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opportunities for leadership IN THE AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITY 

The data and textual description below is drawn from: Bagby, Ihsan, June 2021. The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving. Report 1 of the US Mosque Survey 2020: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque. The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Key findings presented in the American Mosque 2020 Report

“Bayan is absolutely essential for the future of Islam in America, because the goal of Bayan is to produce religious leadership from the people of our community.”

Dr. Ihsan Bagby

Author, The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving, Report 1 of the US Mosque Survey 2020: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque 

Takeaways from the US Mosque Survey 2020

The first report from the US Mosque Survey 2020, a comprehensive statistical study of American houses of worship authored by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, was released on June 2, 2021. This study follows prior surveys completed in 2000 and 2010 by Dr. Bagby and a team of researchers. These surveys and resulting reports help provide a detailed portrait of the American mosque and Muslim American communities over time. The 2020 report has been published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, with support from a range of partner organizations.

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Bayan’s vision is a “world that understands Islamic values in a modern context,” and our mission is to offer a world-class non-sectarian education and produce dynamic and ethical leaders and scholars grounded in the Islamic tradition.

The US Mosque Survey 2020 Report 1 on the Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque affirms the need for a uniquely American Muslim higher education institution such as Bayan that directly addresses the needs of our diverse communities by producing leaders who can meet the moment and bring our communities to a position of excellence.

The survey conducted in 2010 indicated that the number of mosques in the US had increased by 74% from a decade earlier to 2,106, and at the time Dr. Bagby estimated 2.6 million mosque participants who attended Eid and/or Friday prayers. Of course, this is only part of the entire population of US Muslims, not all of whom are regular mosque-goers. The current survey puts the estimate of “mosqued” Muslims at around 4 million, and indicates a 16% increase in average attendance size for Friday prayers to 410 attendees, and likewise for the Eid al-Fitr prayer to 1,445 attendees.





In 2020, the survey counted 2,769 mosques (mainstream Sunni and Shi’a affiliations), a 31% increase, reflecting a steady increase primarily due to immigration and birth rate (the average number of converts per mosque declined from 15.3 to 11.3 per year). Furthermore, 37% of all mosques were purpose-built, up from 30%, reflecting a significant building spree. While the number of suburban mosques increased, declines occurred in downtown areas and small cities and towns. This also reflects a 43% decrease in African American mosques, which tend to be in urban areas, resulting in further challenges for meeting the needs of historically under-resourced communities.


Mosques in America

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A positive trend is that half of American mosques have a full-time paid imam, up from 43% a decade ago. Of the imams in these positions, 22% were born in America, an increase from 15%, indicating that a preference for hiring American-born imams is growing. However, only 6% of all imams received their Islamic degree (BA, MA, PhD) from an American institution, with 55% receiving such education abroad. One-third of imams were born in the U.S, many being African American and second-generation children of immigrants.


Only a handful of large mosques have paid staff to manage the institution, with 76% relying entirely on volunteers for day-to-day management. Lay leadership is predominant, with only 30% of mosques designating the imam as the leader of the institution. About 54% of mosques have shared governance between the imam and lay leaders. However, in some African American mosques, the imam has both religious and management responsibilities.

the need for transformative 
American muslim leaders


“Muslims need institutions, spaces and sites of direct encounter that sustain the practices and engagements that refine and educate Muslim souls.”


“Going to a mosque regularly is actually linked to having more tolerant views of people of other faiths and greater civic engagement.”


“I think that first and foremost it's important to take the time to actually listen to American Muslims talk about their lived experiences. I would say under normal circumstances, visit your local mosque.”


“I want to make sure women are fully engaged. They should sit on boards and in mosques in space equal to men so they can participate in discussions.”



The American mosque serves as an honored place of worship for diverse congregations. Increasingly, it is often a hub for a variety of social services, educational programs, and public events. Thus, while an imam or religious leader is an essential figure who can shepherd the community and provide guidance on religious and spiritual matters, additional personnel can help an institution more effectively meet the myriad needs that arise in today’s world.


As our communities grow and evolve, we are seeing the need for a team of dedicated individuals who operate in a collaborative, transparent, and accountable manner to advance the mission of the mosque as a community and public institution. Mosque budgets and donation revenues have steadily increased, yet donors are becoming more discerning in their charitable efforts. The expectation for good leadership and ethical standards is more evident. Naturally, this raises the question not of good intentions on the part of the imam, staff and volunteers, but of appropriate training and preparation for the responsibilities of mosque management and the broader scope of community service.

Ideally, the mosque will have full-time or part-time paid staff, depending on the size and needs of individual communities. Additionally, professionals such as administrative staff, social workers, therapists, teachers, facilities managers, and accountants, among others, can play a role as part of a coordinated team. Individuals trained in childhood development and youth mentoring should also be recruited to ensure future generations can develop their faith consciousness and form strong, healthy bonds within the mosque environment. Individuals with communications, public relations, organizing and interfaith engagement skills can help with integrating mosque communities in the broader social context and coordinate their involvement in civic/policy debates.

