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www.mcall.com/features/religion/all-faith-khaku.6345275apr12,0,2002977.story

themorningcall.com

The cornerstone of the Muslim community -- the mosque

April 12, 2008

Americans Muslims and their place of worship (mosques) have been scrutinized since the 9/11 attacks.

Mosques are the most important centers in any Muslim community. From the pulpit (minbar) is delivered the sermon (khutbah), the most important weekly address regarding Islam. Muslims congregate and organize their affairs around the mosques. What is the role of mosque (or masjid)?

As Islam grows, the role of the mosque in society should be understood. The mosque is the most important institution in Islam after the home and workplace. Muslims visit it at least once, sometimes three times a day. There they 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. It is meant to encourage people to interact with love and cooperation and seeking God's message. 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 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 his son Ismail from 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 United States play the multi-faceted roles of religious institutions, welfare organizations, community centers, locations for voter registration drives and sites 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 meetingplace 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 to see that some mosques are very male-oriented, lack resources, are under-funded, have incompetent management and are not hospitable to non-Muslims.

We need to overcome these shortcomings to create a vibrant community with open doors to non-Muslims 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 interactions for the elderly and youth. It should supplement secular education classes, should be place for the solemnization of marriages, funeral rites, organized sports events and provide counseling for domestic abuses.

A 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 worthy reflection of Islam.

Mohammed Khaku is past president of Al Ahad Islamic Center in Allentown.

Copyright © 2008, The Morning Call 

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