cannot adopt the ruthlessness and attitude that people are dispensable that permeates corporate leadership. These are our community leaders, the people we have entrusted our spiritual education to – make sure they are taken care of.

I personally feel that the imam position should be a 6 figure income (adjusted according to cost of living and so on). Smaller communities should still aim to pay at least 50-60 (if not closer to 80). These are simply rough numbers, but I want to throw them out there and move our communities past the expectation that we get tenured scholars who are on the same paygrade (or less) than most entry level positions.

Many communities are still living in a naive reality where they expect an Imam to take a pay of 30-40k just because they are “working for Islam” without any regard to supporting their family. Then we get upset when they take a second job to make ends meet, insisting instead that they dedicate their time to the community. In our non-Islamic professions we aim to secure the highest salary possible and feel insulted if someone offers less than our worth. Let’s stop doing that to our community leaders.

We don’t live in a Muslim country where there are endowments and government grants to support our scholars. Our communities have the money. Fundraising is not the problem. We just need to understand that our investment in human resources should take precedence over our investment in architectural ones.

This article was cross-posted at MuslimMatters.org with the added epilogue,

In the 2 days since posting this article on muslimsi.com, there has been an outpouring of feedback via comments, Facebook shares, and even personal emails. Based on that feedback I felt it important to highlight a few points.

Most obviously, this is an extremely contentious issue in our community, and it is one that must be resolved in a way that allows our communities to grow and move forward.

When it comes to opposing higher pay (or even pay altogether) for Imams, it comes from a few very specific perspectives. First is the view that people who do Islamic work should not be paid at all (a view that I feel is naive and somewhat ignorant). Second is the view that if an Imam is paid, then it means he must be a perfect human being, or at worst, be like one of the Sahabah in all his actions. Third is the view that if a board pays an Imam, then it means they somehow have total ownership of him.

In all these cases, the root of the problem is a lack of respect for the scholars and community leaders of ourummah. They are not perfect, but if they don’t guide us, who will? Our responsibility as community members is tohelp them grow, because the more that they grow, the better equipped they are to lead our communities. Instead, we find masjids that are expecting one of the khulafā’ al-rashīdūn to magically come and lead their masjid (and do so for a minimum wage salary at that). Many of our boards have yet to realize that the job description of an Imam in America is vastly different from what an imam does in nearly any other country in the world. The expectations we put on them are herculean to say the least.

This lack of respect comes from not understanding what function the Imam plays in the community. 99% of the people will never see the hours of marital counseling, family counseling, and late night phone calls that imams have to yield. They’ll never see the people who randomly walk into the masjid at odd hours dealing with drug abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sometimes worse trying to find help from the imam. They won’t see the hours of work that will go into preparing a 45-minute halaqah that is then only attended by 10 people.

Our communities are growing rapidly, and with that growth comes new problems and new situations that we must deal with. If we want to live our lives in a way pleasing to Allah, then it is imperative we supply our communities with people capable of leading them and helping us deal with those problems. I find instead that many masjids treat their imams even more ruthlessly than the worst of corporations, not realizing the need the community has for spiritual leadership. They nitpick at them in ways that make it appear as if they consider themselves to be angelic.

Aside from the arguments resulting from a lack of respect, the only other issue is money. I do not think money is an issue. In some smaller communities, it will be, and they’ll have to work through it. But I cannot fathom how seemingly every other masjid has multi-million dollar blueprints and expansion plans, but they can’t afford to invest in quality human resources. This is a joke. Without proper human resources, we will just have empty (but beautiful) structures. Put the money where it’s needed most.

One of the most promising developments I have seen is that there is a surge of people who want to serve this deenfull time. They want to study Islam, they want to work for the community full time. But they are held back. Their parents will not stand for them taking a career in the service of Islam and instead push them into other professions. Now it may be easy to criticize a parent and say they are being short-sighted or materialistic, but I do not think that is the case at all. I think most parents have seen the way our communities treat Imams – the most telling sign of which is their low salary (as the saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is”) – and they do not want their children to have to face that.

If our masajid do not get their acts together on this issue, then we are planting a destructive seed that will prevent our development of sustainable scholarship in this country.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @ibnabeeomar.

Omar UsmanSo How Much SHOULD Islamic Clergy Make?

