Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ideal Masjid: my dream




For some time I have thought about the ideal masjid, how it would be and what it would be like. Of course the perfect masjid is the masjid of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) in Medinah. Anything else is very far from perfection and the fact that is the place that the blessed body of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) rests. 

Okay so what am I actually after then? What would the best masjid be like in the UK? What do we need in the UK?  We have major problems with politics in western masjids. There are just too many egos involved for any masjid to be considered in this post. So well done all those who are doing better job than disbelievers are by turning people away from praying in the masjids because of the fireworks of the committees members!



Ethnic nonsense

Someone told me how different ethnic groups were fighting trying to take control of the masjid. If you are doing this then you are not worthy of serving the community. So whom are you serving? Your own inflated egos because Allah is not served except by worship for Him and not to put your name on the committee list. 

People turn away from the masjids when they hear stories of the old people fighting in the masjids with their walking sticks, no less. Let us get one thing straight now, the state of our masjids is nothing but deplorable. Maybe a few are getting close to what they should be. 

So here, I would like to outline some things I would like to see. Some businesses have the policy that their staff should reflect the people present in the surrounding location. Muslims have a lot to learn from the standards and service of non-Muslims. Many times, Muslims treat their own with disrespect and it is a sad fact of the times we live in.

Back to our subject at hand. Masjid committees must be made up of the attendees. In terms of age, background and nationality. All too often, we find people pretending to do for the sake of Allah but are really doing it for the sake of their nafs. As much as the building is impressive, the more depressing is how the committee works.  Money was taken by the committee members from family and others, in less than ethical manners. They were unconcerned where the money comes from or whether it was halal or not.


Tranquility

Masjids should be a place of security and serenity. Instead of what they are, a battle ground for old people with sticks. It is no wonder people do not go to the masjid. The punishment for turning one person away from the masjid is almost as bad as enjoining disbelief. When they actually see the punishment only then they will realise. Until then its business as usual in the old boys club! Because a masjid is for the sake of Allah and not old men! If it is for the sake of your name and standing in society then you already have your reward which was you name on the building. So do not expect any reward for an old boys club!


How should it look like?

Good question, traditionally when Muslims came into countries they would evaluate what was good about that country and give it a new lease of life, if it was something good. In things like the building of architecture and other good things. So you will find masjids in India reflecting the architecture that was their previously. Masjids have some signs of being made from temples. In terms of domes but with minarets. Look at Chinese masjids and there is very little to differentiate them from the temples of the previous religious traditions. Look at the masjids in morocco and how the minarets are different to other geographical areas in the Muslim world. Other minarets are circular and longer. So the masjids reflected the architecture of the people present in that area. It was not something very alien to that culture implanted there and looking at out of place as a banana tree in a park!


Purpose built

Interestingly enough most masjids were previously churches whose congregation no longer attend. So they go up for sale. So in terms of the exterior little can be changed without planning permission. Internally the structure is changed to suit the needs of the attendees. Often this means that extra space has to be found and more work needs to be done internally. Often all that is done externally is a change of signs. Having purpose built masjids is sometimes the answer but it is expensive and it can be an eyesore to non-Muslims locals.

So we have to bear this in mind at the design stage. Parking is another pain for local residents on Fridays, funerals and other events. So the masjid needs adequate parking and attendants at busy times. Alternatively, areas where they are allowed to park. Ideally, we would like to have parking attendants that would look and check where people park. Rather than have people park on pavements because, they cannot park on streets! Is it only who thinks this is illogical! A purpose build masjid must have sufficient parking for at least one hundred cars or even more, but this depends on the size of the masjid. However, it is better for people to walk for long distances to get to jummah.


Exterior and Interior

Now there needs to be some reflection on the architecture here in this country. So that the indigenous non-Muslim population do not see the building as alien to their sensibilities, rather it should be seen as a fabric of that region. So the building itself is an act of Dawah. Please see the two following pictures explaining the ground floor of the masjid.




Abu Hanifah (may Allah show him mercy) recommended white washed walls without decoration. We see the opposite in many masjids in the UK, it is almost like doing to a disco and there are far too many pictures. This should be shocking for everyone because you do not see this in places they come from. But there must be some die hard disco lovers of the eighties on the committee board. All signs must be outside on the walls before the prayer area, so there are no confusing lights for worshippers. I wonder about those who have reactions to strobe lighting, how do they pray in the discos?