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Arabic Lessons

US Muslim communities have great aspirations for Islam’s contribution to creating a more just, free and fair environment for all people to thrive. Given the historic and ongoing injustices evident within prevailing institutions, structures, media representations and cultural dispositions, it will take our collective efforts to reshape the landscape. In particular, beyond strengthening our mosque environments, we need leaders, including imams, who have a solid grounding in the inherently pluralistic Islamic tradition, who can engage with contemporary discourses in a nuanced and mindful way, who have humility and an openness to other perspectives, and who can meet people where they are at even as they seek to offer a vision of growth and success, in this life and in the Hereafter. The time is now for transformative American Muslim leaders who can help change the discourse about Islam in this country, who can mobilize people of goodwill towards a beneficial purpose, who can inspire with a message of hope, purpose and love rooted in faith in the Allmigthy.


“Bayan is absolutely essential for the future of Islam in America, because the goal of Bayan is to produce religious leadership from the people of our community.”


“This is an institution that is firmly grounded in the broad diversity of the Islamic tradition, and also significant experience in different contexts that enriches the development of practical theology, of Islamic ethics, and of really important perspectives on how we can bring our principles and values as Muslims in a meaningful way to the context in which we live.”


“As for Islam in this country, that’s really what’s going to resonate with our young people, and if we don’t resonate with them, then our religion will not resonate with them, and they’ll be forced to find it on their own.”


“The tradition is not about some reified thing in the past. It’s about tapping into people who tapped into a blessed source of Mercy, and made them relevant agents of mercy and change in their world.”


Go Beyond with Bayan

Earn an accredited Master’s degree and be among the next generation of American Muslim leaders!

Bayan Islamic Graduate School is a non-profit American Muslim higher education institution that began offering accredited Master’s degrees in Fall 2011. Bayan has its own high-caliber board of trustees and raises its operating budget from a nationwide donor base, and does not accept any foreign governmental funds. A partnership with the world-renowned Claremont School of Theology from 2011-2020 enabled Bayan to offer an accredited graduate curriculum featuring world-class Muslim faculty as well as opportunities for students to learn about other faith traditions and form professional relationships with peer faith leaders to collaboratively bring about a more inclusive America.


Since 2019, Bayan has been offering its Master’s degree programs in partnership with the Chicago Theological Seminary, with doctoral degrees currently in development. While the degree programs are conducted in Chicago, Bayan is headquartered in Los Angeles, and Bayan’s other educational programs and contributions are manifested online and at events throughout the country.


Bayan is making great strides, with the support of many, in preparing the next generation of leaders who can take their place in elevating our communities. Part of Bayan’s approach is to create an atmosphere where students of all backgrounds can enrich one another as they grapple with issues of the day and refine their leadership capacity. Furthermore, Bayan is committed to channeling resources to the African American Muslim community and mosque environment, and bringing about an American Muslim narrative that accounts for and appreciates the role of Black Muslims in shaping spiritual growth, fostering cultural relevance, and identifying policy priorities. To that end, in 2017 Bayan established the zakat-eligible Muhammmad Ali Scholarship for Spiritual Leadership, which provides full-tuition support to qualified and dedicated leaders working in various underserved communities. Of Bayan’s 52 alumni, 15 are Muhammad Ali scholars who are carrying on the champ’s Islamic legacy as inspirational community leaders.


You can support the Muhammad Ali Scholarship Fund and join the legacy.

The US Mosque Survey 2020 indicates that 55% of current imams have a degree from an overseas university, and 6% have a degree from an American institution. Bayan is listed, alongside several US madrasahs and the Hartford Seminary, as one of the few sources of US Islamic degrees, representing 5% (2) of the total of 42 imams in the survey.


As of May 2021, Bayan has graduated 52 religious and community leaders in 9 graduating classes beginning in 2013, comprising 35 men and 17 women. Of these, 19 are imams (many of whom studied abroad as well), 2 are women religious leaders (ustadha), 6 are male chaplains and 4 are female chaplains. The remaining graduates are organizational leaders, therapists/counselors, healthcare professionals, lawyers, teachers, school administrators, and others who sought to strengthen their knowledge and skills for community service. Currently, Bayan has nearly 70 continuing students and expects to admit a growing number of students as Muslim communities begin to invest in human capital, and as individuals discover greater professional opportunities in Muslim organizational contexts.

Whether you’ve recently graduated from an undergraduate program, or you’re considering a career change, or you’ve decided to deepen your knowledge by earning a graduate degree, Bayan is ready to support you. Apply for admission to one of the following programs:


Start your journey today! Apply Now

Master of Divinity (MDiv) - Islamic Chaplaincy (75 units)

Master of Arts (MA) - Islamic Studies (48 units)

Master of Arts (MA) - Advanced Islamic Theology (48 units)

Master of Arts (MA) - Islamic Leadership (48 units)

Master of Arts (MA) - Islamic Education (48 units)

QUOTES FROM bayan students and alumni

“Sitting in the classrooms, exchanging ideas with people, looking at the traditional texts, and more contemporary texts, you realize how much knowledge is out there. Bayan was there as that stair-step for me to continue on this journey of seeking knowledge.”

DR. JIHAD SAAFIR, Class of 2014

“Bayan has been my main tool in my toolbox with regards to the connections I have been able to make, and I’ve had really deep reflective discussions about what kind of challenges we’re facing. I don’t have that forum anywhere else.”


“What Bayan does is priceless! Everything I have learned from Bayan I have been able to put directly into practice with the community that I serve."


"Bayan staff and teachers displayed more confidence in me than I had in my own self. This is indicative of the rest of my journey at Bayan… always encouraging.”


Learn more and apply tODAY


MA Degree  

MDiv - Islamic Chaplaincy

Application Deadlines:

Fall Admission: July 31

Spring Admission: Dec. 1

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