Alhamdulillah, I’ve been blessed to pray, study and live in amazing Masjids. I have made long-lasting friends and been exposed to the reality of this world. I’ve had moments of joy in Mosques & I’ve seen some of the most hilarious stuff ever. So I thought I shine a light on how the beauty of a Masjid can have such a lasting effect on an individual.
What is a Masjid
A Masjid is not constrained to being a place of worship only. It is the House of Allah; once you enter, you seek sanctuary from the troubles of everyday life, whether that be just seeking a place for reflection or trying to seek an answer to life's tough questions.
A masjid is a fundamental institution of a Muslim community because it is a means of solving disputes, empowering the helpless, opening hearts, bringing families together, and helping those seeking guidance.
For that reason, it is incumbent upon a Masjid to understand their community and find the right balance in adapting to contemporary times whilst also remaining firm with Islamic principles. It is a challenging job, but Allah never places challenges beyond a persons capability.
“God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear”
My first memory of a Masjid was when I was six, and it was my first day of Madrasa. My mum didn’t inform me that I’ll be embarking on a six-year journey of going to Tooting Islamic Center Monday till Friday after school from 17:00 till 19:00.
On my first day, I entered the classroom with my mum. My mother sits beside me. The teacher explains the syllabus to my mother and the rest of the parents. Suddenly my mum stands up and begins to say goodbye.
I can’t ultimately remember why I cried soo hard, but I think it was the shock of not knowing my mum was leaving me in this unknown environment and not knowing when I would see my mum next.
I was six, so it is what it is. As time went on, I recovered.
It was 19:00, and the end of the class was approaching, so my teacher got us all prepared to go to the main assembly hall, at which point we’ll reconvene with our parents. As we left the classroom, my eyes turned left and fixated on the entrance I entered the Masjid that day. I don’t know, but my body & soul told me to stay in that position, even though my classmates and teacher had all left me to go to the assembly hall. I remember just standing there visualising and knowing that my mother would come through those doors and pick me up & that happened. My mum walked through that entrance door, and a massive wave of relief just flowed through my body. I ran down the stairs to hug my mum, and we headed home.
That mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement of anticipating your loved one being there is extremely peculiar.
Regent Street Masjid was a 45min to one hour drive away from my house. But the adventurer that my father was would always be happy to drive down to the Masjid to join in Taraweeh. We would finish breaking our fast, and then we would all as a family get in the car and drive through the heart of London to the Masjid.
Regent Street Masjid is beautiful; seeing the bright chandeliers on the ceiling as you walk in captivates your heart. I do hold a strong affection to Regent Street; despite not being my local Masjid, it was the only Masjid I could clearly remember praying Taraweeh and Eid prayer alongside my father. Every step I take as soon as I enter the gates of the Masjid, I recollect every memory that I shared with my father and brothers, visualising every moment in my head.
One moment which I always found funny. We went to Taraweeh, and my youngest brother didn’t know how to pray correctly. He was essentially doing jumping jacks, and a. older man beside him got annoyed. So once we left the masjid and waited by the gates for my Mother, the old man saw my dad and aggressively said, ‘Your son doesn’t know how to pray. Why did you bring him?’
My dad smiled at the older man and started talking with him. I can’t remember what my dad said, but the conversation ended with them laughing and the older man tapping my youngest brother on the head and leaving us with a smile and salaam. That day I learnt from my father don’t react to fire with fire; try to find the funny things in life and control your pride despite what’s in front of you.
With that commotion over, we waited for my mum. At the time, I didn’t know, but my dad decided that we only pray eight rakats and go home. So we’re waiting for my mum by the gates of the Masjid. Time is ticking, and my mum is not appearing. My brother and I began playing in the courtyard and with other kids whilst my dad just stood there leaning on the wall waiting for my mother.
My dad was getting more frustrated by the minute. Then suddenly he said to all three of us, ‘You know your Mama was Christian before’. I don’t know what he meant by that. Did he intend to highlight my mum's dedication to Islam or criticise my mum?
