Manners of Attending a Mosque
The masjid, translated as mosque in English, is the heartbeat of the Muslim society in Islam. In the West, most often Muslims buy land and build a masjid on it. Other times, they buy a church or some other building and convert it into a masjid. Sometimes, they even rent a room, garage, or a basement and use it as makeshift masjid.
In all cases, a masjid is a place for Muslims where they meet one another daily to perform the prayers and also to conduct other acts of worship and activities that are beneficial for the Muslim community.
The most important act of worship done in the masjid is the Friday prayer. Five daily prayers are also offered in most of them. Many masjids will have a dedicated imam, a prayer leader, who will lead the daily prayers. Some of them do not have a dedicated imam, but one of the attendees will lead the prayer when the prayer time comes . Similarly, the regular imam might also deliver the Friday sermon and lead the prayers or there might be different speakers who rotate weekly and deliver the Friday sermon.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ) taught us that the masjids are houses of Allah and that certain etiquettes and rules should be learned and observed by every Muslim who attends the them.
Following are some of the etiquettes and manners of a masjid:
1.Worship is the first priority. The primary purpose of going to the masjid is to worship the One true Lord of the heavens and the earth. Everything else is secondary. Many mosques provide gaming and social events like basketball, community dinners, picnics, etc. They are all worthwhile, but serve a secondary purpose. The masjid is primarily a place for the worship of Allah and that typically means prayer and reading or reciting the Quran.
2.The general rule is that a Muslim should be clean, wear clean clothes, and not smell bad when he or she comes to the mosque. He should avoid everything that has an offensive smell like that caused by eating raw garlic, raw onions, or smoking.
A Muslim should also wear clean clothes and socks when he comes to the masjid. Not only do bad smells bother fellow human beings, but they also offend the angels who are present. Remember, that a masjid is the house of Allah after all.
If a person performs work that makes him sweat or other bodily odors, then he should take a shower and change clothes before coming to the masjid. It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ) said:
"Whoever eats garlic or onion, then he must keep away from our masjid because the angels get offended from what offends the children of Adam." (Saheeh Muslim)
3.A Muslim should enter the masjid with his right foot first, and then say what was reported from Prophet Muhammad:
"Allah-hum-maf-tah lee abwaaba rahmatik."
"O Allah, open the gates of your Mercy for me."
This supplications is optional, however saying it is a rewarding act.
The Prophet liked to start with his right side in everything. The famous companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ), Ibn Umar, in imitation of the Prophet used to step with his right foot first when he entered the masjid, and step out with his left foot first when he walked out of the masjid. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari).
4.In order to keep the carpet clean, where people put their faces, it is appropriate to remove one's shoes before entering the prayer hall. This goes for children as well, who may drag dirt all over the carpet - not to mention that they shouldn't be running around inside the prayer all.
Many mosques have a rack for shoes that should be utilized to keep the space clear of shoes in walkways and other spaces. It also makes it easier to find shoes later on.
5.A Muslim should greet people by saying "As-Salamu Alaikum" to the people in the masjid as he enters it, even if he sees the people are praying. He does not have to shout it out. Saying it in an audible voice is enough. The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ) used to say "As-Salamu Alaikum" to the Prophet while he was praying, and he used to reply with a gesture. There are many reports about that. For example, Suhaib, a Companion of the Prophet, said: "I passed by the Messenger of Allah while he was praying and gave Salam to him, (and) he replied to me with a gesture." (Nasai)
In another instance, Ibn Umar asked Bilal, another Companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ), 'How did you see the Prophet reply to the Companions when they said Salam to him while he was engaged in prayer?" Bilal said: "By spreading his palm." (Tirmidhi)
6.A Muslim should try to be punctual in arriving for the Friday prayer, the regular prayers, or attending lectures and classes. Late arrivals disrupt the class already in attendance, and it is rude to the teacher and the rest of the class or audience.
7.A person must not rush to catch up prayer that is in progress at entering the masjid, because the Prophet forbade rushing in such a situation. Prophet Muhammad said:
"If the prayer started, then do not join it running, but join it walking and do it calmly, and pray whatever you caught up with, and make up for what you missed." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
If a Muslim arrives late to a prayer, he should say "Allahu Akbar" and join the congregation. If a rakah was joined after ruku', then the entire rakah needs to be repeated after the prayer. So when the imam finishes with the prayer then you should stand up and make-up what you missed.
