This was a photo I took when I was in Medina back in 2007 when I first went on Hajj.
Today, as I was popping over to my parents’ house (which is situated very near our local mosque), I noticed a group of people, obviously non-Muslim taking photos one after another with the mosque in the background. It seemed that they were very interested to find a mosque in a small town in Buckinghamshire. I decided to park up my car and offer some information about the mosque and thought it would be a good idea (and good da’wah) to offer to take them inside. I asked them if they wanted to look inside and I was met with blank stares, turns out that these people were Slovak tourists who spoke very little English. I eventually made myself understood and excitedly,they, with their cameras at the ready, followed me.
It was about 10:30 am so there was a good chance that the Mosque was locked but as it happens it was open. I asked them to remove their shoes and took them into the mosque. Whilst our mosque is a nice mosque, generally well kept, it is not breathtaking in its decor but these people were genuinely excited at being inside a mosque. Our main prayer hall is quite beautiful with a high ceiling and some very elegant calligraphy adorning the walls and dome and this they found very captivating and took lots of photographs.
It was quick 5 minute visit that left a good impression on them, even though they couldn’t speak English they appreciated the fact that someone took the time out and offered them a closer look at something they wouldn’t have ordinarily visited. They even insisted that I be in a group photo with them! Our mosques should be more welcoming to visitors and we should encourage people to visit us.
I would imagine that a lot of what I have said has relevance to most people who read it. I think we are at a juncture now where the time has come for people like us to take a more active interest in the life of our mosque especially if it is a registered charity and not a private institute. If it is a registered charity then you have the right, by UK law, to ask about it. Many of the people on such committees don’t recognise your right under Allah to question them about the House of Allah but will eventually concede to UK law and threats of a Charity Commission investigation. I would encourage everyone who reads this to visit the Charity Commission Website and view the summary details of their local mosque to see if it registered, you can search for your Mosque at the following webpage http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/first.asp you can Search for charities by name, by charity object or name keywords, by the area in which they operate or by its registered number. Demand a copy of the trust deeds from the committee, if it isn’t forthcoming ask the Charity Commission to send you it.
Word of advice. Some committees are made up of what we in Punjabi call “gunday”, these are people who are meat-heads there to scare people, they usually don’t have any brain cells and usually oppose people for the sake of opposition and to safeguard their party. Things can get nasty. Also if you are a young whipper-snapper then you are not likely to be taken seriously, but you can still probe and ask questions of people who will listen, don’t give up.
In order to be taken seriously you need to be above 30, educated, a professional with a good job, articulate, well mannered, active in the deen and in community issues and by extension well known, it helps to be from a well known and respected family and preferably married although not essential.
Since becoming religious from the age of 21 I started taking an interest in the mosque and trying to organise study circles and talks. The then committee put many obstacles in our way and even tainted me with the “Wahhabi” label [that’s one to tell the grandchildren]! Things came to a head when that committee tried to oust one of the imams, a young hafiz of Qur’an who spoke English, Urdu, Pashtu and Arabic and my father along with other members of the community took a stand. This is where the fortunes of our mosque changed, it was the point where serious questions about the running of the mosque were asked and the first elections in 13 years of the committees existence were forced. But before we got to the elections a lot of incidents occured involving violence in the community to point where an ambush was organised in the mosque itself, with sticks and boiling water, I am not making this up! The Charity Commission and the Police got involved and it was a real mess. But the then committee knew they were on their last legs and to cut very long story short called it a day and elections were held.
And so a new era our mosque started. My brother-in-law was voted in as the President and he ran a very tight ship, he is a real doer and takes no rubbish from anybody and he does not suffer fools gladly. The first task he set upon was to finish the outstanding interest bearing bank loan the previous committee took out to build the mosque. This was successfully achieved inspite of the community of the previous committee purposely withholding donations out of spite against the new committee!
I pretty much became the unofficial secretary for the Mosque as I was called to do all the letter writing and consulting and couselling of the new committee. Any issues that my brother-in-law came across he ran past me and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately the art of diplomacy was an area that he did not excel in (perhaps his short temper was due to his diabetes?) and some people became disgruntled with him. It all revolved around, not unreasonably, wanting everything counted, witnessed, written and documented, even today he still has all the records and paperwork from his presidency. For the first time, the mosque’s affairs were transparent and open to public scrutiny. However there were a few “old school” people still in the committee who thought that their word should be accepted over any written and witnessed documentation.
The three years my brother-in-law was the President the accounts looked very healthy and there was transparency. In his last year as President the mosque income was about £36,000 for the year and expenditure was at about £17,000 and the physical state of the Mosque excellent, spic and span as they say, money was wisely spent. On top of this we formed very good relationships with the wider community such as the local Council, The Police, the NHS, schools, churches, the prison service and other bodies. But, metaphorically speaking, the knives were out.
When the elections came around the people with the metaphorical knives, lobbied to have someone else in place and my brother-in-law graciously stepped aside. Now those very same people are begging him to stand for the presidency in the current elections. I won’t say much about this current President except that the last set of accounts that he filed showed a deficit of £700 for the year and not much to show for it in the Mosque, and there are many concerns and suspicions flying around . . . let’s just leave it at that.
Anyway today the elections took place and although I still think they are farcical and shambolic, the party that I am “attached” to increased their seats by three and the main opposing party lost three seats. Chances are that my brother-in-law will once again be elected to the presidency and there are a number of very positive people hoping to make the committee, insha’Allah this could be the first steps in a better mosque for us all insha’Allah. Please remember us in your duahs.