Top 10 Ways on How NOT to Build a Mosque in America

Here are the top 10 items which the American Muslim Community should do if they do NOT want to build a new Mosque:

10. If your community finds a good sized piece of land (or an existing building) at a good price, then don’t look into the zoning or check to see if a religious assembly can legally be held there!  You can figure out the zoning later, after you have bought the land and invested a lot of the community’s money. Getting a legal use permit is a waste of time and money.  We don’t have to do that back home, so why do it here right?

9. If the site is sloped, don’t try to find out how much it would cost to grade the site (make it flat) for a new building.  The cost of grading will just scare you away and you will miss out on buying a nice piece of property at a really good price (and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?)

8. If the site is narrow or has little space for parking, don’t worry about it.  You can figure out parking after you have bought the property at a very good price.  Adding a parking garage or underground parking is definitely do-able.  It’s not that expensive, and they both cost about the same anyways. You can always tell people in the community to carpool to the mosque.  Don’t let this property get away – Buy It Now!

7. Don’t bother getting to know your neighbors, because they may be afraid of having a mosque nearby and you don’t want them to create problems.  Talking to them ahead of time, may make you change your mind about building in the middle of a residential, commercial or industrial area. And don’t bother to meet city and county officials.  They only help if you give them money.  They don’t really care about your project and will try to stop it from happening because they are always against Muslims. All government officials are Islamophobes, anyways!

6. Make sure your project committee consists of only Computer Programmers, Doctors and Businessmen (But NO women – they cause too many problems).  They are all smart and successful people and they can handle a complex design and construction project without any training or experience (except for renovating their own home kitchen and bathrooms)!  Make sure this project committee tries to get as many volunteers as possible to help with the project.  Volunteers are great.  They can do anything and the best thing is that you don’t even have to pay them for their countless hours of time!   Did I mention that they work for FREE?!

5. Now we are half way there, the top 5 way on how NOT to build a mosque is: If you want to get a construction cost estimate make sure to use the first contractor’s estimate (because you Really Only Need One).   You also don’t need to give them any drawings, since if they are good contractors, they can give you an accurate estimate by just looking at the site! But if you do have blueprints, make sure to use those drawings for your project’s estimated budget, even though you will end up changing the design.  It doesn’t matter, because the revised estimate will probably end up close to the original estimate.  Construction costs don’t change much.  If they do – it’s the Designer’s fault, Not yours!

4. If you have a fund raiser for the project and receive pledges.  Don’t bother to keep track of the pledges, since everyone will honor their pledges and you won’t have to worry about not having enough money to keep the project going once it starts.  We are all Muslim and we always keep our promises and pledges.  Don’t worry about the 10 other mosque projects going on within a 50 mile radius of your project. Allah will take care of the money you need to keep your project going on schedule, Insha’Allah!

3. This one is a Doozey: Don’t hire a professional and licensed Architect.  They charge way too much and anyone can Design a mosque (see item # 6 above). It’s not that complicated.  And whatever you do, Do NOT hire a Muslim Architect.  Go with a Non-Muslim Architect, because they are better at designing Islamic stuff.  Why waste money on a Muslim Architect, when they should just volunteer their time, Fi-Sabilillah anyways?!

2. If your community does decide to hire a professional design team, hire the CHEAPEST firm you can find (same for the contractor). You’re not building the Taj Mahal, right? Hint: If the contractor does not ask any questions during the bid process and gives a really low estimate, that means they are Really Smart and they Know their stuff.  Hire them right away, before they change their mind and go onto another big project! P.S. Don’t bother to check if they are licensed in the city your project is in, because sometimes the best contractors are so busy they forget to keep up with their licensing paperwork!

1. And the Number 1 reason on how NOT to build a mosque is: Make sure to spend all the millions of dollars you raise for the project on the physical building and leave nothing left over for the Imam or Religious scholar to lead your community.  Investing in highly trained Imams who can relate to the youth, speak effectively to the media, interact with interfaith leaders and can give counseling to community members in need are way over-rated.  The community really only cares about nice looking buildings and a parking spot right in front of the mosque (especially if they are the President of the Mosque)!  Who wants to walk a block or two to the mosque?!  This isn’t India or Pakistan, its America for God’s sake!