It is appropriate to join the back row and fill in all the spaces. If there is no more room, then a new row should start directly behind the imam, and more latecomers fill out to the right and to the left. Sisters should begin a new row in front if the row starts in the back.
8.One should keep quiet during the prayer. During the congregational prayer, there is no good reason for making a lot of noise while people are trying to pray, yet conversations can sometimes be heard during the prayer! Children should be trained to stay near their parent in prayer if possible, or if not, they should not be brought to the masjid to pray.
9.The Muslim should not distract others praying in the masjid, because a person in prayer is in contact with Allah. Causing distraction is quite a serious matter - people should not be disturbed by actions such as reciting the Quran loudly.
10.The one who enters the masjid should not sit until he prays two rakahs. You pray them the same way you pray the two rakahs of the obligatory Fajr prayer. The reason you pray them is to show respect to the masjid before sitting down. The Prophet said:
"When one of you enters the masjid, he should pray two rakah before sitting down." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
11.If an individual is praying outside of the congregation (optional prayers, or obligatory prayers alone), he should place something in front of him during prayer as a barrier between himself and the passersby in front of him. It can be a chair, a wall, or a pillar. He should also come a little close to it as the Prophet used to do. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ) said:
"If you pray, then pray toward a sutrah (barrier) and get close to it." (Abu Daud)
It is not necessary to have a barrier in front of a person if praying in congregation, except for the imam, whose barrier acts for the congregation.
12.Muslims are not supposed to walk in front of a person praying. If a person is praying with a sutrah (barrier), let's say behind a chair, then you cannot walk between the person and the chair, but beyond the chair. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him ) said: "If one knew (the sin) of passing in front of one who is praying, he would rather wait for forty than to pass in front of him." Abu al-Nadr - one of the hadith narrators, said: "I do not remember exactly whether he said forty days, months or years." (Bukhari, Muslim)
13.The Muslim should sit where he finds a place in the masjid. The Muslim should not jump over people or squeeze himself between two people who are already sitting so as not to bother or harm them. Many ahadith of the Prophet convey this meaning.
14.Instead of chatting and gossiping, it is better for a Muslim to keep himself busy supplicating and remembering Allah, because he is considered as if in the prayer as long as he is waiting for the prayer.
15.The Muslim should keep the masjid clean and tidy, and fragrant because it is the house of Allah. The Prophet considered spitting in the masjid to be a sin that could be forgiven only if the Muslim cleans the area. The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him ) said:
"Spitting in the masjid is a sin and its expiation is to clean it." (Saheeh Muslim)
The Companions of the Prophet used to keep the masjid clean, like the famous Companion, Ibn Umar, used to put perfume inside the masjid when Umar, his father, sat on the pulpit to deliver Friday sermon (Abu Daud). Traditional incense or modern day sprays and electric devices can be used for the purpose.
16.The Muslim should not walk out of the masjid after the Adhan has been given before he prays that prayer with other Muslims in congregation. Let us say you have prayed Dhuhr earlier at home or another masjid, then you go to a masjid where the Adhan is called for Dhuhr. It will be considered a nafl (extra/optional) prayer even though you will pray it in congregation. Your intention will be of a nafl prayer, while others will pray it with the intention of the obligatory Dhuhr prayer.
17.It is proper to listen to the Adhan and to repeat it after the person calling it. Repeat everything, except for when he says:
"Hayya 'alas-Salaah" (Hasten to the prayer) and
"Hayya 'alal-Falaah" (Hasten to salvation).
Here you should say: "Laa hawla wa laa quwwata 'illaa billaah" (There is no might and no power except by Allah). (Bukhari, Muslim)
This repetition of the Adhan is a rewarding act, however it is optional.
18.The Muslim should leave the masjid starting with his left foot first and say what Prophet Muhammad used to say:
"Allaahumma innee as-aluka min fadhlika."
"O Allah, I ask of Your bounty." (Saheeh Muslim)
This supplications is optional, however saying it is a rewarding act.