Mosques have a compelling influence in the Muslim society. Considering this extraordinary importance of the Mosque pulpit, the Prophet (sws) set the rule that none other than the heads of the state and their viceroys may lead the Friday Congregation and deliver a sermon on the occasion. The service cannot legitimately be assumed by an individual on his own accord. However, when the ruler is not able to fulfil his duty in this regard, under a valid excuse, individual scholars can take his stead and lead the congregation and deliver the sermon that too with the express will and permission by the authorities.
This norm established by the last Messenger of God indeed indicates that, in the true religion of God, the hub of the authority is the mosque. There is no Pope in Islam. Nor a Brahman. Muslims choose their political leadership and expect from their rulers to lead the worship rites and rituals. This abolishes difference between religion and politics forever.
The caliphate established and run by the pious Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) followed this sunnah with all its spirit and in perfect grandeur. The saddest tragedy in the Muslim ummah did not, however, wait long. Marred by unworthy deeds, the subsequent rulers were no longer able to face the public in the weekly congregations. They had to relinquish the pulpit of the mosques to the clergy. A direct consequence of this failure on the part of the rulers has been that the religion was denuded of its grandeur and politics its beauty. The party that merited honour and prosperity has remained subservient for centuries. Contrarily, the party which should have remained subservient to has got out of line to the extent that any effort to bend it down to its original position is feared to face myriad problems. Mosques are now fortresses controlled by the sects. The leaders of such sects occupying the fortresses safely hurl stones at one another. The facility of the pulpit on the Friday Congregation yields great power to the clergy. Our society has reaped a strong faction of the professional clergymen which is literally a black spot on Muslim scholarship. When directed at the opponents the tongues of the clergy spawn poisonous snakes which shower lethal secretion. Every caller to the truth falls victim to them. They spare no one. Research and education are always their most favourite victims. Mosques are open and accommodating for only the preaching of heresies and sectarianism. They are mostly closed to the propagators of the pure message of the religion based on the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It has been made impossible for a true and honest scholar of Islam to make the mosque a centre of his preaching and fulfil his duty to propagate the religion under the command of God.
This awful misery prevailing in our mosques is appreciated by all possessed of understanding. Correction and reforms are possible. But the only way to achieve this is to adopt the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) introduced in the beginning of this essay. A positive effort in that front, in my view, requires the following gradual steps:
1. The headquarters of all the administrative units in the country are shifted to the central congregational mosques in the locality. Administrative units are decided and categorized keeping in consideration the objective that the central congregational mosque in a locality fulfils all the needs and requirements of the local populace.
2. Offices and courts necessary for an administrative unit are set up beside the mosque in every centre.
3. In the central and provincial capitals one particular mosque is declared the central congregational mosque.
4. The head of the state takes the responsibility to deliver the Friday Sermon and lead the congregation in the main mosque of the central capital. Similarly, in the provincial capitals, the governors lead the prayer and deliver the sermon. In the small administrative units, the representatives of the state and government officials discharge this duty.
5. Friday congregations are banned in any other mosque.
6. Government should manage and administer the mosques.
7. Every scholar is given the right to hold classes and gatherings in the mosque with a view to educate and train the masses and deliver sermon of moral and religious teachings according to his understanding and views.
(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)