masjid board

One Big Reason That Islamic Work is Stressful

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There are different kinds of stress when it comes to Islamic work. One kind is good, but exhausting. It is the sheer excitement of working on a project you feel passionate about. It keeps you up at night, it's all you can think about during the day, and all you can focus on is getting it done. That's stressful, but it usually brings about a positive result. There's another kind of stress we deal with that's not quite so happy. It's the type that completely demoralizes you. it is the kind that makes you question why you ever got involved in the first place.

Phil Cooke writes:

Stress happens because our lives are out of sync with what we’re doing for a living. That’s when trade-offs and sacrifices seem the most acute, because our job seems so unmoored from who we are and what we’re born to accomplish with our lives. But when we find that over-arching purpose, the jobs we express that purpose through suddenly have meaning. They don’t seem disconnected from our lives – in fact, we often see our lives reflected through that very work.

That’s why great athletes, entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, and innovators don’t see it as a conflict between “work” and “life,” because it’s all a single expression of someone who has discovered their ultimate purpose.

Islamic work, by definition, involves numerous trade-offs. We sacrifice time that could be spent working, with our families, pursuing hobbies, entertaining ourselves, investing in ourselves, or simply resting.

The negative stress usually results from becoming disconnected with the true purpose of the work.

A volunteer might join an organization that helps provide educational programs. This is a mission they can identify with and are passionate about. But if all their efforts become limited to simply collecting tuitions and chasing payments, they will easily lose sight of the bigger purpose. This is because they no longer see their contribution as actually being directly linked to the initial purpose that attracted them to the organization. Instead of feeling like someone who is facilitating learning for others, they feel like a bill collector. This is where burnout creeps in, and volunteer turnover begins.

Another issue at play here is having a holistic life view when it comes to Islamic work. A person cannot have spent their entire life keeping their children from the masjid, keeping their children from "being religious," staying away from any kind of Islamic class at the masjid - and at the same time serve on the masjid board and take decision making responsibilities for the community's spiritual well-being onto their shoulders. This work they are seeking is diametrically opposed to the reality of their personal life.

This is not only a violation of trust to the community, but it will bring harm to them.

All good efforts will require trade-offs and cause stress. Make sure that you are working for a better purpose for the right reasons. Make sure that what you are working on reflects the rest of your life and the sacrifices will be easier to make.

Leading Volunteers: How To Treat Them With Dignity

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"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Bukhārī)

Building loyalty within a team at work, a place where people's livelihoods depend on the job, is already difficult enough. So how about when that team consists of volunteers who are only there out of their own free will?

This, like many other issues, is a leadership issue. Volunteers are reporting to a board or committee. The board and committee are often reporting back to a president or amīr of some sort. Even with small and loose volunteer groups, there is still some level of hierarchy and leaders are responsible for those volunteers 'under' them.

Even if you're not in leadership, these are still important tips to help those who are volunteering - and building loyalty within your community or organization.

The rules for this are simple, and don't require much elaboration.

People are humans. They have dreams, fears, and families. They have jobs, they have responsibilities, and they have life in general to deal with. Stop treating them like units of production. Treat them with dignity by showing them that you care. Know their names, know about their families and their kids. Ask about them (sincerely). If you can't show them that you actually care about them - as a person - then don't expect any loyalty from your volunteers.

When you see someone do something you would expect praise for, then praise your volunteers.

Whoever does not thank people (for their favors) has not thanked Allah (properly). [Ahmad]

When you make a mistake, you would expect people to overlook and pardon you. Do the same with your volunteers. The second you get up and berate or rip a volunteer is the same second that they will make the decision to never come back.

So when it comes time for reprimanding someone for making a mistake, give proper naṣīḥah. It needs to be prompt and private. And it needs to be done with mercy - hoping for rectification and hoping for the best for your brother or sister.

When you know you are competent enough to do a task, you usually hate it when someone micromanages you. Leave your volunteers alone. Let them work.

Above all, put yourself in their shoes. Treat them the way you want to be treated.