Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reflections in a Marble floor

The Masjid that me and my father pray in is about a 2 minute ride from our house. It's where most of the muslims of our colony come to offer Namaaz. The Masjid started out as a tin shack about 15 years ago, when there were maybe a handful of people living here. It was an almost desolate area. There was no electricity; water had to be pumped from a government well; and the area was surrounded by a thick brush. Today--you're lucky if you can get a spot to stand without bumping into something or someone--that's how crowded its become. And, with the rise in population--there's also been a steady improvement in the accommodation for all of us to pray in. It was this desire for improvement that led the Mautamad Sahib to institute a collection drive so as to pay for the cost of constructing a proper mosque, and not the temporary raw structure that we all were praying out of. He didn't want to go to the wealthiest people of our society and ask them for a handout, and build the mosque in one fell swoop; he wanted to share the joy of contributing to the fund with all of the muslims, no matter how rich or poor they were. So if someone was able to donate a hundred Rupees, someone else would donate ten, and maybe another just one. And so, little by little, our little mosque got started. It wasn't an easy task--to keep the mosque running throughout the year as well as supervising the construction--especially since it was such a slow procedure because sometimes the donation box would not be as full as expected, and in such cases work would have to be slowed down a bit, but thankfully, Alhamdulillah, it never stopped. There was always someone to chip in. Like the founder of a cement factory who made sure that there was enough cement being supplied. Or the owner of a Timber yard who generously donated wood for the windows and the doors. And the Electrical shop gentleman who offered to do the wiring of the fans and the lights. And so, little by little--everything started to come together--albeit at a snail's pace, but a satisfactory one in the end. The work on the ground floor is almost complete, and we have a second floor that will soon be underway, Inshallah! The Wadhu Khana is large and spacious, with plenty of taps for people to sit in front of and make their ablution. There are toilets too for people to go and relieve themselves, which are kept neat and clean--hopefully--I haven't had the need to go and visit them yet, so I'm not sure if everything is in order, but by the looks of it--it should be. Of course, the most beautiful part is the interior... up until a few days ago (two or three to be precise) the floor of the mosque was still a little rough. The men who were hired to polish the marble flooring had been doing it for as long awhile as I can remember, and it always seemed to be quite dull and opaque no matter how much they worked on it. But, on entering the mosque last week for my Fajr prayers--what do I see--but the glistening white floor of the Masjid staring back at me. I was thunderstruck--it looked so beautiful. This entire space covered with a sea of white marble from one corner to the other, as pristine as a new born baby in its mother's lap. And the coolness of its touch after you've stepped in from the harsh summer sun--an oasis in the middle of a desert welcoming you into its fold...

[GLOSSARY OF TERMS: Masjid ~ Mosque; Namaaz ~ Prayer; Mautamad Sahib ~ The caretaker of the mosque; Wadhu Khana ~ Where Muslims do their cleansing ritual; Fajr ~ Morning Prayers]

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Brotherhood Of Islam

Today, at the mosque, we had two new brothers show up. They were standing at the entranceway of the masjid when I entered the gate, and just by the way they were carrying themselves--I knew that there was something different about them. I went into the Mosque, said my Salaat-ul-Taitul-Masjid prayers, and then waited for the Imam to begin the Maghrib Namaaz. As I was waiting, one of the two brothers (both of these two gentlemen looked very much alike, as if they were related to one another), stood in front of the microphone and recited the Adhaan. And what a beautiful call to prayer it was. I've never heard anything like it in a long, long while, and it made me remember the true joy of coming to the mosque--to experience these pleasures which one cannot at home, or anywhere else. The brother was young, maybe in his late twenties, and his voice was strong, crisp, and smooth.

After reciting the Adhaan, the other Brother who had accompanied him, took his position at the front of the Jamaat and started the Maghrib prayers, and his voice too was equally moving, if not more so. But what I enjoyed even more was praying behind this big, strong man, leading the congregation (he must've been over 6 foot tall, and well built too).

We usually have old men or young boys saying the Adhaan, so it was rejuvenating to have some new blood pumping through the mosque all of a sudden. And that too--with voices that were so different than the ones I usually hear; they sounded like they were from abroad, a muslim country perhaps, with an English educated undertone.

After the Maghrib prayers were over, the Imam Sahib then rose and sat on a chair, and began the lecture. It was about the importance of reading and studying the Quran. The Imam Sahib reminded us of how we as muslims have lost our way in this world because of our veering off the path that has been set for us in the Holy Quran. He told us how the muslims of today choose to read their Qurans only during the month of Ramadan, or when it is a Big Night, and then keep the book closed for the remaining 11 months of the year. And even though people read the Quran--how many of us actually practice what is being preached in it? This is the greatest sin of all. Because the Quran is the word of God, and anyone who does not obey it is contradicting the words of Allah (swt). (It is said that during the day of judgment, that the Quran will be present to bear witness to how much attention we'd given to it, and depending on the type of Muslims we are, and the hours that we've devoted to reciting the Quran--we will get rewarded for it. But, if we were not as generous with our study of the Quran, or had neglected it entirely--then we will have to deal with the terrible consequences of these actions. It is also said that anyone who attempts to learn the Quran, and passes away in the process of doing so--will automatically be considered a Hafiz). When this was revealed to the Sahabis by the Prophet--the older ones immediately started memorizing the Aayats--Subhanallah!

[GLOSSARY OF TERMS: Salaat-ul-Taitul-Masjid ~ Prayers said upon entering the mosque; Imam ~ The person who heads the congregation in prayer; Maghrib ~ Evening Prayers; Jamaat ~ The vertical rows of men standing for prayer; Hafiz ~ A muslim who has memorized the Quran from cover to cover; Sahabis ~ The people who saw the Prophet (swt) with their own eyes and lived with him during the emergence of Islam; Aayats ~ The verses of the Holy Quran]