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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The role that Masjids/Mosques committees should play in our communities

One of the most problematic issues for Muslims, in the west, is the role that the Masjid plays. In most cases, the Masjids fail to play any role in the community. Instead, it is a theater for local politics and tribal loyalties.

We have a dire need of education in our Muslim societies not just in Urdu but in English. Most committees favour Imams who come from ‘back home’ rather than anyone who can speak English is a major and serious problem that needs to be addressed. If you cannot understand the language of the teaching, how can you benefit from it? Allah (the Exalted) sent prophets being able to speak the language that was present in that area. Masjid committees go against this teaching when they pick an urdu Imam. Its a case of dumb and dumber choosing an Imam and who do you think they will choose?

How did we get to this?

When Muslims came to the West during the last century it was not to spread Islam but it was to escape their economic situation. So there was little in the way of knowledge amongst the people. Eventually, people became concerned about their religion and this lead to founding Masjids.

Committees were made up of concerned people, some were religious and others were not. This meant that they did not understand that every community needs knowledge, Islamic knowledge.

They tried to envisage Islam as how it was ‘back home’ so they copied everything including the prayer times.

So these committees were based upon whoever wished to be part of it and when they decided that they needed an Imam. One was recommended and sent from their home country. The Imam is now thrown into cauldron of politics which he does not truly understand. Yet, how can any of this answer the question; what does it mean to be British and live in the west?

From this beginning we arrive to our time. In which we see the same families controlling the types of things that take part in the community. We build massive masjids which are just empty buildings that are not even close to being full at any time of the year. Yet, so many committee members just want to build larger and larger Masjids, what is the point when most of them are unaware of the prayer and cannot recite the Quran correctly? Instead, why don't we pay a good salary to a teacher to make scholars in our community, is this so absurd?

Many Masjids committees have people who are against Islamic knowledge. They either want only their people to deliver knowledge or they do not want these events to take place in the masjids. The list is a very sad one and each reason is illogical. Any Muslim who is against the teaching of Islamic knowledge wants Islam to die out! Not only that he is also against the way of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) because his way was knowledge! He taught us how to pray, to fast, how to treat people, the Quran and all those things that so many of us take for granted.

What are we going to be like, if this knowledge is going to be lost? We receive reports of scholars dying all the time and who are taking their places? Is anyone taking their places?

We only allow specific people to teach and not others because we are not sure about them, this is absolutely pathetic. Committees who are against knowledge are an obstacle to Islamic knowledge. Do you want me to say it any clearer? They are also the greatest support of wahabism because of their lack of activity.

Scholars also have advisor roles which they need to assist and not prevent, the imparting of sacred knowledge. Many a time 'scholars' are obstacles to learning rather than assisting learning. Is it because we could be a threat to their existence by taking their jobs? Or would it be the simple case that we would leave those who have been misleading us all these years? Scholars who prevent the spread of sacred knowledge should be sent to an empty village to live out the remainder of their years because they are no good here.

What is the way out?

The way out is knowledge and it is a simple as that. Knowledge of Islam can help us solve so many problems in our communities. For example it is not permissible in Islam to force someone to marry someone else. So why do we have other people telling us what is in our religion! We should already know this and we should not be forcing anyone into an unhappy marriage. Yes, they are your children but look at their needs as well. For their sake as much as yours!

We need to do either one of two things, either we try to work with our elders, if they are ready and receptive. If they are not receptive then we need to think about forming our centres of learning or our own masjids. I would prefer to work with the elders because having their valuable input is something us youngsters need but if they want to stand in our way then other avenues must be sought.

We believe that many problems in our communities could be solved if the right knowledge was imparted by those who are living the knowledge. Words from people who do not practice their knowledge means nothing, at the end of the day. It is only those people who practice change hearts.

We really do not have the luxury of time and we need to speed up this process of founding teaching centres of sound Islamic learning in the classical tradition.

I am not discounting the elders in our communities because they are absolutely irreplaceable but they saw what they community needed in their time and we must do what our community needs in this time. Our elders are blessing and we would not want to be without them.

I do think that the Masjids we have now may not be put into full use until many, many years into the future.

There are some masjids who are attempting to address the problem of knowledge and may Allah bless them to continue.

We have identified key areas that need addressing after the knowledge issue is responded to:

1. Disenfranchised Muslims.
We have a significant number of Muslims who do not understand Islam. They need to be explained correctly what things are. This may be too late for some but for others this is may be just in time.

2. Islamic Outreach.
We are going to post something about this soon so read that. But for now, are people explaining Islam to non Muslims? Special classes are needed for those who enter Islam.

3. Women
They need to know their rights and so do we, because many of us have forgotten or we just plainly do not know.

4. Marriage
We have a large amount of Muslims who are unmarried. This is an issue that the Masjids could take a proactive role in. Many Muslims need counselling services which are unavailable in most places.

5. Other social problems
We have Muslims in myriad of social problems such as clashes with culture and living in the West. Solutions need to be brought to the table and implemented. We have drug addicts and alcoholics who are brushed aside in these communities. We need to help these people!

If one masjid cannot do this then why don’t an area of people band together and do part of this? Is that really asking for too much? Why do we need to rely on the government to help when we should cleaning up our own mess?

In short, people on boards should be ready to do more and if they are not willing to do anything then they should resign and let someone else take their place. The people who should be on the board are Muslims who are knowledgeable and have studied the religion rather than people who do not even know what breaks their prayer!

One of the main reasons why Islam was not established in America, when it came there, in the 16th century was because Islamic knowledge was not transmitted. Also due to the efforts of the inquisition who were as active there, as they were in Spain.

They made sure that Muslims did not marry other Muslims and prevented them for teaching anything in Arabic. So Islam was not established soundly until recent times. Islam had all but died out for a hundred years that is why you might find people with Muslim names but who are Christians. Why because knowledge was not passed onto their children until they were just Muslim in name and then their subsequent offspring merely had Muslim names. Do you really want that for your offspring?

Islam has never, ever, ever been revived by anything else but Islamic knowledge. So all those who are calling to unity, love and anything else have failed and will continue to fail until they wake up to this.

If we do not make a serious effort to change our situation, in these terms, then we may see the dissolution of Islam in the next generation. You can see this already occurring as many good practices of our elders are all but gone. Then the only people teaching Islam will be those who are teaching a harsh type of bedouin Islam that no one wants but it will be accepted by people’s children because there isn’t anything else.

Is it not high time that we woke up?

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