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Does Mosque Size Really Matter?

هل حجم المسجد فعلا مهم؟
The Martyred Mosques: The Buildings Are Gone, But the Message Lives On
Sam Bazzi
Sam Bazzi

Monday, February 20, 2006

IN ISLAM, there are numerous important and prominent mosques. Prophet Muhammad and Ahlulbait (أهل البيت، صلوات الله عليهم), Peace be upon him and them, have highly mustahab (Arabic for favored/recommended; Arabic: مستحب) that the faithful Muslims actually travel to visit and pray at these mosques, as the rewards for such spiritual journeys and visits are very high. For instance, the reward for praying two ruk'aahs (ركعتين) at Masjid Kiba (مسجد قبا), in Medina, is equivalent to that of one Umrah (عمرة)! Masjid Qiba is the first mosque in Islam. Also, those who get tawfiq (concurrence of God - توفيق) to recite Surat al-Hajj (سورة الحج) in Masjid Qiba are, God willing, guaranteed a return to the Hajj anew! (This is called "Getting the return Visa".)

The author, Sam Bazzi, at Masjid al-Fath in al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, December 30, 2005 (during the Hajj Season 1426h).
The author, Sam Bazzi, at Masjid al-Fath in al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, December 30, 2005 (during the Hajj Season 1426h).
Masjid al-Fath (Vanquishment Mosque - مسجد الفتح), in Medina (Madina - المدينة المنورة), al-Hijaz (الحجاز), Saudi Arabia. Masjid al-Fath is one of the very famous Seven Mosques (المساجد السبعة) of Medina. The Seven Mosques are located at the site of the Khandak Battle (Battle of the Trench - غزوة الخندق). During that war, the founders of Islam were outnumbered and surrounded by the pagan warriors. Masjid al-Fath was built on top of the rock over which Prophet Muhammad (النبي محمد، صلى الله عليه وآله), PBUH&HF, prayed and asked God to grant victory to the encircled Muslims. Salman al-Farisi (Salman the Persian - سلمان الفارسي، عليه السلام), PBUH, who was one of the closest Companions of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH&HF, introduced the idea of digging a trench around the camp of the Muslims to repel the pagans. Hence, one of the Seven Mosques is named after Salman, PBUH.

The trench served its purpose very well and kept the pagans at bay. Eventually, the most powerful of the Kafir (pagan) warriors, Amro ibn Abd Wud al-Amery (عمرو بن عبد ود العامري) managed to cross the trench and was about to turn the course of the historic battle to the advantage of the pagans. But All-the-Faith, Ali ibn Abi Taleb, PBUH, confronted All-the-Kufr, Amro, and defeated and killed him. Praise be to God in all matters, with this defeat, the pagans were all defeated and Islam was preserved and, thank God, reached us in our times.


These prominent mosques vary in size. Some of them are in fact very tiny. For instance, Masjid Fatimah (مسجد فاطمة، صلوات الله عليها)), PBUH, which is one of the Seven Mosques, in Medina, is only three meters by four meters (3Mx4M)!! Yet the importance of this mosques is undiminished by its small size! Every Mumin (faithful - مؤمن) who makes it to Medina attempts to pray in this mosque! On the other hand, in Morocco, thousands of miles away from Medina, there is the massive Hassan II Mosque. This mosque is the second largest in the World. It is sited on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers! The courtyard of this mosque can accommodate an additional 80,000 worshippers as well. Is it mustahab that the Mumins travel to Morocco for the purpose of visiting the Hassan II Mosque?!? Surely, no! Hence, the size of a mosque is an irrelevant factor in the determination of its spiritual importance.

مسجد فاطمة الزهراء، عليها السلام، في المدينة المنورة
The Mosque of Lady Fatimah, PBUH, in Medina, Saudi Arabia
The Mosque of Lady Fatimah, PBUH, in Medina, Saudi Arabia

That the Seven Mosques of Medina are very small is not just a coincidence dictated by the military conditions of the Battle of the Trench. These holy places, like every thing else that one encounters during the Hajj or the Umrah are full of symbolism and hidden messages. Only with contemplation that one can see the story behind the story and the wisdom resonating beyond the three dimensional.

No doubt that the small entrenched society of Islam's founders and early pioneers is but an example for all Muslim societies to follow. During the Battle of the Trench, the Prophet, PBUH&HF, could have declared Masjid al-Fath as the one and only mosque for the surrounded community and the other structures as just barracks and small housing complexes. After all, the distance between all these tiny mosques can be measured in just meters! Yet, the Prophet, PBUH&HF, did not command that the community shares a single mosque. Why?!?

