What is "El Masjid"?
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of the Islamic faith. Muslims often refer to the mosque by its Arabic name, masjid (pl. masajid ) (pronounced: . ˈʤ id/ or /mas. ˈɡʲ id/). The Arabic word masjid means temple or place of worship and comes from the Arabic root sajada (root "s-j-d," meaning to bow or kneel) which means he worshipped in reference to the prostrations performed during Islamic prayers. The word mosque in English is used to represent all types of buildings dedicated for Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller, privately-owned mosque and the larger, "collective" mosque ( masjid jami ), which has more community and social amenities.
The primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place where Muslims can come together for prayer. Nevertheless, mosques are known around the world nowadays for their general importance to the Muslim community as well as their demonstration of Islamic architecture. They have evolved significantly from the open-air spaces that were the Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Nabawi in the seventh century. Today, most mosques have elaborate domes, minarets, and prayer halls. Mosques originated on the Arabian Peninsula, but now one can find mosques on all six inhabited continents where Muslim communities exist. They are not only places for worship and prayer, but also places to learn about Islam and meet fellow believers.
A mosque is symbolically very important to Muslims, and is a humble way for man to recreate pure divine presence on earth. But mosques are not built according to divine patterns (as is alleged by many other religions) -- they are simply divinely guided. There are no very clear rules to what a mosque should look like, indicated in the central religious scriptures.
Mandatory elements to the mosque are that it clearly must indicate the direction to Mecca (this direction is called qibla). The indication is in most mosques a mihrab, a niche in the wall. The area in front of the mihrab must be roofed. In the wall of the mihrab there can be no doors. As for the other walls, there can be as many doors as the builders want.
There are two types of mosques: the main mosque is called jama'a , and is the one where the Friday prayer is performed. The jama'as are often richly adorned. In English, the term jama'a is rarely used; rather "Friday Mosque" or "Great Mosque" is the common term.
The other types of mosque are called masjid, and are local and smaller mosques. While these can be richly adorned, they can seldom be compared to the jama'as.
Masjid is a word meaning 'place for prostration' and was used by the early Muslims for houses of worship, even for other religions. Today the Arabic 'masjid', and the English 'mosque', is used exclusively for the religious houses of Islam. With the strong increase in jama c as (main mosques) from the 9th century, the term 'masjid' came more and more to be used for small and insignificant mosques.
Mosques are centre of cities, or of neighborhoods in cities. This function does not always have to be structured, but can be connected to mentality, and the establishment of a new mosque often makes a centre emerge. This mechanism was strong in older days, but is becoming more and more unusual.
Very few mosques lie in open areas, and very few mosques do not have shops and commercial activities in the streets around it. People's houses are often lying in a second "circle" outside the mosque and the shops. Other social functions have often been connected to mosques, schools, law courts, hospitals and lodging for travelers. This pattern is based upon the Madina mosque, but is of less importance today, as city planning more and more use Western models.
History And Development
The first mosque is the one in Mecca. It is built around on the area that surrounded the Ka'ba in pre-Islamic times. These mosques, and the Ka'ba, are the holiest shrines of Islam.
But the model of early mosques was the courtyard of the prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) house in Madina, which was constructed in 622 CE. This was organized with a qibla, which at first faced the direction of Jerusalem. To the left of this qibla, houses of Muhammad's family were erected. There were three entrances to the courtyard. An area of the courtyard was roofed, and here prayer was performed. After one and half years the direction of the qibla was changed, in order to face Mecca.
This Madina mosque had social, political, and judicial functions, in addition to housing Muhammad's (peace be upon him) family. The religious functions were mixed with other functions. Rules on how prayers should be performed seem to not have been defined during this first period, much because this was the period in which the Koran was revealed to Muhammad: the rules had not yet been given.
In addition to the early day mosques of Mecca and Madina, there are sources indicating other contemporary mosques in other towns.
Mosques soon grew into becoming more complex and uniform in their shape. A minbar , the pulpit, from where the Friday prayer is held, was placed next to the mihrab. Within few years after the death of Muhammad, mosques became such important symbols, that when Muslim conquerors established themselves somewhere, a mosque was put up first, and then the military camp was built around it. This building process was inspired by the Madina example. But in the cases where the Muslims conquered principal cities, they constructed their mosque in the place that was the centre of the religion of the conquered people.
