What is the Role of the Masjid?

by Laurie Hamdani @, Chicago, Sunday, November 27, 2011, 18:45 (2766 days ago)
edited by Laurie Hamdani, Thursday, December 01, 2011, 02:40

I no longer go to masjid. My experiences there have simply not been positive. I depart longing for the types of interactions that I have found common to my experiences in church [I am a convert from a Presbyterian upbringing and have attended services of various Christian denominations over the years both as part of comparative religion courses in college and as a guest of friends or relatives]. Certainly, when one attends a house of God one expects to hear the words of God being read and interpreted through sermons; this has been a part of all experiences I have had at any house of God.
(Although for discussion on a different thread perhaps, there have certainly been frustrations in this area due to sound systems, language barriers, reliance on secondary sources, and so on.)

Church interactions which I have found lacking at the masjid are those which foster a sense of community and/or which encourage me to return for further participation. Just a few examples:

  • being warmly greeted and made to feel welcome
  • not being visually scrutinized based on my appearance or style of dress
  • being made aware of needs of individuals within the community and how best to attend to those needs (illness, joblessness, etc.)
  • being made aware of good news within the community (births, graduations, etc.)
  • being apprised of needs for the support of the congregation (funds needed for building repairs, etc.)
  • not being corrected for using alternate words or postures during prayer
  • being invited to remain after the service to socialize and meet others within the community (commonly called “coffee hour” or “fellowship”)
  • being made aware of other activities of the congregation through announcement during the service and/or via postings in common areas or printed in the church bulletin

Some may consider some of the above items to be trivial. I suggest that such courtesies, interactions, and communications are part of a subset of behaviors conducive to facilitating learning and the practical application of scripture.

What are others’ experiences in this regard? Are my experiences atypical? What are the roles of the masjid within a community? Can ‘best practices’ be identified from Quran and from other Judeo-Christian congregations and applied to the masjid experience?

--
Salaam and thank you.

What is the Role of the Masjid?

by Shabbir Ahmed, Florida, Friday, December 09, 2011, 01:13 (2754 days ago) @ Laurie Hamdani

Respected Sister,

I fully understand your dejection. Numerous sisters, especially with a western background, have been relating very similar experiences over the years.

Whenever I go to a Masjid, I return frustrated as if the Mullah Imam and the chaotic environment outside and inside have hurt my IMAN.

In fact Masjids have been reduced to places of empty ritualistic worship.

THE ROLE OF THE MASJID:
One thing that instantly facilitated efficient governance in the Islamic State was a wide network of Masjids serving as government centers. From the very first year of Hijrah, Muslims had been building mosques in their localities. The Federal, provincial and township governments oversaw that mosques were built in proper locations in every neighborhood.

One call from the Muazzin (caller of Azaan), "As-Salaatil Jami'ah" used to be sufficient to assemble men and women to the Masjid. Citizens knew that they were being called for important business. There was no clergy or "Imams" to run and manage these Masjids or conduct congregations.

Before the proceedings started, men and women would make Wudhu and pray together only one unit, standing, similar to today’s funeral prayer. The government official of each area was the leader of the area mosque. He led the congregation and recited Surah Fatiha alone. Wudhu and one unit standing prayer were intended to mentally prepare everyone for the noble task ahead.

RUKOO’ (Bowing) was understood allegorically as bowing before the commands of Allah.
SAJDAH (Prostration) meant complete mental submission to Him.

Hassan Basari wrote that physical Rukoo’ and Sajdah were considered immodest especially since men and women congregated together in the Masjid and so, not ordained.

Recall that all creation knows their Salaat and Tasbeeh. How would the heavens and earth, mountains, animals, birds, fish and trees physically bow and prostrate! Therefore Salaat cannot mean Namaaz, contact prayer or ritual prayers.

There was no concept of praying alone or at homes. The congregation timings were determined by the central or local officials according to the situation, once a day to once a week.

The Masjid was not a temple of worship. It was the School, the Assembly, the Municipality, the Parliament and the Government House. The respective leader would discuss real issues about the community, entertain questions, present bills, announce decisions of the Shura (Counsel) and the Assembly would legislate. People came up with their ideas for betterment of the society and devised plans for social welfare. Every citizen remained informed of the condition of the needy, the orphans, the sick, the disabled, the widows and about the condition of the State affairs. People brought up news of any socio-economic problems facing any families and they were immediately addressed.