Irfan Rydhan is an Architectural Designer with over 15 years of professional experience. He has both volunteered and been hired to consult on several different mosque projects across the S.F. Bay Area. His blog, (, is about Architectural Design, Media Activism, Islamic Art and Halal Food. You can follow him on twitter @IrfanRydhan

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  • Maha Elgenaidi

    Irfan, I would encourage you to write a more serious piece about what to do when building a mosque because you have a lot of insight and experience to offer here that’s not going to make it in a humorous piece.

    • irfanrydhan

      thanks for reading/sharing this Maha! Yes, i should do that. May have to come out with a book though, cuz it’s too much info:)!

  • Val Reynolds

    ALSO: 11. Make Masjid/mosque SSSSOOOOoo Costly, it becomes a museum/masoleum. Only open for Jummuah, TOURS and Ramadan. (NEVER for 5 Salat Times. Lock IT up, so no one can steal items, don’t need in there, any way) 12. Have no Black Amer. Muslims/Women/Young adults ON Boards/Shuuras. 13. No food Banks or Homeless set up, rather than building Multi Million Dollar Masjid/mosque

    • irfanrydhan

      thanks for your comments. I agree, those are good suggestions. We have a lot more to learn and do to create better masjids and communities!

  • Iftekhar Hai

    Irfan: Your article is full of wisdom. You have very good perception of how Muslim community members work in case of mosque building or mosque making.

    In San Bruno, two mosques were forced to close down by police order. Devoted jamaatis bought a home in residencial area, converted into a mosque and started 5 times prayers.
    40 street parking were taken away from neighbors who were surprised to see these “stealth jihadist” (term used by neighbors) in their midst.

    Now there is more dislike, hatred and the community has become anti-Muslim. My interfaith work on establishing bridges among peace of faith is now in trouble.

    • irfanrydhan

      JazakAllah for your comments and for reading my piece. Glad you liked it. Yes, we still have a lot to learn. Please share my post with your mailing lists! JazakAllah.


      Sadly, that happens because many of our “immigrant” brethren do not have any idea of local rules/regulations or the govt’s police power. What works in other countries doesn’t work here. Our guys also park in Muslim home owner’s driveways thinking that it’s their brotherly right to to do so, notwithstanding that it is private property needing the owners permission ( a fundamental tenet of our faith).

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    Great job Irfan! The truth spelled out in serious humor. I would add one more thing there – make sure whoever designs the mosque crowns it with an Islamic dome ( whatever that is), notwithstanding the fact that the Del Duomo in Florence, St. Peters in Rome and St. Pauls in England also have domes on them. And ofcourse everything must be highly ornate like Dopnals Trump’s New York apartment – simplicity is not becoming of our “imperial” sense of beauty spelled out ofcourse by those who have PHds in subjects other than aesthetics! And ofcourse if you run out of money, the plumbing can always be done by volunteeres who will ensure that you get cold water out of the red tap and scalding hot water from the blue – at least you get water here – there’s none in the desert – be thankful and DONATE!

    • irfanrydhan

      Thanks for your comments Ayub! Appreciate your support. Yes, there are many more items which can be added to this list!

  • Farrilh Shah Khan

    Great write up Irfan. So much truth conveyed in light hearted humor. You know how Daily show works. You can convey lots of truth through humor. If you write a serious piece you will be ignored at best or most probably hated by the zealot mosque builders in the communities across America. .

    • irfanrydhan

      Thanks Farrukh! Yes, you are correct. A serious post would not have had the same impact as one with a little humor included! thanks for your support! Please share with your lists.

