Purpose of Mosques today – Part 2

The writer, Sh Dr Imranali Panjwani (Chelmsford, UK) is a Senior Lecturer in Law, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK and Head of Diverse Legal Consulting.

In one important narration recorded in our earliest hadith compilations, it states the following:“The Commander of the Faithful used to say: one who frequently visits mosques acquires one of eight things – a beneficial brother who is near to God, the Mighty and Exalted, rare knowledge, an unambiguous verse [of the Qur’an], an expectant mercy, words that ward off ruin, hearing words which guide him towards that which is right or to abandon a sin out of fear [of God] or shame.”?[1]

From the above narration, we can extract the following 8 principles as to how a mosque should run (the last two being combined together):

  1. The masjid is a social place encouraging relationships between human beings who are united in their regard for God. Moreover, the relationships one forms are meant to be beneficial, helpful and enduring.
  2. The masjid is a place where rare or precious knowledge should be promoted and hence distinguishes itself from other intellectual institutions by giving original information that no other institution can give. It is, in sum, a place that opens the mind to new thoughts and fresh ideas.
  3. The teachings of the Qur’an are central to the functioning of the masjid. Specifically, those verses that are unambiguous should, at the least, be communicated to the people so that they clearly understand the Qur’an.
  4. Blessings and mercy, in all their forms, are present in the masjid – whether they are in this world or the hereafter. For example, a place where a poor person or traveler can be looked after, a place to ask forgiveness for one’s sins and building hope in God Himself etc… Hence the overall principle of a masjid is one of promoting mercy, not hate or hopelessness.
  5. Speeches and words heard in the mosque, whether by one giving a sermon or simply in what one hears in words of others (or in the recitation of the Qur’an), are there to drive away ruin and destruction in our lives. Simply put, any speech in the mosque is to help us build a constructive, positive and hopeful life, not one that brings about ruin (in all its forms) in our lives.
  6. Speeches and words should also guide us to that which is right and good. This is in order for us better human beings and servants of God.
  7. And 8) Finally, we are encouraged to abandon our sins either out of fear of God or the shame of committing the sin itself. This demonstrates the mosque is a place of moral and spiritual purification.

The above can form the guiding principles for a constitution for our mosques and centres (which in my research has not been used in our constitutions or visions). More than that, we can objectively ask whether we are following the above 8 principles in our centres today:

  • Are our centres social places that encourage beneficial relationships with all human beings or a select few? Is there infighting or harmony and unity?
  • Do we promote original, new knowledge or are we scared of new opinions and research? Do we ban speakers that bring new opinions even though our beloved Prophet was introducing revolutionary ideas to transform his own society?
  • Do we pay enough attention to understanding the Qur’an or is the masjid a ritualistic place with little emphasis on learning?
  • Do we consider our centre as a source of mercy for us? Can we go to someone for help or are too many political obstacles to seek help? Will we be turned away?
  • Do we hear speeches in the mosques that drive us away from ruin and destruction or are speeches divisive and cause disharmony?
  • Do speeches guide us to that which is morally good and right for our lives?
  • Would we abandon our sins by attending mosque or do we find we continue to sin inside the mosque or centre – whether this backbiting, jealousy, wanting control or more?

These questions, which I have posed sincerely and honestly, can only be answered by you, the reader.

May God guide us all and may He bless Muhammad and his progeny.

[1] Al-?ad?q, Shaykh., Man L? Ya??uruh al-Faq?h, vol.1, p.237, hadith no. 713 (Qum: Mu’assasa al-Nashr alIsl?m?, 1413). Also found in: Al-?ad?q, Shaykh, Am?l? al-?ad?q, p. 389, hadith no. 16 (Qum: Maktabat al-Islamiyyah, 1404); Al-?ad?q, Shaykh, Al-Khi??l, vol. 2, p. 409, hadith no. 10 (Qum: Mu’assasa al-Nashr al-Isl?m?, 1403); Al-Tusi, Shaykh., Tahdh?b al-Ahk?m, vol. 3, p. 248, hadith no.1 (Tehran: D?r al-Kutub al-Isl?miyyah, 1365); Al-Tusi, Shaykh., Am?l? al-T?s?, p. 432, hadith no. 969 (Qum: D?r al-Thiq?fat lil-Nashr, 1414); Al-Harr?ni, ?asan ibn Shu’bah, Tu?af al-‘Uq?l, p. 235 (Qum: Mu’assasa al-Nashr al-Isl?m?, 1404); N?r?, Mirz? ?usayn. Mustadrak al-Was?’il wa Mustanba? al-Mas?’il, vol. 3, p.359, no. 3778 (Qum: Mu’assasa ?l al-Bayt, 1408); Al-Amil?, al-?urr, Was?il al-Shi’a, vol. 5, p. 197, hadith no. 6320 (Qum: Mu’assasa Aal al-Bayt, 1409); Al-Majlis?, Mu?ammad B?qir. Bi??r al-Anw?r, vol. 80, p.351, no. 4 (Tehran: D?r al-Kutub al-Isl?m?yyah, 1404). In al-Khi??l, Shaykh al-?ad?q states that‘Al? b. Ab? ??lib (a.s) directly heard the narration from Prophet Mu?ammad (s.a.w). In Tu?af al-‘Uq?l, the narration is also attributed to al-?asan ibn ‘Al? (a.s). In Mustadrak al-Was?’il wa Mustanba? al-Mas?’il, Mirz? ?usayn N?r? mentions that al-?asan ibn ‘Al? (a.s) directly heard the saying from Prophet Mu?ammad (s.a.w). There may be slight variations in the chain in some of the above and other hadith compilations.

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