Second Visit to a Mosque

Second Visit to Madina Masjid

I wrote very appreciatively of my first visit on 7 February 2016. The Mosque also felt that it was a great success: ‘Following the overwhelming success and positive feedback from “Visit My Mosque” in February the Madina Masjid in Mount Pleasant, Batley will once again be opening its doors to the wider community, this time during the holy month of Ramadhan. The Mosque is offering the opportunity for members of the wider community to sample the real spirit of Ramadhan by actually sitting in on the daily spiritual sermon.’

The visit was on 12 June 2016, and started with Evening Prayers. As before there were individual prayers when people would move separately, and corporate prayers punctuated by chanting, when everybody moved together. I realized how the worshippers form into neat lines. The beautiful carpet is designed as a grid of integral prayer mats.

This was followed by a sung recitation from the Koran in Arabic. The melodic line was full of subtle embellishment, and seemed to me to be in the Dorian mode. I am not used to this music, but I found it interesting, beautiful and impressive. The confident enunciation which we saw being taught to children in the last visit was shown to perfection.

The address was very clear in its expression, so that everything could be responded to. Different parts evoked different responses. Islam has always been. It means submission to Allah. The final revelation was to Mohammed (pbuh) and is now closed. We cannot understand the revelation with our minds. It needs spiritual illumination. Imams who interpret it are owed respect and honour.

I have great difficulty with the idea of a closed revelation, but perhaps the difference is not as great as I supposed, because spiritual illumination is to me new revelation.

He spoke of backbiting. If you said a true thing about someone in their absence, that was backbiting. If it was false, that is worse. He specifically mentioned backbiting against women and calling them derogatory names. He gave illustrations from computing technology with ever more powerful storage devices. Allah has no problem storing every word that is said by everybody. We will have to account for every word at the Day of Judgement. If we backbite someone, any good we have done will be taken off us and given to the person backbitten.

I was frightened by this, as perhaps I was meant to be, but I reflected that if I were hauled up before God there would be God and me, so God would not be God.

He spoke of the need to assess what you hear and verify it. Yes indeed. This applies to Scriptures as well. He also spoke sadly about activities carried out in the name of Islam which have nothing to do with Islam, and the adverse media coverage. It is hard for us to appreciate the viciousness of this. Externally we know that it is continuous, determined, saturated and of long duration. What can it be like to live with it?

Overall the speaker directly addressed a very real issue. Anybody who never backbites hasn’t much further to go. He also referred to God Consciousness, but did not elaborate.

I spoke to one there about the adverse media coverage, saying that I could see with my own eyes (making a gesture of looking as through glasses) that not only are you good people, but seriously good people. So where does the misrepresentation come from? He said I knew as well as he did. America? Yes.

By the end of the sermon it was almost dark and the fast was about to end. We were told that the time just before the end of the fast was special. Everything would go quiet. I asked if this was the God consciousness mentioned twice in the address and was told that it was. So what had seemed rather cerebral proceedings contained that which I can share in depth, and which transcends all verbal controversies.

Surprisingly after all the build-up to the end of the fast, the actual breaking was a token affair of water and dates, though the visitors, men and women, were offered more ample nourishment before the end, and delicious it was. But we didn’t want to miss the end, so we were taken back to the door of the Mosque. Perhaps I sensed a shyness about sharing this holy moment fully with us. But we are holy too for all that our outward practices may differ. Some people stayed quietly in the Mosque after the end of the fast.

The reason for the token breaking is that their women have prepared a feast for them at home. There were several hundred men and boys there. Many left early during the address. I asked about this and was told that a lot of people come from neighbouring Mosques at some distance, and all wanted to be home for the family breaking of the fast. They come to Madina Masjid because it has a good programme.

Talking to another, he struck me with his cheerfulness, notwithstanding his long fast and minimal breaking of it. I could see that he was using the fast as designed, not to feel the absence of food, but the presence of Allah. I shared my conviction that his cheerfulness radiates, and that this is very good. He said how cheerfulness could spread to someone who was miserable and cheer them. I said I had seen this happen.

I am left with questions that I can hardly articulate. Allah is both sought and found in this place. That is clear from the beauty which is there. Ramadhan is more longed for than feared or imposed. But then the seeking and finding must presumably be going on throughout the year. And how do the women work it?

They plan to put on another event on 3 July 2016, still in Ramadhan, but starting earlier in the evening, to give an opportunity to explain the fast in greater detail.

I thank the people of Madina Masjid most warmly for these invitations. This visit showed me many things which I did not know before, as well as renewing the friendship and trust that was generated in the last visit.

Gervais Frykman

18/6/16

 

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