Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Build Mosques, Not Country Clubs

After the recent string of violence, destruction and vandalism at houses of worship across America, stepping-up security at our local mosque--slated to open Friday after two years of intense controversy, including angry protests, lawsuits and even a burnt down tractor--seems like a no-brainer.

Tensions in this medium-sized town in the "Buckle of the Bible Belt" have indeed been high as many local politicians, media outlets and even religious leaders stoked the flames of Islamophobia in their drive to shut out the mosque.

While some common-sense security measures are in order for the safety of worshippers, God, the owner of the mosque, has provided us with His own instructions on how to protect the sanctity and well-being of His house. 

And it's not by putting up barriers. 

It's by relentlessly calling for and striving towards the establishment of the universally-accepted principles of social justice in society. The mosque is supposed to be a beacon, refuge and hope for the (growing numbers of) poor, needy and disenfranchised, thereby building bridges with the most oppressed segments of society. 

God: "Say (O Muhammad): 'My Lord has commanded justice; and that you set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and place of prayer....'" (Quran 7: 29)

The mosque established in Medina by Prophet Muhammad (S) 1400 years ago sets the example. Shortly after erecting a simple congregational prayer room and adjacent living area for himself and his family, the Prophet ordered the construction of a platform (suffa in Arabic) for the local homeless.

The Prophet (S), who used to sit, converse and share the best of his food with these refuge-takers, chided those who avoided them: “Do you fear that the poverty of the poor will be transferred to you?”

And he did not stop there. 

Prophet Muhammad (S) challenged the status quo and strove to change the conditions perpetuating injustice in society.  Our mosque must do likewise by raising objections to all forms of oppression and coming up with creative alternatives to the failed systems of capitalism and imperialism wreaking havoc around the world today.

Prophet Muhammad (S): "A moment of justice is better than seventy years of worship in which you keep fasts and pass the nights in offering prayers and worship to God."

With the country's economy, morality and healthcare in free fall, our society is in desperate need of such solutions, and it is the duty of the mosque to provide them. One frustrated rural town in Mississippi, for example, is already adopting an Iranian model of preventive healthcare to better serve its poor.

Indeed, it takes strong conviction, moral courage and perseverance to stand up to oppression, especially in an atmosphere like ours charged with hate, racism and xenophobia. That's why most U.S. mosque leaders (90% by some estimates) forego this God-given responsibility to the detriment of themselves and their communities.

"These mosques have become burial grounds for today's Muslims," says Imam Muhammad Asi of the Islamic Center in Washington. "They go there to bury their heads, conceal their thoughts and cover their minds."

Ali, the husband of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times, tried to reinforce the social fabric of the mosques during his tenure as leader of the Muslims but faced immense resistance from the old-guard creeping back into power. Ali was eventually assassinated (in these last days of Ramadan) while praying in the mosque but he did not give up even then.

While lying bloodied by a poisoned sword, Ali saw that the rope tying the hands of his captured assassin was tight and cutting into his flesh.  He immediately ordered the people to loosen it and treat the murderer more humanely, fulfilling the following Divine command:

"…Do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just…." (5:8)

We must do the same.


Salina Khan said...

Here is an excerpt from Ali's last will to his sons Hasan and Hussain after the attack.

"My advice to you is to be conscious of God and steadfast in your religion. Do not yearn for the world, and do not be seduced by it. Do not resent anything you have missed in it. Proclaim the truth; work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor and support the oppressed.

I advise you, and all my children, my relatives, and whosoever receives this message, to be conscious of God, to remove your differences, and to strengthen your ties. I heard your grandfather, the Holy Prophet (S) say: "Reconciliation of your differences is more worthy than all prayers and all fasting."

Maintain communication and exchange of opinion among yourselves. Beware of disunity and enmity. Do not desist from promoting good deeds and cautioning against bad ones. Should you do that, the worst among you would be your leaders, and you will call upon God without response..."

Sarosh said...

Salam and JAK or your posts.

Alhamdulillah, indeed its a very blessed day for our community because we are finally able to open doors of our new Masjid in this holy month after battling for 2 long grueling years simply to have a place to worship.