Masjid was also the place where the leaders and officials were elected, ambassadors received, and defense matters decided. What a convenient and ready-made infrastructure for the government and public!

Later on, a Hadith was invented that it was Haraam to discuss "wordly matters" in the mosque. Alas! With this single stroke of pen, by the third century Hijrah, the Masjid had been reduced to what we see today, a temple of worship with empty rituals.

What is the Role of the Masjid?

by Joseph Islam ⌂ @, On God's Earth, Saturday, December 10, 2011, 04:45 (2753 days ago) @ Shabbir Ahmed

Brother Shabbir,

Salamun Alaikum

I agree with your sentiment with regards numerous women (especially those with a Western background) relating similar experiences to sister Laurie.

However please note my response in two sections which I also impart for the benefit of wider readers.


(1) The Role of the Masjid (From a Quranic perspective)
(2) The Role of the Masjid from your perspective


THE ROLE OF THE MASJID FORM A QURANIC PERSPECTIVE

It appears that the real essence of the mosque seems to have become lost.

Here are my views in light of the Quran.

If one reads verse 2:125, it is clear what the purpose of the ancient house that Prophet Abraham built intended to provide:

  • A place of return (mathabatan) - a place of visitation, a resort
  • A place of security (aman) - where one finds refuge, protection, assistance.
  • A place of seclusion, stay, attachment, to give one self up to in purpose, to be devoted, to be resident (akifina) . This is also supported by verse 2:187 (akifuna fil-masajid)
  • A place of worship - ruku (bow) and sujud (prostrate).

Furthermore:

  • A place where God’s name is glorified much (fiha us’mu-allahi kathira – 22:40); 2:114.

Mosques (in the spirit of Prophet Abraham’s ancient house) should function not only as places of worship but as central institutions responding to the needs of the community and for learning.

I infer support for ‘learning’ from verse 9:122 in the Quran which intimates that there should always be those that should devote themselves in acquiring knowledge of religion (liyatafaqqahu fi-dini) so that they may be able to warn others. This is in my view, a cue for ‘acquired knowledge’ through dedicated endeavour. Therefore, as a focal point of a community it would not be inconceivable that a Mosque would also provide a place for such learning.

However, it does appear that the true essence of a multifunctional centre is absent in Mosques which today sadly remain extremely sectarian and incongruent with the image I understand mosques should fulfil in light of the Quran.

Today’s mosques can be run by power hungry trustees with some religious leaders bent on extracting funds out of their worshippers with little answerability or transparency. They often provide little or no support to the communities with matters of real need but rather, breeding grounds for extremism, rote learning and instilling sectarian bias.


THE ROLE OF THE MASJID FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE

However, with respect, I find little (if any) support for your perspective in the way you have presented the role of the Masjid from my studies with early Islamic literature as a keen historian.

You say:

RUKOO’ (Bowing) was understood allegorically as bowing before the commands of Allah.
SAJDAH (Prostration) meant complete mental submission to Him.

For this statement, you seem to provide tacit support by mentioning an isolated quote from Hasan al-Basri.

"Hassan Basari wrote that physical Rukoo’ and Sajdah were considered immodest especially since men and women congregated together in the Masjid and so, not ordained"

Readers should appreciate that we have nothing of the writings of Hasan al-Basri (d. 728CE) from his own pen. To garner support from secondary sources of such kind is unacceptable to any student or academic that professes to understand their ‘religion’ from the Quran.

Furthermore, to say Hasan al-Basri 'wrote' something is akin to saying the 'Prophet said' and have the statement recorded by later compilers as noted in the Hadith corpus. The literary corpus that is attributed to Hasan al-Basri in his name is often known to be forged. Sources are often contradictory and often cannot be reconciled.

  • “The literary corpus transmitted on his authority consists mainly of sermons and letters related to piety. Several of these, however, were attributed to him falsely, either intentionally or as a result of name confusion, Whether actually his or falsely attributed, this growing corpus of anecdotes, sermons, and letters on piety and spirituality helped the expansion of al-Hasan’s posthumous legacy and its dissemination in later scholarship and attracted still more followers to him” [1]

A significant number of anecdotes are transmitted on the authority of Hasan al-Basri which seems to clearly reflect the views of later theologians.

