Assuming that you know all the rituals of a mosque (from entrance dua to exit dua, from offering two raka’t to adhkar after prayer, from knowing how to pray congregational prayer, to being aware about a funeral prayer etc.), I shall present to you the ultimate cheatsheet of mosque manners.
Your prayer is your own deed. But once your prayer and being in the mosque becomes more than just your deed, it becomes a community issue, and this last fact is often ignored. Even though you may know all of these things, they need to be addressed because they continue to happen nonetheless. I’m not your parent to tell you this (unless my future kids are reading this), but since it’s one of the major issues disrupting the honor, peace, and discipline of a mosque, I can’t help but outline the most common things I have noticed so far.
I can explain what mosque manners are by explaining what they are not. Sometimes the best way to know something is to know its opposite.
1) Taking more space than necessary.
You enter the mosque and feel this glory and grandeur of your Lord. And when you ease into it, a golden light may flood the room and a soft, warming hum may fill the air to comfort you. Hence you stretch your legs far apart in some sort of meditation attempt. How long before you start to bend light? I don’t know. But you definitely are bending that warm feeling for everyone else. Hot glue your knees together. This ain’t no place for yoga. Make space for your fellow worshippers, since they are in the corner pushing each other for victory in the first row. If you then become meat in a stampede, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
2) Saving space for friends or family.
If you were doing this to save the space for your relative/friend etc., then I just hope they left just to bring you water or Quran or anything like that. But if they haven’t even entered the mosque yet then don’t be that person who needs company in the mosque for gossip. If your friend/relative is late, it’s ok. They will get the space as well, inshaaAllah. May be not the first row. The first-comers get that.
But probably they will manage a quarter beside the mosque exit door. They will hate you? Hm, may be— but you did the right thing. Don’t be too cowardly to do what you know to be right or too cowardly to avoid doing what you know to be wrong.
3) Gossip sessions.
Some of you are doing that before the khutbah. But how many of you are like that during the khutbah? It’s not a café. Are you holding a coffee? Still not a café. Oh, so you are talking while having a coffee in a half-sitting, half-lying-down position? It’s still a mosque, where others are getting disturbed by your gossip session, a mosque that you are totally not honoring.
A useful tip: Don’t sit with your loved ones during the khutbah or whenever it is that you enter the mosque. You came here for remembrance of Allah. Stick to the plan.
4) Sleeping or sitting in the way.
It’s definitely common sense but also very common. It may happen usually in masjid-al-haram and masjid-al-nabawi, since the mosque itself is so crowded that you usually have to settle outside the mosque somewhere (but inside the vicinity) and people travel miles and miles to get there but apparently give in, right in the middle of a mosque or on the path to it.
I thought sitting in the middle where everyone’s walking, was a problem until I saw someone sleeping. How do they manage to sleep that long with all the kids jumping over them, people walking around them, and wheelchairs hitting them occasionally? I don’t know. But if you are this tired, kindly choose a corner. It will not only help you, but also others.
On a side note, kindly do the ablution again, because sleeping so deeply while lying down nullifies it. You need to walk to the ablution area for that. Praying for rain or thinking of the saddest moment in life won’t help. Your tears won’t be able to wash your limbs. “Cry me a river” is just a rhetorical statement.
Tayammum (dry ablution) isn’t an option either because water is abundantly available there. You will just have to go to the ablution area for your prayer to be valid. I realise your space will be taken when you go, but praying without an ablution may be worse than not getting your first row again. At least you will fulfill the purpose you came here for.
5) Body-liquids, body-sounds.
Sorry for all the coffee you spit out on your laptop when you read this, but kindly keep your sputum, air, mucus etc. inside your body.
Burping is very common during taraweeh because of course, heavy iftaar.
I had to fill one third of my stomach only? Are you kidding? I was hungry all day long. I couldn’t resist. Samosas went inside the 1st intestine, then came the kababs, then chana chaat, pakorray, biryani, hummus and the 7th intestine is rooh afza . . .
If the imam is going through this, kindly walk your own talk. You are on a very loud speaker. Youngsters back in the rows may just burst out laughing and have to restart their prayer. For older people, usually these things aren’t funny— they’re just plain gross.
If you’re breaking your fast in a mosque— date, milk, and water etc. should suffice, inshaaAllah. Don’t bring in food that you have to chew like a wood chipper, like crispy chips.
And if your bodily noise involves a loud, long, low back vowel with advanced tongue root and full oral opening, aka “Moose-call yawns,” a sound that deliberately obtrudes and takes over the environs, please try to suppress it as much as possible. Turning it into an announcement, an excuse to dominate everyone within earshot for a moment, makes everyone else in the territory yawn as well. People are expected to get over reveling in bodily noises once they become adults.
