This prompt for the Ramadan journaling challenge is quite apt at the moment and rather timely. This time last year, hubby and a group of local brothers had just finished work on a new masjid in our neighbourhood. They had found a gap in provision locally for good quality Quran and Islamic studies for their children and between them rather than complain took it upon them to do something about it. It was an interesting year. First the building they found, a middleman tried to buy it and rent to the brothers, this was not what they wanted and in the end the middleman’s sale fell through. The building went to auction and the brothers ended up buying it for cheaper than originally expected.
Then the whole derelict old building has to be virtually rebuilt from the ground up with no funds to hand. A masjid in the next neighbourhood offered an interest-free loan (qarz-e-hassanah), local people volunteered their labour (literally hauling bricks and filling skips) and skills (including an architect and planning consultant) and a sister even sold her jewellery to contribute – if you know anything about Asian women and their gold jewellery, you’ll know that that’s no small thing.
I was pregnant with my youngest child during this time and struggling. I didn’t see my husband for most of that year except in passing in the morning and at night and got more and more upset about it. That was until the first day of Ramadan, when they rushed to clean up the masjid and put some order in it, just in time for taraweeh, when 400 people showed up! I think that’s the moment all of my anger and self-pity was washed away.
In the year that followed there was the slow process to get permission to teach children and classes filled up leaving children on a waiting list. The masjid was granted temporary permission for worship and told to apply for proper permission to use it as a place of worship.
The thing is, no sooner had the consultation for permission gone public that people started campaigning against the masjid getting permission. So who wrere these people going door to door with petitions and asking people to go online and comment against the application? Racists? Far right nationalists? No – Muslims. This is what gets me. The nearest masjid has long begrudged a new masjid of a different affiliation nearby. So they are going door to door in the local neighbourhood telling people it is haram to have another masjid so near to an established one.
My neighbourhood has one of the largest populations of Muslims in the country. 19.6% or 20,895 people in the area are Muslim according to the 2011 Census – so actually I suspect it is by now much more. The local masjid has a capacity of approximately 1100 – 2500 (I have come across both figures). I pray that every Muslim prays salah and that every Muslim man prays salah in the masjid. But one masjid for 20k+ people just isn’t enough.
So this weekend hubby and the brothers were getting their own petitions ready and asking people to go online and support the application to turn the Islamic educational centre into a permanent place of worship. They asked the 400 brothers in the first Friday prayer and the 350 in the second Friday prayer to support them.
Some people they have spoken to locally have told them they signed the petition against because they trusted the people from the masjid and were not even clear about what the petition they signed was about. One plucky Somali sister tried to get the petitioner to remove her signature and when he refused, called the police (I’m not quite clear if they did anything...).
There are about ten more days to the planning application for change of use to be determined. The masjid is a hub of activity with children studying there five days a week, dawah work taking place, daily study circles and the men sitting together every day after fajr prayer to undertake mushwerah, or consultation about the needs of the neighbourhood’s Muslims.
Please, please make dua for the masjid and for the people in this neighbourhood insh’Allah.
My cousin T, who is only fourteen, lives in an area where there is no masjid at all. He is currently working with local brothers to raise funds to buy a property. So far he has doen a sponsored two-hour walk and helped organise a charity iftar with guest speakers. He is an amazing role model for my boys and I am so proud of him mash’Allah. Please support the efforts of this group by visiting their website here an if you can, making a donation insh’Allah.