52 Comments on “So How Much SHOULD Islamic Clergy Make?”

    1. Tarek

      Under what circumstances should a Prophet be compared to an ordinary human hired for some position – imam- in some organization – masjid. Allah chooses and sends the Prophets but we hire the imams …  It is job … and a job needs to be paid … Allah takes care of his Prophets, but we must take care of our Imams.

    1. ibn abee omar

      agreed. if the community wants people to give us high quality work in service of the community – they MUST be taken care of. there’s just no way around this if we want to be successful. 

    2. Atif

      When we start paying these type of professions (educators, imams) the salary they deserve, we will start to see healthy *competition* for the best position.  When we have people competing for an imam position, this in effect will bring in the most intelligent and qualified people to lead an community.  That’s an exciting prospect…

  1. Hassan

    Whatever the salary imam gets paid (even 1 million dollars), the board and community should not think they own the imam. They should always realize he is the leader of community, he should be given final say in religious matters of community, and in non-religious matters things can be delegated.

  2. Guest

    Hmmmm this is a tricky one. Part of me says  that they should make a lot( close to 6 figures) but if you look at it from another point of view i.e. how the rest of the countries operate then they shouldn’t make that much. Most of the masajid area always struggling with funds and if the Imam gets 100k then its going to be hard on the community. 

    Another point is that anyone who has lived outside America has seen that the Imams in Pakistan, India etc hardly make any money. They run the madrasah, lead salah 5 times a day( including weekends) and still spend time with their family. When you see them you are reminded of how the prophets struggled and how our ultimate goal should be the akhirah. 

    Raising the Pay of the Imams is going to make people go into Imamat with mixed intentions. I am kinda religious, might as well become an Imam( which I know takes years of study) and earn good money.. and then we don’t produce real high quality Imams( we have great Imams but the standard is definitely going down).

    The Imams pay should be decent not very high. When I see Imams complain about coming to the masjid on the weekends, it makes me sad..I have to immediately compare him to my teacher who used to ride a bicycle for 20 minutes to come and teach me how to read the Quran and I don’t think he would get paid that much.

    With money comes a lot of baggage…

    1. ibn abee omar

      The problem is that being an imam comes with soooo much stuff that you have to deal with – the money doesnt make it worthwhile. for a person to put up with masjid boards, crazy community members, crazy hours, problems, etc does take a sincere person. they money is a way of a community taking care of someone serving them. 

      That being my take on it, i definitely understand where you’re coming from and it is something that must be watched out for. 

      the only problem with comparing to overseas imams is that the job descriptions have changed significantly – check out the articles linked to in this one. community expectations are rising very high, and thats what (i believe) necessitates this. 

    2. Atif

      It is a concern that an Imam might be in it just for the money, but I think someone like that would get exposed really quickly.  Their insincerity would be reflected in their piety and manners.  In order for a caller to Islam to be effective, he needs to be close to Allah and earn the love of Allah.  If the Creator loves him, then the creation will love him and respect him as well:
      ‘Allah’s Apostle said, “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel, saying, ‘Allah loves so and so, O
      Gabriel love him’ So Gabriel would love him and then would make an announcement in the Heavens:
      ‘Allah has loved so and-so therefore you should love him also.’ So all the dwellers of the Heavens
      would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the earth.”‘ (http://sunnah.com/urn/70360)
      If people don’t love and respect the Imam, he won’t last very long.

  3. Guest

    To be honest, and with all due respect to the brother who wrote this, but this post is way off.  Trying to compare the position of an Imam to a regular job in secular fields is incorrect in many aspects.   Now that doesn’t mean the Imams should not be paid enough to be able to support their family, but at the same time if a person wants to make a lot of money becoming a sheikh isn’t a suitable career for him.  And people who set out to seek knowledge and become callers to Islam know that this is not something which pays a lot of money.   

    In my opinion, the bigger problem for us here in the United States is not that Imams do not get paid enough, but the problem is that they get hired by the “board” of the masjid, so they are an employee and have to follow the decisions of the “board”.  The way it is supposed to be is that the Imam leads the community.

    The other problem which I have seen in many different states which I have lived in over the past years is the lack of properly trained and knowledgeable Imams.  We simply don’t have enough “supply” to meet the demand of opening all these masajid, and no increasing the pay of Imams will not solve this problem, it will only have more people fighting over it.  I don’t consider a brother who has some Quran memorized or if he studied a little bit of Islamic knowledge to be qualified for the position of an Imam.  Then how about the many Imams who don’t even have that yet they have been assigned to these positions for one reason or another.

