Supporting the Houses of Allah

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// February 2nd, 2007 // Blog

gess recently brought to my attention a noble, yet surprising, project that needs the support of the global Muslim community; that's a nice way of saying: get your wallets out, people! That is, the building of the first mosque in Denmark. Like gess, i am surprised that a country with such a significant Muslim population lacks a dedicated place of worship… anyway, let's pray that this changes soon, inshā’Allāh.

The second mosque building project that is in need of our support, but perhaps on a more moral scale (i'm not sure about the funding), is the London Markaz. I tried to find a good hyperlink that would explain what this project is about, but typing these two words into Google brings up a hodgepodge of articles, both for and against. Sadly, Daniel Pipes came up with the top billing.

Today, i received an e-mail containing a fatwa by Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad, urging (or should i say “ordering”?) all Muslims to get behind the project, as apparently, there are some who are against it. I can only think that those Muslims who are not towing the party line, are those who have something against Tablighi Jamaat, the group in charge of the project. It is difficult for me to comment on TJ in an unbiased manner. My community are dedicated followers of this movement, especially my uncle. I have managed to keep a comfortable distance from them and their ideology, as my father is not really a keen member. I don't have anything against TJ, really, but as with all reactionary movements, there are pros and cons to their methodology.

Anyway, besides the internal politics of the project, i see no reason for any Muslim to oppose the building of a mosque. The only qualm i have about the whole thing, is the cost: one hundred million smackers. That is just the estimated cost. If TJ have done their homework, they should know that any large-scale building project, especially those based in London, always overstep their budget by many a percent; just look at the Olympics! So how much is this really going to cost?

I suppose if the Markaz was just going to be a basic mosque, i.e., a place to congregate for prayers, it should definitely not cost that much. When i first heard the price, i instinctively remembered the hadith:

On the authority of Anas : the Prophet (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said, “Among the portents of the Hour is that people will compete with one another in [building and decorating] mosques.” [Nasa'i]
(OK, so i didn't remember the narrator and the reference… but you get the idea).

However, from the articles i have read, the Markaz will most likely serve as a (very large) community center, rather than a simple mosque. Let's just pray that the budget won't be blown on fancy design and unnecessary, expensive materials, as happened during the major refurbishment of the two Holy mosques. There are definitely many more worthy ways to spend that kind of money, including the building of less aesthetically pleasing, yet more urgently needed, schools, hospitals, shelters, houses, orphanages… as well as humble mosques, in the many deprived areas of the world.

Anyhow, we first have to wait and see if the project gets the necessary building permission, before we start our usual complaining. Knowing typical British bureaucracy, that will take a while…

12 Responses to “Supporting the Houses of Allah”

  1. Faraz says:

    Assalamu’alaykum,

    The London Markaz project has been one I’ve been following quite closely since I first heard about it in 1999 I think. I was actually in England when I was told about the purchase of the land, before the London Olympics were awarded. When it was announced that London would host the 2012 Summer Olympics, the property value shot up considerably. Others tried to wrestle the land away from the Muslims, but the project managers wouldn’t budge.

    If it was any other organization, I would’ve been somewhat suspicious. I’m generally quite critical of a lot of masjid designs, where high ceilings and elaborate murals end up reducing the space for actual worshippers. The high ceilings in particular bother me – so many mosques could easily have a second floor to double the capacity, but the designers preferred form over function. It also makes the mosques very energy inefficient; it costs a lot to keep these mosques warm in our -20 degree winter days. I remember attending a meeting in the first Ottawa mosque, where one of the original founders was talking about his hopes and aspirations when the mosque was first built. He admitted, rather carelessly, that he approved the design of the mosque because he wanted others to be impressed by the aesthetics, even though the design was way too expensive without offering much in the ways of prayer space.

    But the effort of Tabligh has done so much good for me personally and for my entire community, that I believe strongly in the project. From what I’ve seen, the masaajid built by people involved in Tabligh (I won’t say “Tablighi Masjid”) are often the most functional and least extravagant. The existing London Markaz plans are attractive, but the high cost is largely attributed to the advanced technology they’re using in the masjid for power generation and heating (the minarets are supposed to double as wind turbines). Also, to get approval for the construction, it needed to be sufficiently attractive to fit in with the surrounding area, particularly since it’s right next to the Olympic site. So it’s going to be a nice mosque certainly, but insha-Allah not at the expense of functionality.

    The other thing is, I don’t believe this mosque is soliciting donations from wealthy Arab nations, which I believe is a good thing. My local mosque in Montreal, built after nearly 18 years of effort, also followed this pattern where the donations all came internally from the community. This makes the place that much more inviting, since I really feel that this is our mosque that Allah has honoured us with. I’ve seen a lot of mosques pop up from overseas Arab funding, and they often give me this vibe. I feel like I just have to pray and get out.

  2. iMuslim says:

    Wa ‘alaykum salam brother,

    Jazakallah for your insight. I heard about the wind turbines and other contemporary ideas. The estimated cost is still quite hefty, though i have no knowledge of architecture and construction, to make an adequate judgement… i wonder how much it will cost to maintain the Markaz?

