The Mosque of Madina
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The glowing and fervent faces of the Ansar and the hearty welcome which the people of Aws and Khazraj had accorded to the Prophet prompted him to construct, before doing anything else, a public centre for the Muslims with the name of 'masjid', so that matters relating to instruction, development, politics and justice might be accomplished there. And as invitation to the worship of the One Lord and Nourisher was the first item in his programme, he considered it necessary, first of all, to build a place of worship where the Muslims should engage themselves in remembering Allah and glorify His name at the time of offering prayers.
It was also necessary that he should create a centre where the common members of the Islamic party (the party of Allah) should assemble every week on a fixed day and conduct discussions and consultations regarding the interests of Islam and of the Muslims, and should, besides meeting every day, offer Eid prayers there twice a year.
The mosque was not only a central place for worship. It was a place, where all types of Islamic instructions and orders were given and every sort of religious and scientific education was imparted including reading and writing. Till the commencement of the fourth Islamic century the mosques served as schools which functioned at all times, except those fixed for offering prayers. Thereafter the educational centres assumed a special shape. Most of the great scholars graduated from the educational circles which had been set up in the mosques.
At times the Mosque of Madina assumed the shape of a literary centre also. Great poets of Arabia, whose compositions conformed with the moral and educational spirit of Islam recited their verses before the Prophet. Ka'b bin Zuhayr read out his famous laudatory poem in praise of the Prophet before him in the mosque and received a large prize and robe of honour from him. Hassan bin Thabit, who defended the honour of Islam by means of his verses, used to read out his poems in the Mosque of the Prophet.
Educational meetings in the Mosque of Madina, during the time of the Prophet, were so impressive that the representatives of the tribe of 'Saqif' were very much impressed by the scene; they wondered at the interest taken by the Muslims in acquiring knowledge. Judicial matters and law-suits were settled, and punishments were awarded to the offenders in the mosque, and it was, for all intents and purposes, a court of law where the complaints of the people were settled. Furthermore, the Prophet used to deliver his stirring speeches there to make the people perform jihad and campaign against infidelity. Possibly one of the secrets of combination of religious and educational matters in the mosque was that the great leader of Islam desired to show it practically that knowledge and faith are complementary to each other, and if a place is a centre of faith, it must also be a centre of knowledge and wisdom. And if the judicial and other affairs including matters relating to jihad were decided in the mosque it was for the reason that he wanted to make it clear that his religion is not only spiritual which should have nothing to do with material matters, it is a religion which, while inviting people to piety and faith, does not also ignore the worldly matters and social welfare.
This harmony (between knowledge and faith) is the motto of the Muslims even today. When educational centres with a special shape were set up later, the schools and universities were always established by the side of Jami' Masjids (central mosques) so as to prove to the world that these two factors of prosperity are not separate from each other.