Access for disabled must be taken into consideration when designing entrances and staircases, lifts etc.

I was thinking about the stained glass that is commonly found in churches, it was stolen from the Muslims! Heating and lighting should be by the means of solar power and water and other things should be recycled or environmentally friendly. As well as all cleaning, materials should be biodegradable. The building must be energy efficient and friendly to the environment. You can see the drawings of the possible floor plans. Additional 'student' flats should be part of the masjid properties. The reason for this is to provide revenue to the masjid. In addition, a shop that sells religious books and clothing should also be part of the building. These would make use of revenue that is entering the masjid is lawful and makes it less reliant on committee members seeking funding.
Essentially the exterior could be in any style but it does need a sign that helps is stand out as a masjid.


Committee members

As we said before we think committees members should be made up of the most knowledge members of the community. Not retired uncles who are ready to wield walking sticks when disagreement occurs. Alternatively, have no committee at all and just the Imam in charge. Ideally we need and Imam and a scholar who heads the committee and they make the final choice. The more I think about it dissolving the committee forever seems like the best option. Why because they many do not understand the importance of Islamic knowledge.

If they are to be kept in place then a code of conduct needs to be written up. Anyone trying to oust someone else loses his or her place and the place of their relatives for the foreseeable future. No two relatives can be on the board at any one time without exception. People can resign and the committee can dissolved if fighting occurs. These are some additional conditions and more can be added depending on circumstances.


General guidelines

We would like to be clearly displayed before attendants enter the prayer:

1. No one is allowed to approach anyone because they think they are praying incorrectly. This issue cause many people not to return to masjids once they are approached by bearded individual who offends them.

2. Everyone is welcome and accepted. People must greet each other especially those who they do not know.

3. Only mainstream Sunni Islam can be taught here.

4. No one can disturb anyone's prayer or Quranic recitation.

5. Everyone must show respect to each other.

6. No one is better than anyone else except by Taqwa/piety and that is hidden.
If no committee, members agree to this then it for the masjid to be a dictatorship with one leader and a set of volunteers.


Imam

This is the most important position of the masjid. It has to be a bilingual Imam. One of his languages must be English! There could be as many as four Imams two part time and two full time. Also there needs to be a scholar who directs the teaching syllabus. As well as four callers to prayer. Ideally, they should all be paid but maybe the callers to prayers should voluntary. With specified tasks and times for each one. There is nothing wrong with having different languages but English is necessary. Speaking only in ones native tongue makes the masjid exclusive, which is one of the worst problems in our times.

Imams and scholar should also have more than one role or another lawful job outside the masjid.


Other services

The masjid has to have counselling services for the marital problems and drug addiction. We need to clean our own back yards up. Either we charge for counselling services or they can be volunteers. We need to have a crèche for busy periods and maybe a nursery or a Muslim school. Having a Muslim school would make full use of the building. We do need qualified teachers or those who have been educated to degree level. They need to crb checked as do all those involved in the masjid.

Weddings could be held in the ground floor to raise money. Also finding compatible people to marry each other should also be priority.

The overflow in the masjid must be used in the basement or outside in the car park. Extra mats will be needed for this.


Masjid mortgage programme

This is something that could be a reality if done correctly. The plan for the masjid to raise funds locally for the project and when a million pounds is raised, we go to the next stage. Which is removing all the Muslims from interest based mortgages for their homes.

The programme buys the house that someone wants to buy. Then a separate agreement is made to give the house to the person after a fixed amount is paid. These programmes can free Muslims from this system and whole areas mortgage free.

The same could be applied to insurance where people pay the going rate according to their situation without the debt of interest.


Women

This is also a big issue and the reason for including them in the design of the masjid is that every group except the Sunni's. If the Sunnis do not provide facilities for then they go elsewhere. You can pick up the groups from a hat. So the 'ladies area' is not classed as the masjid. They can enter the area in a state of menstruation or they can follow the Imam if they are praying.

