Masajid have always been one of the most important sources of knowledge and guidance for Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (sa) used Masajid not only for prayers but also for various other functions, such as imparting the knowledge of Islamic Shariah to his companions, meeting locals and foreigners, and giving Khutbahs (sermons).
Similarly, during the time of the four rightly-guided Caliphs, Masajid had social, political, and judicial functions. Thus, the Sunnah continued to be practiced. Whenever an area was conquered by the Muslims, the Masjid was the first thing to be built, and the most pious and the most knowledgeable person was appointed as its Imam.
There have been instances in the Muslim history where the most competent person in terms of Islamic values was made the governor of a city and used to give Khutbahs at the central Masjid, which was followed by meetings with the locals to achieve good governance. It was very important for Masajid to have a righteous and scholarly Imam, so he could pass on to the people the correct message of Allah (swt) and His Messenger Muhammad (sa).
Over the years, Masajid have lost their central role in the Muslim Ummah. Today, when resources are in abundance, we see that the majority of Masajid in Muslim countries are in a sad state of affairs. Usually, a lot of money and efforts are spent on the construction and interiors of Masajid, while very little attention is given to the appointment of a well-educated Imam. It is a very noble act to spend money on Masajid in any way, but it is far more important to make sure that the Masjid is performing all its functions, as taught by our beloved Prophet (sa).
The role of Masajid in Islam is pivotal. If this role is neglected, various social, judicial, political and Fiqh issues may surface, as seen and witnessed today. Prophet Muhammad (sa) spent a lot of time in the Masjid. People from all over the world used to come and meet the Messenger (sa) in the Masjid. In the early days of Islam, wars were planned, conflicts were resolved, Islamic laws were taught, speeches were given, the Quran was recited and, of course, prayers were offered in the Masajid. Islam was unimaginable without a powerful Masjid as the central seat of all the needs of the community.
It is our duty that we, as Muslims, allow the Masajid to exercise its functions as Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) prescribed. Allah (swt) says in Surah At-Tawbah, verse 18, which can be translated as: “The Masajid of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat and fear none but Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance.”
It is a misconception by ‘modern day Muslims’ that the Masjid exists only for offering Salah (prayers). In the early days of Islam, the Masjid was the heart of knowledge and the center of command. It was a source of information. It was the place where the learned taught the basics of Islamic Aqeedah (belief), Ibadah (the acts of worship), and Shariah rules. It welcomed students of all ages and races, day and night, who came to seek guidance and to learn Islam. It gave refuge to the travellers also.
With the passing of time, Masajid became weaker and weaker. What is even worse is that the Muslims continued, and are still continuing, to neglect the Masjid and are not doing anything significant to raise it back to its glory and empower it.
Allah (swt) always helps those who work in His path to seek His forgiveness. Muslims can easily set things back on track. The solution becomes even easier if the intent is to please the Lord (swt). All Masajid should be taken care of by their surrounding residents. It should be their responsibility to share and pay for all the expenses of their Masjid. If properly distributed amongst the residents, the expense would come to very small amounts with no unfair financial burden on anyone.
Most importantly, a highly qualified Islamic scholar should be appointed in each Masjid. He should be given a salary to match any other highly qualified professional. This would not only make him attached to the Masjid, but also encourage young boys to become Islamic scholars and take the Deen forward in the light of the Quran and Sunnah, Insha’Allah. There should be an office inside the Masjid, where people could take appointments to meet the Imam – the scholar of their community. All prayers, including the Friday Khutbah, must be offered by the appointed scholar. All practices must be in line with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. The Masjid should hold regular Islamic courses, and appropriate Salah arrangement for men and women should be made. The Masjid should also have a substantial library for any interested individual to benefit from.
Ibn Umar (rtam) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “If your women ask permission to go to the Masjid at night, allow them.” (Bukhari)
It is amazing to see Masajid supported and run by well-educated people. They are empowered; they flourish and bear fruit, spreading the guidance of Allah (swt) to the masses and setting them on the right path! We do not have to look far to make a difference. Each one of us has to start with our own neighbourhood, and our own Masjid. Be the catalyst for change; be the one to reap the rewards for bringing new life to a neglected Masjid!
May Allah (swt) guide us all to the right path, put Ikhlas in all our deeds, and always help us maintain the state of Ihsan. Ameen.