  • Jensa

    Your article hits relevant points that are applicable to so many communities. I had an immediate urge to forward it to our local Islamic community FB page, but it’s so painfully truthful that the humor would be lost in it. On the one hand, I’m glad to see that others face the same problems our community has, but on the other hand, it is terribly sad to know how widespread the problems are. In one conversation with the building committee in my town when I suggested that a full budget and building plan be disclosed at the time of fundraising, I was rebuked. When I asked if they’d purchase a home without knowing what they were buying or willingly spend on a home with shoddy construction, I was rebuked. I offered that if their fundraising fails, it’s not because of a lack of funds in the community, it’s because of a lack of professionalism… and I was rebuked.

    • irfanrydhan

      Thanks for your comments Jensa. Yes, its a shame that many of our project committees are not transparent on the project budgets. It is a common problem within our communities. Please feel free to share my blog post to your lists!

  • M. Jawaid

    Very true and on the mark. It is sad that we have so much talent in our community but no civic sense when comes to our religious organizations.
    I pray that Allah (SWT) send us some wisdom and intelligence for undertaking these type of projects. My humble suggestion is to gather all architects in the Bay Area and come up with a check list or a process for what to do and don’t. Somewhat of a guideline for us lost souls who rely too much on Allah’s (SWT) help. Keep the good work coming.

    • irfanrydhan

      Thanks Br. Jawaid uncle. Thanks for your support. Good idea about a check list!

  • Khurram Tai

    Irfan, this is a fantastic piece of work. You have gathered many valuable insights developed over the years into one poignant presentation. The Muslim community would do well to pay attention and heed the voices of intelligent, well-informed and meticulous individuals like yourself. This is especially true in the modern landscape, where we are all interconnected, and the actions of any one Muslim group have direct tangible impacts on the rest of the community.
    The humor is a plus, but a more serious work along the same lines would only do more to further your goals. Thanks for a great read!

    • irfanrydhan

      thanks for your comments Khurram. Appreciate your support!

  • Hiba

    Masha’Allah, wonderful humorous piece and we sure do have a lot to learn to become better members of the community InshaAllah. :)

    • irfanrydhan

      Thanks for your comments Hiba. Appreciate the support!

  • S I Feldman

    While No. 10 regarding zoning is true, there is also the RLUIPA to consider (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc) which states in part: “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that impositionof the burden on that person, assembly, or institution –
    (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;and
    (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

  • JavedM

    Nice work Irfan,
    this reminds me of my first engineering job, where we had to design computers using negative logic. It was a hard one to grasp, but maybe not for our community. If you can take the suggestions included in the comments and make it the top 20 that would be nice.
    Here are a couple more, sorry I lack your humor.

    -It’s cheaper and faster to get a piece of land, and just build on it. Zoning, what’s that?
    -If we build it they will come. Yes the Namazis will come, but to attract the youth and sisters needs to put the pyramid on its head and rethink how you build it.
    -If we build it, it will maintain and clean itself. Like the Wudu area.
    -If you buy flip-flops and chapals, for the wudu area, no one will walk off with them, even if the pairs are mismatched.
    -Invest the most money in the prayer area that will be used the least during the whole week. Ofcourse prayer is the most important, but you need to think whole picture.
    -Hardware is more important than Software, Not! A building is a building, it is less relevant how it looks, more important how you use it.
    OK that’s enough I’ll probably get exiled.

    • irfanrydhan

      thanks for reading and your comments Javed! Appreciate it. Yes, i do need to expand on the list!

  • Rahim Akbar

    nice check-list Irfan! … love the humor and powerful message … will gladly share it with people building mosques in my circle.

    • irfanrydhan

      thanks for the support Rahim!

  • Brad

    Irfan, can you also write a column on how hard it is to build a church in a Muslim country, those that allow them of course?

    • irfanrydhan

      Hello Brad
      thanks for your comment. First of all, I was born and raised in the United States and have been here pretty much my whole life. Although i have done some traveling to Muslim majority countries – I am not familiar with the building and construction industries in these countries, But I do know that there are many Churches in Muslim Majority countries, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and also Churches in which there are many Muslims as part of the population, but are not considered Muslim majority countries such as India, Sri Lanka and other places.
      Of course there are Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which does not allow Churches to be built, but I do not agree with this, because it does not follow the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (S), who taught Muslims to respect other religions, especially Christians and Jews.

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