How can mosques and community centers attract and retain engaged and qualified imams and religious leaders that will help their communities thrive?

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Home » Challenges » How can mosques and community centers attract and retain engaged and qualified imams and religious leaders that will help their communities thrive?
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Challenge Synopsis

How can mosques and community centers attract and retain engaged and qualified imams and religious leaders that will help their communities thrive?

Help us further identify the problem and develop a set of solutions that Masjids can adopt to properly recruit and retain Imams for their centers.

There is a clear trend of imams and masjids/community centers separating across the nation.

Some of the reasons stated from the Imams’ perspective includes: 

  • Low pay;
  • Mistreatment by the community and/or the board;
  • Lack of organization and structure within the institute; 
  • Political bureaucracy;
  • Overworking of imams; and/or
  • Lack of vision of Board.


 Some of the reasons stated by the Masjid Boards include: 

  • Lack of presence of imams in their actual community (i.e. too much time spent with outside engagements);
  • Lack of alignment between Board, Congregant, and Imam priorities;
  • Imams struggle with recognizing authority of the board;
  • Imams often use their natural connection and platform to sway community on issues between board and imam;
  • Lack of patience with congregations; and/or
  • Differences in school of thought between imams and their congregants. 


We want to hear from key stakeholders and leaders to further flesh out the problem, possible reasons, and solutions.



We recognize that this challenge is a heavy one and the solutions will involve many different contributing factors. There are many issues we must address. These include the following:

  • Defining the reasonable role and purpose of an imam within different types of communities;
  • Defining reasonable compensation for imams;
  • Defining roles and modes of decisionmaking on various issues (i.e. religious, financial, organizational);
  • Establishing appropriate conflict resolution and grievance resolution mechanisms between imams, boards, and congregants.
  • Agreeing on appropriate modes of communication with congregants and the external Muslim community when disagreements occur.
  • Finding reasonable mechanisms to deal with cultural and interpetive differences between imams and congregations.

There are many other factors to consider and many solutions that are likely working. We want to hear from you. What are the issues?  What are the solutions?  Are we asking the right questions?


What are we looking for?

  • Inspire Collaboration: Identify solutions where those involved (community, board, and imams) work together to create a thriving community providing a safe space for its congregants to connect with God. We are NOT looking for responses primarily concerned with pinning blame on one party. 
  • Draw upon what is working already: Has your community already found a solution or is testing out a new idea? We want to hear about it!
  • Expand on the current conversation: We are aware of common suggestions for solutions (better pay, reduce imam workload, formalize organizational hierarchy) Those may be true, but those statements are missing an outline of steps from A to Z that Masjids can easily implement to make those solutions happen.  Please expand upon these solutions and add other possibilities to the mix with concrete examples and steps if possible.
  • Creative and engaging solutions: Our community is burnt out and frustrated already with this topic - let's find ways to find creative solutions that make being involved in the local Masjid an engaging and enlightening experience that results from the hard work that is necessarily required.  



  1. Use Creative Brainstorming Tools: Check out the attached 'Storyboarding' Tool under the 'Documents' section to the right. This tool can help the creative thinking going by helping you identify steps we need to take to get from A to Z. An exampe of how this can be used is also attached and entitled 'Storyboarding' example.
  2. Check Out the Video and Articles Below: We are not the first to talk about this issue, find out what others have been saying over the years:


Summary of Suggested Solutions

Just joining the conversation? Find a list of already suggested solutions here


So grab that coffee and let's use this page to jot down some notes and brainstorm together.


Why Participate?

There have been so many discussions around this topic across all forms of online and in-person communication, so why should you participate in yet another one?
This one is different. We aren't just re-starting this conversation on another platform, we are re-starting this conversation to collect ideas in one central place and translate the ideas with the highest demand into concrete models that any community can take and implement within their communities. 

Continuing the Conversation

Recently, we were invited to participate in a panel at ISNA's 53rd Annual Conference entitled ''Discussing the current state of Imam Care" which overlaps with this conversation. This panel included Shaykh Mustafa Umar, Dr. Farha Abbasi, and Imam Mansoor Sabree.

Dr. Abbasi been working on research that focuses specifically on the 'Stress and Resilience for Imams and Chaplains' and this research was shared at the conference. If you sign-in, you can download her presentation that can be found under 'Downloads' to the right column of this page.  

Additionally, we are posted her talk from last year's ISNA around the same topic. We will share the youtube video of this year's panel once it is up!

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