salah.jpgWhen 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 masajid 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 salah 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'a 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 masajid?

First and foremost, let's look at it at how it is at the times of the daily salah. 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 salah 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 masajid 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 masajid 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 masajid 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.

22 Responses

  1. zfnd

    Some of the young sisters at a local masjid organized an ‘Extreme Masjid Make-over.’

    Instead of mere cleaning however they did quite a bit of interior decorating including; curtains, air freshners, bookshelves, decorative ‘Allah’ frames, and flowers in the rooms.

    They plan to do a lot more, and were recieved well by the community (donations), plus other sisters became motivated to contribute in time and effort. It helped the sisters in the community get to know each other, and significantly uplifted the ambience at the masjid, which they hope inshaAllah will increase attendance.

    It especially is nice in the ladies sections which can be neglected at times. If the Masjid EC sponsors a breakfast it always helps to bring out the community as well.

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  2. Tariq Nelson

    I also feel that a masjid should be open enough that a non-Muslim feels welcome to come anytime. This could happen by having a clinic, social services (food bank, etc) and monthly “themed” open houses. In August, for example, we are planning to have a school supply give away, Insha Allah, just in time for back to school

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  3. Faiez

    One interesting thing I noted about our Masjid is that once some more knowledgeable and well spoken brothers started speaking after Isha Salah, more people started coming regularly. You can easily see that the day where there is a talk after Isha more people are there, and the days where there isn’t a talk after Isha, there are significantly less people.

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  4. mcpagal

    In my community at least, the reason why some of the mosques are so dank, dull and poorly attended is that there are just so many of them.

    Different groups of Muslims all separate out into different mosques, and even they are divided between more mosques again because of committee politics etc. So we have a handful of decent mosque buildings, and then a lot more ‘coverted house’ or ‘dank basement’ type places, with the community’s loyalties divided between them all.

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  5. nuqtah

    Really are Masjids suppose to be some sort of ‘social clubs’?

    Do we really need some sort of reclaiming the masaajid drive?

    Ofcourse there are problems, moreso on adminstrative level, but should Masjid be turned into something other than their real purpose? (That is to worship Allah).

    Once we turn masjids into a hub of various different activites, it really does strip away the spiritual aura of the place. Instead, of being a quiet place where one goes to worship and contemplate and find tranquility of heart, should we really turn masjids into something more?

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  6. Musa Maguire

    There is also an unfortunate phenomenon of “masjid brothers” who like to hang out and reflect on their high levels of piety while looking scornfully at everyone else. They give naseeha but certainly don’t need it. This end up alienating others who then view the masjid as an uncomfortable pressure cooker of self-righteous, self-appointed mutawwa.

    And sometimes their feet stink too…

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  7. nuqtah

    Lol MSA reminds me, our masjid had a row with the MSA this whole year.

    The MSA brothers wanted to change things around, like; more activities, halaqahs, more transparency etc…but the administration didn’t budge.

    It got so ridiculous that they disallowed the brothers from reading ahadith from *i think* it was riyadhus saliheen.

    Having personally witnessed what was happening, I think brothers had valid points, but their approach, that of direct conflict with masjid admin created more ‘fitnah’ than resolve issues.

    : (

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  8. AnonyMouse

    Nuqtah: Ummmmm, did you read the article fully? I’m not saying to turn the masjid into a social club – in fact, I specifically spoke *against* that!
    Rather, what I’d like to see is the masjid once again being the heart of the community, with activities and programs and lessons going on that’ll benefit everyone spiritually so that they do feel closer to Allah, so that it encourages them to spend more time in salaah, so that they become stronger Muslims. It doesn’t mean that basketball tourneys and stuff have to be held *at* the masjid (although some masaajid or Islamic centres with the facilities will often do so) – it just needs to be done, so that those who would be doing the same things anyway can do so around other Muslims and thus it can be a source of benefit.

    Really, the whole point is to *increase* the spiritual aura of the masjid and our own emaan.

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  9. Tariq Nelson

    What is wrong with the masjid/Islamic Center holding different activities? Should it be quiet and EMPTY?

    In the US, many masajid have to double as community centers.

