The masjid is the fortress of faith; the guardian of virtues; the home of the pious; the meeting place of Muslims; the centre of consultation and mutual advice, and the first school from which the Muslim graduates. The masjid provides relief and respite to the needy and the distressed. Muslim armies sprang from the masjid and spread the message of Islam to all parts of the world within a short time.
The masjid occupies a prominent place in Islam because prayer is the second most important pillar of Islam and the masjid is where it is performed. In fact, the word masjid is derived from the word for prostrate: Sajada. The masjid symbolises Islamic monotheism and the unity of the Muslim ummah. When the call to prayer is made five times a day, the community comes together in the congregational prayer and all Muslims regardless of their race, colour, social, and economic status stand before their Lord in response to His call to prosperity. The masjid has certain functions and etiquette which must be taken into consideration when attending it:
a) Congregational prayers: Islam has made performing the prayer in congregation one of the most important duties of a Muslim. Abdullah Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Prayer in congregation is better than prayer performed individually by 27 degrees.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). In addition, prayer performed in larger congregations and more distant masjids carries more reward.
Thus, the masjid serves as a meeting place for Muslims where they get to know news of each other and the community at large. Congregational prayer obviously has many spiritual and social benefits. It reinforces the unity and co-operation of Muslims as it strengthens the ties of brotherhood among them. After the prayer, Muslims exchange greetings and inquire about one another’s well being. Thus, it becomes easy to notice community members who may be sick, in difficulty, or in need.
b) Entering and leaving the masjid: When going to the masjid, one is encouraged to proceed with calmness and humility. He should make supplications on his way. One of the supplications the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, used to make was: “In the name of Allah, I put my trust in Allah. There is no power or strength except with Allah.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nasa’i). When entering the masjid, one should begin with the right foot first and say: “Oh Allah, forgive me my sins and open for me the doors of Your mercy.” Similarly, when leaving the masjid, he should step out with the left foot first and say: “O Allah, forgive me my sins and open for me the doors of Your bounty.”
If a person enters the masjid when the prayer has already started, he should not rush to catch up as he might distract those in prayer. Once, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, noticed the sound of people rushing to join a prayer in progress and he said to them: “...When you come to the prayer, come with calmness and tranquillity. Perform whatever part of it you can (with the congregation) and complete what you have missed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
c) Greeting others in the masjid: The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, stressed spreading the greeting of peace, “as-salamu alaykum,” at all times. He said: “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I direct you to something which if you do, you will love one another? Spread the greeting of peace among you.” (Related by Muslim). So, upon entering the masjid, it is appropriate to greet those who are already there.
d) Performing two Rak’at as a greeting to the masjid: When one enters the masjid, it is a Sunnah to perform two rak’at - which serve as a greeting to the masjid - before sitting down. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “When one of you enters the masjid, he should perform two rak’at before sitting down.” (Related by Al-Bukhari). However, if one enters the masjid after the iqamah (call for commencement of prayer) is made, he should not initiate any other prayer. On the other hand, if he begins a sunnah prayer and the iqamah is made before completing it, he may either proceed to finish it quickly, or discontinue and join the congregation. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “If the iqamah is made, then no prayer other than the obligatory one should be performed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
e) Straightening the rows: Before starting the prayer, the congregation should stand in straight rows without leaving any gaps in between. The Prophet used to make sure that all the lines were in order and he said: “Verily, making the rows straight is part of the proper performing of prayer.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). He also said: “Be close together and straighten your rows.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). The rows symbolise the unity, equality and brotherhood of Muslims. There are no privileges or reserved places within the rows. Muslims of all races and nationalities - rich and poor, powerful and weak - stand next to each other in obedience to Allah. They stand shoulder to shoulder, face the same direction, and follow the same imam in unison.
f) Distracting other people in the masjid: The Muslim, while in prayer is in private conversation with his Lord. It is therefore not permissible to distract him in any way. Disturbing someone praying even with audible recitation of the Qur’an is discouraged. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, heard people reciting the Qur’an aloud while others were praying and he said: “Verily, each one of you is in private conversation with his Lord. So, you should not disturb each other. And you are not to raise your voices against each other in the recitation.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa’i, Al-Bayhaqi, and Al-Hakim).