    Furthermore, most masajid here have to get their own funding from people.  In many of the Muslim countries, the government supports the masajid.  So while many masajid are struggling to pay their bills and keep the light and heating on, they don’t really have the funds to pay higher wages to the Imam.

    Long comment I know, but the main point is that our masaajid here have tons of problems that they need to deal with, and in my opinion how much they pay their Imam is not one of them. 

    1. ahmed

      jazakum Allahu khairan. A couple of points:

      – most people who are qualified choose not to go into the imam position because the pay is so terrible. I know several very qualified brothers like this. Since the pay is low, their parents push back, the wife pushes back, and there’s no way he can take that position.

      – Plus, there is no respect given to an imam simply due to the low pay. I know one Imam who was being paid well (rare case) and people would say openly that they respected him a lot because he drove nice cars. He would lease a new car every 2 years, and this was enough reason for several people to seek advice from him – he became more approachable since he was at a similar financial level as them.

      We live in a time when people accord respect, honor, and status based on how much they make. That’s why most of us go into medicine and IT, and would never imagine going into an Imam position.

      1. Guest

        I know many people who don’t respect the Imam because of the same points you mentioned. They will start shouting Israf chants when they see him drive a luxury car. People have always respected others who have money and this is what Islam brought an end to. People are suposed to be respected on their knowledge, piety and other non materialistic things. Please don’t relate Imam making more money to gaining more respect. 

      2. ibn abee omar

        We should also note that Islamic history has never frowned upon wealth or even wealthy scholars. this is some false piety that we expect people to have now – that to be a religious leader they must somehow shun money or financial freedom/flexibility. there’s tons of stories of illustrious companions and scholars who were extremely wealthy. 

        Of course some people abuse it, but that fear shouldn’t force us to undervalue or underpay imams. 

        1. Guest

          I don’t think the issue is scholars having wealth, but the issue is to say that they should get paid a lot of money for the Islamic work that they do.  Some scholars of the past were wealthy yes, but they were wealthy because they came from a wealthy family or they made their wealth by being successful in doing business and trading or they held a high position like a judge or governor of a city.  So that is how they made their money and not from being scholars.  Many scholars of the past actually spent all their wealth in the path of seeking knowledge.  So to say that they should get paid a lot of money for being Imams is problematic.  Not to mention that paying Imams more will not really solve any of the problems because just paying them more wages will not result in better ‘quality’ of people who apply for the position but rather will only result in more competition for the position.  Also to say that those who are qualified are opting out from becoming Imams because of the low pay and because they can make more money in ‘secular’ fields, that is just an excuse.  If a person was sincere and really wanted to become a scholar of Islam, then they should be willing to take on the opportunity cost of it too!  We shouldn’t think that the great scholars of the past would not have excelled in other fields if they were to pursue them, but at the same time the fact that they were not paid a lot (actually not paid at all!) to become scholars did not prevent them from pursuing that.  Even today in many of the Islamic countries, some scholars make their money by authoring books or by doing business or making successful investments, and some even had a job like Shaykh Albani (r.a.) who used to repair watches for a living!  So yes, scholars are free to have a lot of money and be wealthy, but the source should not be from their position as an Imam of a masjid. 

    2. ibn abee omar

      i think i would turn that problem around this way- masjids DO have a lot of problems, and a lot of those problems can be solved with sound leadership (mostly spiritual). To do that means finding the right imam to help guide and grow the community. On that assumption, i feel paying a good imam takes precedence over almost any other community activity (such as a new construction project or even school).

      also – i dont think *anyone* in america would become an imam just for the money. go hang out with one for a week and see what they have to do. i can personally say even if a masjid offered me an imam position and doubled my current salary, i would still reject it in a HEARTBEAT. 

      1. GUEST

        Finding the right imam is the key. 

        Sound leadership, mostly spiritual… is the key. 

        But when that Imam themselves betray the spiritual leadership – not show up for numerous salah, ignore their contract, ignore any concern of accountability on the contract that they signed on, use masjid resources frivolously – that is print crap, waste paper and use up toner for their personal stuff… no concerns on how cold or hot the rooms are, as it is the masjid, and not their house… 

        is that the spiritual leadership the Imam displays?

        I am going to bet that ALL MASAJID have had one too many times a significant concern with the Imam showing NON-ISLAMIC leadership characteristics.  

        When our Imams show leadership, when they smile and walk the talk, and saw Asalamu Alaikum, that is when they deserve the funds from the masjid.  

