Importance of a Mosque
Sir William Muir writes in his book “The Life of Muhammad”:
“Though crude in material, and insignificant in dimensions, the Mosque of Muhammad is glorious in the history of Islam. Here, the Prophet and his Companions spent most of their time; here, the daily service, with its oft-recurring prayers was first publicly established; and here, the great congregation assembled every Friday, listening with reverence and awe to messages from Heaven. Here, the Prophet planned his victories; here he received embassies from vanquished and contrite tribes; and from hence issued edicts, which struck terror amongst the rebellious to the very outskirts of the peninsula. Hard by, in the apartment of Aisha (one of the wives of the Prophet), he breathed his last, and there, side by side with his first two successors he lies buried.” (p.177)
A mosque, therefore, not only serves the purpose of offering prayers (Salat) and remembering of God (Dhikr), but also serves many other purposes.
Mosque as a meeting place:
The Holy Prophet made great stress on visiting the mosque frequently. Abu Hurairah, a Companion of the Prophet, relates that the Prophet said:
“For him who proceeds to the mosque morning or evening, Allah prepares entertainment in paradise every time he proceeds, morning of evening.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
“He who makes his ablutions at home and then walks to one of the houses of Allah to discharge of obligation imposed on him by Allah, one step of his wipes out a sin and another step raises his status” (Muslim)
According to another saying, the Prophet is reported to have said:
“The best parts of a city, in the eyes of God, are its mosques”
A mosque therefore becomes a meeting place for Muslims 5 times a day. They great each other and may discuss any matter that may affect or interest them, before or after the services.
All Islamic Services, the five daily prayers, the Friday noon service, the festivals and the pilgrimage to the house of Allah are so organised as to ensure the co-operation of all sections of Muslim society. The mosque, being the focal point of all this, plays a great part in the general life of the town.
Mosque as a place for rest:
A mosque is also used as a place of rest. The worshipers come in to the mosque, wash their hands and faces and take rest during the heat of the noon in hot countries before or after the prayers. Sometimes they stay for the night if they happen to be strangers in the town and have no other accommodation. Those who travel through the villages generally resort to the village mosque for their stay for the night during the journey. Shower and toilet facilities are provided in mosques. When the time for the meal approaches, one of the local inhabitants gladly takes the stranger home for his meal, hospitality being always considered important in the Muslim world.
Mosque as a source of water supply:
After reaching a mosque the worshipers purify themselves with water, i.e. they perform ablution. Therefore some sort of water supply is essential in every mosque. For centuries the mosque wells were the only source of water supply for the towns, and even today in villages where there is no other water supply system, people converge to the mosque with their earthenware to draw water from the mosque well, dug either in the courtyard of the mosque or near its entrance.
Mosque as a place of learning:
Today mosques continue to be used as schools where Muslim children are taught reading, writing and the recitation of the Holy Quran. In large towns however separate school buildings are found either attached to the mosque or near the mosque. For older students, colleges for the special study of religion, are built along side the mosque, where the imam and other religious teacher impart religious instructions for full time students. These institutions often contain a large collection of religious books, for the use of students and the public.
Al Azhar University, which is a famous educational institution in Middle East, even today, is attached to Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, where students from far and wide follow the course in religion, Shariat (Islamic Law) and Fiqh (Jurisprudence), and highly qualified teachers and scribes are appointed for the purpose.
Mosque as a place for social gathering:
Mosques are also used for social gatherings, like wedding ceremonies, funeral services, courts of law, and other religious ceremonies