Taofiq Adesina Azeez
Department of English, University of Abuja
Text of a Lecture delivered to the Official Opening of the University of Portharcourt Mosque on Sunday 11th December, 2022/17th Jumadal Awwal, 2
Muqadima: All praise is due to Allaah who says:Aal-e-Imran 3:96
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِى بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَٰلَمِينَ
Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a GUIDANCE for the WORLDS …
Confession: I regard myself as the least qualified to stand before this audience to speak on this very important subject due to my linguistic and intellectual incompetence in the relevant fields.
I accepted, nevertheless, to be here and do what I’m about to do as a seizure of opportunities for not to be disclosed reasons.
I, therefore, appeal to you to have this incompetence in your minds as you listen to me, an Imam who can hardly read the QUR’AN admirably.
To assist myself, I choose to speak to the QUR’AN as much as possible and avoid distracting comments.
My Thesis is Qur’an 3: 96 cited in my Muqadima. The focus is “…مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَٰلَمِينَ
BLESSED and a GUIDANCE for the WORLDS …
ISLAM, QUR’AN Masjid and Muslims have suffered greatly from an hybrid of practical intellectual reductionism. To refer to any of these in terms of its christian version is to decimate and obliterate the entire values attached to them by Allaah and to treat each of them as a human manufactured philosophy.
The dictionary definition of each of these is alarmingly back-to-back distant from their Quranic conceptions. The Masjid, for instance , is just MOSQUE whereas it has the equivalent terms as primarily Bayt (a house) (2:125, 127, 158; 3:96&97; 5:2,17,97; 8:3514:37,22:26, 29, 33; 54:4; 106:3) all these referring to the model House, the Bayt Al Hatiq and a Qiblah (10:87) referring to the generic name, purpose and function of the Masjid.
The Masjid is, also listed 8 times (2:114, 187, 9:17, 18, 107,108; 22:40;24:36) in its ideological functions, management and utilities.
It is, however, linguistically and culturally a place of Sujud, Masjid.
This common definition, infact, throws up a world of ideological and power relation concepts and practices. Sujud or prostration is the common status and the common act of worship of all creatures (2:125; 3:43; 4:102;7:11,206; 9:112; 13:15; 15:30-33&98; 16:49; 17:61; 18:50; 20:116; 22:18 , 26, 77; 25:60; 26:219;27:25; 38:73; 41:37; 53:62; 55:6; 76:26; 84:21; 96:19.
It is the same sujud that Shaytan refused to do that probably led to the permanent conflicts between his kind and mankind.
A place named after this posture CANNOT be just a place of five daily worship to be led by one Imam who may not be qualified to lead us in other critical aspects of our lives because he himself is being led by others other than Allaah before Whom he leads us.
The significance of the Masjid made it the first house Allaah built for us, and ,therefore , the liberation of which formed the unsaid basis of thirteen- year-conflicts between the Quraish and the Prophet. It is no wonder that the most significant trip in human history, Isral Wal miraj, which merged time and space, took off from the Masjid Al Haram to the Masjid Al Aqsa and, from there, to heaven.
It is, therefore, not a surprise that the first task of the Prophet in Madinah when he arrived at Hijrah was the construction of the Mosque , the third sacred Masjid.
This conversation will, in the light of this Conceptual Framework, interrogate the various functions of the Prophetic Masjid in Madinah leading to the development of Madrasaat and the establishment of schools, courts, secretariat, civic centres etc using the Mosque activities as models.
As a House, it has all the implications of the Value and Functions of a house. It is a proto type of what a house should be as a resort متابة( a place of return) and امنا security or asylum:
وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا ٱلْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْنًا وَٱتَّخِذُوا۟ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَٰهِۦمَ مُصَلًّىۖ وَعَهِدْنَآ إِلَىٰٓ إِبْرَٰهِۦمَ وَإِسْمَٰعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِىَ لِلطَّآئِفِينَ وَٱلْعَٰكِفِينَ وَٱلرُّكَّعِ ٱلسُّجُودِ
And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [ a place of] security. And take , [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf. and those who are staying [there] for worship(itikaf) and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].”
This seems to be the summary of the operational definitions of the Masjid as:
- Bayt : a House to be frequented and returned to, an asylum for safety and security.
- A Qibla meaning a compass for ideological bonding and political fraternity and a platform for liberation from all forms of oppression, tyranny and slavery.
