“The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah, for it is expected that those will be of the [rightly] guided .” (Qu’ran, 9:18).
I have met people who get frustrated with their local mosque and leave to form other groups. I know that a lot of good can come from such groups, yet I feel disturbed at the process of distancing oneself from the mosque. Sometimes, groups are forced to have classes somewhere else besides the mosque. I understand that and I’ve experienced it, but this can lead to such a distance that the group decides to set up its own musallah (prayer space), which then becomes a mosque environment — an environment of like-minded individuals.
I know the mosque can be frustrating sometimes, like a big family where different personalities clash and vie for attention; where mealtimes are noisy and people step on each other’s toes in the kitchen; where certain siblings deem their rooms to be out of bounds to other siblings. You see the similarities—but that’s the point; the local mosque is one big, untidy family.
Things are not perfect in our mosque. There are several ugly issues that crop up from time to time that get us all down. Despite this, I’ve always resisted the temptation to disconnect from the local mosque.
We have a long standing tradition in Ramadan where, every weekend, different groups host a big open-invitation community iftar (breaking the fast program) in the mosque. One evening last year, I remember being greatly touched by the sight of a Somali friend coming into the mosque and sitting down, exhausted after helping to cook iftar for 500 people. Then I saw another friend, a Cambodian woman, who was among those who came to eat, get up and go over to give her a shoulder massage. That same night, I saw a Pakistani woman praying next to a Somali woman, putting her hand out to gently try to stop a child (not her own) from disturbing her neighbor. At the end of the prayer, the Somali woman smiled at her and said, “Don’t worry, I feel no disturbance from these children while I’m praying.”
How beautiful are these women in our local mosque family, subhan’Allah (all praise be to God). These women spend several hours together in classes each week, smile at each other every Jumu`ah (Friday), see each other come and go over the years, and stop in the hallways to coo over their latest babies and rescue each other’s toddlers from causing havoc in the toilets. These are the same women who truly don’t mind whether a Malaysian or an Arab or an African teaches their child in Sunday madrasah (school); they’re just grateful that someone is kind enough to volunteer to teach.
I know there are groups out there that are experiencing success and like-minded synergy of action and learning. I will even join such groups and InshaAllah (God willing) benefit from them, just as a child from a family will go and join a karate club or play a team sport. But at the end of the day, I will return to my beautiful, jumbled and precious local mosque family.