On the other hand, Islam does not forbid engaging in lawful conversation in the masjid provided someone in prayer is not disturbed. Jabir Ibn Samurah, radhiallahu ‘anhu, narrated: “The Prophet would not rise from the place of the Fajr prayer until the sun had risen. And when it did, we would talk and laugh about the days of ignorance (pre-Islamic times) and he (the Prophet) would smile.” (Related by Muslim). Furthermore, it is permissible to lie down, sleep, eat and drink in the masjid. Abdullah Ibn al-Harith reported: “During the time of the Messenger of Allah, we would eat meat and bread in the masjid.” (Related by Ibn Majah). But the sacredness of the masjid should always be borne in mind and hence it must never be misused.
g) Maintaining the cleanliness of masjids: Many of the teachings and practices of Islam emphasise cleanliness and general hygiene. In the Qur’an, the believers are addressed to adorn themselves with their best clothes when going to the masjid. Allah says: “O children of Adam! Adorn yourselves fully with your best clothes to every place of worship,” (Al-A’raf, 7:31). masjids being houses of worship deserve the utmost attention of every Muslim to make sure that they are free of any filth or offensive smell. Jabir reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Whoever eats garlic, onion, or leek should not come close to our masjid for the angels are harmed by what harms the children of Adam.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Another hadith states: “...whoever eats upon (onion and garlic) should suppress their odour by cooking them.” (Related by Muslim, Ahmad, and Al-Nasi’i).
It must be noted that maintaining the masjid is the responsibility of every Muslim. Indeed, Muslims must safeguard the premises and property of the masjid better than even their personal belongings. There are several Ahadith indicating the importance of caring for the masjids. A’isha, radhiallahu ‘anha, reported: “He (the Prophet), ordered us to build the masjids in residential areas; to build them well and purify them.” (Related by Abu Dawud). In another Hadith, Anas Ibn Malik, radhiallahu ‘anhu, reported: “The rewards of my ummah were placed before me, even for removing a speck of dust from the masjid.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Khuzaymah).
Children in the masjid
Children are leaders of the future and the bearers of Islam to posterity, and they must not be denied the blessings of the masjid which nurtures the Muslim mind. Islam pays utmost attention to the proper bringing of children, such that the virtuous Islamic morals and character are instilled in them at tender age. Usually, the formative years of the child are the most vital in shaping his future personality. Parents should therefore allow their children (male and female) to accompany them to the masjid so that they get used to the Islamic acts of worship and grow up with obedience to Allah.
Children used to go to the masjid during the time of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and he used to treat them kindly. Anas reported: “I have never seen anyone kinder to children than the Messenger of Allah.” (Related by Muslim). Also, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, used to take his grandsons to the masjid. Abu Hurairah reported: “The Prophet was delivering a sermon and Al-Hassan and Al-Hussayn (the Prophet’s grandsons) came wearing two red shirts and they were tripping while walking. The Prophet came down from the pulpit, picked them up and placed them in front of him. Then he said: “Allah and His Messenger have told the truth. Verily, your wealth and children are a trial. I looked to these two children walking and tripping, and I could not be patient, so I cut off my sermon and went to pick them up.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi).
To show his concern for children, he used to say: “Verily, I start the prayer intending to prolong it. But when I hear the crying of a child, I shorten it knowing how his crying disturbs his mother.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Training our children to attend the masjids with us is more crucial. Parents and elders should bear the children’s distractions as this is the only way to prepare our future generations for their responsibilities towards this religion. On the other hand, children should be taught to respect the masjid and observe propriety to the test of their ability. Child should be taught to identify with the masjid and take proper care of its property.
Women and the masjid
The Islamic Shari’ah permits women to attend the masjid to benefit from the lectures, sermons, and lessons offered there. However, it is preferable for them to pray in their houses. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Do not prevent your women from coming to the masjid, but their houses are better for them.” (Related by abu Dawud). In another hadith, he said: “If the wife of one of you asks permission to go to the masjid, he must not prevent her.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
However, women should dress modestly with hijab and should not use perfume when going out. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said to the women: “When one of you (women) comes to the masjid, she must not use perfume.” (Related by Muslim). Women used to attend the masjid during the time of the Prophet to learn about religious matters. The Prophet set special lessons for them and also tailored part of his sermons to address women’s issues - especially on Eid days (festivities).