6) Murmuring loudly.
You start the prayer, go into prostration and suddenly your excitement makes you murmur really loudly, making the excitement of your neighbor die down. Do they know what to recite anymore? No, thanks to you. Is your loud whisper with occasional high pitched notes helping in any way? I don’t think so.
7) Short, tight, translucent clothing.
I know it sounds like a personal deed at first but becomes a whole lot more societal when your efforts at pulling your not-so-elastic shirt to cover your awrah is all in vain. Your now-amoeba-shaped shirt is still letting your skin peak through its tentacles during prostration.
Sure, the sagging pants might be in among rappers and gangstas, but no one wants to see the piece of clothing underneath or those parts of your body that you should be keeping covered under those jeans, a big distraction for the fellow behind you.
Solution: Buy yourself a decent belt and hike up those pants, please! And next time don’t wear younger sibling’s clothes.
If you have to lie down and suck in your gut every time you put on your favourite pair of skinny jeans, chances are you won’t be able to bend down for prostration in this sausage attire. Also, it’s a very disturbing view.
Solution: Loosen up.
If you’re wearing full clothes but your body can be seen through your clothes, leaving nothing to the imagination, you fit the “dressed-yet-not” category with your visual pollution in the mosque.
Solution: Put one or two more layers of clothing over that.
8) Crowding the exit area.
As soon as the imam finishes the prayer, you rush towards the exit door, trampling over other worshippers, only finding out in the end that others have done the same as well and now the whole exit area is blocked because everyone is pushing each other for the great escape.
Solution: Keep sitting till the crowd diminishes. Recite the adhkaar till then.
You exit the door and there’s a different mob out there. People finding their shoes, wrestling with them while putting them on. If you find yourself in the middle of this mob, I guess you just vibrate and call out for your shoe or you all continue butting at each other like mountain goats trying to establish superiority.
Solution: This is the time to give up your clumsy ways and move quickly. It’s not the time to meet each other. Pick your shoes, move out of the mob, put them on, and then meet your friend or relative.
If you are blocking the way because you want to click this perfect mob-moment or there’s a selfie emergency, please don’t!
If the crowd has this mix-gender scenario, then kindly take care. Women— don’t poke men! Men— don’t poke women! As a matter of fact, don’t poke anyone.
I notice how these things can affect your whole mosque experience and how direly they need to change.
Everything that you do is driven by one of two principles: to seek pleasure or to avoid pain. Link as much fear of Allah as you can to the behaviour that you want to end, to the above and below attitudes and habits.
Perhaps such a list seems idealistic, but problems do need achievable goals. Being governed by something other than your own wishes and wanderlust might be a pleasure, a release, so . . .
1) Switch off your cell phones.
If you are sitting apart from your loved ones, friends, etc., don’t text message them during the khutbah at least (and definitely not during the prayer). You know you will giggle one time or the other, getting those death glares from your neighbors. Complaining about it afterwards is as silly as painting yourself in the corner and then blaming the person who points out the paint color. Recheck the intention as to why you came to the mosque. Prioritise. Switch off your cell phone.
But what if there’s an emergency call?
Valid point. But are you going to pick your phone up during the prayer? Not likely (if you are, then you are the king or queen of LOLWHAT). Then isn’t it better that you switch it off in the first place? Don’t let your ringtone add background music to the khutbah, recitation, or prayer call.
2) Understand your prayer.
So the prayer finally starts, alhamdulillah. As soon as the imaam starts the recitation, you are lost because you can’t understand a word he’s saying. Arabic isn’t your mother tongue. Hence your peepers go astray as your imagination does. And now you are staring at the beautiful ceiling or the other people while your lips are moving (probably because you are reciting something out of obligation).
Sound like sorcery? It seemed so to me when I saw someone doing this in their sunnah prayer. But then that person saw me looking in horror, so the oglers drifted back down where they were supposed to be.
Why are people fearing people? Are they answerable to me? No. They are accountable to their Lord, and He is always watching.
Lack of khushu is usually because of lack of understanding sometimes. To remove the distraction, you have to occupy your mind with something better. Identify the problem. Keep your heart and mind as busy as your tongue. Of course with what you’re reciting, astaghfirullah.
3) Be still.
Okay, so you are not staring into anyone’s soul. You are just looking at the carpet, mesmerised by its illusions, trying to clean the stain off of the carpet with your magic vision. But then you have to scratch because there is an itch. Then you have to check your mobile because (duh!) emergency message or something. Then your clothes are troublesome so you are fidgeting with them. Due to all of the above, your poor neighbour has been poked in the stomach a hundred times by now. And now you know why they won’t agree to joining their feet with you.
