Building a mosque is a prophetic and Islamic tradition of Muslim Communities. One of the first things that the Prophet Mohammed "Peace be upon him" did when he entered Medina, is to build a mosque, the mosque of Quba. Subsequently wherever the Muslim's have gone, they have built a Mosque for their needs in that community.
When I came to this country in 1969, there were not more than 50 Mosques but, yes Islam is growing and now there are 2,000 Mosques. But, is it the number of Muslims or the number of Mosques which reflects the true parameters in the strength of Islam? Unless we build a community around the mosque to support and maintain the Mosque and strengthen the community, the mosque itself will not protect the community.
Thus we see that at the peak of communist rule in Russia, there were only 400 mosques left in the whole of the USSR while during the revolution in 1914, there were 24, 000. Most of these mosques under communist operations were closed on week days and open only for Friday Prayer or Sundays. 700 mosques in Bosnia were destroyed by Serbs and there are many mosques in India that have been left behind, abandoned, or converted to Hindu Temples.
Let us ask ourselves, why do we need a mosque to begin with? After all, a Muslim can pray at home and his home is his mosque where he can live a comfortable Islamic life with himself and his family. However, we must remember that Islam is a religion to be practiced collectively therefore, all good things if they are done together has more of a reward than the same things done alone. Never in the Quran does Allah address Muslims as believer but, always as believers.
Thus we are supposed to pray collectively in a congregation and participate in other acts of worship like fasting and hajj together. Therefore, we do need a mosque for collective prayer. Many of the well established mosques in the country started with either a rented house,apartment, or basement of a house or even a garage. By growth of the community and their motivation, there are full fledged mosques.
But is the mosque only for prayers? No. The mosque is the center for all Islamic activity as it used to be in the mosques of the Prophet in Medina. In these mosques, not only prayers took place, but it was a school of knowledge where companions used to study the Quran and ask questions. It was a place for the Government to receive delegations from foreign countries. It was a treasury from which charity work was done and it was a war-room where decisions and planning for wars imposed on Muslims were made.
In fact, the mosque extended to the care of the needy and orphans, and the sick as well as a place for giving D'awa to non Muslims.
Thus we need our mosques not only to be a place of prayer but, a place for seeking Islamic Knowledge for Muslims and non Muslims, and there should be formal classes for newly converted Muslims to ease them into Islam.
It should be a place where our children can receive an Islamic education combating the secular education of their public schools. It should be a place where community social functions can take place with Islamic guidelines whether it is an Iftar party, eid party, marriage, or aqeeqa ceremony that takes place. It should be a place where Muslim men can socialize with other Muslim men and women with women, young boys with young boys, and girls with girls. Not necessarily in the prayer area but, in other areas of the mosque.
Muslims should have in their mosque a reference library where they can go and study Islam. From the mosque, there should be collection and distribution of all Sadaqa and Zakat. In addition to Sunday School and full time Islamic school, there should be day time and evening coaching classes for students in high school and knowledgeable teachers and professionals in the community should coach our students so that they can do a better job with their grades and provide some career counseling. Within each community, there are many Muslim physicians,male and female thus, I propose that in each mosque there should incorporate a free medical clinic which can meet after Friday Prayer or after Sunday school. Where Muslims without insurance or those who are in need of emergency help can receive treatment.
If our resources increase, we can open these clinics even to non-Muslims and that would be the best form of D'awa. Another role of the free health clinic, is to provide education to Muslim men and women about health care, preventive aspects, and emergency care like first aid. Screening for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol can also be done in this clinic on a regular basis. I propose that in each mosque there should be one room for exercise which can be alternated on days for use between men and women. For Muslim men when they want to exercise, it is easy because they can put on shorts and start jogging in the streets. We do not want our women to do the same. Therefore, we must care for their health by providing them an exercise facility in privacy. To furnish an exercise room is not that expensive; less than $5,000.
Should we allow non-Muslims to come to our mosque or not. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did allow non Christian delegations not only to come and talk to him about Islam but, he allowed them to stay and pray in their own way too. This is Islamic compassion. Doctor Muzzamil Siddiqui, President of ISNA, also wrote a paper in this response agreed to allow the non-Muslims to come to the Mosque. We want to make sure of several things as safeguards.The first is that people do not come in the prayer area. The second is that the women should dress in modesty.
Therefore, if one knows of a certain non-Muslim delegation whether it is a church, interfaith or school coming in, one may want to send them some material regarding the Islamic concept of modesty. Many times, people are ignorant about Islamic customs and that is no reason to shun them away but, we must educate them.
D'awa to non-Muslims is a necessity and a tool of survival. Imam Fakhri Al Razi said 500 years ago "that we should cease to divide the world into Darul Kufr and Darul Harb but,divide is according to Darul Islam and Darul D'awa". If any part of the earth is not Darul Islam,they are all in need of D'awa.
Support maintenance of the mosque is every ones responsibility and not just that of the organizers. When there is a broken pipe or a roof which leaks in out own house, we call the plumber and get it fixed or do it ourselves. We do not do fund raising for maintenance of our house or for the education of our children. Therefore if we consider a mosque, The House of Allah as our responsibility, then we should take care of it as good or better than we take care of our own house and our family. I propose that every member of the community irrespective of his financial status does something for their mosque. Those who can give, they should give money.Those who can work, if they cannot give money, should work in teaching children or doing the maintenance work whether it is painting, cleaning or yard work. There are many programs available through grocery stores and telephone companies that will benefit the mosque.
We have implemented such programs with a long distance company as well as two grocery stores and the income for a small community can be as much as $2,000 per month.