The crèche in the masjid allows those with children to drop them off and attend functions or the prayer. As for attending prayers there are differences of opinion check your school but in Hanafi's fiqh women can attend prayers in no fitna is caused, fajr and Isha is mentioned. Yet we have to look at their safety but if they want to do then you cannot stop them. Their presence should not cause distress to her family, if she goes to prayer. There are other differences on what prayers they can attend.


Lessons

There needs to be general lessons for the public and specific lessons for the seekers. General lessons are for everyone to enjoy and specific lessons are those who want to become scholars.

Knowledge is an important part of the masjid programme. Also deaf and blind should be considered when they attend classes or Khutbas.


Purpose

We want the masjid to be a place where people come together for the purpose of worship of Allah (the Exalted). Not a place of tribal loyalty and politics that resembles a boys club. In other words a place that serves the committees members and not the needs of the community as they claim. Although not all this can be done but some of it can be. We need some rich Muslims with insight to come together and do this. Maybe this may never come to fruition and it is just a dream. Who knows?
Rather than complains about the current situation of our masjids. I wanted to outline how the ideal masjid should be. Our towns and cities are full of masjids that are beautiful on the outside but are ugly on the inside. If we do not change these problems, now then our children will face the same problems. Do we really want to see this awful problems passed on?

As usual, I am unable to change anything including myself but collectively we can change things. The vision is simple, make a masjid that serves Allah (the Exalted) by serving the needs of the people. It sounds simple but only a few masjids of the hundreds in this country can do this. Most are just empty buildings except twice a year. This is not progress, it is the exact opposite. Yet those reading this might be in power to make small changes and ask the question. What are we not doing that needs to be done?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Disputations




part thirty six

1. Islam belongs to Allah not to any group

2. كيف يحي الدين بدون احياء
How do we revive the religion without the revival? ( ihya ulum uddin by imam ghazali)

3. Extravagant Extroverts are the worst Sufis

4. You only benefit from those you accept and those you love

5. Some things can collect water and others things cannot.

6. When you dress like your Sheikh its does not mean you are the Sheikh. Because its not his outward are you trying to copy; its his inward and that cannot be copied easily; like changing clothes.

7. When you humiliate someone; you are actually raising them further and lowering yourself even more

8. The prophetic standard was to encourage people to give charity and not to make them guilty. That is not the prophetic way.

9. When you learn from a tribulation so that you do not make the same mistake again. Then you realise that it was a blessing because you learnt from the past to make your future better...

10. What was meant for is meant for you; Was not will never be; you'll never miss what was never meant to be.

11. Sidi Ahmed Zarruq May Allah show him mercy recommended people not to expose their sins before people. It can cause people to think they are better than you or see their own sins as minor. Allah has veiled your sins so keep it like that and seek His forgiveness and not humiliate yourself.

12. Sometimes things are taken out of your hands

13. Part of the healing process is purification

14. You have no right to do anything haram when you have turned away from halal.

15. When you repair something broken; its never the same as it was

16. Globalisation means we are all suffering from the same illnesses; the world over.

17. Your reward is based on sincerity not the amount you give.

18. Your existence is a sin when you are happy with your nafs; despite their being no outward sin.

19. Inward sins are more damaging than outward sins.

20. The soul needs dhikr to grow without it; it starves. When you feed the body the nafs grows. Feeding the soul is a cause for growth.

21. Bleeding is a part of purification. Its a way of letting go of the harmful.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Regaining the middle ground




Many ordinary people are confused when they look at Islam. Why? Because the perceived differences of the groups. Only those in the know can recognise the differences of the information that each group present. 

When people see religious folk they see people that they cannot relate to. Wearing a big unkempt beard and pants half way up their legs, is that a belt? As well as a cold hard, stare about the 'visible' sins of others. This is against almost everything that was reported from the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him). His (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) character was full of mercy for the sinful because they needed it the most! How could we be religious folk when others act like this? It makes the average person think that religion has nothing for them. Why? Because they do want to be hypocritical and judgmental. These are two of the most hateful traits that people see in religious folk. Why don't they react to enlightened individuals? Most of the enlightened refrain from the public light. So the discourse is dominated with stern brothers and sisters who lay down the law like WWF wrestlers!  

