Who is responsible for the cleanliness and maintenance of mosques?

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Okaz newspaper recently published an investigative report by Abdullah Al-Dani, which dealt with the maintenance of mosques financed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, as well as by other benefactors. The report noted that there are 2,500 mosques under the supervision of the ministry in Jeddah alone. There are also a number of other mosques that belong to special endowments that are supervised by endowment officials.

The report quoted Saeed Al-Maliki, director general of the mosques department in Jeddah governorate, as saying that there are 11 groups under his department and that these groups are in charge of the maintenance of designated mosques. Each of these groups undertakes the maintenance of around 100 mosques for a long-term period of up to three years. Although these groups are engaged in carrying out the maintenance of mosques, there are some lapses in terms of the quality of cleaning materials and other matters. However, he said, the overall standard of the maintenance is good.

Al-Maliki pointed out that there were eight mosques in a separate group whose maintenance costs amounted to SR4 million due to their importance and size. These mosques include King Abdullah Mosque and King Saud Mosque in Nuzlah, Hamoudi Mosque in Faihaa, Othman Bin Affan Mosque and King Fahd Mosque in Sharafiyah, Al-Ghamama Mosque in Rihab, Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Mosque in Al-Rowdah and King Faisal Mosque in Al-Hamra. He said that the maintenance of King Saud Mosque in Sharafiyah costs SR5 million.

Muhammad Ashour, assistant director of the branch of the ministry in the southern Jazan region, said that the maintenance of mosques is the biggest problem faced by the ministry. Ashour recently presided over a workshop held to discuss the problems of the maintenance of mosques and to find solutions. He said that the workshop was aimed at examining the maintenance of mosques in Jazan due to the fact that the southern region was lagging behind other regions of the country. There were reports that many mosques in the region failed to have proper maintenance for three years. However, there was dramatic improvement after groups were tasked with supervising the maintenance of around 1,000 mosques in the region. The first group was assigned to supervise the maintenance of 350 mosques and work is going on in the best manner, and other groups are being awarded mosque maintenance projects.

Ashour said that the task of mosque maintenance is not only the responsibility of companies but is also related to the culture of society. If members of the community realize the significance and virtue in the proper care, maintenance and preservation of mosques, this would no longer be a big burden.

Ashour has proposed that students from an early age of their schooling be taught about the significance of safeguarding public property, especially mosques, which everyone should take care of. He especially drew attention to the abuse of public toilets by some people. There are some people entrusted to build mosques who do the job in an unsound manner, as is the case with several mosques in remote areas and villages.

The observations of officials from Jeddah and Jazan showed that hitherto there has been no meticulous plan to undertake the proper maintenance and cleanliness of mosques. Some contracts cover 100 mosques and the maintenance of eight mosques for an amount of SR4 million, while the contract for the maintenance of King Saud Mosque alone is SR5 million. If we consider that these contracts are mainly for cleaning, does the King Saud Mosque require such an amount to be kept clean?

The ministry appoints imams and muezzins (those who call for prayer) for all mosques. In the past, there were also mosque cleaners. The condition of mosques during that time was better than it is now. There was also monitoring and follow-up of their work. Furthermore, the ministry used to issue certificates of appreciation for mosques that met a high standard of cleanliness. The Minister of Labor was keen to sign these certificates which he presented personally or entrusted to officials to present on his behalf.

In those days, the maintenance and cleaning of mosques was carried out at a reasonable rate. This cost cannot be compared with the large sums that are paid to companies and establishments that sign contracts at present. These firms rely on recruiting cleaning workers and paying them a meager salary. Some of these workers engage in their work sincerely with the hope that they will get a reward from Almighty Allah for serving mosques while some others are negligent in their job due to their feeling of being treated unfairly.

I think that the solution to this problem is that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs should hire mosque cleaners just as it hires imams and muezzins. If the ministry pays them attractive salaries, then these workers will be sincere in doing their job properly if they are given their rights in full. It is also essential to monitor and supervise their work based on the principle of reward and punishment.

It should be noted that because of poor monitoring and follow-up, some imams and muezzins remain undisciplined and depend on some young expatriates, who have memorized the Holy Qur’an to a large extent, for the cleaning work of mosques. These workers are under the sponsorship of some establishments or businessmen who allow them to work with mosques. Some benevolent people pay the salaries of these workers.

If there is a plan with the involvement of both citizens and expatriates who frequent these mosques to undertake regular follow up and extend support to these workers, it would contribute to keeping mosques clean and tidy in a much better way.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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