By Sabria S. Jawhar
21 May 2015
Earlier this month a video was circulating on various social media platforms that showed a man in the usual pilgrim’s attire in Makkah (which means he was in the Grand Mosque to perform Umrah) using a chair to smash the glass doors near the end of the Mataf. It’s a mystery as to why a Muslim would travel all the way to the Kingdom at a great expense to perform his religious obligations and set about destroying the very thing that should be dear to his heart.
It has been reported that the individual may be mentally ill and not responsible for his actions. Maybe so, but it reminds me of the flagrant abuses by worshippers at the Holy Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque that I often witness.
The basics of Islam, of course, are cleanliness, yet it’s common to see individuals perform ablution using drinking water and making a mess. Many worshippers visiting from outside the Kingdom arrive at the mosques with chest infections or flu and think nothing of spitting in a mosque or leaving tissues littering the floor. Children, uncontrolled by their parents, use mosques as a playground. Worshippers routinely sleep on the floor, ignoring the unwritten rule that the mosque is to be used for meditation and prayer, not for naps.
Also violating the commitment to cleanliness are worshippers who don’t bother to take bath. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred that his fellow worshippers not eat garlic before prayer so as not to annoy fellow worshippers and the angels. Yet personal hygiene among foreign visitors and even some Saudis seem to elude those who want to pray. Washing and remaining clean is at the very core of our religion.
The Saudi government never complains or admonishes these abusers. But who takes the brunt of these poor manners? The workers at the mosques. These diligent men are extremely efficient and are constantly cleaning prayer areas, continually placing and returning prayer rugs to the rightful place within minutes. They silently tolerate this behavior and clean the messes of the rude and selfish without complaint.
Over the past decade Saudi Arabia has spent SR70 billion to expand the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and to develop the surrounding areas by building roads, bridges, tunnels and service utilities.
The expansion at the Prophet’s Mosque consists of 82,000 square meters to accommodate 150,000 worshippers for a total area of 98,500 square meters to accommodate up to 180,000 of the faithful. The extension of the roof alone is 67,000 square meters. In all, the mosque can accommodate 270,000 worshippers at a time.
These expensive projects serve one purpose: To ensure that every Muslim on earth can worship in comfort. But many Muslims appear to believe that the mosques are their own personal home and treat these holy places as if they are in their own sitting rooms, or worse, their yards.
Education is the key to preserving these mosques, and perhaps it’s now time for the Saudi government to issue advisories that spell out a code of conduct that should be followed. Umrah and Haj companies should also have the responsibility to educate their customers — indeed, supervise their behavior — about mosque etiquette.