Membership fees in a Masjid

I am a part of the Shura committee of our mosque. We have seen many masjids having ‘paid membership’ and plan to implement this in our Masjid also. Of course there will be a lillah ‘fee’ to become a member and this gives that member a right to vote in elections as well as some other benefits.

1. Are there any objections in Sharia concerning implementing this fee as we have seen it in many masajids around the world?
2. What are some of the advantages of introducing membership fees besides it becoming a source of income for the masjid?
3. Should membership be introduced in our masjid?
3. How much should the membership fee be?
JazakAllah and awaiting your reply

Wa Alaikum As Salaam,
A masjid is the house of Allah and those who frequent it are all equal in being Muqtadis and members. Since all members are equal in being a part of the Masjid, no one must be preferred above the other on account of a fee which is paid.
If you implement the system of ‘paid membership’, then you are actually saying that those who pay ‘the fee’ are legitimate members, while those who do not pay are not legitimate members. This however, is totally wrong and is against the teachings of Islam. The masjid belongs to Allah, and is not in the ownership of anyone. Hence, you cannot charge a Muslim a fee to be a member, nor can you ask him to pay a fee in order to obtain special benefits and privileges. This in not permissible in Islam. All Muslims who frequent a certain Masjid, are equal with respect to their right of attendance, and their right of general benefits and privileges.
Having said this, the answers to your questions are as follows:-

1) Yes, there are objections in the Shariah in implementing a membership fee. Although other Masaajid may have implemented this, it is not in accordance to the teachings of Islam.
Monies that are given to the Masjid by Muslims in the form of donations, ‘membership fees’ etc. all fall within the category of ‘Sadaqat’ (charity). The purpose of charity is only to please Allah and not for other material benefits. According to the sacred Shariah, Sadaqat (charity) cannot be imposed upon a person, nor can a condition be attached to it. When a person gives a charity to the Masjid, he cannot demand anything in return. Based on this explaination, it means that if you imposed a ‘membership fee’ upon the Muqtadis (members), you will actually be imposing a charity upon them which is not permissible. Furthermore, if by giving a membership fee, one is accorded special privileges and benefits, it means that these members will be demanding a return/exchange for their charities, which is not permissible.
Charities (Sadaqat) to the masjid are given on one’s free will, without being compelled to do so and without looking for a worldly return.

2) In my view, there are no advantages of introducing a membership fees. Instead, there are many disadvantages. This should not be looked at, as a source of income to the masjid. In reality, how much does it really add-up to, when compared to the expenses of the masjid? The ideal way of bringing an income to the masjid is by getting the members to commit themselves on a monthly basis. Along with this, you can continue to exhort them to donate towards the house of Allah. On the day of Juma, you can place boxes in which they can place their weekly contributions. In cases of special projects, you can make an appeal to the wider Muslim community, even in other countries.

3) No, membership through the system of ‘paid membership’ should not be introduced in your masjid. Every one who attends your Masjid from the locality must be accepted as a member of your Muslim community and Masjid.

4) There should be no membership fee

With respect to the ‘right of voting’, this is not in accordance to the blessed teachings of the Prophet (SAS). In the masjid, there must be a head Shura Council selected by the upright and sincere Muslims of the community. The Shura Council will then make the appropriate decisions in the best interest of the Jamaat, and must continue to look at the concerns of the members with respect to what is done at the Masjid. The Shura Council does not act as ‘a dictator’ in running the affairs of the Masjid, but they must consult with the members in regards to what takes place at the masjid. Insha Allah, with all working together, it is hoped that goodness will always prevail at the Masjid.

And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan