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A Code of Conduct for Establishing and Using Mosques

Since the mosque phenomenon represents the nucleus of the Muslim life and activities, a code of ethics for establishing and using it had to be created under the guardianship of Prophet Muhammad and divine revelation, lest some people might start misusing it, intentionally or otherwise, or might start developing a code of moral principles on their own which, as a rule, would have been dictated by the norms and rituals of the jahiliyyah (ignorance) era.

However, as the religion of Islam was revealed to the Prophet gradually and in stages, through instructions, responses and answers to various dilemmas and developments confronting the nascent Muslim community, introducing and fully activating the phenomenon of the mosque, the ground for the implementation of many a regulation and teaching of Islam, could not likewise be an exception to the rule of gradual revelation and application of Islam.

Such was a gradual process too, certainly no less painstakingly undertaken than the other aspects of Islam and its civilizational mission.

While subjecting the evolution of the mosque to the golden principles of gradation and educational transformation, the Prophet proved to be very sensitive and responsive to the needs and capacities of the young but fast expanding Muslim community.

In doing so, he was not hasty, impatient or autocratic. Rather, he was prudent, compassionate, resourceful and farsighted. He was the greatest teacher, pedagogue, reformer and psychologist.

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Definitely, the code of conduct for establishing and using mosques which was generated by Prophet Muhammad under the aegis of revelation, is universal and timeless, applying to every time and space, as it is the case with the whole corpus of Islamic beliefs, values and principles.

The following are some examples of the general and enduring code of ethics for the optimizing of establishing and using mosques, based on a blueprint provided by the Quran and the Prophet’s Sunnah, and whose ethos and credence were valid and in force not only during the Prophet’s time and immediately afterwards, but also in every subsequent age and generation, including ours.

  • Mosques are to be kept clean and tidy, for cleanliness is part of faith (iman). In and around every mosque, there should be enough facilities and resources meant for the purpose. The Prophet’s mosques had water jugs, both inside and outside, which were regularly supplied with water for the cleanliness of the mosque and also the people. Some water wells near the mosque served the same objective.

Mosques are to be perfumed, especially during some special occasions, such as Friday Jumu’ah prayers. The Prophet (pbuh) said that the rewards of his people had been presented before him, so much so that even the reward for removing a mote by a person from the mosque was presented to him (Sunan Abi Dawud).

At the beginning, however, some people were not cleanliness-conscious and they needed some time to develop certain manners. They were most likely of those who had freshly entered the fold of the new religion.

Among other things, they had a habit of spitting phlegm inside the mosque without doing away with it afterwards, or covering it up. The Prophet (pbuh) disliked the habit very much. Nevertheless, the habit needed to be overcome gradually and with a great deal of wisdom and good counsel.

The Prophet (pbuh) thus advised such as were prone to doing this that phlegm be scraped off and the dirtied places be overlaid with saffron (za’faran) or anything pleasant and fragrant.

The Prophet (pbuh) himself on a couple of occasions scraped off some people’s spits after having seen that they had been left behind. He would likewise shower with praises those who did the same (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

Towards this end is a hadith or a tradition wherein the Prophet (pbuh) said that whoever does away with a disturbance from the mosque, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise (Jannah) (Sunan Ibn Majah).

During the Prophet’s era, an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) woman later took up the chore of looking after the cleanliness of the Prophet’s mosque (some believe it was a man). So high a regard did the Prophet (pbuh) have for her that he told her one day that a double portion of reward awaits her.

When she died, some people treated her affairs as of little account and buried her without informing the Prophet (pbuh). Nonetheless, on discovering that she was missing, the Prophet (pbuh) asked concerning her. When told what had happened, he replied that they should have informed him. Then, he asked to be shown her grave where he prayed for her (Sahih al-Bukhari).

As a small digression, prior to the Hijrah (migration), Madinah is said to have been a dirty place, which the Migrants from Makkah could hardly come to terms with. Hence, the Prophet (pbuh) ordered that the city be cleaned and its dirt and filth removed.

Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, said:

“We came to Madinah and it was the most polluted land of Allah. The water there was stinking.” In order that the rigorous Islamic cleanliness requirements could be met in a sustainable manner, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also asked his companions to dig wells in different parts of the city. It is reported that more than 50 wells were opened in the city of Madinah and there was enough clean water for everyone.

  • The Prophet said that no admittance to the mosque was allowed for those who have eaten beforehand of either of the two: garlic and onion (Sahih al-Bukhari).

The hadith message, however, comprises not only these two vegetable plants, because of their strong smell and flavor, but also everything else, eaten or worn, the smell of which may in one way or another disturb the people. Towards this end are the Prophet’s words:

Were it not hard on my ummah (community), I would order them to use the tooth-stick (to brush teeth) at the time of every prayer (Sunan Abi Dawud).

Read Part 2.

About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].