The masjid is the fortress of faith; the guardian of virtues; the home of the pious; the meeting place of Muslims; the centre of consultation and mutual advice, and the first school from which the Muslim graduates. The masjid provides relief and respite to the needy and the distressed. Muslim armies sprang from the masjid and spread the message of Islam to all parts of the world within a short time.
The masjid occupies a prominent place in Islam because prayer is the second most important pillar of Islam and the masjid is where it is performed. In fact, the word masjid is derived from the word for prostrate: Sajada. The masjid symbolises Islamic monotheism and the unity of the Muslim Ummah. When the call to prayer is made five times a day, the community comes together in the congregational prayer and all Muslims regardless of their race, colour, social, and economic status stand before their Lord in response to His call to prosperity. The masjid has certain functions and etiquette which must be taken into consideration when attending it:
a) Congregational prayers: Islam has made performing the prayer in congregation one of the most important duties of a Muslim. Abdullah Ibn Umar, radhiallahu ‘anhuma, narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Prayer in congregation is better than prayer performed individually by twenty-seven degrees.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). In addition, prayer performed in larger congregations and more distant masjids carries more reward.
Thus, the masjid serves as a meeting place for Muslims where they get to know news of each other and the community at large. Congregational prayer obviously has many spiritual and social benefits. It reinforces the unity and co-operation of Muslims as it strengthens the ties of brotherhood among them. After the prayer, Muslims exchange greetings and inquire about one another’s well being. Thus, it becomes easy to notice community members who may be sick, in difficulty, or in need.
b) Entering and leaving the masjid: When going  to the masjid, one is encouraged to proceed with calmness and humility. He should make supplications on his way. One of the supplications the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, used to make was: “In the name of Allah, I put my trust in Allah. There is no power or strength except with Allah.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nasa’i). When entering the masjid, one should begin with the right foot first and say: “Oh Allah, forgive me my sins and open for me the doors of Your mercy.” Similarly, when leaving the masjid, he should step out with the left foot first and say: “O Allah, forgive me my sins and open for me the doors of Your bounty.”
If a person enters the masjid when the prayer has already started, he should not rush to catch up as he might distract those in prayer. Once, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, noticed the sound of people rushing to join a prayer in progress and he said to them: “...When you come to the prayer, come with calmness and tranquillity. Perform whatever part of it you can (with the congregation) and complete what you have missed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
c) Greeting others in the masjid: The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, stressed spreading the greeting of peace, “as-salamu alaykum,” at all times. He said: “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I direct you to something which if you do, you will love one another? Spread the greeting of peace among you.” (Related by Muslim). So, upon entering the masjid, it is appropriate to greet those who are already there.
d) Performing two Rak’at as a greeting to the masjid: When one enters the masjid, it is a Sunnah to perform two Rak’at - which serve as a greeting to the masjid - before sitting down. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “When one of you enters the masjid, he should perform two Rak’at before sitting down.” (Related by Al-Bukhari). However, if one enters the masjid after the iqamah (call for commencement of prayer) is made, he should not initiate any other prayer. On the other hand, if he begins a sunnah prayer and the iqamah is made before completing it, he may either proceed to finish it quickly, or discontinue and join the congregation. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “If the iqamah is made, then no prayer other than the obligatory one should be performed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
e) Straightening the rows: Before starting the prayer, the congregation should stand in straight rows without leaving any gaps in between. The Prophet used to make sure that all the lines were in order and he said: “Verily, making the rows straight is part of the proper performing of prayer.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). He also said: “Be close together and straighten your rows.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). The rows symbolise the unity, equality and brotherhood of Muslims. There are no privileges or reserved places within the rows. Muslims of all races and nationalities - rich and poor, powerful and weak - stand next to each other in obedience to Allah. They stand shoulder to shoulder, face the same direction, and follow the same imam in unison.
f) Distracting other people in the masjid: The Muslim, while in prayer is in private conversation with his Lord. It is therefore not permissible to distract him in any way. Disturbing someone praying even with audible recitation of the Qur’an is discouraged. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, heard people reciting the Qur’an aloud while others were praying and he said: “Verily, each one of you is in private conversation with his Lord. So, you should not disturb each other. And you are not to raise your voices against each other in the recitation.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa’i, Al-Bayhaqi, and Al-Hakim).