مسجد الفتح في المدينة المنورة، الحجاز، المملكة العربية السعودية
Masjid al-Fath in Medina, Saudi Arabia
Masjid al-Fath in Medina, Saudi Arabia

What is the message of the Seven Mosques across 14 centuries of modern Islam? Simple: A successful Islamic society cannot rely on just one mosque! Even a small pressured and distressed Islamic community should strive to plant the Earth with as many mosques as possible. The more mosques we build and maintain, the stronger we become. If, God forbid, one mosque falls down, there will be many more to uphold the message of Islam in the community!

A one-mosque solution for local communities is nothing but a terrible invitation to dictatorship and Pharaonism, which results in degraded services and guaranteed maltreatment to some of the worshippers. In the absence of competition, the servants at these mosques would lose the motive to excel to attract and serve worshippers. The attitude of mosque trustees who have no competition could then potentially degenerate into "If you are not happy here, then you can stay at home!" The consequence: Alienation in the community.

سؤل فرعون: "من فرعنك؟" فقال: "لم أجد من يصدني!"

A one-mosque solution is not only wrong, but it is also un-Islamic for it contradicts the examples set forth to us by Prophet Muhammad, PBUH&HF, for during his lifetime numerous mosques were constructed in al-Madina. Why did not the Prophet, PBUH&HF, preach one-mosque solutions if he thought it to be a good idea? The answer is: He did not. And God does not bless one-mosque solutions.

Pharaoh was once asked: "How did you become a tyrant?" Said he: "I found no one to stop me!"

Indeed, it is particularly in the West where Muslims ought to dedicate their efforts to establishing and maintaining as many mosques as possible. Those who proclaim that unity can be brought-about through a one-mosque solution are dead wrong!! They are preaching greed and contradicting the altruism, the ithar (إيثار), of Ahlulbait, Peace be upon them. They are power-hungry and just want everything for themselves. They want the fate of the entire community to be placed in their one basket. Think of the Seven Mosques: If one of them fell into the hands of the pagan warriors, the Islamic community of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH&HF, would still have had the other mosques to rely on them for protection.

Say a community resorts to a one-mosque solution and say legal problems or something else arise. In such a case, the community who relied on just one mosque would be left with just nothing!!!

Anyway, it is not in the plans of God that we have one-mosque solutions, for those who have foresight might see through and realize that God wants to have numerous mosques throughout the land. That is why we are in fact seeing more mosques, not less.

مسجد علي بن أبي طالب، عليه السلام، في المدينة المنورة
The Mosque of Ali ibn Abi Taleb, PBUH, in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
The Mosque of Ali ibn Abi Taleb, PBUH, in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

For the sake of pleasing God, and Muhammad, PBUH&HF, who spent his life building many mosques, do support and visit all mosques and Islamic centers. And practice ithar (altruism): If God has entrusted you with influence in your community and you see attendance at one of the mosques decreasing, please be kindhearted and do ask your friends and relatives to go to the poorly mosque!! Remember, the minute you choose that you belong to only a particular mosque instead of Islam, you would have become a fanatic who defies the logic of the Seven Mosques. Let's all strive to maintain a balance in our communities and insure that its fate is not in the hands of the very few!

"سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ" (الإسراء)
"Glory be to God Who took His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We (God) did bless." (Quran 17:1)
"Glory be to God Who took His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We (God) did bless." (Quran 17:1)

The Seven Mosques are being demolished by the authorities in Saudi Arabia and replaced with a single large Mosque. Do you now know why the Seven Mosques are being destroyed? Let's all cry and mourn, for the pluralism, openness, and selflessness of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH&HF, is being replaced with the unilateralism, opacity, and selfishness of an authoritarianism. Let not the message of Muhammad, PBUH&HF, be murdered twice: Once by the authorities' destruction of the Seven Mosques and once more by adopting their single mosque policy in our communities. And, God willing, should you visit the site of the Seven Mosques, please do pray two salutation ruk'aas for every martyred mosque.

Sam Bazzi is an American counterterrorism activist and a counter-ideology expert. He is the founder of the Islamic Counterterrorism Institute. Bazzi blogs at sambazzi.com and tweets at @sambazzi.

Related Links:

Octagon Who is Muhammad? (Photos of ar-Rawda an-Nabawiyah)
OctagonQur'an (Download and listen to Surat al-Hajj)
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