All three of us were dead silent. We didn’t know how to reply to that. In my head, I was just like rah. I wouldn’t have guessed it.
My mum then appeared. My dad explained the situation to my mum, emphasising his annoyance. Alhamdulillah, he didn’t make too much of it. As we drove home, I kept thinking about why my dad had said what he said. I, later on, asked my mum if what my dad said was true, and my mother gave me a full breakdown of her side of the family.
My brothers and I arrived on the men's side early for Isha. All the men were downstairs talking and relaxing after just having their Iftar. So my brothers and I decided to play tag; after exhausting ourselves, we sat beside each other, just talking. As we were talking, an older man walked by. He said Salaam, and in unison, we replied with Salaam back. Then he stopped and turned towards us, smiling. He then said in his Guyanese accent, ‘You boys came early.’ None of us knew how to reply, so we just all nodded in agreement. The old man followed up, asking, ‘Where is your dad?’
Immediately my throat swelled up. The older man suddenly began to seem taller whilst I felt smaller and smaller. I can only imagine how my brothers felt since it was the first time I can remember someone asking us about our father since his passing.
None of us replied, and the older man just left it at that and walked away. Allah knows best what he assumed, but honestly, I was relieved he didn’t press us on that question.
Thirteen years later, the older man and I chat about Surah Kahf after the Jummah prayer. I don’t think he remembered me, nor did I bring it up, but it was nice to know that we grew with each other through the Masjid. The Uncle passed away a couple of years ago; May Allah grants him Jantual Firdaws.
I know I’ve started very morbidly, but that is not a reflection of how I feel about the Masjid. But it’s the reality of the situation as I have grown up. Good and bad monumental memories have been forged in that Masjid. Which makes me cherish every time I go through those doors, put away my shoes, climb those stairs, and sit on that red carpet. I reflect on the time that has passed and the people that have gone and thank Allah for allowing me to see the next day.
The Masjid is beautiful in its diversity. You see Muslims from all over the world, which emphasises that Islam is a religion of not one ethnicity. My friends have reverted in that Masjid. I’ve had Halaqah sessions in that Masjid. I’ve witnessed arguments in that Masjid (Ramadan people get extremely tetchy). I’ve seen fights. But Alhamdulillah that Masjid has bought me such blessing in my life, and I can thank Imam Zahir and the committee for taking on that Amanah and fulfilling it to the best of their ability.
I lived in a Masjid for two years. It sounds odd, but it’s true. So the house I lived in was constructed beside the Masjid, so my room was above where the Imam led the prayer. All I had to do to enter the Masjid was walk down a few steps, push the door, and be in the House of Allah. Crazy right.
The Masjid was in the center of the University, so it was easy for me to fulfil my religious duties and educational commitments. But this Masjid goes beyond that. Whilst living there, I made lifetime friends, I got exposed to the plethora of Muslim student movements. In my 2nd year, I was South Chair of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which allowed me to travel to several universities in the South of England to help and support Islamic societies. In my third year, I became the President of my Islamic Society. I partook in many initiatives and events with the birth of many successful ideas being conjured up in that Masjid.
That Masjid was where my friends and I sought sanctuary to the challenging journey that university life can be. We supported one another, whether in life, education, or religion. We helped the Canterbury community by fostering a stronger connection with other members of society. We also gained wisdom from older international students who educated us on the importance of ‘five before five’ and educated us on what mistakes we should look to avoid in life.
I always said to my housemates,
Take full advantage of living above a Masjid because this could be the means which save us from the hellfire.
Overall, I have been blessed to have journeyed through many beautiful Masjids, but I’m not naive to the failings of Masjids, especially in regards to women, so more needs to be done in ensuring that Masjids reflect what Allah intended them be and In Sha Allah, a vital institution for all communities.
All I can ask from you reading this is, please make dua for those who put in time and effort in maintaining these beautiful Houses of Allah and where you can donate to support them in their activities.