The role of the mosque in Islam is one of the major things that have to be reformed. Some people assume that the mosque only exists for the performance of Salat, and that no other activities are permitted in it. Anyone talking about contemporary issues in the mosques, such as issues relating to the economic, political or the social system of Islam, is looked down upon and even stopped.
However in the history of Islam, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina provided an assembly house for the Muslims where addresses were delivered by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which contained not only appeals for obedience to God but regulations governing the social life of the community; from his mosque, the Prophet controlled the religious, social and political community of Islam. In the Prophet’s Mosque a raised platform was erected for the companions, the As-hab as-Suffah (the companions of the Suffah, the platform), one of whom was Abu Hurayrah, the famous reporter of the Prophet’s Traditions, Ahadith.
Various discussions used to take place in this mosque and the Prophet used to guide and counsel anyone who visited him. It was there that all important matters were discussed and justice administered. The mosque in other words, was a place of prayer as well as a social and political centre during the lifetime of the Prophet.
In the Quran, the words that describe the purpose of building a mosque are ‘Masaajid Lillahi’, meaning the places of worship are to be built for the sake of God and not as the abode of God. The Quran says: “In houses which God has permitted to be built that His name might be praised in them, in them they praise Him, morning and evening, men whom neither business nor trade distracts from praising God and performing the prayers and the giving of alms.” (Q24:36).
A passage in the Qur’an also speaks of dwelling in the mosque over and above its being the centre of worship and administration. There are a number of mosques where apartments have been attached to be used as a hostel for the wayfarer, especially the religious personage.
The mosques have also been used as courts of justice, and the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have settled legal questions in the mosque at Madina.
It is a historical fact that illiteracy and ignorance were the most dominating evils among the Arabs before the advent of Islam. The Glorious Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) laid the greatest emphasis on the dissemination of knowledge and learning.
Education was made obligatory on all Muslims, men and women, along with the importance of writing or pen. In the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, the Prophet himself started a school, where, he along with his companions gave lessons on the Qur’an and general ethical knowledge.
Closely linked with religion was this zest and vigour for learning, the Arabs knew nothing then of a compulsory school system. The spiritual power which the Qur’an exercised, led them on, without any extraneous pressure, to an earnest longing to read it (the Qur’an) for themselves, and this desire, by itself, indeed, spread all over the Islamic world. With this stimulating enthusiasm, elementary schools sprang up without compulsion from above. Not only in the later centuries do we find a school in every small village, or attached to every mosque but even in the earliest times arrangements to that end were made by the people themselves, and not in Arabia and Iraq but in all other provinces that came under the banner of Islam.
Imam Ibn Taimiyyah said about the role of the mosques: “The mosques were the stations of the Muslim leaders and the centres for congregations. The Prophet (SAW) established the foundation of his blessed Mosque on piety. In it prayers and Qur’anic recitations were performed, the remembrance of Allah and teaching knowledge established, and speeches were given. And in it were matters of politics (running affairs of the Ummah), troops were deployed, and in it Muslims gathered for their religious and livelihood affairs.
The very nature of the mosque dictates that it is central to the affairs of the Muslims. Furthermore, Islam has determined that the mosque is expected to play many important roles within the Muslim community, and the classical scholars have devoted considerable sections in books of Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) highlighting these roles. This will become clearer when the tasks which the mosque is expected to be central to are highlighted, thus:
The Mosque was the headquarters of the Islamic State’ssupreme leadership: The mosque is a centre from where the state’s affairs are run, since the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to meet envoys, sign agreements, judge between disputing parties and so on in the mosque. The Khalifah, i.e. the head ofthe Islamic State, would outline his policies and methods, and address and debate with his subjects directly without any fear of reprisal in the mosque. For instance, the speech of Khalifah Abu Bakr, delivered in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), once he had been given the bay’ah (oath of allegiance), has perhaps gone down in history as being the shortest political speech delivered by a ruler.
Abu Bakr said: “0 you people! I have been given authority over you but I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me, and if I do wrong, then put me right. Truth consists in loyalty and falsehood in treachery. The weakamong you shall be strong in my eyes until I secure their right if Allah wills; and the strong among you should be weak in my eyes until I wrest the right from them. If a people refrain from fighting in the way of Allah, Allah will smite them with disgrace. Wickedness is never widespread in a people but Allah brings calamity upon them all. Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger (SAW), and if I disobey them you owe me no obedience. May Allah forgive me and forgive you.”
The Masjid is a section of the Ministry of Information: The Mosque is regarded as an important centre for Islamic information, since it is the scene of political, social, cultural and ritual life. All theimportant news relating to vital issues are announced in the mosque and it also ensures direct contact between the carrier and the receiver of the message. It is considered one of the most effective and successful means of da’wah and of giving information. The adhan, for instance, is information about the time of prayer and at the same time it is also a means of campaigning for Islam and spreading it. The pulpit is a place for information about the campaign and on it the principles of the campaign are explained and its rules announced.
Prayer is another tangible method of giving information, especially the congregational prayer. Circles for studying the Qur’an and fiqh, meetings and conferences are considered to be successful methods of departing information about Islam.
The Mosque is a Court of Justice: The Masjid used to be a place where judges would convene to settle disputes and look into complaints. Imam Bukhari mentioned in his book, the Sahih, chapter of “Asking a debtor to repay what he owes, and catching the debtor in the Masjid.” There is much evidence showing this and there is no difference of opinion among the various Schools of Thought concerning this.
The Masjid is a University for Learning and Teaching: The mosque teaches the basics of the Tawheed and ‘aqeedah (creed), the acts of worship and the Shari’ah rules in all their types, political, economic, social, judicial and others. Its policy is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah with the aim of building and educating Islamic personalities by way of study circles, debates, and conferences. Such meetings will be engulfed by compassion; the mercy of Allah (SWT) descends on them, and they are surrounded by the angels.
– From the book: ‘Mosque Management And It’s Roles In Muslim Worship’ by ASP Yaqub Alhassan, Imam Force Hqtrs Juma’at Mosque, Abuja
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