I remember one strange man say that when the centre collapses the periphery comes to the centre. This is what has happened the centre has become hidden and the fools have become manifest.

There are many problems here. If you see someone doing something that you disagree with then you have to consider the following. Is this unlawful and agreed upon? Smoking, as wretched as it is, is not agreed upon. Some say it is highly disliked and others say its haram. There are even rare opinions say it is permissible (not currently accepted). So this is not an easy issue. Drinking also could be a problem because there are lawful drinks in some bottles that look like alcohol bottles. You could be condemning someone without realising that it was a lawful soft drink. Secondly, no one will stop doing something with harshness. If anything you have probably given the  more excuse to perform the sin. Why? Because your character has barred them from the religion. This happens more often than many us think. We need to open the path of the religion to people, the ordinary people. They are in dire need of it and so are non-Muslims.

One such example was a drunken man that we came across. He blamed Allah (the Exalted) for his state. After speaking with us for some time, he was changed. Then he began to rebuild his life, even though he falls off the wagon every now and then, he is on his way. There are many people like him who just need a little bit of help. They need to be pointed in the right direction and be encouraged. You cannot make someone pray, know they will pray or they will not but for your part the best thing you can do is encourage them. Buy them books and assist them. This is more effective than saying you are committing a major sin because you do not pray. Sometimes they might not be listening to good scholars so you should encourage them with gifts. Do not tell them to read books that they have been brought. Let them read and refer to a scholar if they have any questions. Know that sometimes they will accept something from a particular person. So encourage them attend events but give them room to accept or decline the offer. Do not force them as long as they are learning from a Sunni scholar.

Do not think they have to learn from the same scholar as you. Let them grow slowly and do not crowd or overwhelm them, as this will have the opposite effect.


Non-Muslims

This is the same for non-Muslims. Many are our friends in terms of wanting good for us. Many lend us a helping hand. These people are sympathetic to our situation. Rather than befriend such people we actually alienate them because we do not understand why they are being so nice. Of course, free mixing must be avoided but good manners from us must be maintained. More on Dawah can be read by clicking here (dawah post).

Due to current events in Iraq we are encouraging those who can speak to speak. We have no doubt that we are facing a racist media who is only interested in mongering war. But the decent people of the world need to be given sufficient information to make an informed choice. Speak, write do anything that you can.

One has to bear in mind that the events in Iraq are the result of illegal invasion and chaos spreading there. The fault lies at the hands of the invaders.


Crazy movements

Caliphs of old were instrumental in giving rights to other religions such as Jews, Christians and other denominations. Why? Because they were recognised in the Quran as having the right to chose their religion. 

The Ottomans, Abbassids and every single caliphate gave rights to non-Muslim to judge themselves with autonomy. They were even allowed to trade in items that were not lawful for Muslims to consume!

They could cannot be harmed or killed. No other religion gave the right of the existence of other religions except Islam. They were known as dhimmis or the protected minorities. They were not allowed to be harmed. The Jews in Spain welcomed Muslims because they had no right to own their land with the Christians but they had rights in Islam.


Forcing people into Islam

This is nothing but a fabricated lie against Islam that is frequently repeated by those who detest Islam.

Read 'the spread of Islam in the world' by T A Arnold, a non Muslim, and you will find that Islam spread over a long period of time there was no mass conversions and rarely was there forced conversion. In fact the author only mentions it occurred in India which at the time was under British occupation. So he had political reasons for mentioning that. Which could have been to enforce the idea occupation was good. Yet if that was true why did most of the population of India remain Hindu? Also Egypt, Iraq, Syria and most Muslim countries have non-Muslim minorities and this is proof that there was no forced conversion otherwise these minorities would not exist. Forced conversion is not valid according to the majority of scholars.
Forced conversion did frequently occur in Christian history and if you open the pages of history then you will be shocked.



Regain

We have to regain the middle ground and allow those in the middles ground and seek ways to speak in the masjid. Instead of barring them because, they are perceived threat! There needs to a lot of work done on our side and I include myself in that too.

We need to be the light that shows them the way. Instead of helping satan by chasing them away and making a bad situation worse.

We have a lot of work to do!