Sahaba (ra) used to be still as a rock when Allah’s words were taught/recited to them. Because they knew why they were in the mosque. Their pure intention shone through their actions. An ounce of doing is better than a pound of theorizing.
4) Make foot-peace with your neighbor.
I am nothing like the above. Still my neighbor won’t join feet with me. What do I do?
Well, you do nothing. It’s ok. You tried. It wasn’t meant to be. Leave it. Don’t keep pushing till that poor person ends up in the ablution area.
And you who is not ready to feet-contact anyone, try standing at the end of the line. At least one of your feet will have all the air that it wants to breathe.
The idea is to not leave space between the individuals so Satan won’t be poking you from the spaces you left. If you are close enough that your shoulders are touching, the job is pretty much done.
5) Smell good.
I am still like a rock, not forcing my neighbor into feet-contact, not murmuring loudly, etc. Still my neighbor wants to stand a mile away.
Did you sniff yourself before entering the mosque? Did you ask your blunt loved ones if you smell of anything offensive?
If they say things like garlic, onion, sour milk, moldy hay, an old shoe, dirty socks, or a jacket that’s never been to the dry cleaner, it’s time to do something about it. If you don’t have the audacity to ask anyone and flies are buzzing around you, it’s clear you need a shower. If you see a fly coming towards you but then take a U-turn, it’s time for a double-shower. Any perfume won’t do anything at this point. The only cologne sprayed over sweaty flesh is Eau No.
Wash your body before you wash your soul.
Sixty-three percent people say a stinky adult would be a more off-putting seatmate than one holding a crying baby. Which brings us to the next point . . .
6) Take care of your kids.
If your male child is taller or heavier than you, probably he doesn’t belong in the women’s area. If he is not and you want to instill Islamic values into your children (which is really good), then you should take the responsibility of not letting them hit anyone while they are prostrating.
Keep them in your close proximity. But if they manage to escape even after so much surveillance and end up sitting in the way, please don’t step on them. Of course you didn’t want to, but you didn’t take enough care.
If they are crawling around you with grief leaking out of them from every orifice, pick them up. Not everyone is fond of loud baby cries during prayer and not everyone understands the hardship of parenthood either. So it’s okay to pray, embracing your baby.
Prophet (saws) wouldn’t get up if a little kid would jump onto him during prostration.
May Allah give all of us such patience.
Children are innocent beings and if they do something out of naiveté, it’s ok. Don’t seethe— swallow it in.
Which takes me to the next point . . .
7) Politeness is the key.
Now you may be trying to act on smile-sunnah but the other person just looks coldly down upon you and the whole day for a weakhearted is ruined.
Why do some people (same gender of course) take a smile to be so offensive? Is it this snob attitude that makes them so?
Why so angry? Who spat in your cereal this morning that you’re being such a grinch?
We usually show our power (we consider anger a power somehow) to the ones we consider weaker. Hence sweepers, kids, guards, instructors, etc. get those death glares. Prophet (saws) remembered that lady who used to clean the mosque. It’s not despicable. Our behavior becomes so if we are considering them, or their job, degrading.
There is also a lot of racism going on sometimes, hence the upside-down smile. Preferring one’s own nation over the other, not agreeing to sit beside a particular nation, etc. No Arab is better than the Ajam (non-arab) and vice versa. Every nation has a different culture; what’s the point of mocking just because they’re different than what your mind has been programmed to accept?
Every human being in posession of a heart needs to smile, instead of frown towards strangers without any apparent reason.
Prophet (saws) had a very smiling hence welcoming face, even when he had so many difficulties in his life.
Positive vibes matter indeed. I may have killed yours with the above, but sometimes humor forwards ideas into the mind more effectively. Psychology says that, not me.
8) Listen to the instructor(s).
When they say throw litter in the dustbin, that means the big basket in a corner for your dirty wrappers, tissues, etc. Keep the mosque clean.
When they say go out in a line and don’t push each other, they mean to discipline everyone for everyone’s ease. If you disagree, don’t challenge them to a duel. Not only will you be blocking the entry for others in line, but also leaving the mosque with a grumpy face. They are doing a good honest job even if it doesn’t serve your best interest.
The universe doesn’t revolve around you or me. In the adult world, we get asked to do things because things need to get done. It has nothing to do with being biased, it has nothing to do with being mean to you. It has nothing to do with you at all.
There’s a whole world out there with higher goals that need to be accomplished. So listen to their little instructions. You will do more good than you think you can do, with each little step. It will make your own experience at mosque one to remember, in shaa Allah.
No matter if these things continue to happen, going to the mosque for prayer is still worth it, especially for men who are to go there five times a day. Keep the devil miserable; keep these points in mind. Gaining the pleasure of Allah is worth it.