        When they ignore Salams, when people don’t care to know the Imams as the Imam does not care about the community at large, these guys don’t deserve to be imams. 

        Walk the talk first.  

        One concern everyone forgets is… people forget what the shurah or the volunteers or the board do.  “Go hang out with one for a week and see what they have to do.” Now, do it for free and DARE TO MEET WHAT THE AMOUNT OF WORK THEY COMMIT … for FREE. 

        1. s.k.

          printer toner????? wallahi if masjid expect imam to be angels then we have very a wrong perspective. masjid does not own imam just because he has salary. 

          1. Guest

            How about vice versa?

            Does the imam own the masjid? 

            Why do some have two standards? One for their personal homes and one for their place of work?  They tell us to dedicate our time to our jobs or fulfill our contracts but their actions differ?

            When a man came to discuss personal matters with him, Umar (rh) blew out the state candle and used his personal candle, to ensure that he did not use state resources for personal benefit 

            When we get this type of leadership, we will succeed. 

          2. Khalidg

            If you have an issue with the Imam misusing Masjid property, then remind him about it.  But don’t go and talk to him as if he is your little child and disrespect him. 

            Your usage of Umar (r.a.) story is wrong as well.  He was in his own house and using state property in his house which means that he took state belongings in his house.  So he blew out the candle which was wonderful.  What does that have to do with the Imam being in the Masjid using masjid property?  Do you want him to freeze and sweat in the Masjid? 

            The bigger issue here is that when people see Muslims being so picky about Imams, the last thing they would want their child to be is be an Imam.  Then at the end of the day, Muslims lose out because their most brilliant minds don’t become Imams. 

            Muslims have lost out in America because of the lack of American born Imams.  That’s why American Muslim kids are so far from Islam and know so little about their religion because they their Imam could not relate to them. 

            If every Masjid were to treat their Imam the way your are mentioning, then the good Imams will start leaving their positions for other fields.  I see that happening already.  The good Imams don’t want to deal with masjid boards and moving on to other fields. 

        2. Anonymous

          Seems like you’re trying to tackle multiple issues here.

          If the imam is breaking his contract by violating major tenets [such as missing prayers that he is supposed to lead] then there’s a breakdown in either
          a) expectations not clearly being set when the imam joined, or
          b) not having a plan in place for some type of corrective action – ie a formal warning, a meeting about the issue, etc. 

          Things like printer toner and thermostat issues (seriously? this is an ‘issue’?) sound unbelievably nit-picky. 

          No one is saying imams are perfect, and there’s certainly a fair share of bad imams out there. The larger problem – IMO – is that the good imams aren’t afforded the respect they deserve. one indicator of this is their low salary. another indicator is the “back-home” mentality of owning someone like a slave just because you give them a salary – and thats what the tone of this comment (printer toner/thermostat) seems to indicate. It’s also this mentality that makes them hold imams up to unrealistic standards of perfection while forgetting their own faults. 

          Moreover, its troubling that board/shura members take on such a self-righteous tone in quickly declaring their imams to have non-islamic characteristics. If that’s the case, why hire this imam in the first place? And if it’s really that bad, why not fire the guy? To continue to hold onto such a terrible imam reflects more badly on a board/shura that continues to employ him than it does on the imam himself. 

          Just because a board/shura member volunteers their time doesn’t make it a license to act like this. 

          1. Guest

            Refer you to Surah Mutafafeen’s beginning. 

            When leaders do wrongs things at others homes and then do the opposite at their owns, it is just plain wrong.  Do you believe it is responsible to leave the water running at your home?  If not, then why is it okay for one to leave it running in others’ homes?  Your comments justify the wrong. 

            Is this Islamic leadership?

            God will know and judge us on our actions.  May those who help or hurt get what they deserve. 

        3. Khalidg

          paper, print, toner?  Did you ever think that the Imam is probably using it for his job purposes?  How much will he actually use for his own purposes?  $5 worth?  No concern about heat or cold?  The masjid should set the thermostat and leave it at that.  I feel sorry for your Imam. 

        4. Khalidg

          Not saying salams?  We should all be saying Salams.  If the Imam does not say it, there might have been a good reason.  Or he might not have not said it a couple of times and you are generalizing. 

