LONDON – The Muslim Council of Britain brought together over 400 delegates to hear speakers and engage in workshops to help redefine the Muslim presence in the United Kingdom.
The initiative, based on the mosque being more than just a prayer space, is taking inspiration from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when the mosque wasn’t just a function of prayer, but a full-blown service providing food, shelter, entertainment, medical advice, and so much more.
Today many of these functions are delivered by our society through different institutions, and this should continue.
However, the mosque, like other religious institutions, should also become a destination for men and women to engage with both the local Muslim, as well as the local non-Muslim communities.
There are many reasons why mosques, not just in the United Kingdom but around the world, have been reduced to simply a place where some people go to pray, but in a continuously connected world, people need places to go where they can reconnect with their friends and their neighbors, whatever their religion.
The mosque, like the church, the synagogue, the Buddhist temple and so on, must always be more than just a place for spiritual contemplation. Our religious institutions must become hubs for engagement, addressing citizens’ concerns, providing community support, and so on.
It is no surprise that predominantly Muslim men and women gathered together at an institution built by Quakers in London. We sat together, we ate together, we laughed and joked together, we held serious conversations together.
Some men had beards, some did not, some women wore hijabs, some did not, dressed in garb from many cultures.
All of us are different. We take from religion what we feel adds value to our lives. This freedom, this diversity, and this richness are how we define both Islam and humanity. It is this collection of individual human preferences that enables all of us to find success in our lives.
Wherever we are in this world, whatever we believe in, we are all human beings. The better our mosques, our churches, our synagogues, any of our religious institutions are, the better all of our lives will become.