Valuing the mosque

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AN article on the prospective Shoura Council decisions on a number of issues to be taken after discussions caught my eye. The report went on to state that the Council would be discussing a number of topics in their upcoming sessions which are related to violations committed in public places and would also discuss the levying of punishment that fits and deters such violations.

The Shoura Council will also be discussing the number of violations that is committed inside and outside mosques that include, coming to the mosque in indecent or dirty clothes; playing loud music near mosques; placing obstacles in front of the mosques that makes it difficult to enter or exit — like street vendors; cell phones inside the mosque; begging inside and outside the mosque and playing with mosque equipment, and many other violations related to mosques.

It is commendable that the Council has taken cognizance of the fact that violations are being committed by people who believe in performing prayers just for the sake of it. They do not understand the spirit of prayer and the sanctity of the mosques. Mosques are places of worship and deserve our upmost respect and we should care for them and see to it that we are at our best behaviors, since we are beseeching Allah through our prayer.

It is sad to see that we are at a stage when the Council is now going to discuss these points when it should have been embedded inside us at a very young age. Parents must, through their own example and repeated corrective guidance of their wards when young, instill in the young the need to value the place of worship and respect it and if possible, contribute to its maintenance by not committing violations in or near it.

But sadly it looks like there is a good percentage of people who do not know the value of places of worship or the gravity of sins that are committed against them, either out of ignorance or willfully because they just don’t care. The ignorant can be educated, but the others with the ‘come what may attitude’ need to be deterred in their incorrect ways and it is because of people like these that the Council has to meet and discuss issues that should have been second nature for the faithful.

Rarely do I see no violations being committed when I go to a mosque. Every time there are some kind of violations being committed that include loud cell phones ringtones and sometimes people answering their phones and talking in the midst of prayer, leaving shoes at the doorsteps of the mosque, coming to the mosque in indecent clothes, or even talk loudly inside the mosque without any consideration to the others who are praying. Instead of these seemingly innocuous behaviors being curbed, they seem to be growing with new people joining the offensive list.

Over a year back, I wrote an article titled ‘Coming to the mosque in pajamas’ in which I cited many violations that are committed inside mosques and yet I find people are still committing them and ironically, in some case, the same people committing the same infraction. The Imam talks about these violations after every prayer and sometimes toward the end of the Friday sermon, but people do not pay heed to such cautions, for many believe that they have done their duty by attending prayers at the mosque, while some even do not see or are willing to hear about the offenses they commit.

A funny incident took place recently in a mosque when a worshipper’s cell phone was playing out repeated blasts of the musical ringtone throughout the prayer. He never reached for his phone to shut it out or at least mute it. He kept it on until the end of the prayer, with the caller persistent in his efforts despite knowing that it is was prayer time.

Angry worshippers castigated the man for distracting them with his cell phone’s constant rings and asked him why he did not just shut it. His answer just took the cake. With a straight face he told the irate congregation that ‘it is sinful to move during prayer, even to reach for a cell phone, as he was concentrating on his prayer.’

I know, you like me and the others at the mosques, must be perplexed and bemused by this silly answer. The man’s defense of an offense in a place of worship does not make any sense to us, as it did not make any sense to the worshippers, who might have been scratching their heads for a suitable rebuttal to this inane reply. But it does make me wonder at the mentality of the person and what sort of upbringing that person must have received.

Parents tend to commit unintentional violations by bringing their children to the mosque. Some of them tell them to stay in the back and play while they pray, allowing them to run and shout all over the mosque during prayer. Other children simply sit and cry, as they are not used to the surrounding causing a commotion. Circumstances might have forced a father to bring his son to the mosque, but in every case they need to teach them to love and respect mosques, by inculcating in them from this tender age the respect for the place of worship by respecting others in the mosques.

There are worshippers who have no choice but to come to the mosque wearing their work clothes, which may not be fit for praying in a mosque, like the cleaning and construction workers. Worshippers may find their clothes or appearance inappropriate for a mosque, but we have to understand that they are lowly paid and may not have the luxury to change their clothes before coming to a mosque because they are at work from early hours.

For they are seen praying in the front lines of the mosque in Fajr prayer while those who can afford expensive and clean clothes are sleeping inside their homes. I was touched when some worshippers took the initiative by providing free clothes to this segment of people to be used during prayer. Such gestures reinforce our belief in humanity. I also believe that inside mosques we are all equal and I am sure that these people, whose inner self is not sullied, are better than us in front of Allah.

The noble Qur’an states in Surah Al-A’raaf, 7:31, “Children of Adam, wear your best clothes to every mosque.” Before we teach our children to love and respect mosques, we should teach ourselves first.

— The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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