What is the Role of a Masjid?
By Mohamedarif Suleman
When we look at a typical day in the life of a practicing Muslim, we find that going to the mosque is probably one of the most frequent activities of all. If we confine our view to the Khoja World, those living in East Africa are blessed with the ease of transport, shorter distance and a comparatively accommodating lifestyle. Those of us settled in the West, have lesser such opportunity to visit our Centers on, say, a daily basis. And when we go to the Middle East, we see that Arabs (non Khojas) are very prompt in prayers so much that they would leave their places of work and head for the nearest mosque at the call of the Muezzin. Some of us have perhaps even experienced a cab driver asking us to wait while he attends to his Zohr prayers.
It, therefore, goes without saying that the mosque has a central role in our lives – one that by virtue of its high recommendation is a place where we meet and greet people of all types. Yet, if we were to carry out a survey of the five most basic reasons why going to the mosque is so significant, besides engaging in prayer, that is, we would have so many different answers to this question, that it would lead us to some other conclusions altogether. For instance, get togethers are a common reason given when one is asked about this. For others, it is simply conforming to the society that they live in. Yet, so many more Muslims keep away from the mosque because they feel it is the center of gossip and social slander. Because we are still not enlisting the real reasons why we go to the mosque, and by that extension the real role of Masjids, it would be interesting to listen to all these divergent views for most of them are happening in practice.
For Khojas, the picture is more complex. Because we are a closed community, we tend to become focal points of discussion in groupings that frequently meet at the mosque in both the negative and the positive sense. The mosque then assumes the role of an information center, but that of course would only be fine had the information been used for positive purposes and intentions of assisting others out of their plights. Does that happen in reality? Maybe. Maybe not.
Another very old reason for going to the mosque for some is because that is the place they would showcase their latest possessions – off road vehicles, mobile phones, clothes and so on. The praise resulting out of all of this, would make it worthwhile for someone to be there.
All the above, do not necessarily represent each and every one’s reasons for going to the mosque, but they do happen nevertheless. But in the eyes of Imam Hasan al Mujtaba (AS), going to the mosque has some very specific objectives. He is quoted to have said in Tuhfool Aqool, “The one who continues his visits (going and coming) to the mosque lays his hands upon one of the eight benefits: (1) Finding a beneficial brother; (2) Getting to know one of the decisive verses; (3) Fresh knowledge; (4) A Mercy waiting for him; (5) A word leading to the guidance; (6) An admonition averting from sin; (7) Not committing a sin out of shame; (8) Not committing sin for the fear of Allah (SWT).
We now have to ask ourselves why we go to the mosque, or why does the entire Muslim Umma for that matter, go to the mosque. The answers will have to be our own sincere admissions of whether we derive any of these eight benefits after all. Or if we do not, then what are our reasons for going to the mosque, and in correspondence, what are our gains in that respect.
Apart from what has been declared, going to the mosque, and at times rushing so apparently as to draw the attention of all, is nothing more than a ritual that shares with us the reward from praying on time and in the mosque, but an action that fails to profit from the hidden reasons that have been kept for us.
May Allah (SWT) guide us all to appreciate our actions, and to understand those actions that have been ordained upon us, Ameen.