The Political Role of the Masjid

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The Political role of the Masjid Masjid literally means “place for prostration (sajdah),” a humbling position before Allah (swt) and an essential part of salat (formal prayer). Even though salat can be performed anywhere, for the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, “The whole Earth is made as a place of worship (masjid) and a means of cleansing for me,” Muslims come to the masjid to offer salat, for it is preferable to pray with others, even if only two persons. A hadith says that one recei
  The Political role of the Masjid M asjid literally means “place for prostration (sajdah),” a humbling position before Allah (swt) and an essential part of salat (formal prayer). Even though salat can be performedanywhere, for the Pr ophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, “The whole Earth is made asa place of worship (masjid) and a means of cleansing for me,” Muslims come to the masjid to offer salat, for it is preferable to pray with others, even if only two persons. Ahadith says that one receives as 25-fold reward for praying in congregation. Also, theFriday noon prayer must be offered in a congregation. People learn, teach, and study the Qur’an and other Islamic literature, as well as discuss community issues, in the masjid. Thi s was the Prophet’s practice (pbuh), for heconducted his meetings and most of his duties as Islamic community’s leader at the masjid. The young Muslim community used to gather there for a variety of reasons, evento lead expeditions.Thus, we should use the masjid to educate and create awareness and political activism. Ibadah (worship and obedience) Some Muslims, especially secularized ones, mistakenly think that Islam and the masjidshould be limited to acts of worship. However, Islam means complete submission,commitment, and obedience to Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala), for only the Creator knows what is best for us and the universe? We exist only to serve Him: “ I have only created jinns and human beings only to serve me” [Surah adh -Dhariyat; 51:56]. Our salvation inthe next life, as well as our success here, lie in serving Him.Islam tell us that mere belief, despite its essentiality, cannot save us; good works mustaccompany it. When our actions correspond with our belief, we are at rest and ourconscience is satisfied. Otherwise, we are grievously odious in Allah's sight [Surah as-Saff; 61:3] and thus experience spiritual conflict. If we sincerely believe in Allah(subhanahu wa Ta'ala) and Islam, we must end this situation, for: Indeed, the way of lifewith Allah is that of Islam (submission to His will) [Surat Ali' Imran; 3:19] and If anyone desires other than Islam as his way of life, never will it be accepted fromhim [Surah Ali' Imran; 3:85]. Politics in the Masjid/Participation in non-Islamic Society Another mistaken idea is that politics is a dirty game to be avoided by good and piousMuslims. If it is dirty, it is because of the people involved in it. And, it will remain dirtyas long as good people do not participate and manage their own affairs. Politics, inessence, is dealing with the country's or nation's collective internal and external affairs,and it is these collective affairs that must be set on a righteous course through goodconduct.Similarly, some think that Muslims should not participate in a non-Islamic system. This israther naïve, for there is no established Islamic system in which we can participate. But,  more importantly, how can we have an Islamic system if we do not work to establish it?All prominent Islamic political parties within the Muslim world generally acknowledgethis and are committed to change through democratic and nonviolent means, canvassingthe people, and asking for their support.Muslim minorities must abide by the laws of the countries in which they live, participatefully in the democratic process, and use the available means to empower and better their communities. Attending to the community’s collective affairs is an obligatory duty, and our neglect of it is the major source of our problems, regardless of where we are living.This situation must change if any improvement is to be expected. Education, Discussion, and Consultation A masjid is the place for Muslims to study and educate themselves on current issues,discuss and consult with others, and determine the issues’ relevance to our community.  Islam requires that all of our affairs be decided through consultation (shura): Theiraffairs are decided by consultation between them [Surah ash-Shura; 42:38]. Even theProphet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was told to: Consult them in affairs (of moment) [Surah Ali' Imran; 3:159].Indeed, the masjid is the best place in which sincere Muslims can discuss current issuesthoroughly and insightfully. Everyone should participate in a free and open mannerwhile, of course, observing the Islamic adab (manners and etiquette) of decency andconsideration.A wide variety of diverse, differing, and competing views and ideas must be entertained.Coming from the closed societies where free expression was forbidden, immigrantMuslim Americans have to learn how to respect and listen to the ideas of others,regardless of how trivial they may sound, and remain patient and restrained so that noview can be imposed.Differences are natural, because Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala) created us with differenttalents and abilities to display His creative power. They open our minds to differentpossibilities and new ways of thinking by stimulating our intellectual development. Thisis essential for our progress. In fact, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) encouragedus: 'Differences in my Ummah are a blessing.'The Qur'an and Sunnah condemn themonly when they become a source of discord and schism that harms the community. Consensus of the Community After an issue is thoroughly analyzed and discussed, a decision must be made. Consensus(ijma') is an important part of the Islamic decision-making process, and is required on allissues that affect the community members collectively. Thus, there has to be overallagreement on, and approval of, decisions that affect the whole community. Achieving thisrequires compromise. When complete unanimity is impossible, we are advised to follow  the majority, for the hadith say: 'My Ummah will never agree on wrongdoing' and 'Youshould follow the majority of the Ummah.'After reaching a decision, each person must adopt it - regardless of his/her previousopinion. Individual opinions are to be subsumed in the collective decision taken for thegreater good of communal unity. As continuing to pursue one's personal opinion maylead to communal dissension and discord, such an activity is improper, unbecoming, andmust be abandoned. The best place to do this, not surprisingly, is the masjid, whereattendees should have the best of intentions and a clear mind. Da'wah, Dialog, and Interaction with Others The masjid should be the center of various da'wah programs designed to counter thenegative publicity and stereotyping of Islam and Muslims with accurate information. Inthe masjid, we can illustrate Islam's beauty and reality through our transcendentalliterature and personal example.Every Muslim should be involved in da'wah programs. Since 'seeing is believing,' weshould invite non-Muslims to the masjid to observe for themselves the salat and otheressential Islamic activities. We should ask them to join our prayers and salat, share ourmeals, and attend our festivals and holidays, especially the two Eids and Ramadan.In addition, the masjid should be center for interfaith communication and dialog. Weshould initiate, participate in, and further interfaith activities by forming partnerships andcoalitions, consulting with those who support our causes, listening to their suggestions,and getting involved with them on issues of mutual interest. Only by working jointly andcooperatively with others on common causes will our voices heard and will we gain therespect and our due place in Western society. Concluding Remarks Since the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) established his masjid, Muslims have usedmasjids as centers of worship, gathering, and communal mobilization. As each masjidencompasses the body and the soul, the physical and they spiritual, it is the most suitableplace to appeal to a person's totality and set it in motion.Now, more then ever, we have to use it for that purpose. In the aftermath of the criminalattacks of 9/11, American Muslims have become specific targets mainly because we haveno political clout. Therefore, the masjids must become the center for all lawful politicalactivism - enlightening and educating the community on the prevalent issues, andemphasizing areas in which we must become energetic actors. We should gather there tochose, enlist, and assign members with relevant expertise to specific areas of activism.Either alone or with other interfaith groups, and using their contacts or learning from theirexperience, we should begin working.According to the Qur'an, we are: To enjoin what is good and beneficial and to forbidwhat is evil and harmful [Surah Ali' Imran; 3:110].   Our community is to work for justice and equity, which means to cooperate and help oneanother in righteousness; but help not in sin and rancor and all the while being Allah-conscious [Surat al-Ma'idah; 5:2].By cooperating with our compatriots, we could become harbingers of a decent and moralAmerica, one that stands for goodness: with justice, equity, and fairness at home, for theIslamic Ummah, and for humanity.
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