Masjid survival: 5 common scenarios and how to handle them
By Michelle Yeung
The first time I attended Friday prayers at a masjid was a slightly nerve-racking experience. I had tried to prepare by memorizing the etiquette of the masjid and the expected order of the Friday congregation beforehand. However, there are still those unwritten norms that you won’t read about in books; simple questions like “where do I place my purse?”
These norms are usually quickly picked up by observing others, but sometimes the situation requires more consideration, and can be more challenging to always act in a way that can be deemed proper, when in the house of Allah.
These are 5 common scenarios that I have witnessed at various masjids and some advice that I have come across:
1. “You’re praying incorrectly….”
Whether it’s your elbows, your back, or your feet not touching your neighbours, it’s not uncommon that a well-meaning person will want to teach you how to pray “correctly”.
The key to dealing with this scenario is being firm in the knowledge that you do have, and some may recommend ensuring that one is aware of the associated hadith for the rulings that one follows. This isn’t so that we can debate with others, but rather so that one’s own heart is firm.
If you have any doubts concerning the prayer, be sure to consult a scholar who has knowledge of this subject.
2. Washroom wars
As a convert who was brought up a christian, I had always had the idea that religious houses are the most immaculate, orderly and peaceful spaces on Earth. It was a little difficult to hide my surprise and confusion during my first few visits to masjids. We are all aware of the details, so there is no need for me to mention them here; but what can one do if one finds oneself faced with an unpleasant washroom situation?
- Try not to think ill of others. It’s easy to conclude that the person who did this, must be as you would think of yourself to be, had you done it (i.e. dirty, inconsiderate, and disrespectful). Chances are it could have been, and probably was, a young child.
- Clean things up as much as you reasonably can. Leave the water jug full (not with boiling hot or freezing cold water) when you leave. If necessary, find out if the masjid has a cleaning attendant who is present and who could help.
- Don’t let it spoil your mood. Remember why you came to the masjid in the first place, and focus on your worship. Cleaning the masjid is an act of worship in itself, so be pleased that you were presented with the opportunity.
3. Cell phones singing during the prayer
Most people these days own a cell phone. It’s going to happen every now and then that somebody forgets to turn their phone off and it rings during the prayer. The only reasonable thing you can do in that situation is to do your best to not let it interfere with your own prayer. Afterwards a good habit to adopt is to make du’a for the person whose phone it was, that Allah have mercy on them and guide them, as we ourselves would love to be guided had we made the same mistake (which most of us probably have, if not at the masjid, then during a lecture or somewhere else).
4. “This is a mosque, there’s nothing for women here!”
The first time I was told this left me literally in tears. It was very hurtful to have been reaching out to the local community, my new brothers and sisters, only to be quite harshly rejected. After a while, I did come to realise that this was a view point of the minority, and that most masjids don’t hold such a policy.
Alhamdulillah, the large majority of masjids do welcome sisters, and accommodate us very well. If you do find yourself in such a situation though, and you do need to pray in the masjid (when travelling for example), try to:
- Be accommodating yourself. If the brothers just aren’t comfortable with you praying in the main prayer hall with them (and there isn’t a sister’s area), ask about an empty office or another space you can quietly pray on your own. Remember, you don’t have to pray in a masjid, so even if you don’t agree with their stance, be flexible and accommodate them.
- Be humble and modest. Don’t start arguing with the brothers there, and don’t raise your voice. The point is, to offer your prayer on time for the sake of Allah, not to win an argument.
- Always observe appropriate dress.
The same could apply to a brother whose wife is not being permitted entry. In addition, if travelling with your wife, always plan out your prayer stops before hand, and call to make sure the masjids you plan to stop at accommodate sisters. You cannot complain about other brothers not being considerate to your wife if you haven’t considered her needs yourself.
5. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it
Try to be prepared for a fellow worshiper asking you for something, whether it be a physical item or general help or directions. This scenario might not be all that common at the masjid, in fact, people are more often trying to give you something, but if the opportunity does come up to assist a fellow sister or brother, why miss out because you are not prepared?
- Information about the prayer times – try to have these on hand
- Pen and paper
- If the person sat next to you in the congregation passes you a mushaf, it usually means they are passing it along to ultimately be placed back on the shelf.
- Try to make space for others joining the group.
- Headscarf to pray in or scarf pin / toiletries and hygiene products (sisters)
The underlying points to remember when at the masjid, is that in any situation you find yourself in, do your best to:
- Respect the space even more than you would your own home
- Respect and be considerate to the other people present, and never think ill of them
- Make your intention to worship Allah, and always act in accordance with this intention
(updated: 9/02/2011 23:55. Minor edits)