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Reviving Institution of Masjid in Islam
Author/Source: M Faisal Qasmi  (mfq07@yahoo.com) Posted by: M. Faisal Qasmi
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Masjids have a critical and central role in carving character of Muslim society and keeping its followers aligned with teachings of Islam. This is evident from the fact that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at the very outset of Hijrat to Madina founded Masjid-e-Nabvi which acted as a hub for all religious, political, administrative, institutional and social activities. Since then this has been followed by Muslim Rulers around the world and institution of Masjid has been playing a pivotal role in one form or the other. Muslims wherever they went, built Masjids which served as a hub of their activities.

Since the times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Masjids have enjoyed the role of a multifarious institution simultaneously acting as a pulpit for conducting State Affairs, Collective Consultative Decision Making, Court & Dispute Settlement, Social Affairs, Preaching of Islam and Imparting elementary and Higher Education to the Masses.

To understand true spirit of Institution of Masjid, different roles of Masjids have been briefly enumerated hereunder:-

Masjid as a Religious Institution Throughout history, Islam has spread through Masjids and impacted influential circles across the globe. People of all cast & creed, social status come together and standby each other without making any discrimination because before Allah Subhanawatala all man & women are equal except those who are better in Taqva from others. Distinction among Masjids Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has given distinction to three Masjids over the others. 1st Bait Ul Haram, 2nd Masjid-e-Nabvi and 3rd Masjid-e-Aqsa. This means that saying prayer in the aforementioned Masjids is Afzal than saying prayer in any other Masjid in the world.

Masjid as a Political Institution Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ran his dynasty from the Masjid. All ambassadors of different countries and tribes visited him in the Masjid and appropriate measures through Mushawrat (Consultative Decision Making) were done within the Masjid.

Contemporary Political Roles Masjids are used as a platform of unity and participation all over the world wherever Muslims are in minority. Masjids are also used to promote civic participation. For instance, Masjids in USA host voter registration, cultural activities and celebration of Eid and dissemination of information about issues faced by the Muslim community.

Masjid as a Judicial Institution In the times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) all disputes were settled in the Masjids. There hearing, consultation, decision making and implementation was done through the pulpit of Masjid.

Masjid as an Institution of Shelter & Peace Not very far in history even in today’s world, Masjids serve as a place of shelter for the travelers and especially for those who come from far flung areas to preach Islam. Masjids have been declared within our religion as a place of peace. No war or activities of Fasad are permitted in the Masjid.

Masjid as Administrative Institution Activities such as collection and disbursement of Zakat, Fitrana & Sadqa from the local community existing in the vicinity of Masjid. Collection of funds and support commodities such as clothing and grocery are also collected and disbursed in case of earthquakes, flooding etc. anywhere in the world or the country. Masjids also serve as a unit of information for announcements such as lost & found, community functions and in the times of war serves as a hub for dissemination of information and for civil defense activities.

Masjid as a Social Institution Nikkah, activities of religious celebrations like, Mahfile Hamd O Naat, Quran Khawani, offering of Namaz-e-Janaza and to some extant certain social affairs which include deliberation on cleanliness of the Mohalla, voting and pleading and resolution of common disputes is also practiced.

Masjid as an Educational Institution The Masjid played a major part in the spread of education among Muslims. The first school was Masjid-e-Nabvi set up at Madina in 653 AD, and by 900 AD nearly every Masjid had an elementary school for the education of both boys and girls. After basic reading and writing skills, Quran was taught. Later on subjects such as Astronomy, Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Arithmetic, Engineering, Medicine etc were also added and taught depending on the inclination of the student. For example, astronomy, engineering, and medicine were taught at Al-Azhar & Ibn Tulun in Egypt. Pharmacology, Engineering, Astronomy and other subjects were taught in the Masjids of Baghdad in Iraq. Many of the ancient Muslim Centres of learning which still exist today, and are considered as the oldest universities in the world, are Al-Qayrawan and Al-Zaytuna in Tunisia, Al-Azhar in Egypt and Al-Qarawiyin in Fez, Morocco.

Present Status Masjids are now controlled by different sects and sermons delivered by them leave no stone unturned in making other sect as totally in opposition of true religion. Recently, we have seen that these clergy man have become nuisance to true religion and seldom convey the true spirit and meaning of Islam. This may not be by intention but most probably based on their inadequate and unauthentic knowledge and inclination towards harnessing personal benefits whether based on a fact or falsified information.

Regular Prayers Masjids are primarily used to offer prayers only. Imams appointed for the purpose do not have any other purpose & responsibility other than leading prayers which is contrary to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a Statesman and a person of greater rather greatest responsibilities himself led the prayers to make a note that people of greater responsibility should lead prayers. The four beloved Caliphs of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) followed this Sunnah in its true spirit. This signifies that Imam of a Masjid is not a separate designation (as prevalent nowadays) standing in aloof of the society. People of greater responsibility are supposed to lead prayers in the Masjids of their vicinity. Currently, Imam of a Masjid is someone who does nothing but leads the prayer and sometime involved in teaching Quran to children. He has no other role to play in the society. This norm goes exclusively against the spirit of institution of Masjid. For this reason, today we stand apart from our religion and our practical lives.

