By Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani (raheemullah)
All the mosques in the world are equally worthy of respect. Just as it is a great sin to desecrate in any way the Bayt Al-Maqdis, or the mosque attached to the Ka’abah (Al-Masjid Al-Haram) or the mosque of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the same prohibition holds good with regard to all other mosques. These three mosques, no doubt, enjoy a superior position, and special respect is to be paid to them. The reward for offering prayers once in Al-Masjid Al-Haram is equal to that of praying a hundred thousand times elsewhere; the reward for praying in the mosque of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and in the Bayt Al-Maqdis equals that of praying fifty thousand times. To make a long journey for the purpose of praying in any one of these three mosques is a meritorious act which makes one worthy of receiving a special barakah [blessing]. On the other hand, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has forbidden it that one should make a long journey in order to offer one’s prayers in a mosque other than these three, believing it to be a meritorious act.
It is forbidden to prevent people, in any form or manner possible, from offering their prayers or remembering Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in a mosque. An obvious form of such interference is not to allow someone to enter a mosque, to offer his prayers or to read the Qur’an there. A less explicit form is to produce some kind of a noise in the mosque itself or play music nearby, and thus to disturb people in their prayers or in their remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Similarly, if one starts reciting the Qur’an or remembering Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala loudly so as to disturb the people who are offering supererogatory prayers [nawafil], reading the Qur’an or silently remembering Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala [thikr], one is being guilty of the same sin.
Therefore, the Fuqahz [masters of Islamic jurisprudence] have forbidden this practice. But, if people are not present in the mosque, one may recite the Qur’an or make thikr in a loud voice. On the basis of this principle we can also see that it is forbidden to beg or to collect donations even for a religious purpose while people are engaged in their prayers or in thikr.
All the possible forms of laying waste a mosque are forbidden. This includes not only demolishing and destroying a mosque, but also producing conditions which result in a mosque being laid waste or deserted. For, laying waste a mosque implies that few, or only a few people should come there for offering their prayers. A mosque can be said to be flourishing, not on the score of the beauty of its architecture or of its ornamentation, but only when it is full of men who come to pray and remember Allah. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says the Qur’an:
“The Mosques of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; perform As-Salat, and give Zakat and fear none but Allah.” [At-Tawbah 9: 18]
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has foretold that when the Day of Judgment comes close, the mosques of the Muslims would be beautifully designed and decorated and be apparently full of people, but they would in reality be deserted, for a few people would go there for the purpose of offering their prayers.
We are also reminded of what the fourth Caliph the blessed Companion Ali ibn Abu Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu has said. There are, according to him, six deeds which behoove a man — three of them pertain to the state when one is living at home, and the other three to the state when one is on a journey. The first three are — to read the Qur’an, to populate the mosques, and to bring together a number of friends who wish to serve Allah and His faith.
The other three are — to spend out of what one has over one’s needy companions of the way, to be polite to everyone, and to be cheerful with one’s co-travelers so long as one does not go beyond the limits allowed of the Shari’ah. What he means by populating the mosques is that one should enter them in a spirit of humility and with the fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in one’s heart, and then engage oneself in prayers or in reciting the Qur’an or in making thikr.
In opposition to this, the laying waste of mosques would mean that few, or only a few people should offer their prayers in them, or that a set of circumstances is allowed to develop which makes it difficult for those who are present to acquire the proper attitude of humility.
Additional note: It is also from the etiquette of masjid to offer tahiyyat ul masjid (two rakahs of supererogatory prayers) when one enters a masjid. This entails leaving home early so that one has enough time before the Jam’ah to offer these rakah.
Also see previous post.