          Also, you mention about the volunteers doing work for FREE!  Wow woppeee!  So do you think the volunteers don’t have their daily jobs?  Of course they do!  The average wages of each of our current Masjid board is probably about $150k per person!  With that amount of money in their daily jobs, they can easily work for free.  If the Imam were to work for free for the Masjid, then he would have to earn money some other way.  If he worked somewhere else, then you will not have an imam!  So your logic is totally wrong!  If the imam was making $150,000 through some other means and then he was still taking money from the masjid, then your comment would have been valid. 

          When you are picky about the smallest things, I bet you $100 bucks you act the same with your spouse, your children, your family members, your employees and everyone around you.  I feel sorry for the people who have to put up with you. 

  4. Dawud Israel

    I agree, but where are you going to get 200k a year from?

    Be realistic and think it through. My solution was to start community businesses, like how the Amish sell furniture. If you want to read a good book on this topic, read Imam al-Qurtubi’s Secret of Ascetism, which deals with questions of zuhd and money. Whichever way you slice it, even though its permitted to mix money and deen, its not preferable.

    There is always some uncle or technocrat who runs the prayers, and its clear most Muslims are uncertain as to qualifications of ulema, not to mention ego issues, and entitlement from masjid executives. And Islam has no status anymore, mainly because of ulema who are poorly trained and just naturally not intelligent, so students of knowledge can be pretty cut throat in finding a job.

    In any case, one reason no one respects masjid execs is because they dont respect masjid imams. I mentioned this issue on twitter. The imam, who has real credential and character, sets the example, and he is the source of religious respect and legitimacy in the community, in his absence Muslims have a hard time differentiating between a real scholar and a wannabe/fake or someone with an agenda.

    1. ibn abee omar

      the 200k was a tongue in cheek to indicate what a good salary would be based on what communities expect their imams to do. you can watch the video linked to in the article for more on that. 

      i agree its not preferable, but we’re at a stage in N.America where our communities need people dedicated full time to serving the community – if that’s the case, we have to pay them accordingly. 

    2. mw_m

      And yet, my masjid without any imam is fundraising for a 3 million dollar expansion. Trust me, we have the money, it’s just our priorities that are messed up

  5. Yaseen

    Let’s not divulge from the topic of discussion. Let’s concentrate on the main point of the article, and not change it to the inadequacies of certain Imam’s etc.

    Some of the comments here are a reflection of the attitude and mentality of the subcontinent, which is rather appalling. 

    Let’s get some perspective here. 

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan do not have the same job description as USA Imam’s. An Imam in India and Pakistan is not required to be an Alim, or a Scholar. As long as he is Hafidh, that is sufficient. They only lead prayers, and teach kids. They read Khutbah out of a book.

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan are paid low, not so they can be like the Prophet, as somebody absurdly claimed in one of the comments. They are paid low, because there is no respect for their position in those countries. They are at the beck and call of the Masjid Committee’s, sometimes even transporting their children to and from school. 

    Nobody is demanding that every Masjid must pay a six figure sum to their Imam. However, if a Masjid is a ‘mega’ Masjid, or a Masjid that has a healthy bank balance, and they have a qualified Imam, who has the required credentials, then he must be paid well for what he brings to the community.

    We are forgetting an important point here. An Imam, like any other professional, is being paid for his time, and not for his knowledge. And, time equals money. 

    If an Imam is not paid well, he would be required to supplement his income with a second job, thus leaving him with less time to spend on the needs of the Ummah. This would then cause a decline in religious learning and spreading. 

    Everybody has to put a roof over their families head, and put food on the table. An Imam is no different.

    Nobody is advocating making the position attractive based on salary and wages. Believe me, it is a difficult position, and has the oddest hours, and you are on call 24/7.

    A qualified Imam, Hafidh, graduate of an Islamic University, has put in the same amount of years as any other professional, and should be paid what he is worth.

    I am fearful if some of the commentators on here become Masjid board members. I fear for their Imam’s.

  6. Yaseen

    Let’s not divulge from the topic of discussion. Let’s concentrate on the main point of the article, and not change it to the inadequacies of certain Imam’s etc.

    Some of the comments here are a reflection of the attitude and mentality of the subcontinent, which is rather appalling. 

    Let’s get some perspective here. 

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan do not have the same job description as USA Imam’s. An Imam in India and Pakistan is not required to be an Alim, or a Scholar. As long as he is Hafidh, that is sufficient. They only lead prayers, and teach kids. They read Khutbah out of a book.

