My vision of an ideal mosque is that of a Mosque that seeks to reclaim three important domain of human culture and civilisation: They are:
1. Education; religious and academic
2. Family: entertainment, sport and art
3. Civic society; politics and media
The mosque is the training college people who have aspirations to serve God and the community. They should be provided support, encouragement and opportunities to use their God-Given talent for changing society. They are provided mentors, guides and leadership to fulfil their role.
It is not sufficient for one to be a regular attendee or a good member of congregation but to have the yearnings to transform one self and others. That will then be a true Muslim, who is, Bashir: Giver of Good news, Nazir: Warner, Dai: Inviter to truth , Shaheed: Witness for truth. The biggest question is does your mosque have such a comprehensive and holistic approach. Does the leadership believe in the members’ capacity to achieve their potential?
The serious challenge or a short coming of many leaders is their inability to make namazi’s good students, or disciples. When you passionately believe that the mosque is there to train people to become agents of change then that mosque will become the hub of the community – it will play a prominent role in community building. This is the perspective that mosques need to grasp, where they are dynamic, outward looking, people orientated, God-centred and following the Sunnah.
Mosque and Civil Society
In Britain the state runs the country, it is responsible for providing services like education, health, social and recreation. Nearly 60% of the individuals income goes to the state as taxes. However, the family institution is also important and exerts a huge influence on the individual and the society. In between these two powerful institutions state and the family is a third very influential player that is the civil society. This is independent of the state, it is the engagement of community with each other, its community at its best where it tackles its own issues independently of the state. It’s a sign of community vibrancy and true social capital of any society. For religiously active Muslims the mosque is an important institution that influences the civil society.
In the inner city terraced houses where the majority of Muslims live you will find rows upon rows of the Victorian houses. And somewhere in those terraced houses you will find one, which is converted into a Mosque. Muslim areas have their own shopping malls, restaurants and even small factories. However there is one place, which give them a real sense of community and that is the local Mosque. Statistics shows that nearly 90% of adult Muslims pray Juma.
The local Mosque has always been the hub of the community. From the time of the Messenger (s.a.w) it has played a pivotal role in community. At once it was the place of worship, a School (the suffa), a sports hall, a court, a place of marriage, advice centre, welfare office, Institute of strategic planning, and so much more.
In British society the Mosque is three distinct spaces rolled into. Firstly, and most importantly a place of worship where devotees can practice and develop their spirituality. Secondly it is a centre of learning for the young and the old. And thirdly it is a public place for meeting, social intercourse, bring people together and sustain integrated recreational activities, place of funeral and marriage and festivals. The Mosque is the operational base for community building. It is where Muslims can cooperate and support young and old people to build healthier and multi faith society. The benefit of such mosques can be summarized as follows:
1. This is an effective vehicle for social change.
2. It binds people around a common faith and shared vision for society.
3. Provides cultural values and an Islamic atmosphere, i.e. an alternative culture. This offers protection from the onslaught of any dominant immoral and corrupt culture that may exist in society.
4. It pools talents, resources and efforts for promoting good and checking wrong in society. It increases social and political capacity enabling effective actions for building a just and moral society.
5. Provides the continuing spiritual, moral intellectual and social development of its members, so as to support them in becoming competent citizens and leaders of society.
A Mosque Based Learning Centre
Our success is due to (of course fadhlalah, enabling Divine grace) being clear about our aims, understanding the context of a modern society, focusing on the next generation, without alienating the elders and finally working in partnership with local government, council etc.
What are the characteristic features of such mosques?
Providing moral, social and spiritual development of the individual through worship, education and recreation.
1. Sense of individual worth
2. Justice and equality
3. Mutual cares and concerns
4. Sensitive to the needs of others and generosity in efforts for others
5. To work with integrity and honesty and give good value in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and economy
To build God conscious, compassionate and just society that provides its members a balanced way of life encompassing inner and outer development of the person. The belief and values of Islam are coherent set of principles for successful and peaceful society. These values inspire and guide people to focus on goodness and refrain from evil. There by providing a means of nurturing good citizens.
Understanding the context
The institute runs the two mosques, a nursery, primary and secondary shools as well as following projects;
A library, supplementary classes, adult education courses in English, IT dress making, Arabic,, Islamic studies, art and craft.
The institution has developed working relationship with local council, LEA, Police, PCT’s and FE colleges and interfaith council. The Institute recognizes the responsibilities of working in the deprived inner city areas with multiple deprivations; educational underachievement, unemployment, poor housing, asylum seekers, and high crime rates etc. The Institute provides vital services for the groups(see attached diagram).
We believe that good family life helps to build stronger and healthy communities. Therefore we provide pre and post marital advice and guidance as well as parenting seminars.
The Building Bridges project sponsored by the Home Office has played an important role in educating the city about Islam and in tackling Islamophobia, 20,000 leaflets about Islam were distributed to local schools and city council departments.
Teenagers are the most vulnerable group and gullible to the materialistic temptations. They deserve special attention, as they are the future of the community. At Karimia our youth work is not about tackling disaffection but more of prevention nature by providing learning environment recreational activities and camps, these activities attract many youngsters who would otherwise be on streets. We want to inspire the young and train them to be good citizens that can be a positive force for social change.
At Karimia our focus has been around three areas:
i. Raising educational achievements of school children through tutorial classes, home work clubs, SAT and GCSE revision classes and 3 weeks long summer school.
ii. Developing confidence through sports. We run coaching sessions form football and cricket throughout the year, Karate and Aerobics for women.
iii. Moral and spiritual development through Islamic studies, Quranic classes and Lectures.
Nearly 850 young people per week attend these programs
We cannot do everything by ourselves since we may not have the expertise or the resource. Therefore we have to work the others. However this requires outward looking and open minded organisation, which is willing to work with others and share its resources. Partnership are particularly effective for broader aims. We have been funded by the following:
SRB, several trusts, LEA, Primary health care group and we have had a fruitful partnership with the Pakistan Centre (with the help of LSC who have provided us with a fundraising manager for our projects). We formed TEEP (training, education and employment partnership). At Karimia, we have gone down this road of working in partnerships and accepting funding form statutory and no statutory funders.
The following points I think are valuable for anyone contemplating partnerships. There is a need to educate others, statutory bodies and fund providers about the nature of our work, the successes, services offered and concern for those who support our work. The best evidence of a success of any project is of course testimonials from recipients.
It is important to emphasise the facts that the organisations work does not only produce good in an individuals lives but it produces many goods for the wider society.
However the work that is funded by others may be minutely scrutinized to ensure accounts are carefully managed and serious probing questions will be asked about the success, costs and management and to track funds. Furthermore these funds cannot be used for Dawa work proselytising and to discriminate against anyone.
However those people who assume this tremendous burden and responsibility may already have heightened sense of responsibility. In fact their religious fervour demand they have a higher level of accountability, responsiveness and commitment than secular agencies. I certainly have noticed this in Karimia where my managers go beyond their call of service. Most have joined us because they are driven by faith to help and serve others. It will not be an exaggeration to say most of us view service to others as means of realising our faith. I hope that our secular friends and agencies will notice this commitment to faith and the important role it plays in people’s life. As a consequence of this dedication to serve otherwise extremely efficiently in other words very cost effective.