The Role of the Mosque in Islam
The Role of the Mosque in Islam
The mosques are the most important centres in any Muslim community. From their Minbar are delivered the khutbah, arguably the most important weekly address regarding Islam, and around them the Muslims congregate and organise their affairs.
It is no wonder, therefore, that the mosques have been caught up in significant controversy in Britain because of their important status, both for the Muslims who visit them and for the British government. Effective control of the mosque and its agenda can significantly contribute to the revival of the Muslim Ummah or it can lead to the perpetual silence and ignorance regarding our affairs, further entrenching our decline.
In this article, we look at the current reality of the mosque and their perception in the eyes of the Muslim community in Britain. We also look at the attempts to manipulate them and their role as described by Islam.
The Mosque and Muslim Youth
The Muslim youth in this country are very familiar with the mosque routine they endured as children. The daily visit to the mosque sent by their parents to learn and memorise the Qur’an, to establish Muslim friends and to develop a strong Islamic personality, did the opposite in many cases.
Rather than centres for guidance and clarification, the mosques operated no-discussion, no-question regimes and were completely unaware of the reality and problems faced by the Muslim youth. Muslim teenagers and youth felt that they could not turn to the mosque to clarify their understanding of Islam, to have the confusing questions posed at school answered or simply to seek advice about avoiding the temptations and pressures brought on by living in a society that contradicted their way of life.
The Muslim youth resultantly found no solace and saw no point in attending the mosque. It is no exaggeration to say that this affected a whole generation of Muslims in this country. Many may have turned to Islam later in life through university and college Islamic societies, but many simply rebelled against the mosque and in some cases even disassociated themselves from Islam. This was because either they ‘followed the crowd’ and aspired to a life of freedom with accountability to no one, a lesson learnt from Western society, or simply as a result of resentment and sometimes fear of the mosque.
Arguably, the most opportune time to access the Muslim community, the khutbah has always occupied a pivotal role in informing the Muslim Ummah about her affairs and calling her to the appropriate actions. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) has ordered that trade and all other activity be abandoned at the time of Salat al-Jumu’ah and that people assemble to hear the khutbah:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِي لِلصَّلاَةِ مِنْ يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ
ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“When the call is proclaimed for the Prayer on the day of Friday, come to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business…” [TMQ Al Jumu’ah: 9]
The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said that, “…When the Imam comes out (i.e. starts delivering the khutbah), the angels present themselves to listen to the Khutbah.” [Bukhari]
However, we frequently find that many khutbah address subjects which have little or no relevance to the affairs of the Muslims. The khutbah is one of the greatest, yet most squandered, opportunities to explain and alert the Muslim community to a whole host of important issues.
Countless khutbah have repeatedly discussed the lives of the previous Prophets (as), the miracle of the Qur’an and the Hereafter, all of which are very important subjects, but rarely does the Imam address the prohibition of taking usurious loans such as mortgages, the prohibition of playing the National Lottery or the prohibition of joining the Kufr political process or Kufr British political parties. They also fail to address the situation of the Muslim Ummah globally except through a mere mention in du'a, and many will completely avoid the issue of working to re-establish Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’aala) Deen on the earth.
The khutbah therefore takes place without leaving any significant impression on the minds of the congregation. These khutbah represent only preaching and Christian-style sermons that bore the audience who eagerly wait for its end. It seems that little or no thought goes into addressing the issues that affect and concern the Muslim community.
The Mosque Committees
Some of these observations regarding the youth and the khutbah hold true because of the nature of the committees that run the mosques. The Muslim community have come to view the committees of many of the mosques with suspicion regarding the manner in which they run the mosques. The incompetence of some mosque committees and the lack of awareness they have regarding the reality of the Muslim community is not just restricted to boring sermons or to alienating the youth - their naiveté can potentially position them neatly into a governmental agenda for the Muslims in Britain. .
‘No Politics in the mosque, the MP is visiting’
Europe has always associated its rise and revival from its dark ages with the Renaissance, a process which led to the emergence of secularism, the separation of religion from state, thereby reducing religion to being a mere personal matter. In so doing, human beings became sovereign in the sphere of temporal law, believing that all things religious were the cause of their backwardness and decline. Religious law became increasingly insignificant as time went on, restricted only to personal life and to the Church.