We desperately needed a bigger place of worship since we had outgrown our present location. Its in similitude to a family who moves into a new town which is their home now and begins with a small starter home but as the family grows they look for a second bigger better home so that their families needs & comfort can be easily accomodated.

Its really sad, stressful & simply frustating when a peace loving community like ours have been under microscope and our every move is under radar because few anti-islam critics & politicians play on the ignorance of few & instill fear & hatred for Muslims.

Finally Justice prevailed and the dream of all children who shelled out every penny from his/her piggy bank, elderly who gave away their jewelry, the youth who gave their earnings or sold sandwiches to raise money for our Masjid came true! Alhamdulillah!

We are now treading on very sesitive ground and cannot sabotage our relationship with others when we are trying to build bridges. Mosque leaders cannot address controversial issues when they are being wrongfully accused with links to Muslim Brotherhood or for establishing training grounds or for infiltrating Sharia law etc.etc.

Hazrat Ali emulated our Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W). If we as muslims & our children can adhere to the principles of the Quran and Sunnah which resonate the message of being just ( "Adal" in Arabic)then the seeds for eradication of social justice will germinate in our society insha' Allah. If the masaajids can reiterate the principles of Quran and Sunnah & teach us to interact with each other in this social system with justice, truth, peace, love and friendship (all that Quran teaches) then they are indirectly opposing injustice and oppression.

Please forgive if my comments hurt anyone.

May Allah guide and bless us all in this holy month of Ramadan!

Sarosh said...

Salam again.....

I am sorry, I never proofread before I send :-)

My last paragraph has a BIG typo....I meant to write..."eradicating of social injustices.... " . I figure my message was understood but still wanted to correct.

JAK for sharing your insight!

Ramadan Kareem insha' Allah!

Salina Khan said...

Salaam, Sarosh,
Thank you for your comments! It is good to know what others are thinking to better understand how to express what I am trying to say.

To understand the purpose of establishing a mosque, we can take a look at the mission of all prophets sent by God.

"We sent our Apostles with clear signs, and sent down with them the Book and the scale (of right and wrong) that man might do justice." (Quran 57:25)

As the followers of Prophet Muhammad (S), we have been entrusted with this same mission of establishing social justice on earth and it is because of this that God calls us the "best of nations."

"You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; ..." (3: 110)

Of course, this task is not easy. We will face opposition, slander, lies, pain, etc. from those who do not want justice and balance in this world and are happy with the status quo.

But that does not mean we give up this mission. God repeatedly says:

"So [O Believers] endure hardship with beautiful endurance." (70: 5). "And God is with those who patiently persevere." (8: 66)

By building a new mosque but at the same time giving up our right to protest oppression (what is considered controversial because the powers to be don't want it exposed), we will allow the mosque opponents to prevail. That's because those orchestrating the opposition (behind the scenes) are doing it precisely because they are aware of the Muslim mission of establishing justice and want it thwarted.

Prophet Muhammad (S) warned us that the day will come when Muslim leaders will no longer be fulfilling their social responsiblities: “During that time the mosques will be beautiful and flourishing but they will be devoid of guidance and enlightenment.”

No doubt, Imam Ali was not killed in the mosque for his prayers or other ritual obligations. He was killed because he was trying to stop the tribalism, racism, nepotism, corruption, materialism, falsehood, oppression, injustice creeping back into society.

Sarosh said...


JAK Salina!

I was not implying in my comments that we should give up our rights or not stand up to opression and injustices just because we now have a place to worship. Alhamdulillah, after all we got to this point only because we fought for our rights.

Islam is a religion that mandates justice (several Aayahs in the Quran support it) and outlaws every form of oppression.

Fighting against "Zulm" (oppression) is a right that no indivisual muslim should give up and insha ' Allah our massajids will act as beacon to uphold this Quranic objective.

Remember us in your Du3a2!

May Allah bless and forgive us all!


Salina Khan said...

Insha Allah, not only will we fight for our own rights but also those of others, esp those without a voice, here and everywhere, Muslims and non-Muslims. We used to protest the plight of the Palestinians, wars, etc but since we started building the mosque have become silent on these political issues.

