By Imam Numaan Cheema (Boston, Massachusetts)
You arrive at your local masjid or musalla ahead of prayer time so you can squeeze a few extra nawāfil in to increase the dough in your bank upstairs. By raising your hands up and parallel to your head, you’re about to cut yourself from everyone and everything except The Almighty. Elated at coming early, excited to reconnect with Him, anxious to speak to Him, you raise your hands in a sweeping like motion throwing the distractions of the world behind you and suddenly you hear a flock of loud laughs preceded by:
Wait What?! Did you just step into a sports bar? You remember setting your GPS to the local masjid but how did you end up stumbling over the recap of the previous Sunday’s football games? You look around for a quick minute to snap back to reality and re-affirm you’re in the intended place until you again hear last night’s red zone coverage instead of the Qur’an being hummed or narrations from the blessed hadith.
Maybe you’ve been in this situation in which our places of peace, tranquility, and overall holiness have become the social hubs to discuss the latest events happening around us; mundane things such as professional sports, politics (especially those happening thousands of miles away), and other useless topics of time waste. Keeping our masājid cleansed from such distractions must be a priority of not just one feeble voiced “Uncle Ji,” but rather the collective effort of all.
Distractions? Yes! Distractions. Stepping into the masjid a regular Joe comes to connect with his Rabb and breakaway from the temporary takeaways consuming his mind. When the regular Joe hears Qur’an, hadith, zikr3, or something else spiritual, his mind starts to prepare for the upcoming prayer. You’re mentally ready for the divine connection but when that flow of khushū`4 is interrupted by something else, Shaytān seizes the opportunity to start replaying last night’s games, and he strips away the much-needed sin detox.
Masājid are holy and spiritually uplifting sanctuaries beautifully carved into communities all over the globe designed to help immerse the average Muslim into experiencing a glimpse of an Islamic ideal. When the average Muslim walks into any masjid worldwide, he/she hopes to taste the sweetness and serenity lying within salāh and seeks the comfort of being in a state of continuous worship, while immersing into the array of different methods of ihsān. The expectation is to be greeted by a holistic, light-like feeling completely overtaking the body transforming into a sort of an evolved ābid5 for the duration of stay.
“But Imam, it’s football season! You’ve got to understand.”
Excitement coming through such adrenaline-pumping sports has undoubtedly become the norm and is very enjoyable, but keep in mind everything has a place and time to be discussed, remembered, and enjoyed. As the Arabic proverb goes:
الظلم وضع الشيء في غير محله
Placing something where it doesn’t belong is injustice.6
The Prophet of Allah (May Allah have mercy and bless him) warned us there will come a time when people will sit in circles in the masājid with no concern except for this world. Allah has no need of them, so do not sit with them.7
So next time you or your fantasy league buddy have the urge to talk about who’s got points in a make-believe world, think again and remind yourself where you are. If you fear you might burst out of excitement, remember you don’t want to be from amongst those who the Prophet (May Allah have mercy and bless him) told to avoid.
Featured image (c) rogiro
1 Typically a rather muscular person who walks around with their arms out to their side.
2 A man at the Quarterback position in football responsible for handling the football.
3 Remembrance of Allah, whether vocal or silent.
4 Islamic term for ultimate concentration, calmness, and tranquility in prayer.
5 Islamic term defining one as an excessive worshipper.
6 Al-Asalīb wa al-Itlaqāt al-`Arabiyya
7 Mustadrak al-Hākim (4/359)