On the other hand, Islam does not forbid engaging in lawful conversation in the masjid provided someone in prayer is not disturbed. Jabir Ibn Samurah, radhiallahu ‘anhu, narrated: “The Prophet would not rise from the place of the Fajr prayer until the sun had risen. And when it did, we would talk and laugh about the days of ignorance (pre-Islamic times) and he (the Prophet) would smile.” (Related by Muslim). Furthermore, it is permissible to lie down, sleep, eat and drink in the masjid. Abdullah Ibn al-Harith reported: “During the time of the Messenger of Allah, we would eat meat and bread in the masjid.” (Related by Ibn Majah). But the sacredness of the masjid should always be borne in mind and hence it must never be misused.
g) Maintaining the cleanliness of masjids: Many of the teachings and practices of Islam emphasise cleanliness and general hygiene. In the Qur’an, the believers are addressed to adorn themselves with their best clothes when going to the masjid. Allah says: “O children of Adam! Adorn yourselves fully with your best clothes to every place of worship,” (Al-A’raf, 7:31). masjids being houses of worship deserve  the utmost attention of every Muslim to make sure that they are free of any filth or offensive smell. Jabir reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Whoever eats garlic, onion, or leek should not come close to our masjid for the angels are harmed by what harms the children of Adam.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Another Hadith states: “...whoever eats upon (onion and garlic) should suppress their odour by cooking them.” (Related by Muslim, Ahmad, and Al-Nasi’i).
It must be noted that maintaining the masjid is the responsibility of every Muslim. Indeed, Muslims must safeguard the premises and property of the masjid better than even their personal belongings. There are several Ahadith indicating the importance of caring for the masjids. A’isha, radhiallahu ‘anha, reported: “He (the Prophet), ordered us to build the masjids in residential areas; to build them well and purify them.” (Related by Abu Dawud). In another Hadith, Anas Ibn Malik, radhiallahu ‘anhu, reported: “The rewards of my Ummah were placed before me, even for removing a speck of dust from the masjid.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Khuzaymah).

Children in the masjid
Children are leaders of the future and the bearers of Islam to posterity, and they must not be denied the blessings of the masjid which nurtures the Muslim mind. Islam pays utmost attention to the proper bringing of children, such that the virtuous Islamic morals and character are instilled in them at tender age. Usually, the formative years of the child are the most vital in shaping his future personality. Parents should therefore allow their children (male and female) to accompany them to the masjid so that they get used to the Islamic acts of worship and grow up with obedience to Allah.
Children used to go to the masjid during the time of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and he used to treat them kindly. Anas reported: “I have never seen anyone kinder to children than the Messenger of Allah.” (Related by Muslim). Also, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, used to take his grandsons to the masjid. Abu Hurairah, radhiallahu ‘anhu, reported: “The Prophet was delivering a sermon and Al-Hassan and Al-Hussayn (the Prophet’s grandsons) came wearing two red shirts and they were tripping while walking. The Prophet came down from the pulpit, picked them up and placed them in front of him. Then he said: “Allah and His Messenger have told the truth. Verily, your wealth and children are a trial. I looked to these two children walking and tripping, and I could not be patient, so I cut off my sermon and went to pick them up.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi).
To show his concern for children, he used to say: “Verily, I start the prayer intending to prolong it. But when I hear the crying of a child, I shorten it knowing how his crying disturbs his mother.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Training our children to attend the masjids with us is more crucial. Parents and elders should bear the children’s distractions as this is the only way to prepare our future generations for their responsibilities towards this religion. On the other hand, children should be taught to respect the masjid and observe propriety to the test of their ability. Child should be taught to identify with the masjid and take proper care of its property.

Women and the masjid
The Islamic Shari’ah permits women to attend the masjid to benefit from the lectures, sermons, and lessons offered there. However, it is preferable for them to pray in their houses. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Do not prevent your women from coming to the masjid, but their houses are better for them.” (Related by abu Dawud). In another hadith, he said: “If the wife of one of you asks permission to go to the masjid, he must not prevent her.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
However, women should dress modestly with hijab and should not use perfume when going out. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said to the women: “When one of you (women) comes to the masjid, she must not use perfume.” (Related by Muslim). Women used to attend the masjid during the time of the Prophet to learn about religious matters. The Prophet set special lessons for them and also tailored part of his sermons to address women’s issues - especially on Eid days (festivities).
