By Dr. Hatem AlHaj
Religious & Social
A tour through the masjid of the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his time may help us rid ourselves of this false conviction.
1- Talking and socializing in the masjid of the Prophet
Jabir ibn Samurah (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“He (peace be upon him) would not rise from his place where he prayed subh (the Dawn Prayer) until the sun rises, and when it rose, he would then stand up. They used to chat with one another, even about matters that happened to them in Jahiliyyah (before Islam), and they would laugh and he (peace be upon him) would smile.” (Muslim and Ahmad, and in Ahmad’s report, Jabir said that he witnessed this more than one hundred times)
2- Eating in the masjid of the Prophet
`Abdullah ibn Al-Harith (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“We used to eat bread and meat in the masjid during the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).” (Ibn Majah)
3- Playing in the masjid of the Prophet
`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:
“I have seen the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) one day at the door of my house, while the Abyssinians were playing in the masjid, and the Messenger of Allah was covering me with his garment to watch their playing.” (Agreed Upon)
4- Sleeping over and staying in the masjid of the Prophet
`Abdullah Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) told us that before his marriage, he used to sleep in the masjid of the Prophet. (Agreed Upon; Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
`A’ishah also told us that a tent was set up for an emancipated black girl in the masjid. (Al-Bukhari)
It is also known that Ahl As-Suffah used to stay in the masjid, and they were about seventy men, as reported by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him). (Al-Bukhari)
5- Tending to the sick in the masjid:
“Sa`d ibn Mu`adh was wounded on the day of the Battle of Trench, so the Messenger of Allah set up a tent for him so that he may be close to him to visit him (often).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Women at the Masjid of the Prophet
The Messenger of Allah was well aware of the praiseworthy protective jealousy of the men of his nation. Still, he was careful not to let this protectiveness become a reason for Muslim women to be deprived of the chance to visit the house of their Lord. On the authority of Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet said:
“Do not prevent Allah’s slave-women from going to Allah’s mosques.” (Muslim)
Even though the Prophet indicated in an authentic hadith (reported by Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim, Ibn Khuzaymah, and others) that it is better for a woman to pray in her home than to pray in the masjid, the mothers of the believers and the believing women used to go out to the masjid of the Prophet!
They wouldn’t do what is inferior, so they must have understood that this instruction is to say that women are not meant to go to the masjid five times a day like men, and to assure women who need to be at home, that they will not miss the reward of jama`ah (congregational).
The reward of their praying at home will be greater than their prayer at the masjid, but this applies to situations when there is nothing to do at the masjid but prayer. If there are other benefits such as learning, for example, then it may be better, overall, to pray at times at the masjid.
Children at the Masjid of the Prophet
Imam Ahmad reported from Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said:
“The Messenger of used to lead the people in prayer, and Al-Hassan ibn ‘Ali would jump on his back when he prostrated, and he did that more than once.” (Ahmad)
Bukhari and Muslim also reported from Abu Qatadah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah prayed at the masjid while carrying Umamah bint Zaynab, and he would put her down when he made sujud (prostration).
As expected, it was not only the Prophet who brought his children to the masjid. The Prophet would even shorten his prayers at times when he heard the crying of a child, out of mercy for his mother.
Non-Muslims Entering the Masjid
It is known that the Prophet used to receive the delegations in the masjid. It has also been reported that a delegation of the Christians of Najran stayed over at his masjid. It was also reported ” that Thumamah ibn Uthal was kept in the masjid for a few days”. (Al-Bukhari)
Muslims should reach out to everyone around them, and we should invite them to the masjid. Seeing it from inside, and watching the Muslims pray together, is likely to remove much of the fear generated by the anti-Muslim forces to define peoples’ perception of Islam and its people. The masjid should be a center for Shari`ah-compliant interfaith communication and dialogue.
Furthermore, we should initiate, participate in, and further all activities of benefit for the communities we live in. If the Islamic center has the appropriate facilities, meetings to discuss issues of common interest should be held at the masjid, such as neighborhood safety endeavors, drug-free zones, and the like.
Having said all of that, it is paramount that we put all of these reports in their right context and understand that the main function of the masajid (mosques) is still salah and dhikr. The Messenger of Allah said to the man who urinated in the masjid that the mosques have not been built for such purposes; they were built for the remembrance of Allah and establishment of the prayers.
The Prophet forbade all activities that will impede the proper establishment of these functions, to the point that he forbade people who ate garlic or onion from coming to the masjid in order to provide the best environment for those who seek to worship their Lord and engage in His munajah (subtle conversation).
It is therefore important that we keep the masajid clean and decrease the distractions as much as possible. If we could move some of these functions outside the prayer hall (masjid proper) to nearby rooms, then that would be warranted.
The children must also be instructed about the etiquettes of the masjid. If possible, we should designate areas for them where they could be best tended to and positively entertained.
Dr. Hatem AlHaj is an AMJA scholar, a pediatrician and a PhD in Islamic Shariah.