The mother is regarded as the first and most fundamental school for her children and she should have the necessary access to learning so that she, in turn, transmits that knowledge to them. Also, Muslim women can teach young Muslims, new Muslims and organise women’s programmes in the Islamic centres and masjids.
Tawheed the essence of Islam and its strength
Literally Tawheed means to make something one or to call it one. In English when something is made one it is deemed to be unified. However, in Islamic terminology Tawheed means to believe that Allah is the one and only God. It is sometimes referred to as monotheism, however in the purest sense in that no other entity can in any way have the attributes or be equivalent or even in competition with Allah. All acts of worship that a person does should be to Allah or for Allah Alone. For example, prayer should only be to Allah, religious animal sacrifice should only be done in Allah’s name, and fighting to establish and protect religion (Jihaad). Tawheed is therefore the central concept upon which all of Islam rests.
IMPORTANCE AND BENEFITS OF TAWHEED:
* Tawheed is the essence of Islam and the mainspring of its strength. All other laws, beliefs and commands of Islam stand firm on this foundation. Take it away, and there is nothing left of Islam.
* Tawheed is the call of all the prophets to their people. And verily We have sent among every nation a Messenger proclaiming Worship Allah Alone and avoid all false deities. (Qur’an 16:36)
* Tawheed is the only reason for the world’s creation. And I created not the Jinns and Men except that they should worship Me. (Qur’an 51:56) By declaring sincere belief in Tawheed, a disbeliever will become a Muslim. Conversely, a Muslim will become a disbeliever (kaafir) if he rejects any aspect of it.
* By Tawheed we achieve salvation from Eternal punishment in the Hereafter, right guidance in this world, and forgiveness for sins. Allah states in the Qur’an: Verily Allah does not forgive associating partners with Him (Shirk) however He forgives all other sins as He pleases. (Qur’an 4:48). The Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: The worshipper’s right on Allah is that He will not punish those who worship none besides Him [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
* Whoever fulfills Tawheed will be admitted to the Garden (Al-Jannah) in the Hereafter. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has stated: Verily Allah has promised that whosoever does not commit shirk shall enter Al-Jannah (the Garden in the Heaven). [Al-Bukhari)]
* It is the reason for solving peoples’ sadness because true happiness will be achieved if persons realise Tawheed within their heart. They will also never feel psychologically enslaved even if physically captive.
lIt is the only reason for Allah’s pleasure and rewards. In another aayah (verse) in the Qur’an Allah says: If you reject faith then know that Allah is in no need of you and He does not accept disbelief from His slaves. (Qur’an 39:7) Disbelief is nothing but a manifestation of shirk which is the opposite of Tawheed.
* The acceptance of all of one’s religious deeds is based upon Tawheed. Allah states: Whoever accepts a religion other than Islam it shall be rejected by Allah and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Qur’an 3:85). Islam is nothing if not an embodiment of the belief in Tawheed.
* Tawheed prevents man from eternally remaining in the Hellfire. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) stated in an authentic report: Whoever dies and has so much as a mustard seed of faith in his heart shall enter Al-Jannah.
SOURCES OF ISLAMIC ‘AQEEDAH
The Qur’an is the Revelation which Allah sent down to His Apostle Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and has been passed forth to us both in form and in content in an uninterrupted transmission. Meaning, it can be verified as coming from the lips of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) It is the last scripture to be revealed to mankind. As the actual word of Allah in its original form in the Arabic language it is the first and foremost source of Islamic ‘aqeedah Allah says: And we did not send any Messenger before you but we inspired him (saying) none has the right to be worshipped but I (Allah) so worship Me. (Qur’an 21:25) .
Hadith in Arabic has the general meaning of speech whether pertaining to religion or not. Then it took a special sense (prophetic traditions), comprising all the Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) speech, deeds, or tacit decisions.
In this regard, the term Hadith and Sunnah are synonymous. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) being the fount from which both the Qur’an and the Sunnah spring was the best to explain what each and every person should believe about Allah. The Prophet (‘alaihi salaat wa sallaam) stated about himself: I am the most knowledgeable of Allah amongst you and the most fearful of him. And he also stated: Every child is born on Al-Fitra (true faith of Islamic Monotheism) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magianism.