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  10. ibnabeeomar

    i personally don’t even see any point in spending outrageous sums of money to build masaajid, especially when many of them are luxe buildings that are empty except once a week, and during that one time in the week parking is an issue.

    if i had the ability i would (in this order)

    1) make a multipurpose gym – a NICE one, at least 2 full size basketball courts (like at universities or nice rec centers), and also one where you can put down volleyball nets, badminton, etc.

    -use this as a prayer hall – you don’t need a fancy dome and minarets to make sujood on, just a clean surface

    2) make a parking GARAGE

    3) rent out a parcel of the masjid property to be used for halal businesses (not necessarily muslim, just as long as they are halal) and use the rent income from those properties to finance the masjid

    4) make a media and book library, and bookstore for use in the masjid

    5) begin working on the full time school and construct school building and classrooms

    6) make an addition to the gym to be used as a swimming pool that can also be used for sisters

    7) only after all that was done, would i start working on an actual masjid building.

    and quite contrary to what nuqtah said, i think the ‘spiritual aura’ of the masjid is actually enlivened when there’s activities and the place is full. i would rather pray in a packed gym where people are happy and looking forward to coming there, than a big huge strict masjid that is empty for the daily salaah but is devoid of ‘different activities’

    i dont think its fair to compare masjids here to any other country because muslims here are a huge minority. we dont have the ability to have separate schools, community centers, AND masaajid, usually each community has to throw its money in the pot and just do one thing but try to make it function for the rest.

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  11. Faiez

    I agree with ibnabeeomar, except that I don’t think basketball courts are clean places to pray hehe.

    Regardless, I think you see 2 extremes in this situation. (1) No masjid and only a community center with different activities with Salah being done in gym. (2) A luxurious and decked out masjid with no activities whatsoever and only for praying/reading Qur’an.

    I guess the best thing to do would be to combine the 2 and give equal amount of money and effort to build up both sides. Meaning that you don’t make the masjid look lavish but at the same time make it clean and practical but still not ugly. The money you save from not buying chandeliers and marble trimmings and what not, you invest into the community aspect of the Masjid, i.e. building full size basketball courts, swimming pool, classrooms etc. If I was to build a masjid, that’s how I would do it.

    Then again, one of the masjids we have over here is pretty much like that except there is only a gym and its kind of getting run down.

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  12. mcpagal

    Bro ibnabeeomar, when’s this masjid of yours getting built? I need to book my flight tickets over there!

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  13. Iman

    Salaams all,

    I have many thoughts on this issue.

    First of all, this is a very broad topic. There are different areas of development and various aspects to energizing and invigorating a community.

    1. Leadership – This does not only refer to board and committee members, but also the spiritual and activity leadership. Muslims in the US as of late constantly talk about the urgency of improving the condition of Muslim youth, but very little is done practically and strategically. It is human nature to relate to and follow someone who has some common ground with you and understands your situation and predicament. That is why Allah used to send the Prophets from amongst the people, as stated in the Quran numerous times. Nevertheless, we see Masaajid not involving young and capable individuals in decision making and leadership. I’ll give you an example of this: I live in an area that is overflowing with young Huffaadh, but when Ramadhan comes around the Masaajid are spending a lot of money and bringing Imams from foreign countries to lead Taraweeh. Now, I understand that the only condition for leading Taraweeh is not to have memorized the Quran, rather a person should be able to recite properly (Tajweed) and preferably recite beautifully and most importantly he should be an embodiment of what he recites and practice the Sunnah. I state this with all of the above in mind, we have young Huffaadh, born and raised in this community, who recite properly and very nicely and they practice the Sunnah to quite an extant, but they are left desperately looking for places to lead Taraweeh and recite the Quran. Many of these youngsters when they are asked or encouraged to further their Islamic education and continue to seek knowledge on a higher level, they are severely disheartened and feel shunned by their own communities. It even goes beyond this, we even have some individuals who were born and raised in this community and went on to seek knowledge and graduated from Islamic Institutions of higher learning, but when it is time for the Masjid to hire an Imam they go out and hire an Imam while knowledgeable doesn’t speak English properly nor does he understand the issues faced by the generations (that’s right it’s plural now) born and raised in this country. The same thing occurs with youngsters who get an education, mature, get married, and have a lot to offer, but they are never brought forward and placed in positions of leadership in the community. Now, you might say that it is up to them to go out and take the initiative, but when they do exactly that they are treated like rebels and malcontents.