    I’m curious, are you Jamaati?

    Please also explain further this “vibe” you mention. I sometimes attend functions at the East London Mosque, which was partly funded by Saudi money, and have never felt uncomfortable. Then again, maybe it’s a brother thing?

    I can’t compare it to the feeling of being in a Jamaati-funded mosque, as woman aren’t usually allowed in… again, hard not to be biased in the face of such treatment.

    Wa’salam

  3. gess says:

    Wa’aleikum Salaam My dear Sister,

    Jazak Allah Khair for your help!

  4. Manas says:

    keep commenting on reflections. (my) knowledge should not suffer!

  5. Sumera says:

    I had no idea Denmark didnt have a mosque!

    And the London Markaz project seems to be having a lot of problems, from planning permission to purpose of the place. If it becomes close to being something like the hub of the community, as a masjid should be, then that’d be wonderful. To have classes, lectures, conferences etc

    Whether that’ll be the case remains to be seen. Insh’Allah.

  6. Faraz says:

    I’m curious, are you Jamaati?

    This is a hard question to answer. I suppose if I must be labelled, then that would probably be the most fitting, but I really like don’t labels much. Insofar as it has helped me become a better person, I’m involved in Tabligh; as far as any other effort has helped me become a better person, I’m involved with them. I wasn’t a particularly bad kid, but no one has influenced me more toward Islam than the hardworking brothers involved in Tabligh.

    Please also explain further this “vibe” you mention. I sometimes attend functions at the East London Mosque, which was partly funded by Saudi money, and have never felt uncomfortable. Then again, maybe it’s a brother thing?

    I find a lot of the masjids just aren’t inviting. They don’t allow any halaqas or activities or anything, unless they follow a certain ideology. Basically, after salah, everyone leaves and the doors are locked. This is mainly a criticism of the main mosque in one of the cities I lived in, and probably does not apply generally.

    I can’t compare it to the feeling of being in a Jamaati-funded mosque, as woman aren’t usually allowed in… again, hard not to be biased in the face of such treatment.

    This is a legitimate criticism. Our local masjids have generally been good in that sense, but I am aware of this being an issue. I guess I don’t think about this much because I have only one female mahram in the country (my mother), so I don’t hear many complaints.

  7. iMuslim says:

    Salaams dear brother,

    I know it is hard to label oneself as anything other than a Muslim. I am glad to know that TJ helped you, and it has helped many brothers.

    I actually have some burning questions about TJ… especially as i have met a few rishtas who have been active members. My ignorance kinda blew those proposals waaay out of reach. Maybe they thought i should’ve known better…

    Actually, i don’t blame them at all. When i think back to our meetings, i must have come across as a right “Salafi”, which in my circles, is like… *drags finger across neck*

    It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic! Hmm, maybe it was a bit funny. hehe

    I’m not Salafi btw…

  8. Faraz says:

    With respect to rishtas, I think it’s important to be open about these things. If you have concerns or doubts, it’s better to air those out then try to suppress them for the sake of unity, because there are some legitimate differences that can hinder compatibility.

    I’ve been on the other side of these situations a number of times, and I know that while there were some great sisters, there were just too many differences in mentality that I couldn’t reconcile. Not because I disagreed with them or thought they were wrong, but because we just didn’t value the same things at all.

  9. iMuslim says:

    You’re right… you are non-confrontational (i’m referring to your comment on Mouse’s blog).

    Yes, i know i should be open about such topics… even though my parents didn’t like that at all.

    I started getting told “don’t ask this” and “don’t talk about that”. Religious matters were taken off the table, which frustrated me a great deal.

    However, if you read my oh-so-long commentary on my own experiences with Salafism, you’ll understand why those TJ brothers gave me the cold shoulder. I was a Salafi in denial! That’s why i laugh when i think back to those meetings, because they saw something in me that i wasn’t even aware off!

  10. Faraz says:

    Me? Non-confrontational? How dare you agree with such a thing?!! You people always try to push my buttons with this kinda talk!! How dare anyone call me non-confrontational?!

    ..ahem.. even my fake confrontationalism leaves a lot to be desired.

    Regarding parents … I have disagreements with my parents all the time about these things. They’re often annoyed about the questions I ask and the things that matter to me, while I’m often annoyed about the questions they ask and the things that matter to them. It’s largely my fault though, in that I tend to say terribly silly things to people who don’t appreciate my sense of humour. That, and I’m a bit too open about my terrible ignorance of Indian culture.

    After one such discussion with my parents, this comic came to mind. I’ve used that punchline quite a bit of late.

  11. iMuslim says:

    I loved the cartoon!

    How can anyone not appreciate your sense of humour? They’re not worthy of you, if so!

    I have a similar problem. I try to use humour to ease the tense situation, but i’m not that funny at the best of times. Not clever funny, anyway. I ruin jokes! The way i make my friends laugh is more clown humour, and silly observations. It’s not really suitable for complete strangers, unless they’re on the same wavelength.

    But i love to laugh, so if the other person’s going to be all frumpy, it’s not a good match. My parent’s are the same. They make the lamest jokes, but their laughter is so infectious, you can’t help but join in!

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