As we learned in Part 1, from the
beginning of Islamic history the mosque was the cornerstone of the Muslim
It was not established simply as
a house of prayer. It is easy to arrive at this conclusion because God gave the
nation of Muhammad a unique gift.
The majority of the globe, with
very few exceptions, is a place of prayer. Buildings, mosques, are not required
to fulfill this need.
"The (whole) earth has been
made a mosque (or a place of prayer) and a means of purification for me, so
wherever a man of my Ummah may be when the time for prayer comes, let him
pray.” (Al-Bukhari, 335)
Therefore one would assume that
the mosque is more than just a sheltered area to pray in. It is of course, and
we must not overlook this, a place where Muslims, irrespective of their race or
ethnicity, gather together five times per day. This conveys a subtle message
about the importance of staying together, united as one nation of Muslims.
Unity is particularly important in the 21st.
century because more than ever before the Muslim nation is disunited and spread
throughout the globe.
But time and circumstance both
have the habit of making small changes and small changes happened to the role
of the mosque as history swept forward. As communities in Muslim nations became
bigger, more than one well was required, more than one school, more than one
marketplace and more than one mosque. In fact mosques were seemingly built on
every corner but many of them became little more than places of prayer. The
larger mosques continued to fulfill their various functions so in Muslim
countries the mosque will often serve the same purpose for which it was
established nearly 1500 years ago.
Things are different in the west
however, while Muslims might have their own shopping areas, restaurants and
schools these are not the places that traditionally give and maintain a Muslim
sense of identity. That place is the local mosque. It is in the mosque
that a Muslim keeps his spirituality alive, strengthens the bond with his
Creator, meets and communicates with his fellow Muslims and renews his sense of
Sadly many mosques currently
serve as places of worship, for breaking the fast during Ramadan, and little
else. However if mosques throughout the world reverted to their
traditional purpose and place in Muslim society they could bring about great
social change and influence non-Muslims to rethink the predominating views of
Islam prevalent today.
To be the heart of a vibrant
Muslim society, mosques need to face the challenges brought about by the
globalization and growth of the 21st. century.
First and foremost is the
challenge of offering a welcoming atmosphere. To perform a useful function
in the Muslim society mosques of the 21st. century need to throw the front
door open to all sections of society, just as the first mosque did.
Women, mothers with young
children, the elderly, the youth, the poor and disenfranchised and non-Muslims
interested in Islam should find the mosque a welcoming place.
The mosque and its surrounds
typically referred to in the west as the Islamic centre could house such
facilities as a cafeteria, a sports facility most particularly for the youth, a
library with computers and internet, classrooms, halal food store, and a child
minding centre so that men and women can enjoy the educational and sports
facilities without worrying about small children.
The mosque could distribute aid
to the poor and the needy. Many of these functions do take place but sadly many
do not. The modern mosque should be the focal point of a Muslim’s life. It
should be a welcoming place for all Muslims, and all those interested in
finding out about Muslims and Islam.
Throughout the Muslim world many
mosques have become tourist attractions. They are known for their beautiful and
often ground breaking architecture but sadly those most frequently visited by
tourists are no longer houses of prayer.
The innumerable small mosques
located in every neighborhood in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries are
uninviting to non-Muslims, tourists and women alike. In larger cities cultural
and Islamic centers have been built specifically targeting the needs of
non-Muslims. The needs of Muslims are often met by Zakah foundations, and other
Gone are the days when small
mosque communities looked after each other. This is true throughout the western
world too. We have all seen the signs that relegate women to back entrances and
many non-Muslims have kept walking when confronted by groups of men standing
outside mosque entrances.
In their research for the
documentary film Unmosqued, the film makers found some unsettling statistics
about the mosques in America. Mosques they found are under-financed and
While mosque attendance is higher
than other American religious congregations, mosque budgets are less than half
the budget of other congregations. Only 44% of all Imams are full-time and
paid. Half of all mosques have no full-time staff. Program staff such as youth
directors or outreach directors account for only 5% of all full-time staff.
Only 3% of mosques consider "New Muslim" classes a top priority.
It appears then that the
challenges for the mosque in the 21st. century, in both the Muslim and western
spheres are to make the mosque a more inclusive space.
In the time of Prophet Muhammad
it was not unusual for the homeless to sleep in the mosque whilst matters of
state were discussed in an area close by. Sadly now days some mosques are
locked up between prayer times. Some mosques in some countries are facing up to