Two weeks ago on a Tuesday morning there was an overcast in the sky. I was undivided whether to proceed with my morning walk at the park or just stay home and read the newspaper. The better of me says go and break some sweat.
After a couple of minutes, there was heavy drizzle and I reach for the nearest shed. There I overheard a conversation between a young Chinese girl and an elderly Malay couple. The girl said I am a new Muslim convert and through research, find that Islam is a complete religion but noticed many Muslim Malays are not practising true Islamic values.
I cannot help but totally agree with her. Because sometimes I also, as a mortal soul, forget to follow those good values.
The context I am going to discuss here is at the centre of it all, the mosque. Mosques in its original position is the place of social and political discussions.
I ‘whatsApped’ a few friends who are or were involved in mosque committees to have a reality check. The result I got may not come as a shock to many since I too have personally encountered a few.
The feedback I got ranges from ‘tidak-apa’ attitude, discipline right up to theft, embezzlement and other unauthorized uses of funds. I was told that these tales of skulduggery is more rampant in other non-profit organisations.
A clear and self-evident example is parking for Friday prayers. My non-Muslim friends will thank me for highlighting this. It is chaotic. Those who come late will just happily park where he wants and will maintain his habitual “lateness’ when leaving the mosque. The amount of time he waste on others waiting for him is very unproductive.
Coming closer to the mosque entrances we will see slippers and shoes strewn all over the place. Worst still are those who ‘pinjam’ your slippers for ablution and do not know how to place the slippers back to its place.
Going inside the mosque, the same thing happens to reading materials and lately, chairs meant for those who have difficulty to do prayers standing. Like it or not, it seems most Muslims belong to the category of apathetic people.
When you need to answer nature’s call, be prepared to face a mini flood in the bathroom. There will be characters who will use the same slippers of bathroom in the area of ablution. There are also cases of vandalism and missing installations.
Awareness to ensure cleanliness, saving water and energy inside and outside of the mosque area is severely lacking. Discipline, observance of time and civic-consciousness are some of the things the congregation takes lightly.
Due to the nature of its endowment, do you think mosques should be legally and lawfully owned by someone? It was also a treasury from which charity work was done. Governments, political parties and groups citing legal requirements and any ownership rights over such places, I think, should not be entitled or bestowed because of this endowment nature.
Accordingly, there should not be any justification for government intervention in the affairs of mosques.
My friends informed me that for a person to be elected as the Chairman of the mosque, his nomination should go through a vetting process where the Ketua Bahagian has a say. Mosques more often are filled by the ‘kariah’ or people staying in the vicinity of the mosques. Many a time the Ketua Bahagian is not a part of the congregation of the mosques.
Their dependence to the state may weaken people's sense of responsibility towards the mosques.
But then, again from my friends observation, professionalism in mosque management is wanting. Efficiency and effectiveness of mosque management has lots of room for improvement. We can propose to introduce the approach of achievement of goals by including performance index, motivation, productivity and participation in the decision-making process. This should include proper budgeting and internal control.
The question now is whether the present set of committee members will be receptive to this idea. Generally, the committee comprise of retirees and a big portion are ex-government servants. Go to the more exclusive areas, the chairman will surely be either a Dato’ or a Tan Sri. With due respect to them, they are still busy people running around as board members or chairman of some companies or organisations.
Some mosques have become exclusive clubs and closing the door for everyone else.
The feedback I got was to elect committee members who are dedicated and fully understand the function of modern-day mosques. Throughout Islamic history it has not only been a place of worship and prayer but also the center of the cultural, political, social, economic, legal education and training centre for the Ummah. It is also the center of the unity of the Ummah.
In New South Wales, Australia, most of the mosques are involved in either interfaith dialogue or open days to invite non-Muslims. This shows mosques there are involved with the wider society and are willing to communicate and exchange ideas.
There are overarching problems and there are individual problems in our mosques. The problems really depend on who is in control. The problem or issue they face today is that mosques could not adapt to this new change for a need to be a part of something bigger and wider. Today, they are just one component or a separate entity like a state government that do not want to merge its activities with the larger federal government.
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,
Our mosque must have a reference library where people can go and study and understand Islam. There are many Muslim doctors, thus, it would good that major ones incorporate a free medical clinic which operate after Friday Prayer and open to people of other faiths too. Priority should be given to needy people without insurance coverage or those who are in need of emergency help.
Islam is a colourless religion. Islam is like a rose garden with other flowers of different types and scents. We should close the door on our differences and remain united in love and show compassion to each other for the sake of the Almighty.
There was a sign in a church which said "a church is not a playground for the mischief makers, but a rehab hospital for the spiritually ill. Come on in, the doctor is in". The same thing can be said about mosques too.
When a Muslim is attached to the mosque, half of the problems can be solved. He can take the message of Islam that he learned to his home and society. Leaders who practice Islamic values will surely give their best without the ills of leadership.
Is the mosque a nucleus around which our life rotates and is centred?
I do hope mosque committees can accept criticisms and volunteer to resolve whatever issues there are.
It is the House of the Almighty but we seem to take more care for the houses of our VVIPs where millions are spent to ensure it is spotless.
Having said the above, I must say that some mosques are already doing a brilliant job partly due the professional approach taken by the committee as a whole.
To the young Chinese girl, let me say this... we are trying to improve and re-learn the beauty of Islam.