When someone says the word “masjid,” what’s the first thing that comes into your head? Is it a feeling of peace and tranquility as you recall the warmly spiritual atmosphere? Of that aura which is found in every masjid, the feeling that this is a building consecrated to the worship of Allah, that it shall stand there and not move, that though a single person might not step foot within it, there are angels there who will continue to exalt and praise our Rabb, and even the very materials from which the masjid is built worship Him in their own way?
Or do you think of a dank, stinking building where you reluctantly make your way every Jumu’ah, half-heartedly listening to the khutbah and then leaving as soon as possible?
It should be the first one. Unfortunately, all too often it tends to be a situation closer to the second one.
The state of many of our masaajid today is extremely sad. I’ve come across one of two situations that I think are quite common: either the place will be totally abandoned, and you’ll find only a handful of men attending for the daily salaah and Jumu’ah is the only day of the week that the place will be full; or, there are programs and activities going on, but rather that being an opportunity for us to benefit spiritually, it becomes more of a social club. I’ve experienced both. Neither of these experiences are spiritually uplifting – which is what a visit to the masjid is SUPPOSED to be.
If we look to the past, to the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), and even later on throughout Islamic history, the masjid was the centre of the community, the heart of the ummah.
At any given time, you could walk in and see people praying, or join a study group contemplating various Islamic texts, or reciting the Qur’an. The masjid was a place that Muslims looked forward to going to, where they went to strengthen their connection to Allah and to strengthen the bonds of Islamic brother- and sister-hood.
If you were troubled of heart and sought peace and tranquility – the masjid was the place to go. If you were lonely and yearned to feel love for the sake of Allah – the masjid was the place to go. If your mind and soul were thirsty for religious knowledge – the masjid was the place to go. If you were weak, needy, hungry, homeless – the masjid was the place to go, for the believers would embrace you with open arms and rush to help fulfill your needs. The only reward they sought was your du’aa for them, and the pleasure of Allah.
Walk into your masjid today, and see if any of the above occur. If not, I contend that we have serious issues – within ourselves, as individuals, and as a community.
The masjid is not any one individuals’ responsibility. It is the responsibility of the entire community. Thus, taking care of it and trying to revive a strong spiritual environment is something that we should ALL try to do, in whatever way possible.
So: What can we do to restore and reclaim our masaajid?
First and foremost, let’s look at it at how it is at the times of the daily salaah. More often than not, it’ll be empty – or at most, there’ll be a handful of men, and that’s it. But why?! I understand that here in the West, it can be difficult for people to attend all the salaah at the masjid because they have work or are in class at those times. However, depending on the type of job you have and whether or not there’s a masjid close by, you can take the time to go to the masjid and pray Dhuhr and/or ‘Asr there. Talk to your supervisor or boss and ask if you can take half an hour or so as your break time, and use it to go the masjid. It’s not as hard as it may seem; my father has encouraged many people he knows to do this, and they’ve been able to do so. If you’re unable to, at least you can say that you’ve tried!
After school/work presents another opportunity for us to start getting active at the masjid. Many parents get their kids involved in after school activities – soccer, basketball, reading club – or, for older kids (mid to late teens), they might get a part-time job. Instead, why don’t we dedicate that time, money, and energy to the masjid?
We could have similar programs held at the masjid – I know that many masaajid and Islamic centres have sports programs (although it’s usually for the guys and not for girls); but there are just as many that lack these activities. And not just sports, either – what about other programs, both entertaining and educational for youth and adults alike?
I personally think that we Muslims in the West need to spend as much time around other Muslims as possible, especially at the Masjid. Some may think that I’m an advocate of the isolationist approach – closeting ourselves with our own kind only and refusing to get involved with anything that has to do with non-Muslims – but it’s not that. Rather, I think that the current situation is the other way around, that we spend too much time involved with non-Muslims and not enough with our fellow Muslims.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I do think it’s the general trend… which is understandable considering that we’re not exactly in a Muslim country. Nonetheless, it can be – and is – a serious issue that can really affect our practice of the deen and our emaan, if we spend more time with non-Muslims than other Muslims. It’s true that friends can often make us or break us – but that’s a whole ‘nother issue that I’ll leave for some other time, insha’Allah.
Back to the point: Our masaajid are often stagnant, or have become a place for other than the worship of Allah. The time has come for us to stop complaining about it or avoiding it, hoping that someone else (like the masjid board or various committees that might exist) will do something about, and for us to get off our butts and take the iniative ourselves.
Think about your masjid has/offers, vs. what you’d like to see at your masjid.
Are there weekly halaqahs? Weekend sports? After-school Madrasah (which, if you do it right, can actually be something that kids look forward to going to, hard as that may be to believe!)? Martial arts? Arts and crafts?
Whatever you can think of that is Islamically halaal to do, do it! Take the iniative! If your masjid doesn’t have the facilities do certain things – such as martial arts or whatever – then phone around to see if you can rent a gym at a community centre (they often have group rates and discounts for religious and non-profit societies). There is so much that we can do, that needs to be done, in our communities – so let’s go and DO THEM!
Having said this, I would like this thread – just like the other one – to be dedicated to suggestions by readers on how to go about this reclaiming of our masaajid for the true purpose for which they were built: the glorification and exaltation of Allah.
Also, if you have any good stories about your own masjid revival, please do mention it here – we can benefit and draw inspiration from it, insha’Allah.