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Avoid Common Mistakes in Mosque Projects

Avoid Common Mistakes in Mosque Projects

By Chris McCoy

(A power point presentation made at the 2014 ISNA Convention)

Key Lessons

Avoid Unintended Discrimination Against Women

A new Masjid asked Women to pray in the inaccessible basement because the Owner was afraid to offend the Architect. Another Masjid excluded a fire exit for the Women’s Musullah. Be honest.

Resist Donations with Conditions

Resist accepting donations with conditions. A $20,000 donation was contingent upon a $35,000 attached Minaret thus costing the (already over-budget) project an additional $15,000.

Public Zoning Meetings are NOT a time for Dawah

Keep conversations focused on the project, not religious matters.

Zoning Boards vote on land use facts, not public opinion.

Don’t prolong the meeting with a defense of religion


Common Problems

Underestimating the Project

Cost & Budget: Construction vs. Project Cost with contingencies

Schedule: Inexperience with Construction Process

Misleading Community: feeds negativity & reduces consensus

Scoping Failures

Overestimate potential donations (unrealistic budget)

Growth Projections not proportional to cost/budget

Failure to plan for and sustain a larger Mosque once complete

Long-term reliance on donations instead of income

Design Pitfalls

Women’s Areas are not planned by Women

Lobby & Circulation Spaces are underestimated

Focus on expensive features (domes, minarets) draining budget

Transplanted Architectural Styles

Fail to involve younger Muslims & Families


Proposed Solutions

Project Scope

Be realistic about fundraising & have a suitable project budget

Seek professional fundraising assistance & modern techniques

Invest in projects that sustain (pay for) themselves

Address needs & wishes of younger Muslims & Families

Community Organization

Keep Committee small with suitable, experienced people

Don’t overestimate budgets & timelines (keep community trust)

(Truly) Involve Women & Young Adults

Resist urge to cater to wealthy donors

Design Approaches

Pursue harmonious designs that don’t look “foreign”

Consider Community Center instead of traditional Mosque

Hire experienced professionals (resist Muslim “handymen”)

Challenge designers for progressive, inventive layout

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