- Masjid , a place of prostration as a mystical bonding with the earth, our source, sustenance and destination . This prostration should, in my view, be understood beyond the physical conclusion of the genuflection that are contained in the salawat. I understand this, also, along with the other purpose of the house leading up to prostration. Tawaf is a physical movement around the house which may signify spiritual exertion to achieve revolutionary objectives.
Similarly, the itikaf is a spiritual retreat to get a clearer view of the world away from it with a view to determining the best approach to engage the world and conquer it.
The Ruku’ is a physical demonstration of preparedness to bow to the Will of Allaah in complete Obedience to the scared rules, orders, laws and regulations in all circumstances, while the final prostration is the willingness to submit to the verdicts of Allaah in all events.
That is probably why it is described as mubarak, blessed Huda GUIDANCE as Allaah says:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِى بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَٰلَمِينَ
Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.
فِيهِ ءَايَٰتٌۢ بَيِّنَٰتٌ مَّقَامُ إِبْرَٰهِيمَۖ وَمَن دَخَلَهُۥ كَانَ ءَامِنًاۗ وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ حِجُّ ٱلْبَيْتِ مَنِ ٱسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًاۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَنِىٌّ عَنِ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ
In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allaah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. This last sentence is, however, the most scary as I have seen all sorts of kufr tendencies around the house a few times I’ve visited. Allaahu musta’n.
As a proto house, we are guided to institute the critical activities due to it in our own houses too. The Prophet, for example, commands us not to turn our houses into graveyards where prayers are not observed. Indeed, nawaafil are best observed at home according to his Sunnah.
We also read a command to the children of Israel to use houses as platforms for liberation and united spiritual revolutionary action when Allaah says:
وَأَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَأَخِيهِ أَن تَبَوَّءَا لِقَوْمِكُمَا بِمِصْرَ بُيُوتًا وَٱجْعَلُوا۟ بُيُوتَكُمْ قِبْلَةً وَأَقِيمُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And We inspired to Moses and his brother, ” *Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers.”
This is a direct instruction to the believers to turn their houses into Masaajid (Mosques) as spiritual laboratories and factories to produce change agents and revolutionary actors to conquer the world.
The purpose of the Masjid as a place of prostration can now be quite clear. In standing for prayer before the prostration, the believers take a stand with Allaah as His soldiers and revolutionaries. They observe, listen to and obey the Imam, the commander, as he reads the command of Allaah to his followers as first among equals. He trusts their knowledge and spiritual competence and confidence to obey without stress and correct him without rancour. The Prophet was so corrected in prayers, while Umar enjoyed best of corrections even from a Bedouin and a woman.
The Imams take advantage of the rows in salat to review the civic, health, social and economic conditions of the mamum. He uses the rows to determine the absentee, in order to look for him; the weak, in order to care for him, the rich, in order to take (zakat and sadaka ) from him; the strong, inorder to mobilize him; the intelligent and the dull inorder to manage them. All these are factored into the recitation during and sermon and action after salat. They also determine the length of the prayers.
The prayers in the Masjid is also a social leveller which demands the doing away with all forms calliberations before entering the Masjid. Everyone is equal here and there is no space reservation. The king, the slave ; the senators, the cleaners; the Governor, the driver all assemble in the presence of Allaah according to the degree of their TAQWAH which alone is the criterion for Honour in the sight of Allaah(Q49:13).
When we are in sujud, we are reminded, among other things, that we are equal. The last person, (whoever he/she is), is putting his head at the feet of the servant of Allaah in front of him/her(whoever he/she is).
This is a reminder that your brethren with whom you just prayed is equal in spiritual rank with you as you all have the same mission as vicegerents of Allaah on earth on which your head , which contains your means of perception and drive for action, is. Allaah says in this regard:
وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَٰٓئِفَ ٱلْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَٰتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِى مَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمْۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ ٱلْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُۥ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌۢ
And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.
This is a reminder, in practical terms, five times a day to calm the nerves of everyone and assist us to navigate the world better.
The Prophet practically lived in the Masjid. All spiritual, legislative, social, diplomatic, judiciary and military activities took place around him and mostly in the Masjid. It was there he taught us the QUR’AN, the Sunnah, the Fiqh, social etiquette, social and engagements . Khawlah bint Tha’laba argued with him and Allaah revealed Suratul Mujadilla on the side of women to eradicate an oppressive social practice. Zaid pleaded with him to divorce his wife to release himself of domestic oppression and Allaah married Zynab to him, the Prophet to redress a social evil and make life easier for people.
