Your Questions Answered

What is the role of a Mosque in Islam?
Mosque or ‘Masjid’, literally means a place for self-prostration; that is, a place formally designated for the saying of prayers. According to a teaching of the Prophet, “The mosque is a house of God-fearing people”. This means in effect, that it is a centre for the inculcation of reverence, where individuals learn what is meant by piety and are thus prepared for a life of devotion to the Almighty.

The Masjid is built so that people may visit it to read the Book of God, to remember their Creator, silently and in prayer, and to hear His commandments on how they should lead their lives, that is, how to conduct themselves according to His will.

The most important of all these activities is the saying of prayers, a ritual to be carried out five times a day as prescribed by Islam. The mosque, initially intended as a place of worship, has come to be built to serve other related purposes, such as housing a seminary, library, lecture hall, guest house, dispensary etc. The Prophet advised the building of mosques in a simple style, so that there should be no dissipation or dilution of the true religious and spiritual atmosphere.

What is the meaning of Azaan which we hear from the Mosque five times a day?

Azaan is the call for prayer which is used to notify the Muslims about the prayer times of the five compulsory prayers which are supposed to be observed by Muslims daily.

Following are the words of the Azaan in Arabic with their translation:

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar
God is Great, God is Great, God is Great, God is Great

Aashhadu Allaa ilaaha Illal-Laah, Aashhadu Allaa ilaaha Illal-Laah,
I bear witness that there is no god except Allah, I bear witness that there is no god except Allah

Aashhadu Aanna Muhammadur Rasoolul-lah, Aashhadu Aanna Muhammadur Rasoolul-lah
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

Haiyya Alas-salah, Haiyya Alas-salah
Come towards Prayer, Come towards Prayer

Haiya Alal-falah, Haiya Alal-falah
Come towards Success, Come towards Success

Assalaatu Khayrum Minan Naum, Assalaatu Khayrum Minan Naum [only said during dawn prayer]
Prayer is better than sleep, Prayer is better than sleep

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar
God is Great, God is Great

La ilaaha Illal-Laah
There is no deity but God.

When and why was this method of calling for prayer established?
In Makkah, the number of Muslims was small. They could gather for prayers without any call. When Prophet Muhammad arrived in Madinah, the number of Muslims started to increase. Prophet Muhammad built Masjid Al-Nabawi to offer Salah regularly. By the second year of Hijrath, (migration) the number of Muslims had increased. The people announced the call to prayer in a loud voice so that those who heard this call came to join the Salah. Muslims felt the need to find a way to inform people to come to the Salah. Prophet Muhammad asked his Companions for their advice.

Some of the Companions suggested that the Muslims, should blow a horn to announce the time for the Salah. Others said, the Muslims might ring bells. A few proposed that the Muslims, kindle a fire to call people to pray. Prophet Muhammad wasn’t satisfied with any of these ideas. He waited to hear a better idea or to receive guidance from God. One day, a Companion, Abdullah ibn Zaid came to Prophet Muhammad and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I had a beautiful dream last night.” “What was the dream you saw”, Prophet Muhammad asked Zaid. Zaid answered, “I’ve seen that a man wearing green garment taught me the words of the Azaan and advised me to call people to prayer with these words.” He then recited the words of the Azaan.

The words were beautiful and full of meaning. Prophet Muhammad recognized that the dream of Zaid was true. He asked Zaid to teach the words of Azaan to Bilal, another Companion of the Prophet.

Bilal stood up and called the Azaan. The voice of Bilal resounded throughout the Madinah. People came running to Masjid Al-Nabawi. Umar ibn khattab was one of the persons who came and said: “O Messenger of God, an Angel taught me the same words in my dream last night.” And Prophet Muhammad accepted this Azaan as the official call to prayers.