Mosques: They Are Not What They Should Be

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A mosque is supposed to be a spiritual retreat – a community centre which encourages spiritual growth and makes people feel welcomed. You could think of it as a gym, except that it’s for the soul and not the physical body. Yet, unfortunately, mosques have lost their appeal. I think this is largely due to the fact that they tend to be male-dominated with a strict dress code focusing on very minute details of how to worship God. Inhospitable to women and non-Muslims, most people have stopped going to the mosques altogether.

What would I do if I was in charge of a mosque?

• Instead of stocking Arabic Qurans only, I would include translations. Muslims who do not understand Arabic stand in prayer not having the slightest idea about what the Imam is reciting. Tell me, what is the point? Salat means to connect with God. If you have no idea about what is being recited from God’s message, how can you connect with Him? Salat is a practice initiated to review the commandments of God, so that we keep ourselves aligned with them. A renewal of what we profess to believe in; to act as a constant reminder. Hence, before starting prayer, the Imam would announce what he would be reciting, so that the people could open up the relevant passage in the translations. While he recites in Arabic, they would read it in a language they understand. This would not only educate them about the Quran, but it would also fulfill the purpose of Salat – to connect and strengthen their relationship with God.

• Every Friday, Muslims go to pray the Jummah – even those that usually don’t pray. So, you have a great platform in the form of Friday prayers to educate people about the contents of the Quran. The Khutbah (sermon) does not even come close to this. Often, it is in Arabic, so people have no idea what is being said. Even if it is in their language, the substance is usually worthless. Hence, what I would do is I would choose a certain topic – say, modesty. Compile the relevant verses on it, and then give a sermon based on this. Not only would this clear a lot of misconceptions, it would also attract a loyal following of Muslims and non-Muslims who actually want to know about the Islam proposed by the Quran!

• Apart from these two fundamental changes, I would set up sessions where people would come together to discuss their interpretations of the Quran. In addition, they could also talk about relevant issues that need to be addressed in their community and elsewhere. So, it’s not all a preach preach preach sort of thing, it would also encourage people to share their own views. This would teach people tolerance. That, it’s never “my way or the highway”. This practice is crucial to being broad-minded and is bound to reduce zealots and religious extremism.

• Lastly, I would try to keep the environment of the mosque friendly. No one would be harassed based on their clothing, ideas, or gender. Yes, gender! The mosque would welcome both men and women. Women would not be considered inferiors, and would be encouraged to actively participate in all the activities. To facilitate children, the mosque would have a play area where they could play under the supervision of a nanny while their parents perform their duties. It is ironic how Islam liberates women, but certain Muslims want to keep them caged in homes.

So, there we have it: A mosque that is actually beneficial to the society. A mosque not built on sectarianism, but to promote unity. You could say that it’s wishful thinking, but all actions stem from thought.

The main problem with Muslims today is a lack of education and miseducation about the Quran. This allows “Imams” to cash in on their ignorance. Hence, you have so many sects all claiming to have the “true and right version of Islam”. Since Muslims are oblivious to the message of the Quran, they find it easier to blindly follow whichever sect or ideology they are “born in”. Once Muslims are exposed to the Quran like how I propose the Mosque would, they would automatically disassociate themselves from dogmatic ideologies. Of course, not all would. But it would be a step in the right direction. A step we so desperately need!

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3 thoughts on “Mosques: They Are Not What They Should Be

  1. Good analysis. But I think it’s better to abolish all the unQuranic rituals, including rakats and recitation during the prayer – all at once, because the recitations during the prayers, in the traditional manner, even done in local languages, are likely to foster atomism, which means taking verses out of context. I do consider atomism the greatest insult to Quran, for with atomism, the Quran loses meanings, so the need of Sunnah to “explain” it becomes more stringent. I think it would be better to read a large passage of the Quran all at once, so a good sense of context and structure can be fostered. Furthermore, the God didn’t tell us to recite the Quran during prayers. Yes, it did say recite, but it didn’t say during prayers. It’s OK to recite some passages if you want to, as a means to fulfill the purpose of prayer, which is to connect with God, ask Him for help, glorify Him, and ask forgiving for sins, but if you treat recitation as an end by itself, prayer loses such meanings. Then prayers are turned into sessions of robotic exercise. And nobody mentioned in the Quran pray in that way. Zachariah, Mary, Moses, David, and contemporaries of Muhammad, as in the Quran, just directly talked to God. Why would God cite bad examples for us? And enough of the abolition myth that turned the Quran into a mask, with the Hadith the real actor wearing it, operating what it does!

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    • I don’t think there is any need to abolish un-Quranic rituals. Yes, we must raise awareness that these rituals are more cultural than religious, but, as I said, we have to take a wise stance and be more tolerant and open in our paradigms.

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