Afeef Khan said...

It is sad to see that the enemies of the Muslims know who we are, as they take every precaution to put obstacles in the way of a public exposition (even if only symbolic) of Islam. True, through the politics of fear, they are able to galvanize broad-based popular support from a mass of largely ignorant people who know little about Islam, the Qur’an, or the Prophet (pbuh), for the cause of curtailing Islamic activity in an institutional and civil sense. Even the slightest public expression of Islam is cause for concern.

However, we Muslims are completely oblivious of who our enemies are; we think they only behave this way because they — the ones who organize such protests, hearings, and demonstrations — do not know about us, because we are an unknown, because we are strange, and because we do not assimilate (as many of them did). We attribute their reaction to a fear of the unknown, and under the aegis of this (misguided) consideration, Muslims go out and try to show that they are human beings like anybody else, that they have families, that they love, that they grieve, that they are afflicted by maladies and diseases, and that they have the same problems as anybody else, the only difference being that they have a different religion, like many other people in the “pluralistic” fabric of the United States.

We are naive.

All of the talk about Muslim assimilation into the secular West, all of the interfaith discussions, all of the public advocacy about Islam being a “religion of peace,” all of the political lobbying with congressmen and senators, all of the markets opened up in the majority Muslim world for Western corporations to exploit, all of the resources made available for next to nothing, and all of the foreign exchange from Muslim labor deposited into Western banks and financial institutions has not prevented one bomb from being dropped on innocent Muslim men, women and children; one missile from blowing up Muslim wedding parties or funeral processions; one drone from killing Muslim farmers and their families; and Muslim country after Muslim country after Muslim country from being dismembered and occupied.

Afeef Khan said...

The only thing that has put a stop to all of this has been the Muslims once again assuming their military responsibilities, putting force behind their public advocacy for social justice, equality, principle, and truth. This is why today, compared to 30–40 years ago, it is problematic to build mosques in the United States, or elsewhere in the Euro-American-Israeli zone of influence.

Our enemies understand this better than we do; they are more attuned to history, and they are more politically aware. They understand the purpose of a masjid; we do not. That is why they oppose the construction of any mosque anywhere (even in China and Burma) tooth and nail. We think, simplemindedly, that a mosque is a place for Muslims to gather, to pray, and to congregate just like the other faith communities do in their places of worship. A mosque is not a place of prayer; if you want to just pray, you can go a church, a synagogue, a temple, or any number of such places, and no one will bother you. But you cannot do that in a mosque — a masjid is meant for iqamat al-salah, not prayer (du‘a), “…indeed, a mosque is established on taqwa, and since the time of its erection, it is everyone’s right [to access this taqwa] therein,” (9:108) and “And mosques belong to God, and do not call on other than God therein” (72:18).

Are we so foolish as to believe that prayer is all Allah (swt) demands of us while the entire society, due to our lack of principled concern and involvement, crumbles to the ground?

Afeef Khan said...

Muslims are supposed to gather in mosques so as to integrate their aggregate contact with God (swt) five time a day — that is, to be the instruments of God’s (swt) overwhelming power — to the correction of the social upheavals that exist in their societies and countries, regardless of wherever they are. Mosques are required to organize an agenda of social contact, social correction, and social involvement by Muslims. Mosques are supposed to equip the Muslims with knowledge, courage, wisdom, and impartiality so that they can provide guidance in the face of the difficult issues their societies are facing — issues of discrimination, terrorism, extremism, perpetual war, torture, rendition, occupation, imperialism, Zionism, failed representation, criminal capitalism, wealth polarization, etc.

To put it in the way that it should be: mosques are a staging area for the projection of Islamic power — the power to move morals, ethics, justice, and principle into the public space as a basis of human behavior rather than greed and self-interest.

Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Brother Afeef, for your enlightening comments! It is sad where many of us have religiously attended mosques our whole lives and were never taught the true purpose of it: establishing social justice in our communities. While our elders have built the bricks-and-mortar, we need to make the mosques come alive by using them to promote goodness and de-establish evil in our societies, God willing.