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan are paid low, not so they can be like the Prophet, as somebody absurdly claimed in one of the comments. They are paid low, because there is no respect for their position in those countries. They are at the beck and call of the Masjid Committee’s, sometimes even transporting their children to and from school. 

    Nobody is demanding that every Masjid must pay a six figure sum to their Imam. However, if a Masjid is a ‘mega’ Masjid, or a Masjid that has a healthy bank balance, and they have a qualified Imam, who has the required credentials, then he must be paid well for what he brings to the community.

    We are forgetting an important point here. An Imam, like any other professional, is being paid for his time, and not for his knowledge. And, time equals money. 

    If an Imam is not paid well, he would be required to supplement his income with a second job, thus leaving him with less time to spend on the needs of the Ummah. This would then cause a decline in religious learning and spreading. 

    Everybody has to put a roof over their families head, and put food on the table. An Imam is no different.

    Nobody is advocating making the position attractive based on salary and wages. Believe me, it is a difficult position, and has the oddest hours, and you are on call 24/7.

    A qualified Imam, Hafidh, graduate of an Islamic University, has put in the same amount of years as any other professional, and should be paid what he is worth.

    I am fearful if some of the commentators on here become Masjid board members. I fear for their Imam’s.

  7. Anonymous

    Let’s not divert from the topic of discussion. Let’s concentrate on the main point of the article, and not change it to the inadequacies of certain Imam’s, criticism’s etc. 

    Some of the comments here are a reflection of the attitude and mentality of the subcontinent, which is rather appalling. 

    Let’s get some perspective here. 

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan do not have the same job description as USA Imam’s. An Imam in India and Pakistan is not required to be an Alim, or a Scholar. As long as he is Hafidh, that is sufficient. They only lead prayers, and teach kids. They read Khutbah out of a book.

    Imam’s in India and Pakistan are paid low, not so they can be like the Prophet, as somebody absurdly claimed in one of the comments. They are paid low, because there is no respect for their position in those countries. They are at the beck and call of the Masjid Committee’s, sometimes even transporting their children to and from school. 

    Nobody is demanding that every Masjid must pay a six figure sum to their Imam. However, if a Masjid is a ‘mega’ Masjid, or a Masjid that has a healthy bank balance, and they have a qualified Imam, who has the required credentials, then he must be paid well for what he brings to the community.

    We are forgetting an important point here. An Imam, like any other professional, is being paid for his time, and not for his knowledge. And, time equals money. 

    If an Imam is not paid well, he would be required to supplement his income with a second job, thus leaving him with less time to spend on the needs of the Ummah. This would then cause a decline in religious learning and spreading. 

    Everybody has to put a roof over their families head, and put food on the table. An Imam is no different.

    Nobody is advocating making the position attractive based on salary and wages. Believe me, it is a difficult position, and has the oddest hours, and you are on call 24/7.

    A qualified Imam, Hafidh, graduate of an Islamic University, has put in the same amount of years as any other professional, and should be paid what he is worth.

    I am fearful if some of the commentators on here become Masjid board members. I fear for their Imam’s.

  8. Sarah

    Wonderful – and timely – article. Historically, I understand that to prevent a community from “bullying” their imam and leading into an imam who is led into decisions as opposed to making decisions (as often happens here now!) the Imam’s salary was automatically taken care of through “taxes”, or the baitul maal. 

  9. Realist

    And where is this money supposed to come from??? In the West, masjids generally get no funding from the government or other external bodies and struggle financially on all fronts.

    1. Anonymous

      Yet many of them still manage to build multi-million dollar facilities, or fundraise and save funds for years until they’re able to. its not a question of money, its simply prioritizing where the money should go and giving the idea of having a good community leader more importance

    2. Peace to one and all in the wh

      The reality is that we don’t value Islamic scholarship and Imams.  Otherwise, in majority of our communities in the US, the total amount of wages that the congregation makes runs into the millions of dollars.  In any typical large masjid, we have so many people making six digit salaries which totaled up runs into millions of dollars.  So we can easily afford to pay the Imam well if we valued Imams and Masjids but since we don’t, we pay Imams so less and we donate so less money to the Masjid.  Then on top of that, we have scholars who are giving Fatwas that it is permissible to use Zakat funds for Masjids and Islamic schools!  We don’t want to donate ourselves, and on top of that, we want to take away money which should be designated for the poor.  In that ISNA-Canada financial scandal, the books showed that thousands of dollars of Zakat funds were used to install security cameras and only a small percentage of Zakat funds were given to the poor. 