Today, Muslim women are in need of Islamic education more than ever before. Furthermore, the mother is regarded as the first and most fundamental school for her children and she should have the necessary access to learning so that she, in turn, transmits that knowledge to them. Also, Muslim women can teach young Muslims, new Muslims and organise women’s programmes in the Islamic centres and masjids.

Prayer is the life of the heart
The state of a person in prayer depends on his righteousness and conduct. The more he perfects his prayer, the better his conditions and conduct are and vice versa. One may wonder: How?
The prayer is a way of life; it is the highest level of servitude to Allah, the Exalted.
Observing khushoo’ (i.e. the state of the heart when it stands before its Lord in full submission, humility and absolute concentration) in the prayer is the reason for attaining success in this worldly life and in the Hereafter as well. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their prayer with all solemnity and full submissiveness} [Qur’an 23:1-2] The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention), said: “Prayer is the best deed, so whoever could pray more, let him do so.” [Ahmad, At-Tabarani; Al-Albani: authentic] He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, also said: “... prayer is a light…” [Muslim] Prayer is a light for the slave in this worldly life and the Hereafter.
Let us have a quick glance at the meanings of the prayer.
When the praying person stands before his Lord with an attentive, submissive, pure heart, directing it towards his Lord, and recites takbeer (i.e. saying ‘Allahu Akbar’: Allah is the Greatest) to start the prayer; he is proclaiming that Allah, the Exalted, is greater than anyone and anything else. Then, he commences his prayer and seeks the forgiveness from Allah, the Exalted, by saying the istiftaah (the opening supplication of the prayer) supplication which reads: “Allahumma, ba‘id bayni wa bayna khatayaya kama ba‘adta bayna al-mashriqi wa al-maghrib. Allahumma, naqqini min khatayaya kama yunaqqa ath-thawbu al-abyadhu min ad-danas. Allahumma, ighsilni min khatayaya bil-ma’i wa ath-thalji wa al-barad.” (O Allah, set me apart from my sins (faults) as the East and the West are set apart from each other, and clean me from sins as a white garment is cleaned of dirt (after thorough washing). O Allah, wash off my sins with water, snow and hail.) [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
If one fully comprehends what this means, will he then commit a sin deliberately or insist on it?
Then, the praying person seeks refuge with Allah, the Exalted, from the devil and recites Al-Fatihah, which is known as Umm Al-Kitab (i.e. The Mother of the Book), because it combines all the meanings of faith and tawheed (i.e. Islamic monotheism) from praising, expressing gratefulness, glorifying, worshipping and relaying on Him Alone, acknowledging the Day of Judgment and that Allah is its Master, along with asking his Lord for guidance and nothing except it. Guidance here refers to the guidance to the path of the prophets and the believers. Then, the praying person asks Allah, the Exalted, to shield him against the path of those who have incurred [His] anger and of those who are astray, meaning the Jews and Christians and those who are similar to them.
After reciting Al-Fatihah, the praying person says takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar) and performs rukoo‘ (i.e. bowing) before his Lord, saying: “Subhana Rabbi Al-‘Atheem.” (how Perfect my Lord is, the Great!). When the praying person understands the meaning of this glorification of Allah, the Exalted, this bowing, this physical submission before his Lord, and this veneration with the tongue; should he not know that his Great Lord loves His slave to be submissive to Him in all matters? Would he not know that his Lord Wants him not to favour his personal desires (preferences), opinions, and reason over that which He Has Legislated for His slaves?
How strange the case is of someone who performs the prayer (as described above), and then after that he approves legislations other than that ordained by Allah and shows keenness on going against His commands! Such a person did not perform the prayer as due.
Reflect on the condition of someone who is raising his head from rukoo‘ and is praising and glorifying Allah, the Exalted, saying: “Sami‘a Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbana wa laka al-hamd, mil’ as-samawati wa mil’ al-ardh wa mil’ ma shi’ta min shay’in ba‘d. Ahla ath-thana’i wal-majd la mani‘a lima a‘tayt wa la mu‘tya lima mana‘t wa la yanfa‘u thal-jaddi minka al-jadd” (Allah, the Exalted, hears the one who praises Him; Our Lord, to You be the praise, filling the heavens, filling the Earth, and filling whatever else You may will, Lord of Glory and Majesty.
