The Role of the Mosque
The vast majority of mosques currently serve as places of worship,
for breaking the fast during Ramadan, and little else. Whilst these
services were considered priority some 20/30 years ago when most
mosques were initially established the community has now moved on
and mosques must develop to meet the changing needs of the community
and its new generations.
Mosques tend to be very male-oriented and not particularly hospitable
to non-Muslims. If mosques be going to perform a useful function
for the community as a whole they need to open their doors and provide
a more welcoming environment to women, youth, mothers with young
children, and non-Muslims interested in finding out about Islam.
Our paramount need is to have a lively community atmosphere vibrant
Many problems surrounding the current role of mosques stem from
the use of imported Imams and their catastrophic lack of understanding
of the cultural and social norms of the host country. This can often
lead to a mosque becoming detached from the everyday needs of its
members and results in very little activity outside of prayer-timings.
Whilst a well-educated, knowledgeable Imam is an important asset
to any mosque it is also vital that he understand and can engage
with the community he serves.
It is a source of shame that frequently mosques are under-resourced
and under-funded. We need to overcome this and make mosques active
so each mosque becomes the beating heart of the community. A mosque
is more than a mere place of worship; mosque facilities should comprise
a cafeteria, a sports facility, a library, classrooms, Halal food
store, a crèche facility, etc. The mosque should be a place
for social encounter providing opportunities for the elderly and
the youth, measures that shall enable it to function in a diversity
of roles but always serving and adjusting to the community’s
needs. This way, the mosque may be enabled to reassume its traditional
place at the heart of Muslim society.
The Muslim Parliament has launched the “Focus on Mosques”
project in order to:
- Create awareness in the community that mosques should be more
than a place of worship but should be the focal point of the community,
providing services to the community, and also welcoming non-Muslims.
- Identify gaps in service provisions by mosques and develop
a strategy for implementation of new ideas, e.g.:
- remedial courses for Imams – some system of qualification
(ijaza)/ recognition of ability
- provide supplementary education classes
- register mosques as a place for the solemnisation of civil
- provide counselling for domestic abuse, forced marriages,
- arrange visits to schools, providing talks for RE classes
- organise social/sporting events
- Encourage dialogue between Imams and community organisations
in order to build alliances with such organisations with a view
to facilitating change. Utilise resources within the community,
i.e., identifying people with certain skills: teachers who could
run tutorial classes at the weekend, lawyers to establish legal
clinics, doctors, counsellors, etc.
Before launching this project, the Muslim Parliament commissioned
a consultation paper on the role of the mosque in Britain to highlight
problems, suggest solutions and explore the way forward for mosques
in 21st-century Britain.