  10. Atif

    Another point that should be mentioned is that standard of living is higher here than in other countries, and there is nothing wrong with that.  All of us work to earn money so we can accomplish and pay for the following:
    -Hajj, Umrahs
    -Flights so we can visit family across the country
    -Continuing education
    -Saving up for kid’s college fund
    -Sending kids to a private Islamic school
    -Driving and maintaining a decent car
    -Dropping big dollars in Charity
    -etc.
    All of the above needs money, and there is no reason why an Imam shouldn’t deserve the same things we work for.  Having a salary that’s “just enough” might cut it for a while (and people in every profession do struggle in their early years before they are established in their career), but it’s not sustainable.

  11. Abuyusuf142

    Yes Imaams should be paid and if they cannot survive on the allotted salary they should be allowed to work a second job. If they are in a non-salaried position, then they should be allowed to work a full time job elsewhere. That’s perfectly normal. The only caveat to Imaams I have in the USA is not having metrosexual sardonic ABCD Imaams.

  12. Joe

    Salam AlaikumThis article touches on a few important issues, but in my estimate (and I say this working as an Imam) in all of our comments we have missed the mark. We are either concentrating way too much on measurable minutia, or on intangible feelings. We are asking the wrong questions, its not what he does or how much he makes. Those changes with time and place. We should be asking: “What is an Imam?”We have no shortage of funding, resources, or facilities in our community. What we also have no shortage of is disjunctive approaches to community advancement . We have a leadership crisis, in which competing visions vie for prominence in a closed environment. This results in hegemony and chaos. Our problem is more psychological than anything; we have a phobia of clear delineated leadership. We hold anarchy as “Shura”, we hold leaders as underlings, we hold trusteeship as oligopoly.In summary, the Imam is a leader. He lends organizational representation to his organization, he is a gatekeeper to the institution he is associated with. Due to his religious training, he is the person best fit to design and implement strategic plans for the furtherance of the Mosque’s mission, which at its core is religious in nature.We must realize that all other services support the religious nature of our Mosques, and that institutions need leaders to succeed. We will always remain marginalized, because we marginalize our leadership, by either not empowering them, or by not identifying and training potential leaders.The Prophet (ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﺍﻟﺴﻼﻡ) said: (ﺇﻧﻤﺎ ﺟﻌﻞ ﺍﻻﻣﺎﻡ ﻟﻴﺆﺗﻢ ﺑﻪ) “The Imam is only there to lead.” Allow leaders to lead.

  13. Pingback: Take-Aways from MuslimLink: What Is an Imam Worth? | Muslim Strategic Initiative

  14. Agoodperson

    No matter how educated an Imam is,  his fair compensation should be based on what tangible contributions  he makes to the community.  His leadership ability, the depth of  his knowledge,  the quality of his Khutbahs, and most importantly his ability to make the community strong. 

    Without standards of scholarship, performance and accountability, the dialog is likely to remain biased from both sides.  There are Imams who perhaps deserve six figure compensation because of their abilities and very large communities they serve. Then there are Imams who do not truly deserve even half of that compensation but expect it anyways.  It is natural for Imams to have a high opinion of their abilities and seek higher compensation. On the other hand, communities want their Imam to prove their worth.  In the end, compensation and respect of the community tend to follow the positive impact an Imam makes on the community.     

  15. Pingback: So How Much SHOULD Islamic Clergy Make?MuslimMatters.org

  16. Abdur-Rahman

    I would like to mention a few points that might seem somewhat unrelated, are quite important to this discussion.

    1. Self-sufficiency of Masaajid – I have noticed some masaajid expand their space (and no I do not mean parking space) to built huge, lavish masaajid. For all of this, they rely solely on “Masjid donations”. The problem is that quite a few of these masaajid are empty for the 5 prayers and only fill up for Jumuah. What we need to do is implement self-sufficient revenue generating programs to reduce the burden of raising money. Something as simple as a sports tournament with a registration fee (I am thinking smaller budget mosques). This reduces the pressure on the board for being more picky with the money that they do manage to fundraise. 

    I say this because people who donate to the masjid wish to see results and usually expect that to be in terms of building rather than human resources. This also leads to a lot of unnecessary conflict between the donors and the board members.

    2. Positive feedback – Unfortunately, this is a problem that is rampant. We generally tend to give feedback only when we are having problems. This leads to the board often having a one-sided view on things. We need to modify our techniques to obtain more effective feedback (which includes getting the positive feedback as well), whether it be on the imams, the policies or any other thing.

