Unlike other places of worship in other Abrahamic religions, Muslims love to socialise in Mosques except for the brief period when the congregational prayer led by the Imam is held. It is good to socialise and love thy neighbour even in the Mosque and for this Muslims deserve 10 out of 10 with additional brownie points for the warm hand shake. However, there are times when silence must be observed in Mosques both out of respect and to give fellow worshippers the opportunity to offer additional prayers, read the Holy Quran and engage in Zikr in total peace and quiet. This is more true of Ramadan than any other month because in this month Muslims want to spend extra time in Mosques praying and seeking the blessings of Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala. How can this be achieved remains a big challenge for many Imams and Managers of Mosques.
One occasion when conversation gets real loud and undesirable is after Janaza prayers when these are combined with a Fard prayer and performed inside the main prayer hall. Most mosques in the UK are constrained by area and inclement weather to observe Janaza prayers inside the main hall and not in an open courtyard where people can easily gather and disassemble after the Janaza prayers. A good practice observed by some mosques to keep the level of conversation down is to pray the Janaza prayer immediately after Fard Jamaat prayer without any break so that after the Janaza prayer the remaining sunnah and nafil prayers are offered by worshippers in peace and quiet. A volunteer of the mosque takes the coffin box on the side of the prayer hall from where, after the remaining prayers, it is rolled away outside for people to see the uncovered face of the deceased if he is a male.
The role of the Imam is also very important in making sure that silence is observed in Mosques at all times and especially at Janaza prayers. Some Imams perform only the Janaza prayer and otherwise keep quiet throughout the proceedings. Other more intelligent Imams give a brief speech for a couple of minutes reminding the worshippers that as they as praying for the dead today, one day other Muslims will also be praying for them when their call comes from the Almighty Allah. These Imams also say a word or two about the deceased and enquire if anyone has a financial claim on the person whose Janaza prayer is being read, advising them to contact his heirs or forgive the debt. Where Janaza prayers are held only occasionally, the Imam also explains the procedure for performing Janaza prayer, even though every Muslim should be familiar with it as part of his religious education from childhood. Such announcements help to maintain the required sobriety and seriousness of the occasion and people are discouraged from letting loose their tongues to make the mosque a market place. AstagfiruAllah.
It is also said that our community is illiterate, indifferent and uncivilised. Numerous reminders to them to observe silence inside the Mosque or even around the Mosque in neighbourhoods where Fajr and Isha prayers take place outside normal working hours in Muslim minority localities fall on deaf ears and the congregation keeps behaving like the tail of the dog which got curled when it was taken out from a straight tube after 12 years. The answer lies in treating each congregation as a new congregation and the advice to worshippers to remain quiet should be repeated by Imams as many times as Iqama is called for each Fard prayer. Repeating it again and again will make people listen. If not listen, at least remember. If not remember, at least act. After all, this is also the golden principle of advertising. You advertise a beverage so many times again and again that when someone feels thirsty, he does not ask for water but goes straight for the beverage that has been drilled into his ears umpteenth times.
May Allah give us the wisdom to observe silence in Mosques, apply good practice and borrow good traditions from other Mosques in the spirit of bringing quality and taqwa in our Ibaada and submission to Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala. Ameen.
London: 9 June 2016