Historians only start to see images of Hasan al-Basri from around the late 8th / early 9th century CE emphasizing his extreme piety through the lens of later writers.

Some of the anecdotes with regards al-Basri are received in the name of three individuals, 'Abd Allah b. al-Mubarak (d. 797CE), Waki b. al-Jarrah (d. 812 CE) and Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855 CE) who make use of the same title 'Kitab al-Zuhd' (book of Asceticism). Other information can be gleaned from the works of al-Jahiz's (869CE) al-Bayan wa-l-tabyin (On Rhteoric and Exposition), 'Uyun al-akhbar (The Jewels of Narratives) by Ibn Qutayba (889 CE) and al-Kitab al-Kamil (The Complete Book) by al-Mubarrad (900CE). [2]

  • "Yet the strongest image of al-Hasan that comes out of Ibn al-Mubarak is the one that presents him as overwhelmed by sorrow and the fear of eternal punishment and preoccupied with constant worship, as the following anecdote shows" [3]
  • (B9) Al-Mubarak Al-Mubarak [b. Fadala] reported that al-Hasan said: "I was told that if the worshiper sleeps while prostrating, God would say: 'Look at my worshiping servant. His soul is with me and his body is in my service" [4]

Scholars are aware that the number of accounts with regards the piety of Hasan al-Basri and his spiritualism seems to snowball in content in medieval literature with material in respect to his personality and life considerably expanding. There seems to be different presentations appearing of him within this literature.

  • "It has been argued above that the presentation of al-Hasan al-Basri in the early medieval literature reveals two persons: the highly pious al-Hasan who renounced this world and lived in constant sorrow, and the highly sociable al-Hasan who loved the delicacies of this world and the company of people" [5]

Piety focused literature is against the spirit of the Quran which clearly informs believers not to assign piety or purity to human souls as only God knows best the state of one's being from the time when they were created and when they lay hidden in the womb of their mothers (53:32)

  • “Born in the year 21 A.H, his very childhood is surrounded by the mist of fable. Significant, if only as a symptom, is the endeavour of tradition to bring him into the sacred circle of Muhammad himself. He is said to have been suckled by the wife of the Prophet ‘Umm Salama; or to have imbibed heavenly wisdom by having once drunk from a pitcher that had been used by Muhammad; upon hearing him speak, ‘A’isha exclaims that he talks with the tongue of prophets.” [6]


"...fala tuzakku anfusakum..." (Do not ascribe piety / purity to yourselves). - 53:32. See also 4:49.


Regards,
Joseph.


REFERENCES:

[1] MOURAD. S.A, Early Islam between Myth and History, Al-Hasan al-Basri (d.110H/728CE) and the Formation of his Legacy in Classical Islamic Scholarship, Brill NV, Leiden, 2006, Epilogue, Page 241
[2] Ibid., Page 64
[3] Ibid., Page 65
[4] Ibid., Page 66
[5] Ibid., Page 93
[6] OBERMANN. J, Yale University, Published by the American Oriental Society, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.55, No.2 (Jun., 1935), page 138

--
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'
George Orwell

http://www.quransmessage.com
Copyright © 2010 Quransmessage.com

What is the Role of the Masjid?

by Joseph Islam ⌂ @, On God's Earth, Sunday, December 11, 2011, 14:52 (2752 days ago) @ Joseph Islam

Dear Readers.

Please note a 'typo' correction and an addition for clarification purposes:


Typo:

"Yet the strongest image of al-Hasan that comes out of Ibn al-Mubarak is the one that presents him as overwhelmed by sorrow and the fear of eternal punishment and preoccupied with constant worship, as the following anecdote shows" [3]


Should read:


"Yet the strongest image of al-Hasan that comes out of Ibn al-Mubarak is the one that presents him as overwhelmed by sorrow and the fear of eternal punishment and preoccupied with constant worship, as the following anecdotes show" [3]


[Changes in bold]


Between reference [3] and [4] in the post, the following note is to be included.

"The author then cites 8 examples [B5-B12]. One example involving worshipping and prostrating is cited below from the various examples given [B9]".

Regards,
Joseph.

--
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'
George Orwell

http://www.quransmessage.com
Copyright © 2010 Quransmessage.com

RSS Feed of thread
salaatforum.com | design and hosted by Beach Life Marketing Inc