5 Ways Muslims in Nigeria can use the mosque

I have visited so many mosques in Nigeria, while some have a fairly average level of community involvement and environmental project. It is non-existent in others

Abuja National Mosque

A mosque is supposed to be a spiritual retreat – a community centre which encourages spiritual growth and makes people feel welcomed. Yet, unfortunately, mosques have lost their appeal. I think this is largely due to the fact that mosque have been restricted to a place for observing solat alone with everyone leaving as soon as solat ends.

I have visited so many mosques in Nigeria, while some have a fairly average level of community involvement and environmental project. It is non-existent in others. This is saddening and in this vein it is very pertinent to ask ourselves how do we revive the role of the mosque?

A centre for learning

The best time to catch Muslims is every Friday, Muslims go to pray the Jummah – even those that usually don’t pray. The Khutbah (sermon) done on Fridays are usually boring and uninteresting as often times people have no idea what is being said. Even if it is in their language, the substance is usually worthless. Hence, it is pertinent to give relevant and beneficial lectures, ectures that would not only clear a lot of misconceptions, it would also attract a loyal following of Muslims and non-Muslims who actually want to know about the Islam proposed by the Quran!

Setting up sessions

Organising sessions where people would come together to discuss their interpretations of the Islam. In addition, they could also talk about relevant issues that need to be addressed in their community and elsewhere. So, it’s not all a preach preach preach sort of thing,

Beautiful Location

We can revive the role of the mosque by ensuring that the location is beautiful. A mosque is primarily a spiritual centre, developing Muslim's faith and counselling people's questions with answers. An ideal mosque needs to engage with its congregants' lives. And one way to do this is by having an ideal mosque that has a garden space for relaxing for planting vegetables, fruit and herbs, planting trees projects, Water management, minimising waste, Installing fountains and outdoor facilities.

Investing in women and Children

We can also revive the role of the mosque by investing in women and childrenI'm a firm believer in empowering women and children, which is why it disheartens me to attend a mosque where the Muslim children are not allowed in the mosque. The ideal mosque should encourage children to participate and learn. This can be done through having Qur'an/hadith activities, Litter picking lessons, street clean-ups, and Recycling projects

Women are supposed to be considered in the decision making of the mosque. As it was reported that Umm Hisham who was the daughter of Haritha who was the son of Ne’man said the following: “I memorized sura Qaf from hearing it from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because he used to recite it often during his khutbah on Fridays.”

Remember that there were no loud speakers in the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). How far from the minbar do you think women were in the mosque of  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Madina. Umm Hisham memorized Sura Qaf (sura no. 50 which has 45 ayas ) by hearing it again and again because Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to recite it in his Friday khutbah.

How does this compare with the place of women in the mosque in Nigeria today.  The way women were in the mosque of the Prophet (pbuh), they felt part of the Muslim community. Do women feel part of the muslim community, or are they treated as outsiders and a nuisance for the men?

Proper Re-Education

The main problem with Muslims today is a lack of education and miseducation about Islam. This has allowed “Imams” to cash in on their ignorance. Hence, you have so many sects all claiming to have the “true and right version of Islam”. Since Muslims are oblivious to the message of the Quran, they find it easier to blindly follow whichever sect or ideology they are “born in”. Once Muslims are exposed to the Quran, they would automatically disassociate themselves from dogmatic ideologies. Of course, not all would. But it would be a step in the right direction. A step we so desperately need!

Perfect Imams

The title of a great imam should not be limited to one who recites the Quran with great tajweed and a mashaa Allah voice but rather one with sound and sober Islamic knowledge, an imam that totally understand the cultural intricacies of Nigeria, an imam that is concerned about the emotional and psychological welfare of his audience.

Someone who understands the nature of structural tribalism and religious bigotry in this country and challenges it among his congregation. Someone who knows how to respond to a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, who can give advice to a teenager confused about dating without judgement, who can comfort an audience suffering from depression, who can help frame the questions a person struggling with atheism is asking without spiritual abuse. Someone who would speak the truth and remind us about our temporary the dunya is.

Without all these a mosque is not as pro-active as it could be. The mosque becomes simply a space for obligatory prayer, Qur'anic memorisation, and then you go home. If attendees are also unaware of the mosque's "footprint", there's going to be minimum outreach to neighbours and non-Muslims. However,my immediate concerns are on the decision makers of most mosques. Of course no two mosques are alike, and nor at its members. But I've noticed a pattern. Fewer women are on the mosque committees and the committees themselves are made up of grumpy men.

Change is a struggle, particularly reviving the role of the mosque in a country like Nigeria but I have faith that with the right support and intentions, it can be done. Insha-Allah, God willing.

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