Jumah Prayer Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) especially instructed that the heads of the state and their viceroys should lead the Friday prayer and deliver sermon in this regard. This role cannot be assumed by any person wishing to do so. This is perhaps based on unworthy deeds of the rulers who are reluctant to say lead and say prayers in front of public. Once they lead the prayer, doing an unworthy act demands enormous courage and sinful nature which perhaps is yet not there. In practice, Friday prayers are led by clergy man who hold no responsibility other than leading the prayer and often misuse the pulpit of Masjid and these further filters into wide gap between religion and politics and other sects of life.

Parallel Judicial System A parallel judicial system exists and practiced widely by Muftees in the Jamia Masjids. The Mufti is a qualification hard earned by years long study of religion which includes political, social, religious institutions as delineated by Shariah. Matters pertaining to family matters such as divorce, marriage, inheritance, names of new born and any other matter on which the Saail needs help and advice in the light of teachings of Islam.

WAY FORWARD Now, with the passage of time and extension of Muslim State, the role of this institution has been declining and nowadays only limited to a place of worship. This has further resulted in low attendance for prayers which substantially rises in the month of Ramazan. The apparent reason for the declining role of institution of Masjid is that role and characters of the leaders of the Muslim State could not keep up with high values and perhaps this resulted in non appearance before public in congregational prayers and leading as Imam of the prayer.

The idea of Masjid from the times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was to keep both the State and Religion together since Islam is not simply a religion giving directions on worshipping only but it is a complete code of life and addresses all issues and aspects of life. As Sir Dr. M. Allama Iqbal said in his famous verses:-

Juda ho din Siasat Se to rah jati ha Changezi

The present declining status of Muslim world is the result of devastation and misuse of its foremost learning centre and hub of authority; the Masjid. It is worth noting that in the shining days of Islam, the scholars & knowledge went hand in hand truly based on the verses of the Quran e Pak and the sayings of the Prophet urging its believers to learn and seek knowledge. Similarly, the word Jami' means both Masjid and school. In Arabic, the word for university, Jami‘a, is derived from Jami' (Masjid).

Philosophy behind integrating State and Religion although well explained above has following apparent repercussions if revived in today’s world:-

1. Rulers conducting State Affairs from a Masjid would keep them aligned with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as compared to conducting State Affairs from an extravagant building / Corporate House.
2. Administrative Errands & Overheads would greatly reduce.
3. Rules of Saadgi would become prevalent
4. Contentment would prevail
5. Five times prayer shall be offered by the Rulers along with their followers and visitors and would enhance attendance greatly and would prove to be a milestone in realizing their own deeds.

Presently, the Masjids serve no other purpose but offering of prayers. The Imams in local Masjids who lead prayer and teach Quran are not qualified to the level that they can advise the locals and are absolutely unaware of modern education. They cannot tender advice with confidence and reference about true teachings of Allah Subhanawatala through Quran e Pak and the Sunnah. It has been made impossible for a true and honest scholar of Islam to make the Masjid a centre of his preaching and fulfill his duty to propagate the religion under the command of God. The only way to achieve this is to adopt the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and this perhaps requires following gradual steps at the government level:-

1. The District Government should hold Office within a Masjid which should be declared as a central Masjid in the city. Offices and courts necessary for an administrative unit are also set up within the Masjid in every centre. This Masjid should also act as central education regulating authority for the area.
2. Head of the Local Government / Nazim/Naib Nazim should lead the prayers
3. A system of substitute Imams be introduced and emplaced
4. All Counselor Offices be placed in Masjids of their vicinity.
5. The Counselor should lead the prayer.
6. The Imam of local Masjids should be constitutionally recognized, qualified and possess certain authority pertaining to vicinity where Masjid is located and must be bestowed with additional responsibility other than leading the prayer.
7. Number of Masjids should be limited, planned and exclusively controlled by the Government
8. The Madrassas operating within Masjids should be given a constitutional status as recognition of their qualification and should be regulated by education department like other schools or institutions.
9. Only qualified scholars should be eligible to hold classes and gathering in the Masjid to educate and train the masses.
10. It must be made sure that such office arrangements should be situated in a Masjid rather than Masjid situated in the offices which is the case today.
11. Parallel system of Muftis may be integrated and fabricated with Masjids, society and existing formal judicial system.
12. Qualification of Mufti be constitutionalized and revised in the light of modern learning and knowledge so that decisions of Muftis and their acceptance can be weighted upon common sense and made reliable. Because Islam is not just a religion advocating worship of one God, it is a complete code of life which should be adopted and interpreted as permitted and leveraged in the religion in the light of Ijtehad and Fiqah.

Sources: www.Al-mawrid.org

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