Quick Guide to Masjid Customs

I remember the first few times I reentered the masjid after years of avoiding it. I was literally lost in all sense of the word – from finding the way to the wudhu’ area and the prayer hall, to being flat-out confused as to why everyone prayed two rakaats for Maghrib as opposed to three*. The fact that a pakcik shouted at me to put on a hijab did not help either (but more about that later)!

Entering a new territory, or even trying something new, takes lots of courage. We are forced to leave our comfort zones and enter the ‘great unknown’, a space filled with doubts, questions and loads of fear. I’ve been there, so I really honest to goodness, know how it feels.

Recently, I spoke to a sister who wanted so much to enter the masjid, but her fear stopped her. And because I am here in Malaysia and I cannot physically be there to accompany her, I have compiled together a very brief guide to masjid customs (as according to Singapore & Malaysia). My hopes are that insyaAllah your ‘great unknown’ will be reduced, even by a little.

This guide is by no means comprehensive, but insyaAllah, it will be enough for you to start making that first step into the house of Allah SWT. May all of us benefit!

1. The azan (call to prayer) signals that the time for a specific fardh prayer has arrived

If you would like to pray alone, you can start praying once the azan is over, but do so at the back row so that others who want to perform prayer in congregation can do so without you being in the way. However, if you would like to pray in congregation (recommended!), read on.

Fact: Each row of prayer is called a ‘saf’.

2. Once the azan is over, most of the congregation will start performing their sunnah prayers

A sunnah prayer is not a compulsory prayer, but an additional prayer done by the Prophet SAW. However, there are specific sunnah prayers with different rakaat done at different times of the day:

  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Subuh (Fajr)
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Zuhr
  • 2 or 4 sunnah prayers before ‘Asr
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Isya’

Fact: A sunnah prayer accompanying a fardh prayer is called a sunnah rawatib prayer. More specificially, a sunnah prayer that is done before a fardh prayer is called a sunnah qabliah prayer (where‘qabliah’ literally translates to the word ‘before’).

3. After a short while, the ‘azan’ will be heard again

Notice however, that this time, instead of repeating the phrases twice, the bilal (the man who recites the azan) will only recite it once. This second ‘azan’ is actually called the Iqamah, and it signals that congregational prayer is about to begin (you will start seeing people shuffling to the front saf).

Fact: The term ‘bilal’ actually comes from the name of the companion of the Prophet SAW, Bilal Bin Rabbah, who was the first ever in history to recite the call to prayer.

4. Start praying in congregation

You made it this far, Alhamdulillah! At this point, I understand that sometimes its hard to remain focused during prayer when you don’t understand a single word of Arabic.

It’s ok. Really.

The next time you are in the train on the way to work / school / holiday etc, open up that iQur’an app on your phone, and learn the meaning of the first verse of Al-Fatihah by heart. Slowly increase your understanding, verse by verse, day by day. There is nothing like prayer with understanding, alhamdulillah

Fact: The Imam will recite the verses aloud only during the Fajr, Maghrib and Isya’ prayers

5. Closing Du’as & Sunnah Prayers

After saying the “Assalamualaikum”s once the prayer is over, the custom here in Singapore/Malaysia is that most Imams will start reciting a du’a with the congregation. However, some Imams don’t.

Again, it’s ok.

Reciting the du’a loudly was part of the practice of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, and so was reciting the du’a softly. Hence, when the Imam recites it loudly, you have a choice of following his lead (or not). Likewise, when the Imam recites it softly, you can do your own du’a. Both are acceptable, inshaAllah.

Additionally, you might notice some people actually leaving the saf during or after the du’a, and starting another set of prayers. Just like there are sunnah qabliah prayers, there are also sunnah prayers after the fardh prayers (which are called sunnah ba’diah).

These too would vary accordingly depending on the fardh prayer:

  • 2 or 4 rakaat sunnah prayers after Zuhr
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers after Maghrib
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers after Isya’

Once you are done, spend some time just soaking in the atmosphere of the masjid, use it to reflect and have conversations with Allah SWT, and don’t forget to leave a small donation before you go!

Fact: All mosques in Singapore are asked to be financially self-sustainable, which means that your small donation actually helps a lot in paying for their bills and whatnot.

