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Rediscovering Mosques as Centres of Learning Spaces

In bustling cities and serene towns alike, mosques stand as symbols of spiritual sanctuary and community gathering. Yet, beyond their traditional role as places of worship, mosques possess immense potential to evolve into vibrant centres of learning, fostering knowledge, enlightenment, and societal advancement.

In reflecting on the rich history of mosques as centres of learning, it is imperative to acknowledge their profound significance in the life of Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslim community. From the very outset of Islam, the Prophet’s first act upon arriving in Medina was to establish a mosque, emphasizing its paramount importance as a place of worship and communal gathering. Over time, successive leaders, including Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Usman, ensured its maintenance and expansion to accommodate the growing needs of the community. Indeed, the mosque was not merely a site for the performance of the five daily prayers, but a vibrant hub of activity and engagement. It served as a forum for consultations and discussions on a wide range of matters, from personal affairs to community governance. Furthermore, the mosque was a locus of holistic care, catering to the physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs of its attendees. Beyond religious instruction, it hosted study circles on Islamic jurisprudence, provided medical assistance through clinics, and offered sustenance to the less fortunate. This multifaceted approach exemplifies the holistic vision of Islam, which recognizes the interconnectedness of spiritual fulfilment and social welfare.

Throughout history, mosques have been more than prayer halls. They were beacons of enlightenment, where scholars gathered to exchange ideas, debate philosophies, and delve into the depths of knowledge. The illustrious history of institutions like the House of Wisdom in Baghdad and the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morocco bears testament to the pivotal role mosques played in shaping intellectual discourse and preserving wisdom during the middle ages. Today, as we navigate a complex and interconnected world, the need for centres of learning that promote critical thinking, innovation, and cultural exchange is more pressing than ever. Mosques, with their central location in communities and inherent focus on education in Islam, are uniquely positioned to fill this void. Imagine stepping into a mosque not just for prayer, but also for engaging seminars, thought-provoking lectures, and interactive workshops. Picture a space where individuals of all backgrounds come together to explore science, arts, literature, and philosophy – where knowledge transcends boundaries and fosters understanding.

Practical steps can be taken to realize this vision. Mosque committees can collaborate with educational institutions, community organizations, and local governments to develop curricula tailored to the needs and interests of their constituents. They can invest in state-of-the-art facilities, including libraries, lecture halls, and multimedia resources, to create dynamic learning environments. Furthermore, embracing technology can expand the reach of mosque-based education beyond physical boundaries, facilitating online courses, virtual seminars, and digital resources accessible to a global audience. By harnessing the power of digital platforms, mosques can amplify their impact and connect with learners worldwide. Crucially, fostering a culture of inclusivity and accessibility is paramount. Mosques must welcome individuals from all walks of life, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to engage in learning and intellectual exchange.

In essence, the legacy of mosques as centres of learning transcends time and place, serving as beacons of enlightenment and compassion in every community they inhabit. As we strive to revitalize these sacred spaces in the modern era, let us draw inspiration from the noble example set forth by Prophet Muhammad and his companions, embracing mosques not only as houses of worship but as dynamic hubs of education, empowerment, and communal solidarity.

-Resham Fatima,

International Relations,

Jawaharlal Nehru University

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