Get Out Of ‘My’ Mosque

It reminded me of the great dervish – Shams Tabrez

TAKEN ABACK

OTHMAN SALIM

Winter comes with its own set of problems - bad roads, water logged streets and weather that leaves no room to tolerate either. A few days back, an old friend of mine walking home from work landed his feet in a pothole before his reflexes could help him. Drenched, he thinks of a way to warm his feet before getting home. But with no gas heaters on any of the shops nearby - thank God for the erratic gas lines - and no power to run electric heaters, he decides to take a chance with God’s house and enters the mosque, 10 minutes from his home. He removes his shoes and socks, and finds to his feet’s delight a warm hamam and a prayer chart revealing fifteen minutes to the next congregational prayer, which of course he would now have to attend, (to say thank you).
But just as this romantic evening was taking shape, a man in his forties walks in - the muezzin. My friend greets him with the usual religious civilities. In reply, he gets an unexpectedly curious look, which quickly morphs into a frown and then into a very discourteous question - “what are you doing here?”, which sounded more like “what (the hell) are you doing here?”. My friend remains silent, realizing he was visiting the mosque for the first time in three years and in his absence there might have been some revision in the rules. Before he could come out with an intelligent answer, this gentleman, about to call people to prayer, ungracefully replies on his behalf- “warming your feet, huh? Get out of here! Get out of my mosque!”
Why he said that, I really don’t know. My dear friend isn’t the violent kind, nor is his apolitical family. He isn’t the one to wear smelly socks, so that possibility I ruled out too.
He did however, have a ‘spiritual awakening’ some years ago which soon manifested as a long beard and shortened trousers, with frequent visits to the mosque punctuating his day. He was ‘following true love’ as he put it. However, somewhere down the road, lethargy got the better of True Love and the visits became more infrequent, the beard shorter (eventually to disappear) and the trousers, well, went back to ‘normal’. This eventful visit was his first in three years. Was that behind such inhospitality?
Whatever the reason, I was quickly taken back to a story of Maulana Rumi’s teacher - the dervish – Shams Tabriz. Of how Shams Tabriz seeking spiritual solace came into a mosque which was to be visited by the Caliph, only to be barred for being shabbily dressed. Shams remarked- “if this is so, then this cannot be the house of god, but only the house of Satan!” 
Mosques have been at the centre of the growth of the Islamic world. The pulpit has been the place where armies were commanded to fight, the floors of the mosques the sites of political debate and the lawns witness to the most intense of theological discussion that was to shape the outlook of contemporary Muslims and change the history of the world. Weary travelers and hungry families alike would seek refuge in these houses of God - the Prophet (SAS) designated a part of the mosque for the people of As Suffah. Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) is also reported as having said- “During the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) we used to sleep in the mosque and have siesta there when we were young." (Abu Dawud).
And why not? For if Allah is the Lord of this world, and the next, then His Mercy, His Solace, His Refuge must extend to both worlds as well, shouldn’t it? And it does.
The mosque belongs to God. It is His house only to be maintained by ‘righteous Muslims’ but open to all, ‘good’ Muslims and ‘bad’ Muslims alike.
The mosque can therefore be a source, not only of solace for the soul, but of warmth for a shivering traveler’s feet - and maybe even a night’s stay. And if I am turned out for either then I can know only one thing for sure - that this wasn’t God’s House in the first place! 
Feedback at othmansalim@gmail.com

Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 15 May 2013 00:00:00 IST




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