Many mosques have also become like churches in that they enforce a separation between religion and society. These mosques are, therefore, no less secular then churches. The reality of this is demonstrated by the fact that such mosques employ ‘politics free zones’ in which discussion about the affairs of the Muslim Ummah, domestically or globally, is frowned upon and can at worst lead to ejection from the mosque itself. They have become solely places of Salah on Friday and the two Eids.
This doesn’t mean that some of these mosques do not engage in politics at all - they do. It is only Islamic politics they avoid. They are quite happy to be involved in local government politics through assisting or joining the political party with council influence and control. Membership or association, it is argued, with these un-Islamic political parties, whose principles and values utterly contradict the Islamic values, is necessary in order to solve the need for Muslim cemeteries, mosque extensions, Jumu’ah facilities and the like. It is therefore all too familiar to see MPs in the mosque at election time, canvassing for the Muslim vote and in some cases occupying the Minbar to address the Muslims about how their political party will do great things for the Muslim community.
The tragic irony is that such mosques are vehement in their opposition to the discussion of Islamic politics based upon the sources of Islam, but will invite the local Member of Parliament whose call is for Muslims to distance themselves from Islam and to engage in the evils of the non-Islamic politics of Western societies.
The British Government and Mosques
The importance of mosques, their committees and the Imams has become apparent post 9/11. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and since the initiation of the so called ‘war on terror’, mosques have come under pressure to comply with British policy and not to become centres for calling Muslims to act in a way detrimental to British interests globally.
This pressure has come through a variety of avenues. It has involved direct contact between various police bureaus and mosque committees regarding ‘dangerous’ elements that may be working from them, heightened scrutiny from the Charities Commission regarding mosque funds and how they’re spent (a particular focus is whether finances go abroad to support actions of ‘Jihad’) and an increased focus on developing a breed of ‘British Imams’.
On the issue of ‘British Imams’, David Blunkett is quoted to have said; “… you tend to get imams from rural areas and those with the least grasp of English and of the ways of Britain and the developed world coming into the country and having to start from scratch”.
We find, therefore, that the word of the Imam is increasingly censored and checked for conformity. Pressure is applied to attend Imam training programs and centres, which although run by Muslims, teach Blunkett’s ‘ways of Britain’, which is simply a euphemism for ‘secularism’, ’inter-faith dialogue’ and ‘loyalty to the British’. This can all lead to the mosque becoming a mouthpiece for the government or simply becoming secular church-like institutions that are extensions of the thoughts and ideas circulating in society. Ideas such as personal freedom, religious freedom, secularism, democracy and inter-faith dialogue will all slowly wear down the focus on Islam as the sole truth by blurring differences with other religions. This can lead only to Islam becoming no more than a cultural phenomenon over time.
The Role of the Mosque in Islam
So far we have highlighted some of the bleak realities of some of the mosques in Britain. It is a tragedy that such cornerstones of the Muslim community could be in such a state, but it is a reality and goes some way in explaining why so few Muslims are actively involved in them. It is important to have an understanding as to the role of the mosque and their organisation so as to identify failing mosques in our localities and so that we can help bring about a change in them.
Before elaborating in any detail, it is important to consider on what basis decisions regarding the mosque should be made. Currently in some mosques, decisions are made in order to blindly imitate the tradition of mosques as they are in the Indian sub-continent, or based on rivalry between local mosques, the desire to establish a good relationship with local government and reap benefits from this for the Muslims and in some cases (not unheard of) the business interests of a few individuals. However, all of these have no relationship with the Islamic basis, which neither considers benefit, desire, tradition, reputation nor business as the basis of actions. The basis is none other than the worship of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) through making the mosque a beacon of light and guidance for all who come across it:
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) says in the Qur’an;
فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالآصَالِ
“In houses (masjid), which Allah has ordered to be raised, in them His name is glorified in the mornings, and in the evenings.” [TMQ An-Nur: 36].
Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, and Al-Hasan commented; “The ‘houses’ are those masjid that were dedicated to the worship of Allah. And verily, the masjid light up the earth for the inhabitants of the heavens, just as stars light up the heavens for the inhabitants of the earth”.
