Warning: all of the below points are based on true stories.
I know some of these may not be common sights in general mosques (say Alhamdulillah for that), but having lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, I’ve seen all these atrocities over and over in masjid-al-haraam and masjid-al-nabawi etc. – where people from all walks of life, all cultures, all languages, all races and all ages come to elevate their eemaan and feel closer to Allah. They come there for worship, but most of them forget their purpose somewhere amidst the anger, laziness, impatience and zeal. And hey! Some of the below points are common sights during Ramadan Taraweeh wars as well.
Assuming that you know all the rituals of a mosque (from entrance dua to exit dua, from offering two raka’t before prayer to reciting 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 cheat sheet of mosque manners – ESPECIALLY if you are going to the sacred mosques in Makkah and Madina.
Your prayer is your own deed – indeed. But once your prayer and being in the mosque becomes more than just your deed, it becomes a community issue. I’m not your parent to tell you this (unless my kids are reading this), but since these are 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.
DON’TS of Mosque Mannerisms
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) DON’T park your car like you own the place
Even though you may know all of these things, they need to be addressed because they continue to happen nonetheless. If you’re a late comer, you park the car far away and walk yourself to the masjid instead of parking behind the already-parked cars. If you’re on foot, don’t marathon your way to the masjid.
“If the prayer is started do not run for it but just walk for it calmly and pray whatever you get, and complete whatever is missed.” [Bukhari]
It will help you realise how quick you have to shower next time you want to go to a Jummah prayer (because you will find plenty of car parking space on other days of the week – no matter how late you are (unless it’s masjid al haraam or masjid al nabawi – then you’re out of luck any time of the day)).
2) DON’T take more space than necessary or sit and sleep in the way
If you’re a person who likes to spread all across the first row or worst – in the middle, as a golden light floods the room and a soft, warming hum fills the air while people at the back are fighting each other to get even a corner, then it’s time to fold your wings and hot glue your knees together. Any kind of meditation or yoga attempt can be done at home. Please have mercy on your sandwiched salah neighbour. Also, if you become meat in a stampede, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
“O you who have believed, when you are told, “Space yourselves” in assemblies, then make space…” [Qur’an – 58:11]
I thought sitting in the middle where everyone’s walking, was a problem until I saw someone sleeping. Yepp, full on sheet-and-pillow cozy-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. If you are this tired, kindly choose a corner. It will not only help you, but also others. You will probably not lose a limb either because people walking the wheelchairs won’t see or expect you and boom! Yeah, a missing toe right there! (If you have gone for umrah or hajj, you know what I mean).
3) DON’T save space for friends or family in advance
Now if you’re stretched and spread across the first row because you want to save the space for your relative or friend etc. (While your relatives or friends haven’t even entered the mosque yet), then we have a problem here I’m afraid. Ask yourself – do you need company in the mosque for gossip or someone to bring you water again and again or you are afraid to touch feet with a stranger during taraweeh? Possibilities are endless I understand. But the solution is only one! You abandon them (without telling them you read this on ayeina).
“…Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression…” [Qur’an 5:2]
Even if your friend/relative is late, it’s OK! They will get the space as well, in shaa Allah. Maybe not the first row. Because the first-comers get that. But probably they will manage a quarter beside the mosque exit door. They will hate you? Hmm, 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.
4) DON’T pray without ablution (after you’ve slept in the mosque)
It’s common sense yet such a common sight. People constantly do this when they have taken a certain spot after a lot of shoving and pushing. And then of course walking to the ablution area after they slept is another episode of war that no one wants to participate in, so they don’t even bother. I remember telling aunties in Makkah, thinking they may be oblivious that they were snoring, only to be completely ignored. She prayed anyway while I kept thinking – do people hush their conscience with – Allah rewards the intentions and He looks into our hearts and our hearts are definitely more pure than our bodies? Do they secretly pray for rain or try to think of the saddest moment in life to let their tears wash their limbs? (I’m sure they know that “Cry me a river” is just a rhetorical statement).