In the beginning of Islam, tribes and sects in Islam often marked their independence or their purity by putting up mosques of their own or by defining a certain part of the mosque as their part. These patterns have changed up through history, but the situation today is not as tolerant as it might appear. Muslims of all creeds are in theory free to enter all mosques, but a Muslim of one orientation will in reality find mosques used by Muslims of other orientations inappropriate. A traveling Muslim will try to find a mosque, which is used by people belonging to his own creed, as defined usually from Sunni, Shi'i and Ibadi adherence. Mosques under control of the government or dominated by Islamists are considered inappropriate by many.
Most mosques today are closed to non-Muslims, but this was a regulation that was developed through the first century of Islam. There was an increase in the emphasis on the sanctity of the mosque, more and more elements of the mosque was regarded as sacred, and any mosque was commonly regarded as "bayt allah," "House of God."
80 years of development
The design of the mosques developed in short time from being very simple to becoming complex structures. In the first mosques in Hijaz there was minimal attention paid to the form of the mosques. The time of development of the mosque into the pattern that still applies lasted for a period as short as 80 years. The form of mosques was often the product of mix architectural shapes from the conquered territories and of the original pattern of Muhammad's (peace be upon him) mosque.
Introduction of the minaret
The first minaret (the tower from which the prayer callings were made) came probably in 703, in Kairouan, Tunisia, almost 80 years after the Madina mosque. But there are written material suggesting that minarets were erected as early as 665 CE.
The minaret was absent in the early mosques, and religious buildings of other religions inspired its addition. The main influence came probably from the churches of Syria.
The implementation of minarets was both for embellishment of the mosques, and for the functionality. High up in the minaret, the muezzin calls for prayer (adhan): it could be heard much further away than if it was performed from the roof of the mosque.
Still for some time after the introduction of the minaret, the adhan would be performed with the muezzin walking through the streets while calling for prayer.
The addition of adornments to the mosques was strongly discussed, and many Muslims opposed this process, and thought of it as a way of jeopardizing the purity of Islam, considered it as allowing foreign and Christian elements in.
Extensions of the use of the mosque
Over time, many rooms was added to the mosque, rooms used by people of different social classes, people performing their professions in the mosque, travelers, sick and old. Devout and ascetics lived often in the mosque, perhaps even in the minaret.
Other elements inside a mosque are :
Rulers have often built the mosques, and the administration of the mosques has been financed by waqfs , endowments bringing in revenues.
These waqfs were normally agricultural land, often administered by the donator, or members of his family, and could in some cases have a location far away from the mosque it financed. There could be more than one waqf to each mosque. Mosques with economic problems were often out looking for new donators.
While mosques officially have been under the rulers, direct control has been difficult, much because of the economic independence (through waqfs), as well as the mosques in popular opinion. The main donator, and his family, was in many cases legally considered the owner of the mosque. In other cases it was the qadi, the judge of Sharia, who acted as the main administrator, nazir, of the mosque. The power of the nazir was considerable, and the position of nazir has often given room for intense conflicts between individuals and groups.
The factual leader of salat in the mosques was the ruler, who held the title imam. Local administrators had a parallel position, with the title ala salat . The actual main leader of the mosque was the khatib. His role was to perform the salat of Fridays; sine the imam could not attend. This salat is called khutba. The khatib could be a qadi, and in larger mosques, several khatibs could be appointed.
Rules for Mosques
When entering the mosque, a person should take off his shoes or sandals. Entering the mosque shall be done with the right foot first, while one utters blessings to Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his family. Once inside the mosque, two rak'a (part of the salat) shall be performed. A person inside the mosque shall talk softly, not loudly, so that he or she does not disturb people praying. For the Friday prayer, nice clothes and perfumes are recommended. Mosques can be segregated, either in time, or in space. While the salat can be performed anywhere, it is considered more meritorious when performed in the mosque, i.e. together with other people. The Sunna states that salat in the mosque is 20 or 25 times more valuable than the one performed in the home.
The Friday prayer or sermon, khutba, is considered to be compulsory for all male Muslims. The regulations for the khutba developed over a long period, approximately two centuries.