    2. Facility – The next issue is of the practicality of facilities, to which some of the comments above have alluded to. We really need to think if it’s fair and practical to build a Masjid with millions of dollars and then spend a few hundred on a basketball goal in the parking lot and maybe a ping pong table. To build a HUGE prayer hall and 3 small classrooms, when you could build many good sized classrooms and a smaller prayer hall and make the classrooms available for Jumuah, and distribute the funds and the land for various buildings such as a gym/auditorium, playground, clinic, library, bookstore and other facilities. Another issue with Masaajid and making sure that they are active and frequented is how many and how big to build them. The Muslim community in most parts of the US is spread out when it comes to living and working, and building a huge multimillion dollar Masjid for a 15 to 20 mile radius thus making majority of the people drive 20 to 30 minutes just to get to the Masjid is impractical. What might work better is to have 3 smaller Masaajid with 5 mile radii thus not needing more than 7 to 8 minutes to reach the Masjid. People would be more willing to come to the Masjid and drive their children there for various activities.

    3. Creativity – Branching out with different activities and programs. Activities and programs in many Masaajid have become mundane, repetitive, and even cliché. We need to have new and unique programs like medical clinics, tournaments for sports or games (halal of course), presentations, organized seminars, food drives, open houses, some of the above ideas like remodeling the Masjid, breakfast, etc. Different people react to different things.

    4. Kindness – A friendly smile and a heartfelt handshake goes a long way, and that’s exactly why it’s Sunnah. When new faces are seen in the Masjid, a lot of times we are too busy talking to our friends and doing our own thing, and they feel left out or like they don’t belong. Its human nature to want to belong and feel comfortable in your surroundings and not everyone possesses the courage to walk up to a group of strangers and introduce themselves. So, the nest time we’re in the Masjid let’s look for the new person and say Salaam and make them feel at home.

    I apologize for the lengthy comment. May Allah give us the ability to practice what we say and type. :)

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  14. Tariq Nelson

    IbnAbeeOmar:

    I agree with you. ADAMS here in DC is a lot like what you describe. The gym doubles as Friday musalla and multipurpose.

    Here is another thought. The average donation for all attendees of the masjid is said to be something like $1.75/week per person. If we ALL gave $10 every week, so much more could be done

    We ALL have to make the commitment and not leave the burden on a few

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  15. nuqtah

    anonymouse: *masjid* is only for worship. Since, you mentioned *masjid* as opposed to a full fledged *islamic centre*, the activities being proposed would still turn it into a social club of sorts.

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  16. ulma haryanto

    Salaam..

    I was reminded of your post when I received this in my Google Reader:
    http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=1247

    long story short the Allies and Morrison were appointed to design Abbeymills Mosque in London. As I quote from the website
    “Allies and Morrison have been briefed to design a development that will see the 18 acre site in West Ham transformed into: Mosque capable of accommodating 12,000 people, visitor and conference centre, with facilities that will be available for the public, car parking for a maximum of 650 cars, new entrance to West Ham tube station, generous provision for cyclists, desire to work closely with TfL and bus companies, residential school for 500 pupils with playing field, reception centre for visiting VIPs, including about 20 guest suites, extensive decontamination of the entire site (from its former Chemical Factory days), retention of natural habitat on unique island location within the site, landscaping of the whole site, extensive use of natural resources to reduce energy consumption and increase recycling.”

    Isn’t it a nice way to revive the Holy Building? :D

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  17. AnonyMouse

    Nuqtah:
    “Worship” is more than just salaah, as we all know… and the kinds of activities and programs I’m promoting all have an Islamic point to them beyond socializing: they’re all about learning about Islam and implementing them in our lives – so in no way would it be contradicting the purpose for which the masjid is built.

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  18. Solomon2

    Pardon me, but if a mosque becomes decrepit, why not sell it or tear it down and build a new one?

    ibnabeeomar: I’ve tried to convert existing facilities into multi-use ones, but it’s very tricky to do that in the States because of our building codes. You have to build it for assembly or institutional occupancy with special wiring, egress and handicap-access features…local zoning codes may mandate a minimum number of parking spaces based on a theoretical capacity which is much smaller if the seating inside is fixed and not mobile as in a multi-purpose building. (D.C.’s codes are pretty lenient, however.)

    All in all, it’s usually much easier to start with a fresh building, rather than convert an existing one, even if you have to buy a bigger plot.

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