“…one who sleeps should perform ablution…” [Abu Dawud]
I know how hard it is to leave a spot you won after a WWE match (like literally), but what would you gain from a salah without praying it the way Allah ordained it as (while you KNEW – of course it’s a different scenario if you didn’t know). On a casual note, your space may possibly be taken when you go (definitely be taken actually) and you will lose your family as you may get lost on your way back in the mob. Teehee, just kidding! (No seriously, been there done that 😶)
5) DON’T over stuff yourself or eat onion etc. before coming to the mosque
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. Who would have thought these manners are still needed to be taught to fully grown human adults, right? Wash your body before you come to wash your soul. Especially if you are attending the taraweeh in this summer heat or in an extremely crowded mosque, then please please please take a bath before walking in the masjid. A quick whiff of perfume doesn’t do much sometimes. The only cologne sprayed over sweaty flesh is Eau No.
“He who has eaten onion or garlic or leek should not approach our mosque, because the angels are also offended by the strong smells) that offend the children of Adam.” [Muslim]
In Ramadan (with heavy iftaar before taraweeh), burping is very common – even by the imaam who is on a loud speaker. Imagine the khushoo going down the drain for everyone praying behind him. Yeah, that taraweeh still haunts me (happened in a local masjid – not in Makkah or Madina of course).
Please don’t over-stuff yourself till your 7th intestine when you break your fast.
6) DON’T disturb your salah neighbor
Most people whisper in the mosques as to respect the ambience, but too many whispers start sounding like a whole bee hive which means that the poor salah neighbor probably has to restart their surah fatiha for the 7th time in a row. So please, don’t sit with your loved ones if you’re someone with zero self control. You came here for remembrance of Allah. Stick to the plan.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever says to his companion on Friday, when the imam is delivering the khutbah: ‘Listen attentively,’ has engaged in idle talk.” [Nasa’i]
I mean technically you can’t even say shhh, let alone gossiping in masjid etc. (even if it’s in a form of a whisper).
Also, some people are very fidgety during the prayer. Sometimes there is an itch. Other times they have to check their mobile or their clothes are so troublesome that the poor neighbor gets poked in the stomach a hundred times by the time the imaam says tasleem. Sometimes they are not ready to make foot-peace with anyone and the neighbor trying to make foot-contact ends up in ablution area while trying. and the list of ‘sometimes’ carries on…
7) DON’T pray on your own while everyone is praying with the imaam.
There is barakah in unity. It’s understandable when someone has to finish the prayer they have started before the iqama, but when the iqama has been announced, no matter how slow the imaam is – your Salah in congregation is definitely better than the Salah alone (even if you manage to pray triple the amount of prayers while we all finish only one). This is so common a scene in Masjid al-Nabawi and Masjid al-Haraam. You think people would travel all the way to pray in congregation, right? Nope!
“Prayer in congregation is twenty-five levels better than a prayer offered on one’s own.” [Nasa’i]
I remember my 2 year old prostrating with the aunty beside me who was clearly ahead of the imaam. So my toddler stood with the imaam and prostrated with the aunty. Did rukoo with the imaam and did tasleem with the aunty. I kept wondering, utterly confused, whether to join my feet with the said aunty or no because she was standing in the congregational line but was definitely doing her own thing (along with my toddler 😒).
8) DON’T wear inappropriate clothing to the mosque
I know it sounds like a personal deed at first and your idea of inappropriate may be limited, but your outfit 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. No one wants to see the piece of clothing underneath or the parts of your body that you should be keeping covered – it could be a big distraction for the fellows praying behind you.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘A man is not to look at the ‘Awrah of a man, and a woman is not to look at the ‘Awrah of a woman…” [Tirmidhi]
If you have to lie down and suck in your gut every time you put on your favorite pair of skinny jeans, chances are you won’t be able to bend down for prostration in this sausage attire. Buy yourself a decent belt and hike up those pants and next time, don’t wear younger sibling’s clothes. 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. Put one or two more layers of clothing over that.
And oh, inappropriate clothing also includes faces on your clothes! Very distracting as well!