None can withhold what You grant, and none can grant what You withhold, nor can the wealth of a wealthy benefit him before You.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Then, the praying person prostrates himself before his Lord. What a great and honorable position it is as the praying person places his forehead on the ground, showing submission, humility, and poverty to his Lord, saying, “Subhana Rabbi Al-A‘la.” (How perfect is my Lord, the Most High!) If the Muslim was offered heaps of money to prostrate himself before other than Allah, the Exalted, he would never accept it. Prostration serves as a spiritual remedy for the human self from arrogance, blameworthy sense of pride, and haughtiness. Thus, the praying person learns to adhere to humility and submission to Allah, the Exalted, which entails modesty and treating others with kindness.
Then, the praying person testifies that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, is the Messenger of Allah, asks his Lord to bestow His blessings and mercy upon him in the prayer. Such marvelous meanings in the prayer serve as a deterring factor for the person from committing vices and sins. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {… and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater…} [Qur’an 29:45]
The more the praying person fails to understand the meaning of all of this, the less his prayers would prevent him from committing vices and sins. Thus, we come to realise that the deficiency is in the worshipper’s performance and his understanding of the prayer and not in the prayer itself.
In conclusion, we come to know that the prayer includes the following:
Perfect servitude to Allah, the Exalted.
Praising Allah, the Exalted, with His Names and Attributes.
Disassociation from disbelief and disbelievers.
Acknowledgment of sins.
Reliance on Allah, the Exalted, and humility.
Proclamation that there is no power and strength save by Allah.
Compliance with the guidance of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
Submission, obedience, surrender, and humility to Allah Almighty.
Testifying that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, is the Messenger of Allah.
Is this not a way of life for a Muslim, knowing that his Lord and God is the Creator of the universe and the Disposer of all affairs?
If the person understands the meaning of all of this in his prayer; he will finish the prayer as a different (better) person with brighter inner light. He will renew his submission to his Lord and will never dare to violate or reject the Divine Revelation, be it through negation, plainly going against the Divine Commands, or distortion. Prayer is a way of life that aims to rectify the person ideologically, spiritually, behaviorally, morally, and systematically.
We ask Allah, the Exalted, to make us among those who constantly establish the prayer.

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A grain of corn
The parable of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is that of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.” (Qur’an 2:261)
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, compared to the one who spends for His sake to the one who sows a grain in the ground, this grain grows and multiplies to give seven hundred grains! Allah multiplies the reward for those who spend in His way just as He multiplies the grain of corn in the ground.
The reward is multiplied in accordance to the belief of the person and his sincerity, and in accordance to the benefits resulting from his spending, and whether his money was spent in the right place. He who spends in the way of Allah with assurance, and with a stable hand as if the money already does not belong to him,  and is happy to give it, will see his reward multiplied. In contrast, he who donates his money with a trembling hand and a trembling heart, while his eyes are following it wishing he had never separated from it, will hardly have the same reward.
The one who spends for the sake of Allah only, and not for any worldly profit,  is like the one who sows a grain in a fertile land, free from weeds. The plant will grow and fructify whether it receives much or little rain, as Allah said: “And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking to please Allah and to strengthen their souls, is as a garden, high and fertile: heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest, and if it does not receive heavy rain, light moisture suffices it.” (Qur’an 2:265)
The mentioning of the heavy rain and the light moisture is a parallel to the large amount and the little amount of money spent in the way of Allah.
On the other hand, a person who donates in charity in order to be seen by others, and always reminds them of his generosity, is like a barren rock covered by a little soil. Rain which usually fructifies good soil, washes away the little soil and exposes its nakedness, as Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, said: “O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an 2:264)
Allah also said: “Would any of you wish to have a garden with date-palms and vines, with rivers flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits for him therein, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are weak (not able to look after themselves), then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt? Thus does Allah make clear His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) to you that you may give thought.” (Qur’an 2:266)
This is an allusion to the person who spends in charity, but not for the sake of Allah, he will not get the reward for his deed while he needs it the most.
Al Hassan al-Basri said: “This is a parable of which few really grasp the meaning. A man is most in need of his garden when he is weak, old and has many young children, and by Allah, one of you is most in need of his good deeds when he is leaving this world!”
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