The role of the mosque in community building and promoting citizenship amongst young Muslims

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In the inner city terraced houses where the majority of Muslims live, you will find rows upon rows of 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 gives 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 (peace be upon him) it has played a pivotal role in the 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, bringing people together and sustaining 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 summarised as follows:

1. An effective vehicle for social change.

2. 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 fadhl-ullah – 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.

Core values

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

Aims

To build God conscious, moral and a just society. A comprehensive and a balance 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. Thereby providing a means of nurturing good citizens.

It’s important to develop working relationships with local council, LEA, Police, PCT’s and FE colleges and interfaith councils.

I believe that good family life helps to build stronger and healthy communities. Therefore the mosque should also provide pre and post marital advice and guidance as well as parenting seminars.

Youth work

Teenagers are the most vulnerable group and gullible to the materialistic temptations. They deserve special attention, as they are the future of the community. Youth work is not about tackling disaffection but more of prevention nature by providing a learning environment, recreational activities and camps. We want to inspire the young and train them to be good citizens by giving them a sense of direction and mission. So that they can be a positive force for social change. Youth activities will attract many youngsters who would otherwise be on the streets.

Partnerships

We cannot do every thing by ourselves since we may not have the expertise or the resources. Therefore we have to work with others. However this requires outward looking and open minded organisations, which are willing to work with others and share resources. Partnerships are particularly effective for broader aims.

The following points I think are valuable for anyone contemplating partnerships. There is a need to educate others, statutory bodies and funding 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.

However those people who assume this tremendous burden and responsibility may already have heightened sense of responsibility. In fact their religious fervour demands they have a higher level of accountability, responsiveness and commitment than secular agencies. I certainly have noticed this in Muslim organisations where managers/staff go beyond their call of service. Most have joined 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. May Allah give us the ability to develop our mosques further so that they can serve the needs of our community.