9) DON’T crowd the exit area or litter the mosque
As soon as the imam finishes the prayer, you will see a mob rushing towards the exit door, trampling over other worshipers, only to block the whole exit area as everyone pushes everyone for the great escape.
It was narrated from Abu Az-Zahiriyah about ‘Abdullah bin Busr, he said: “I was sitting beside him on Friday and he said: ‘A man came, stepping over people’s necks, and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Sit down, you are disturbing people.” [Abu Dawud]
Keep sitting till the crowd diminishes. Recite the adhkaar till then. And if you stand up for supererogatory prayers, keep the sutrah in front of you and please don’t stare into the souls of passers by (If passers by are unaware of you praying, then it will almost seem like a sorcery attempt to them – when you’ll be standing completely still and your peepers will be fixed at them while your lips will fervently move).
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. Please keep the mosque clean.
10) DON’T be a shoe lifter or a shoe slacker
First of all, when you enter the mosque, put your shoes in the shoe rack. Easy peasy. It seems like landa bazaar (thrift store?) sometimes when all the shoes are stacked up on each other right at the entrance while the shoe rack is empty. The only missing thing by that time is a man shouting – do rupay do rupay (2 dollars 2 dollars?).
Hence when people finally exit the mosque, guess what happens – People have to wrestle their way through to get to their long lost shoe. If you find yourself in the middle of this mob, I guess you just vibrate and call out for your shoe? It’s better than butting at each other like mountain goats trying to establish superiority, right?
The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade robbery (taking away what belongs to others without their permission)…” [Bukhari]
Pick your shoes, move out of the mob and THEN put the shoes on. And if you don’t find your shoe, it’s ok to walk home barefoot than taking someone else’s shoe (even if it looks abandoned). Probably keep a pair of extra slippers in the car or your bag.
I remember the times my father had to lend me or my mother his slippers and walk barefoot on a burning ground while our car was parked far far away. People don’t realize what others may go through when they casually wear someone else’s slippers, do they!
11) DON’T shout at kids in the mosque
I remember the time when I finished my prayer at the mosque and saw an elderly woman dragging my then 9 month old by the arm. Then there was a time when a woman questioned my motherhood because my baby was simply exploring the mosque and roaming around while giggling – she wasn’t even crying). There was also a time when a woman scolded me that the mosque is not a place to stroke my child’s head or make her hair as I had my 4 year old in my lap and I was stroking her hair lovingly while we listened to the khutbah. I’m so glad that before I could say something, another woman stood up for me and said how ridiculous that statement sounded!
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If I had given up after being scolded, my kids would have been deprived of the beautiful experiences they had in the mosques so I still take them because Ibaadah is not exclusive to the old people alone.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘I get up to perform prayer and I intend to make it long, but then I hear an infant crying, so I make it short, because I do not like to cause distress to his mother.’” [Ibn Majah]
Shouting at the kids for shouting is like adding to the chaos. Instead, let their parents know or guide the kids with love. Of course kids need boundaries and your loving tone will help them establish cherishable memories of salah and the masaajid. The child’s parent may be in need of a village – an ummah who is concerned for the future of Islam. Be that village!
12) DON’T play with your phone, but don’t judge others for using their phone
I’ll just throw in some corny jokes here. People are prisoners of their phone and perhaps that’s why they are called CELL phones. People who look at their phones while listening to the khutbah are just CELLfish. If you came to the mosque to taste the sweetness of eemaan, stick to the plan and put the phone aside. But love thy neighbour as thy cell phone because another person on the cellphone can actually be reading the Quran or the earphones in their ear means Quran recitation. So, dear Muslims, the world has a judge. And it’s not you. He’s fairer than you. More just than you. And far more accurate. So even if you yourself can avoid cell phone as much as possible, you don’t have to judge someone using it. The rule is basically for your own soul.
An ounce of doing is better than a pound of theorizing. 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. No matter if these things continue to happen, going to the mosque for prayer is still worth it. I may have killed your positive vibes with the above, but sometimes humor forwards ideas into the mind more effectively. Psychology says that, not me.
Is there anything that can be added in the list? Comment below!