Joining a Dawah Organization: Level 1 – Position/Rights
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Joining a Dawah Organization: Leadership Levels

This article is the first in a 5 part series aimed at discussing the qualities needed to help advance a dawah organization of any kind. The five levels are taken from John Maxwell’s book, [amazon_link id=”1400280451″ target=”_blank” ]Developing the Leader Within You[/amazon_link]. The levels are Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Personhood. This post focuses on the first and fundamental level – your personal leadership when joining an organization.

The first step in joining any Muslim organization is to get your foot in the door. This is normally done by joining in as a volunteer or accepting a formal task-oriented role. As in any other facet of life, leadership is earned and is not offered to someone without a solid track record. The characteristics outlined in this article must be mastered in order to not only be effective in their role, but also to be prepared to move to the next step.

Know your job description thoroughly.

This is one of the most difficult tasks for Islamic organizations due to the overwhelming lack of human resources that most have to work with. Random volunteers will find themselves wearing multiple hats, and full-time employees (not even the Masjid Imam is exempt) are often thrown every duty available from cleaning the bathroom to designing fliers or organizing fundraisers with expected revenues in the millions of dollars.

Without clearly defining a job description, it is impossible to succeed in any position. People joining an organization will find failure inevitable because undefined expectations can never be met. Organizations who fail to give direction will find confused and unproductive volunteers who have no idea what to do.

As a rule of thumb, the more specific the role can be, the better. This not only keeps a person from being spread thin with too many responsibilities, it also tangibly defines criteria for success within that position. A good example is instead of giving someone the job of “marketing” a program, they are told that they are responsible for marketing the program and that includes “creating an event on Facebook, contacting masjids in the area to make announcements, distributing fliers…”

When joining a project, make sure to ask questions that clarify your role. An example would be: What do I need to do in order for you to consider that my job was done properly? If working in conjunction with a team make sure to ask what responsibilities fall on your shoulders and specifically what others are responsible for.

Be aware of the history of the organization and be able to relate to it (be a team player)

This is one of the toughest struggles that a motivated person faces. The typical example is that of the younger generation trying to get involved in the masjid while blatantly disregarding the effort put in by the older generation (i.e. ‘Uncles’ and ‘Aunties’). This also happens with other Muslim organizations as well. It is especially the case when an organization has been around for a while, the initial zeal has died down, and the organization is attempting to recruit some new and energetic people to help revive it or push it forward. A new person may come in and see others at a lower level of energy and productivity and immediately become frustrated. They will feel that their level of effort suddenly entitles them to want to run things the way they want. The organization sees this person as stepping on their toes and disregarding all the hard work that was put into establishing this organization in the first place.

To avoid this conflict, familiarize yourself with the organization’s history and give proper respect to the people who have preceded you. Remember that you joined on because this organization held some kind of positive value – value that was initially created by the hard work of others. Disregarding history is disregarding the hard work and dedication of the people who helped establish the organization. The history of an organization also includes its culture. Whether you agree with the organizational culture or not is irrelevant. If you want to succeed in that organization then you must work with it.

Work together as a team, work within the system, and work respectfully. By showing yourself as a respectful member of the team, you will actually be given more leeway to establish any changes that may otherwise have met opposition.

Work with iḥsān (excellence).

This is an essential Prophetic advice. This goes beyond simply performing the duties of a position. It means accepting responsibility and taking ownership of whatever is assigned. It means reaching the point that others do not even need to follow up you to see if something was done, because you have made that level of excellence the expectation.

Offer creative ideas for change and improvement.

Once you entered into an organization and developed a reputation for teamwork and hard work, then you are in a position to begin offering suggestions for improvement. This is drastically different from what was outlined earlier where some people feel entitled to making changes simply because they are working hard. Ideas for change should overtly show a care and concern not only for the organization, but the others involved in it.

The next level of influence in an organization after this is that of Permission, and will be covered in the next installment.

Series NavigationJoining a Dawah Organization: Level 2 – Permission/Relationship >>
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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. He works full time in the corporate field, is a PMP, and certified Leadership Trainer through the John Maxwell Team. You can follow him on on Twitter @ibnabeeomar, and check out his latest project - The Fiqh of Social Media.

Omar UsmanJoining a Dawah Organization: Level 1 – Position/Rights

6 Comments on “Joining a Dawah Organization: Level 1 – Position/Rights”

  1. Arif Kabir

    Very nicely written article, Masha’Allah. Being specific, respecting the organization’s great legacy, and striving towards Ihsan – each one of these are very essential and a very necessary reminder. JazaakumAllahu Khayran!

  2. Junaid Subzwari

    Mash’allah great article. I think one area that should be touched upon as well is accountability. Muslims working with organizations need to know that by holding themselves accountable to their tasks will increase their chances at success. Though, accountability is directly related to establishing trust, it should be in the forefront of every Muslim’s mind when they start working with any organization.

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