Also, the pre-occupation with decorating the mosque and beautifying them endlessly is certainly not the purpose behind which the mosques are built and nor should it be the sole concern of the mosque committees. Let us bear in mind the humble construction of Masjid an-Nabi and the saying of the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) as narrated by Ibn Abbas; “I was not ordered to renovate the masjids” [Abu Dawood]. The Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) also said: “The hour will not come until the people show off about the masjid”.
With respect to the Muslim youth, the current mosque attitudes towards them are in stark contrast to the encouragement the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) gave to youth to use the mosque to learn Islam, to teach, to use its facilities and learn the Islamic disciplines. As an example, he (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) constructed a Minbar for young Hassan (ra) and Hussein (ra) so that they would write and recite poetry against the Kafir. Aaisha (ra) narrates; “The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) used to construct for Hassan a Minbar (platform) in the masjid to stand on and recite poetry against the Kafir.”
The management of the mosque is addressed by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) Who explained the key criteria that every mosque committee member, and those involved in mosque maintenance, should fulfil. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) says;
إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلاَّ اللَّهَ فَعَسَى أُوْلَئِكَ أَنْ يَكُونُوا مِنْ الْمُهْتَدِينَ
“The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as who believe in Allah and the Last Day, who establish regular prayers and pay the zakah and fear none but Allah. It is they who are on the true guidance” [TMQ At-Taubah: 18].
The ‘fear of none but Allah’ is a key criteria for any committee member of any mosque. It ensures that the mosque is organised according to Islam and only used for the purposes of Islam and not as a tool for personal, business or governmental goals.
Regarding the type of discussion permitted in the mosque, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) issues a stern warning;
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ مَنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ وَسَعَى فِي
“And who is worse in oppression than the one who prevents the name of Allah being mentioned in the Masaajid of Allah, and works to destroy them?” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 114].
This is of particular significance for those who enforce silence regarding discussions of Islamic politics in the mosque. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala) scorns those who prevent the remembrance of Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’aala) name, his teachings and law to be discussed in the mosque. It further warns against those who work to destroy them which thereby prohibits extending invitations to people who advise Muslims on a basis other than Islam, such as local MPs who call for active involvement in the non-Islamic political process.
Reflecting on the use of the mosque by our leading example, Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam), we find that it was where the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) treated the wounded from battle and where the Islamic Hukm (rule) was announced, no matter how controversial it may have been such as the banning of intoxicants mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah. It is where the Sahabah sat and recollected poetry, where the war booty was distributed, where the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) would enjoy a rest and sleep as a traveller and where he ordered the adhan for Jihad. The mosque was therefore not just a place for prayer, Tarawih, Janaza and other Islamic rituals - it was used as a centre point for the Muslims from where they conducted their affairs according to Islam.
The Masjid had a great significance in the life of Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam). On immediate arrival in Madinah, he went forth to locate a suitable location for a Masjid and organised its construction. It is a sign from him that the Masjid is a vital cornerstone in the building of any Muslim community and indeed the Islamic State. It is the responsibility of the mosque committees, the Imams and the local Muslim community to ensure that the mosques are always a reflection of Islam, not a “British Islam”, nor one created through fear and pressure, by being actively involved in them.
Anas ibn Malik related that the Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said; ‘Whoever Allah loves should love me. Whoever loves me should love the Sahabah. Whoever loves the Sahabah should love the Qur’an. Whoever loves the Qur’an should love the mosques, for they are the courtyards of Allah which were built with the permission of Allah that they be raised up and He has blessed them what is in them. Its people are blessed and its people are protected while they are in their prayers. Allah is seeing to their needs while they are in their mosques and Allah is before them.
The Muslim community have a duty to remind those who run the mosques and the Imams that the mosque should remain a place where Islam is the reference point and all Islamic affairs are discussed.
Jazakallah for your comment and interest in the article. Yes you are right and your concerns are rightly expressed. The Masaajids now are very different then in the time of the Prophet ( Peace and blessings be upon him). We need to tell people about the real purpose of our masaajids to also be learning centres and not just only for worship. May Allah (swt) guide the ummah. Ameen
|nice as your article has raised up in many improvment and issues in UK. however, this is a good try and to tell poeple that moqsue activities is not a place just for ibadah but place for learning cenertfor muslim children.
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