He passed judgements in the Masjid and implemented Allaah’s law. He stayed with the poor in the sufa and shared their agony and distress. He mobilized the army usually after Jumuah and always after salat.
The best sons and daughters of Islam were, thus, produced from the Masjid. These are the ones that liberated, by conquering, the world. The Muslim contribution to the Renaissance due to the conscious interaction of Europe with Muslim Spain is difficult to erase from history in spite and despite the crusades. The various scientific first especially in Biological, Chemical, Medical, Mathematical and other sciences inspired by the reading of and listening to the QUR’AN cannot be ignored as the relics are still with us like constantly evolving embryology, binary fission and trigger in computer science, zero and Algorithm in Mathematics.
Although the eternally beneficial impacts of Muslim rule in Spain and India may be a bittersweet content of our nostalgic history, the influence of the Muslim presence in China, most of former Soviet Union (one of which produced Imam Bukhari), Turkey(area where Imam Muslim was produced), Syria and Yemen to mention a few is an evidence that the Muslims then and now can only be ignored with all its consequences.
This factory, thus, produced women who produced the conquerors of the world. It produced the greatest scientists, thinkers and teachers. Muslim contribution was so profound that without it , the history of the world is incomplete as we were first in almost every significant life issues. First University(established by a Muslim woman on the model of the Prophetic school in his Masjid), the surgeon, first robotic engineer, the first social scientists etc were products of the madrasa that generated from the Masjid in Madinah. Indeed, remove the contribution of the Muslims in the history of the world, the history of the world is incomplete.
Similarly, remove the Muslim communities everywhere in the world, even now , the social political well-being of the people is defective. All over the world, masaajid have become rehabilitation centres moderating extreme behaviours, crimes and suicide.
Indeed, the political stability enjoyed in Nigeria, especially in the University environments, is gratefully due to the effects of the teachings from the Masjid.
The Masjid is, thus, a school, a political party secretariat, a military headquarters, a court of justice, a civic centre, an asylum, a dormitory for the poor, a place of retreat, a library, a spiritual laboratory, social security/engineering factory and a total reformatory. What else do we need in our lives apart from the willing leadership of our Imams to use the Masjid appropriately?
The day the Muslims wake up to utilize the Masjid as the nucleus of the desired Contra-Subculture Allaah wills them to be, is going to be the Liberation Day for the world as Allaah says:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِۗ وَلَوْ ءَامَنَ أَهْلُ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمۚ مِّنْهُمُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ ٱلْفَٰسِقُونَ
You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah . If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.
The Masjid is our Qibla. It is our compass. It is platform for the Contra-Subculture Allaah desires that we are. As Qibla, we must love it, cherish and guard it jealously against interpolation. We must not seek other Qibla apart from it. This is the basis of our leadership of the world before and the potential to still do today. What is missing is ideological interpretation and integration of the activities around the Qibla . Heeding Allaah’ s warning in this regard is a sure way out:
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَٰكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا۟ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًاۗ وَمَا جَعَلْنَا ٱلْقِبْلَةَ ٱلَّتِى كُنتَ عَلَيْهَآ إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِۚ وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ هَدَى ٱللَّهُۗ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَٰنَكُمْۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِٱلنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful.
وَلَئِنْ أَتَيْتَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ بِكُلِّ ءَايَةٍ مَّا تَبِعُوا۟ قِبْلَتَكَۚ وَمَآ أَنتَ بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَتَهُمْۚ وَمَا بَعْضُهُم بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَةَ بَعْضٍۚ وَلَئِنِ ٱتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَآءَهُم مِّنۢ بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلْعِلْمِۙ إِنَّكَ إِذًا لَّمِنَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ
And if you brought to those who were given the Scripture every sign, they would not follow your qiblah . Nor will you be a follower of their qiblah . Nor would they be followers of one another’s qiblah . So if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, indeed, you would then be among the wrongdoers.
However, as long as we remain ignorant of the significance of the Masjid as our Qiblah and we keep following others’ Qibla contrary to Allaah’s warning, the longer our sleep and consequent nightmare.
I ask Allaah to forgive where I erred and increase me and all in khayraat.
Thanks for listening.