A mosque should be more than just a prayer hall


THERE’S a mosque being built in every locality or so it seems. In the couple of square miles of neighborhood of where I’m at, I can count three mosques standing and one in the process of construction. And just about every mosque has large courtyards and adequate parking space for the whole neighborhood.

The increase of numbers of places of worship has, however, diluted attendance at the individual mosque, with worshippers barely making up half of the expanse within the structure. Rarely does the number spill out to the courtyard and beyond. Even Friday congregations draw much less than desired.

Some explain it as a result of the mass migration of expatriates following the decision to impose a financial levy on their presence in the Kingdom. Others dismiss it as simply an overabundance of places of worship. Regardless of the reasons, mosques can serve to be more than just a prayer hall.

For example, they can be an institute for learning the Arabic language during non-praying hours by those seeking to learn. The mosques can also serve as classrooms in theology for generations of kids, the intent being that they understand Islam correctly.

In neighborhoods where playgrounds and parks do not exist, and children end up playing on streets, they can also serve another purpose. They can be avenues where these kids can positively use up all that pent-up energy in sports and athletic. Many of the massive and unused courtyards could be put to better use.

For example, why not allocate a portion of these courtyards and parking lots for basketball and volleyball courts. This would draw the neighborhood youth to congregate, exercise their bodies in a healthy and energizing manner, and when the call for prayers is announced, invigorate their souls. They don’t have to be reminded to attend prayers at mosques. They would already be there.

It would also serve to breed familiarity and a sense of knowing your neighbor within the residents of the locality, a concept widely promoted by Islam to promote peace and harmony among residents.

My niece’s husband Majed came up with another novel idea. Mosques, he tells me, are generally easily recognized as direction points when explaining where you live. In a city where very few streets are named, let alone house numbers, the locality of a mosque and your living proximity to it would eventually draw your visitor to your house without great difficulty albeit after some time.

Now in an emergency, Majed adds, how are the paramedics expected to rush to your house to cater for the calamity unless you waste valuable minutes over the phone explaining in detail your whereabouts? Minutes that could mean the difference between life and death. Not everybody has the means to get somewhere fast. A housewife at home would be very vulnerable if her child or an elder suddenly needed medical attention, and her husband was at work.

So why not number these mosques within specified zones. Let the Fire Department and the paramedics, on the distribution of these allocated zones within the city, provide CPR and basic first aid training to the live-in muezzin at the mosque to cater to the initial emergency until the paramedics arrive. This may be a stopgap measure but at least it would provide some effective comfort to the needy victim in those first few moments until the ambulance or professional help arrives. Families of the stricken would no longer fret those fleeting moments wondering when help was going to arrive and whether it would arrive at the right house and neighborhood.

Rather than being relegated to half empty places of worship, mosques would then truly play a bigger and more beneficial role in the activities of those they have been designed to serve.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena