The literal meaning of the word “masjid” is a place of prostration. This Arabic word originates from the root sa-ja-da, which means to prostrate. The believer is closest to his Lord when he is prostrating, as the Prophet (PBUH) said in a Hadith recorded in Sahih Muslim. In Islam, a mosque is a place of worship where Muslims pray directly to their Creator and prostrate to Him in total submission.
The believers gather in mosques to worship Allah. They pray standing shoulder to shoulder, which showcases their unity as Muslims who believe in the One True God. The place of worship has been a key aspect of Muslim societies since the start of Islam. Today, mosques are a common sight in the world, particularly in Muslim nations.
The widespread presence of mosques in our world today helps believers consistently fulfill their religious obligation of prayer. This is the first thing Allah will question us about on the Day of Judgment. Generally, mosques have different sections for men and women to pray in, along with separate entrances for both. Believing men must offer all their obligatory daily prayers with the congregation in the mosque. Women are free to pray in mosques as well, but it is better if they offer their prayers at home.
What is a Mosque in Islam?
In Islam, a mosque is a place that exists for the purpose of offering all five obligatory daily prayers. A mosque will not remain the property of the person who establishes it, as it is a waqf (endowment) given for Allah’s sake. Allah permits Muslims to pray anywhere, except in dirty or unclean places like toilets and graveyards. As we learn from a well-known hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the entire earth is a mosque for the believers.
Although we are allowed to pray in all places that are not impure or dirty, only places that are specifically devoted to the purpose of offering the five obligatory prayers are considered mosques. Hence, one may pray at home or out in the open, but that does not mean his home is a mosque. The defining feature of a mosque is that all obligatory prayers are offered in it on a permanent basis. However, one can also offer voluntary prayers there, and funeral prayers are also regularly held in mosques.
What is the difference between a Masjid and a prayer room?
A mosque is a place that exists for people to offer all their daily obligatory prayers. Moreover, this purpose should be a permanent one. Meanwhile, a prayer room may be a place where people pray from time to time. Some examples of prayer rooms can be places set up for people to offer prayers in workplaces or schools. People might use prayer rooms for the performance of some prayers, such as funeral (Janazah) prayers and Eid prayers.
Prayer rooms are not specifically for the performance of all five mandatory daily prayers like mosques. Therefore, we cannot regard such places as mosques, as they do not fit the criteria. In addition, one doesn’t need to offer the two Rakat (tahiyat al-masjid) that believers perform to greet the mosque when they enter the prayer room.
The Prophet (PBUH) used to offer voluntary prayers in his home, but that did not mean his home was a mosque. A place is only a mosque when its purpose is the offering of all five of the daily obligatory prayers on a permanent basis. Furthermore, there should be general permission granted to the people to pray in it, and it will no longer belong to the person who established it.
The appearance and features of a Masjid
Mosques can be quite varied in terms of their appearance and size. There is no shortage of large, grand mosques, just as there are plenty that are smaller and simpler. Although the purpose remains the same, there is plenty of variety when it comes to the appearance of mosques. Their looks can also vary based on where their location is, as all places won’t have the same style. Over the years, Muslims have consistently produced a great number of exquisitely beautiful mosques.
Although the architecture of mosques is diverse and varied around the world, there are a number of features that are present in general. All mosques have a mihrab, which is a niche in the wall. The purpose of this niche is to indicate the direction of Makkah, as that is the direction in which Muslims pray. Additionally, most have a minbar (pulpit) for the Imam to give sermons and lectures, such as the sermon that precedes the Friday prayer.
Furthermore, mosques typically have minarets, which are used to call the believers to pray in the congregation. Minarets are a very prominent feature and make them easy to distinguish. Usually, there is a large prayer area for Muslims to offer their prayers. Nowadays, bathroom facilities for performing Wudu (ablution) for prayer are readily available in many mosques.
While the flooring used to be simple in the past, now there are usually comfortable, decorated carpets covering the floor. These carpets typically include lines that serve the purpose of keeping rows straight and orderly during congregational prayers. There are no statues or images of life in mosques, as Islam prohibits doing so. The walls often have Arabic calligraphy of the Quran decorating them.
Mosques play a central role in the Muslim community. It is a place of tranquillity, where believers get to focus on their relationship with God. When one enters the mosque, he leaves behind matters of the worldly life. It is also an escape from the daily hardships of life and all material and worldly desires and distractions. It is a place of remembrance of the true purpose of life, which is to worship Allah alone without associating any partners with Him, as God informs us in Surah Adh-Dhariyat.
A mosque is a place of bonding for the Muslim community. It instills unity in believers when they gather with fellow Muslims and pray standing shoulder to shoulder, regardless of race, status, etc. In mosques, there is unity between different ethnicities, nationalities, classes, etc. Believing men also fulfill their religious duties by performing the obligatory daily prayers in congregation. The reward for offering the daily compulsory prayers in congregation is 27 times greater than the reward for offering them at home.
Mosques can also play a role in inviting non-Muslims to Islam. Here, Muslims can show disbelievers how they perform their prayers. Doing so can make non-Muslims curious and encourage them to learn more about the religion. Mosques also serve as centers of learning, as we can obtain religious knowledge in them. One can gain knowledge of essential aspects of the faith at the masjid. Some of these vital aspects of Islam are the Quran, Aqeedah, Sunnah, and Seerah.
Without mosques, Muslims would miss out on a critical asset that adds incredible religious value to our lives. There is no doubt that mosques are a pillar of Muslim communities. Regular attendance helps believers stay steadfast on the right path.