Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Healthy Mosques Hold the Future

Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Healthy Mosques Hold the Future

Article excerpt

THE MUSLIM AMERICAN COMMUnity has reached consensus on two facts: (1) its overall health is directly tied to the health of its mosques and (2) its ability to survive the Islamophobes' ongoing attacks and maintain its presence for future generations depends upon the continuance of that health.

Mosques are so important because they are designated as gathering places that connect Muslims to God and to one another. Connecting to God means that mosques exist to make us better Muslims, strengthen our faith, heal our wounds and improve our character. Connecting to one another means that mosques are tasked with forming communities that enable Muslims, on the group level, to live an Islamic life and to share Islam's message and vision with others.

A healthy mosque serves as a hub in which all Muslim organizations can be spokes, using it as a platform to raise awareness, recruit volunteers and raise funds. Such a mosque allows its members to maximize their resources and thereby become far more dynamic and effective in fulfilling their missions of standing up for justice and doing good in the world.

In addition, this type of mosque serves as an incubator for the next generation by helping the youth connect to God and solidify their identity as members of the community. A Jewish researcher once told me that he found that a Jew who had had no connection to the synagogue as a youth would have little connection with the religion or the community as an adult.

A JOINT EFFORT

Considering these parameters, ISNA and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU; www.ispu.org) have teamed up to make mosques healthier. ISPU is doing the research as part of its "Reimagining Muslim Spaces" project, and I SNA is taking the lead in disseminating the resulting information and recommendations.

ISP Us research shows that while our mosques are doing well overall, there are clear challenges to their health. We can think of these as "significant growing pains": (1) Our mosques are not strong communities, for too many Muslims have no sense of belonging to one or of volunteering; rather, they just pray and leave; (2) A growing number of young adults and women are questioning the mosques' legitimacy, because they feel marginalized there; and (3) In general, mosques are not involved enough in their neighborhoods and communities, let alone in the world.

ISPU'S RECOMMENDATIONS

To create a sense of community and belonging, mosques must make attendees feel welcomed. Interviews conducted within ISPU's focus groups show that young adults, women and converts are most attracted to mosques where they felt welcomed.

Some of the recommendation of ISPU's Community Brief, Creating a Welcoming, Inclusive, Dynamic Mosque (2016), include:

* Form a welcoming committee (tasleem squad) to offer salam as people enter for the Jum'ah prayer and other events. …

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