Allah burdens not any soul beyond its scope
Our understanding of religious texts and rules of Islamic Law (Shari’ah) sometimes causes us to seek to free ourselves from necessary duties and responsibilities and lean toward neglect, abandonment, and seeking excuses for ourselves. When we read the words of the Most High: Allah burdens not any soul (person) beyond its scope [Surah Al-Baqarah 286], we attempt to interpret the aayah as a licence to refrain from being burdened with obligations so we use it when we are asked to perform any particular task.
We make the excuse that it is not within our ability or power while we forget that the aayah actually obligates us to the utmost of our human capacity. It is a proof upon the slave (al-’abd) for the necessity of expending maximum effort and capacity to perform all moral obligations. All who seek excuse from performing legal and moral obligations look at the relief in the aayah for those who are incapable, but they are blind to what it obligates up to one’s capacity.
Most remarkable is the (mis)understanding of al-war’a. This (al-war’a) has a precise meaning applicable in particular to those who are the most persevering, and forbearing in eemaan (faith) among the imaams and scholars who never fell short in the performance of obligatory duties or even recommended ones, nor did they neglect abandonment of that which is disliked or forbidden. They did so to the point that they left every superfluous deed that had neither benefit for the Hereafter or was unnecessary for this life.
The unfortunate result
This thin definition is applied by some to the degree that you will find those who apply abandonment of doing something for fear that it may possibly be detestable (makrooh) in Allah’s sight, harmful, or even leading to either. However they do not abandon not doing something for a particular reason! Meaning, that a person may be inclined to abandon things that may seem similar to what is detestable or forbidden but they will not lean toward acting upon something that may be similar to what is commendable (mustahabb) or obligatory (waajib).
There are many who avoid particular foods, drinks, clothing or deeds fearing that within them may be that which would detract from or mar their righteousness. This is well and good. However, you will not find anything which mars or detracts in doing da’wah or jihaad, correction or ordering good and forbidding evil, giving charity in the way of Allah or rushing to perform acts of good and righteousness. One may associate this as a particular obligatory duty upon a person. You may find actions that are not actually commendable however they may associate them as such. Yet you don’t find anyone inclined toward doing what may be associated with an obligation or that which may be commendable. Why?
It is because we have come to prefer sitting and neglect and lightening burdens and responsibilities! It has become easier for us to not do something out of precaution of harming our deen but not easy to act as a means of al-war’a or precaution.
A true definition
The true definition of al-war’a is doing that which is similar to and associated with the obligatory or the commendable, and abandoning what is similar to or associated with the forbidden or the detestable. In the Hadith related by An-Nu’maan Ibn Basheer that is mutafaqun ‘alaihi (agreed upon as authentic by Al-Bukhari and Muslim), the Prophet Of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Verily the halaal is clear and the haraam is clear, and between the two are doubtful matters about which not many people know.
Therefore, whoever fears and avoids doubtful matters clears his deen of fault and whoever falls into the doubtful matters falls into the haraam as the shepherd who herds his flock near a sanctuary is feared to possibly stray into it... Therefore, whoever does what could be considered or associated with the detestable will indeed fall into it in actuality and consequently possibly into the forbidden. Whoever abandons doing what is similar to the commendable will also fall into that and will possibly not do what is truly commendable and as a consequence end up neglecting necessary obligations.
The true believer must hold strongly to the Qur’an and possess the readiness to act just as much as possessing the readiness to abandon. Yes, a part of giving obedience to Allah involves the slave of Allah (al-’abd) relinquishing his relaxation and comfort with the resulting effect of then exerting efforts in work seeking the pleasure and acceptance of Allah ta’alaa and getting closer to Him, even if this involves some hardship and toil.
Action and abandonment are a part of deen (Islam), and for this reason, ordering good (al-amr bil-ma’roof) and forbidding evil (an-nahy ‘anil-munkar) are at its root. Ordering the good is a call to action, while forbidding evil is a call to cessation and abandonment, and the former (ordering and forbidding) is the root of the latter (action and cessation). And Allah knows best.
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