    3. Specifically defined roles – Our Imams are made to do a myriad of work ranging from general maintenance to psychological counselling to religious classes, halaqas and giving khutbahs. Different communities have different needs and if a board is expecting the imam to do all the work, then quite obviously they should pay him accordingly. If however, his only responsibility is to lead the prayers and khutbah and the occasional halaqah, then they should pay him accordingly. 

    A few people have mentioned here, an Imam should work on his own to get his private salary etc. based on the situations of the scholars of the past. I would mention that there are a lot of differences in the situations (including the makeup of our communities) which is why I would expect something like that to be more successful in Asia and Africa rather than the West. 

    4. Imam training – Lastly, since we do complain about a lack of quality Imams here, we need to take steps to change the situation. Raising the Imams salary and giving him conveyance allowance is only part of the solution. We need to have proper standard training for them. 

    All that being said, I completely agree that we need to change our view regarding the financial remuneration of our Imams.

  17. marium

    Salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatu, JAK for this article. This topic has been on my mind for a long time. I agree with all the points mentioned above, but my only question is and inshaAllah you, whoever you are, will be able to guide me by giving me an example from the time of Muhammad(PBUH). The way I see it, that ALL the prophets (PBUT) of Allah (SWT) were the best of the scholars that ever walked on this earth, but they had another job per se (Muhammad,saw was a trader, Issa pbuh was a carpenter, most were shepards that they worked for thier food and did not consider giving knowledge as a job. I also consider the job of islamic khalifah much more complecated than even a president or prime minister of any country. I want to find the example from the sunnah of the prophet (SAW) how can we justify hiring salaried imams?? Although the point that are mentioned above are extreemly convincing and rational, but if I only thought practical or rational then it would not make me any sense to wipe my socks above to make wudu, wiping under would make more sense. But in islam we hear and we obey, so I request to you if you have reference from the Sunnah of our beloved propeht(SAW), please forward it to me at vmajmundar123@gmail.com. I thank you from the bottom of my heart in advance, ishaAllah may Allah (SWT) rewards you for your efforts.

    1. Khalou Kalou

      The day after one of the Khulafa’a (Abu Bakr, I beleive) was initiated as Khalif, he was found walking to the market by Omar ibn Al khattab. He stopped him and asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was earning a living to support his family. He said those days are over, you are in service to Allah and this Ummah, and a salary was paid to him from the treasury of the Muslim state. Additionally, in the Sunnah, there are Ahadith that speak about paying the people who collect the zakaat from the money of zakaat, which is considered extremely sacred. The fact that these servants of Allah and the Ummah are paid from very strictly regulated and monitored money shows that people who dedicate their lives to the service of Allah and the Ummah can be, and should be paid from the treasuries of the Ummah, be it a Muslim state or Muslim Community. And Abu Bakr wasn’t poor, and so he was paid commensurate with the standard or living that he was accustomed to. Wallahu A’lam.

    2. Khalou Kalou

      And what you’re thinking of about the Prophets having jobs was not during their prophecy, but after. The rassul alayhisalam was a shepherd when he was a teenager to lighten the load on his caretaker (uncle). Then he was a merchant, but when the revelation began, he no longer did that. Later on, the rassul alayhisalam was paid out of the spoils of war, and he was the only prophet to be allowed to do so, but the point remains that he is our example. The spoils belonged to the Ummah and he was paid out of it, what he chose to do and what our imams choose to do with their salary is none of our business.

  18. Khalou Kalou

    The day after one of the Khulafa’a (Abu Bakr, I beleive) was initiated as Khalif, he was found walking to the market by Omar ibn Al khattaband was stopped. He asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was earning a living to support his family. He said those days are over, you are in service to Allah and this Ummah, and a salary was paid to him from the treasury of the Muslim state. Additionally, in the Sunnah, there are Ahadith that speak about paying the people who collect the zakaat from the money of zakaat, which is considered extremely sacred. The fact that these servants of Allah and the Ummah are paid from very strictly regulated and monitored money shows that people who dedicate their lives to the service of Allah and the Ummah can be, and should be paid from the treasuries of the Ummah, be it a Muslim state or Muslim Community. And Abu Bakr wasn’t poor, and so he was paid commensurate with the standard or living that he was accustomed to. Wallahu A’lam .

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