The Role and Status of the Mosque

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Islam is a complete and comprehensive system of life, the Mosque, nurses to be at the heart of all positive and productive activities of life. In Islam, mosques are not just places of worship, but community centres and the hub of all the activities. The role of mosque is one of the foremost things that have to be reformed before anything else. In Arabic, the word for mosque is Masjid, a place where one worships. Technically, the Masjid is a house, where people used to implore five times in a day and night. In the early years of Islam, the mosque as place of worship did exist and the Muslim community in Makkah had special provisions and place for the people to assemble and snoop to their leader as can be inferred from the house of Abu Bakr and others companions. It was not until the Prophet (S.A.W) migrated to Madinah in 622 C.E, where as the head of community, he governed, taxed, dispensed justice, and made peace and war, that he felt the need to build the first mosque next to his house. The mosque sign posted that it had multicharacters and there was no special, dedicated ritual purpose. Believers and unbelievers went freely to the mosque, pergolas were instituted, disputes and affairs were settled. It was the dwelling where the Prophet (S.A.W) lectured the companions and discussed matters and problems with them. From the mosque, he controlled the political and religious community of Islam. After the Prophet (S.A.W), the pious caliphs constructed mosques in many places which even consisted of military camps built by Muslims commanders on their expeditions. The importance of the mosque as a Muslim civic centre, having a broader connotation than religious and political, is well illustrated by the Khutbah of Friday congregational prayers Friday in Islam is not like Sabbath, or a day of rest. The prayer on Friday at noon was made obligatory for every free adult male Muslim. Attendance was regarded as an act of allegiance. The Prophet (S.A.W) and eventually his successors, the caliphs and the provincial governors and Imams used to lead congregational prayers. Some sort of address rather than religious sermon would be made at the gathering which was identified as political community. Therefore, from the beginning, Friday worship had the character of a political congregation. Even so the political character of the mosque though diminished but never ever disappeared. Utterance of prayer of the ruler during Khutbah was one of the recognized tokens of sovereignty in Islam; its omission was a signal of revolt. The political charisma of mosque is also retained from another sense. In the case of a major crisis or when the community members felt dissatisfied, they flocked to the mosque to discuss a given setback and seek remedy and redress. Thus, throughout the history of Islam, the mosque was the centre of numerous socio-political movements often led by popular cleric from the pulpit. The role of mosques during periods of unrest in Islamic societies of the 19th and 20th centuries is especially noticeable. Muslims were shocked by the increasing political, commercial and technologically influence of the West that accompanied the colonization of Muslim lands during last two centuries. In response to the agonizing problems that the increasing incursion of the west brought, the intellectuals were roughly divided into three groups. The pure traditionalists believed that the situation was of a transitory nature and the traditional Islam would eventually triumph. The reformists believe in seeking certain pragmatic values and the free use of human reason in reinterpreting traditional Islam. The modernists sought salvation by uncritical imitation of the West. Except few the assemblies in the mosque have been used by all parties to fight the west and one another and to persuade the masses to follow them. Again with the exception of the conservative preachers and teachers, other handlers of the mosque in the 19th and 20th centuries, frequently tried to introduce ideas and institutions to the Muslim societies via re-interpretations of traditional Islamic teachings. Although the reformist clerics and philosophers involved in day-to-day politics have been reluctant to admit this novel function of the mosque as an instrument of social change, some devout Muslim scholars of today openly recommend such use of the mosque. The Muslim attention to the indigenous institutions, such as the mosque, is a means of instituting Muslim communal development programmers and the pulpit as a medium of public communication for foiling the harmful effects of modern media and their alien contents. So, when we work toward improving the situation of the Muslim Ummah, we should consider reforming and revitalizing the position of the Mosque first and to empower the Mosque with its original role.

—The author is a research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be reached at: