By Zainab Habib
Islam is a religion to be practiced collectively. Praying in congregation in a masjid, apart from the multiplied rewards and barakah when virtuous deeds are done together, also keeps the hearts of the Ummah united. The importance of the masjid can be seen from the example of the Messenger of Allah (SAW), who began to build a masjid as soon as he established the first Islamic State in Madinah and took part in the actual building himself.
Historically, the masaajid were not just places of prayer but had a much wider role that they performed. They played an important part in the life of the Muslim Ummah and were essentially centers for all Islamic activity. Community members met there and in addition to praying in congregation, connected with each other. This is where Islamic education was also imparted, dawah given, welfare-related programs initiated, community matters resolved and state-related activities conducted. Following this age-old tradition, the masaajid have come to be termed as Islamic Community Centers in many parts of the non-Muslim world.
The care and sense of responsibility that these houses of Allah SWT deserve from all of us can never be emphasized enough. Islam not only encourages us to build masaajid where needed and try to ensure that they are inhabited year round, but to cooperate with each other in maintaining, keeping them clean and beautifying them. Our prayer experience when we are closest to Allah in prostration and our interaction with our fellow Muslims also deserves to be an amazing and memorable experience and this can be so easily achieved by the congregation keeping some of the do’s and don’ts of large assemblies in mind, wanting for our fellow Muslims what we would want for ourselves.
Here are just some of the areas that we can work on improving and which are part of our Islamic etiquettes and concepts of Ihsaan-excellence in everything.
Creating space and convenience for those coming in after us: By moving to the front and center (rather than back and sides), closer to each other and completing the rows as we come in, we not only make it easier for those that come in later, but it stops our prayer from being disturbed when people have to cross over us to get to the empty spaces in front.
Straightening the rows and filling the gaps: Placing our heels on the lines makes it easier to keep our rows straight – an essential requirement of congregational prayer, while a little movement to the front or sideways to fill a gap in a row or complete a row even after we have started the prayer is also permissible.
Meeting safety requirements:
Keeping aisle areas in prayer areas clear of people and their possessions means that a clear exit pathway is available should an emergency arise.
In addition to a neat and orderly look, shoes placed in racks rather than left in corridors and pathways means no danger of people falling over shoes and hurting themselves; and more so if there is an emergency.
Allowing for easy movement: We can avoid traffic jams in corridors, entrances and on stairways by following the rule of “traffic moves on the right”, and treating them like 2 way streets and patiently moving along on our side rather than pushing our way through the crowd coming from the other side.
Encouraging the concept of Ihsaan-excellence: Leaving a place better than we found it, so that it creates ease for those that come later is an act of worship and reward-worthy with Allah. This applies to WCs, bathroom floors, sinks, corridors, prayer areas, eating areas, in fact, any and every area of communal use.
Avoiding being offensive to others: Taking particular care of our appearance and manners and meeting the standards set by Islam regarding our breath and body odor, our clothes, our behavior with others etc. is so important. Burping loudly, sneezing without covering one’s mouth and similar actions can cause offence to others.
There are so many things we can do to facilitate our brothers and sisters in the congregation and to make our masjid experience a pleasant one. All we need to do is become conscious of their importance and how much it pleases our Rabb. Sajdah is the position of worship in which we are closest to Allah and the masjid is meant to be a place which in addition to bringing us closer to Him, also endears us to those who prostrate alongside us.