Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A Truly Progressive Mosque

Alhamdullillah, I live in Mississauga, Canada which is blessed with a fast growing Muslim population and one of the more vibrant Islamic communities in North America. My house is situated within ten minutes of seven Masjids (there are close to 15 Masjids in Mississauga in addition to a number of Islamic schools and Centres) and we are just West of Toronto, which is home to one of the biggest Muslim populations in North America.

Having lived here since 2002, I have had the opportunity to worship in various Mosques in the GTA; they range from the humble to the impressive. But the one thing that they share in common is that they are frequented by people who are bound together by love of Allah Subhan Wa Taala and his beloved Messenger (peace and blessings on Him).

Unfortunately, all is not well in the state of Denmark for there is a new player in town. A few weeks ago, I received a rude shock when I found splashed on the front page of The Toronto Star news of the inauguration of the first ‘Progressive Mosque’ in Toronto. And yes, the ideas espoused by its founders include the concept of free mixing of the sexes, prayer without any segregation, permissibility of female imamat, homosexual and same sex marriage rights, a more ‘inclusive’ agenda and all the other tired arguments that we have grown accustomed to hearing from them. All this accompanied by a photo of men and women praying side by side.

In contrast, let me tell you about a masjid that is truly progressive for it strictly conforms to the principles of The Quran and the Sunnah (and what can be more liberating than that?) I am sure that there are other masjids similar to this, but as this is one that I regularly frequent, I know what I am talking about. The name of the Mosque is Masjid-al-falah and it is managed by the Islamic Circle of North America (Canada). Among its many distinguishing features are the following.

1. The Masjid is a place where members of both genders are made to feel welcome. Yes, men and women are separated by a barrier in accordance with the Sunnah, but the sisters’ section is as bright, airy and well ventilated as ours. They are certainly not herded into a small room like cattle nor confined to an insignificant part of the mosque.

2. Women are active participants in the activities of the Centre. The sisters’ wing consists of a group of disciplined and dedicated individuals who run regular deeniyat classes and are also involved in activities pertaining to the mosque. Most of the women wear hijab but the few who do not are never made to feel unwelcome or turned away. The spirit of tolerance is alive and kicking.

3. The Centre has made a concerted attempt to reach out to the youth of our community and this take various forms. A few months ago, it was decided that the Khutba of the second Jamaat on Friday would be aimed at our youngsters and the response has been decidedly enthusiastic. Another progressive idea implemented in Ramadan was to give various youth the chance to expound on the verses recited in Salah. Mash'Allah! They did a wonderful job.

This is an effective way of encouraging and training the next generation of Imams and leaders. Regular sports activities and youth programmes ensure that our children look forward to visiting the mosque.

4. The Centre does not restrict itself to religious activities. It takes the role of an active and responsible citizen seriously. It is involved at both the local and the provincial levels on issues that affect all Canadians. Its members participate in Dawa and inter-faith meetings. It runs a full time Islamic school. It has a charitable wing that provides monetary assistance to Muslims all over the world. And all this is possible because it is run by a group of low profile, selfless, hard working individuals who are wedded to the deen.

The members steer clear of controversy but have never shied away from fighting for the rights of Muslims. The atmosphere and the membership is what I consider inclusive in the true Islamic sense as a result of which a spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie prevails. But most important of all, there is no compromise on the Deen to curry favor with others.

This my friends is the kind of masjid that will not be featured in the media for its members do not court controversy nor do they take pleasure in insulting or running down other Muslims. There is no talk of turning a blind eye to the haraam, in the name of political correctness. There is respect for our pious predecessors and our scholars.

Practising Muslims are not the subject of ridicule and no one writes deliberately provocative books that question what is wrong with Islam. We do not have experts on ‘Tantric Sex’ spearheading the fight for women’s rights in the Masjid for these rights have never been denied! Our Sisters are far too busy living the deen to find the time to write soft porn for the titillation of the Ummah as some of our more ‘progressive’ sisters have been doing! Moderation in all matters is key; extremism of all kinds is shunned.

What the masjid offers is a safe and welcoming area for all Muslims irrespective of their race or ethnicity. A place where the entire family can participate and remember our Creator. An atmosphere that allows us to connect with our inner selves and become useful, contributing members of the Ummah. And for this oasis of tranquility, I am truly grateful.

May Allah Subhan Wa Taala always guide us to distinguish Right from Wrong. Ameen.


Blogger UmmAli said...

Can you explain to me how a barrier is in accordance with sunnah? I was under the impression that the Prophet's (saawas) mosque had no barrier.

12:19 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Masha'allah! Okay, I am very jealous right now. That is truly progressive, and as you have said, uncontroversial, which is why your mosque will never be on the front page of the Toronto Star. Who wants to hear about boring, devout Muslims where you can report on the fanatics and liberal iconoclasts.

4:00 PM  
Blogger ajsuhail said...

Umm Ali,

Assalamu alaikkum

I have visited the Prophet's mosque in Madinah twice and know for a fact that there is a barrier between men and women.The women pray behind the men.In fact, men are not allowed near the grave of the prophet(pbuh)when it is time for the women to pay their respects.It is only in Makkah that men and women pray together and that normally takes place only during Haj.The reason is that there are nearly 3 million people who worship at the same time and hence traditional restrictions are not really effective.However, when I performed Umra a few years later I noticed that men and women were clearly segregated.

It has been the consensus of the Ulema that there should be no free mixing of the sexes without a valid reason and there is no reason to do away with this restriction,especially in mosques.Having said that I fervently believe that women should be afforded every opportunity to attend the mosque,participate in its affairs and rightfully take their place as contributing members of society.I also am convinced that the woman is the soul of the home and the first Madarsa of every child.All the more reason that no impediments be placed in her quest for knowledge.

And Allah and his Messenger(pbuh)know best

4:45 PM  
Blogger blagdiblah said...

Ok, we were referring to two different things. I thought that when you mentioned the Prophet's (saawas) mosque, you meant the mosque during the time of the prophet (saawas), not what they do now. OK, I get it. Thanks for explaining.

1:20 AM  
Blogger laz-e-boy said...

Can't there be something in between men & women praying toe-to-to and a full barrier physically separating the genders? I grew up going to a masjid that separated men & women with a 5-10' clear space & a rope barrier. We never had any problems with the setup, and we were a very close community.

I think that it is important for everyone to be in the same physical space, not completely obscured from view, even with gender separation.

The masjids that do this are few and far between, but those are the ones I feel comfortable going to w/my family.

3:59 PM  
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Blogger brown3740 said...

Are there any Majid that do not separate the sexes? This seems such a medieval holdover that most other traditions abandoned a century ago.

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