Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, April  2008



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What is the role of Mosque?

By Muhammed Khako, April 2, 2008

American Muslims and their places of worship (Mosques) have been highly scrutinized since the 9-11 attacks and “War on Terror”.  The mosques are the most important centers in any Muslim community. From their pulpit (Minbar) are delivered the sermons (khutbah), arguably the most important weekly address regarding Islam, and around them the Muslims congregate and organize their affairs. The question many Muslims ask is what is the role of Mosque (Masjid)?
As the influence of Islam grows the role of the mosque in society should be understood by all non-Muslims. The Mosque is the most important institution in Islam after the home and work place. Muslim visits it at least once, if not three times a day (or five times in Muslim countries). There, a Muslim  rekindles his spirituality, strengthens his relationship with his Creator, meets his fellow Muslim brothers/sisters and renews his sense of belonging. The role of the mosque is not to amass people and make it crowded. It is meant to encourage people to interact with each other on a basis of love and cooperation and seeking God’s pleasure. The role of the mosque in traditional Muslim society is three-fold. The first and primary one relates to worship, second is a social activity and the third is political role, but not the sort of role that the Taliban gave it in Afghanistan or controlled by the governments or kings. The mosque should be an independent, democratic, religious and social institution and not a center for increasing religious intolerance and sectarianism. The biggest responsibilities of the administrators of Mosques in America today is to eradicate the misconceptions about Islam and to lead communities out of the depths of Islam phobia and ignorance.
The word mosque is derived from the Arabic word masjid, which literally means the place of prostration (sujud). This is the position in Islamic ritual prayers (Salaat), in which the forehead of the worshipper touches the ground in the supreme act of submission and surrender before God.  Muslims  often refer to the mosque by its Arabic  name, masjid. Today, most mosques have elaborate domes, minarets,  and prayer halls. And according to Islamic beliefs, the first mosque in the world was the Kaaba,  which was built  by Abraham and assisted by his son Ismail upon an order from God.  The oldest mosque built by Muslims is the Quba Mosque in Medina. The Mosque symbolizes Islamic monotheism and the unity of the Muslim Community (ummah). Mosque is where 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, color, social, and economic status stand shoulder to shoulder before their Lord in response to His call.
Unlike the Middle East where mosques are strictly sites for worship, mosques in the US play the multi-faceted roles of religious institutions, welfare organizations, community centers, locations for voter registration drives, and sites frequented visited by local political candidates. Mosques during early Islamic history were the focal point of political, social, and religious activities. The Mosque is the fortress of faith; home of the pious; the guardian of virtues; the meeting place of Muslims and the first school from which the Muslim graduates. The Mosque provides relief and respite to the needy and the distressed. It is sad and shame to see that mosques are very male-oriented, under-resources, under-funded, incompetent management and not hospitable to non-Muslims. We need to overcome these shortcomings to create a vibrant community with opening doors to non-Muslim interested in finding about Islam. A mosque is more than a mere place of worship; it should be like a University with cafeteria, a sports facility and library with computers and Internet. The mosque should be a place for social encounter providing opportunities for the elderly and the youth, supplement secular education classes, should be place for the solemnization of marriages, conduct funeral rites, organize sporting events and provide counseling domestic abuses. Mosque is a vital cornerstone in the building of any Muslim community and it is the responsibility of the mosque committees, the Imams and the local Muslim community to ensure that the mosques are always a reflection of Islam.





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