BONUS: The masjid attire dilemma

Remember I mentioned in the introduction I got shouted at by a pakcik due to my improper dressing? I forgot to mention that he did it from the first floor of the masjid, whilst I was on the second floor, in full view of the entire masjid.

Totally embarrassing. But also, totally my fault.

I entered the masjid wearing a pair of t-shirts and jeans, and had the mindset that the masjid and community should actually welcome the youth in all manners of dress. After all, isn’t it good enough that the youth actually want to enter the masjid?

What I failed to realise is that there is a proper time and place for everything. When we meet our boss at work, we are expected to dress in office attire. When we visit the Minister or Sultan, we are informed to put on formal wear or risk being turned away. So why do we feel like it’s perfectly fine to ignore the dress code when we want to enter the house of the King of kings?

A loose cardigan and a shawl wouldn’t take much space in your bag, and they take all of ten seconds to put on prior to entering the masjid ;)

I hope this short guide to Masjid customs benefit you, and Alhamdulillah, inshaAllah everything up there is sahih (correct) as it has been checked and approved by an ustadhah I know. Remember that the first step is always the hardest, but as the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. says,

Allah swt says: “When my servant takes one step towards Me, I take ten steps towards him. When my servant comes walking towards me, I come running towards him.”

May Allah swt make our change easy for us, and may He keep us on His deen, and gift us the blessings of determination, courage, and patience to change ourselves for His sake. Allahumma ameen!

*The reason  people prayed two rakaats for Maghrib prayers was actually because they were not praying Maghrib! They were praying the sunnah prayers heh silly me.

Grandpa & Grandma

Grandpa stood next to my brothers, relaying instructions on how to assemble the fan back together. With one hand he pointed at pieces of metal lying on the table, and with the other, he hung on tightly to his walking aid. Barely minutes later, he let out a wheeze, and hobbled to the nearest seat. There he sat, silent and still, looking at nothing but yet his eyes showing everything — as if a reel of thoughts was playing in his mind.

I watched him as I went about cleaning the house. He’s still handsome despite his old age and the multitude of ailments that were fast catching up to him. Full head of hair, a presence that still felt strong despite his decreasing size, a face that was gentle but firm, and eyes that seem to bore through you when you looked a them.

Grandpa was never one to speak much. When we used to live under the same roof, he would silently sit next to me, sometimes watching the television, other times watching what I was up to. My fondest memories with him were the times when I had art homework. He had a love for arts and crafts, grandpa, and constantly had amazing ideas on how to incorporate recyclable materials into my work.

Once, I told him I had to build a model of a traditional Malay house, a kampung. I reached home the next day greeted by pieces of cardboard in the living room. We sat together the rest of the day, him cutting and using the cardboard in ways I could have never thought about, and me just being constantly blown away by the creativity and intelligence of this man called Grandpa.

These days, Grandpa talked even lesser than he used to.

More

10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 2013

I love new beginnings. Waking up on Mondays, getting a brand new notebook, trying out a new app. I love the idea of crumpling up an unsuccessful attempt at something, throwing it in the bin, and just having another chance to try again with all the wisdom gained only through experience.

New years, to me, are just that: blank new slates filled with the promise of a second (or third, fourth etc) chance :)

I lived 2013 with the word “Explore!” screaming in my mind, and true to word, 2013 has been one of the most exciting years for me ever. Sometime in the middle of the year, I told myself to stop over thinking things and to just do it, whatever it was. Since then, I’ve been saying yes to this and yes to that, and masyaAllah Allah SWT has been very generous with His rezq!

Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli hal. Here are the 10 lessons I’m thankful Allah SWT has taught me in 2013:

More

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf at the RIS Retreat

(Taken from Zaytuna College’s Facebook account)

Commentary:

We should really stop and look at the nature of the self. We are on a journey to Allah. As we move in life, we are moving to the end of the journey, the meeting with Allah Almighty.

The end is coming and people will do anything to occupy their time to avoid the inevitability of Death.

People are completely distracted and they are not present in their lives.

People completely fade away as we are living in a very trivialized civilization.

The Prophet (peace & blessings upon him) has warned: the “The intellects will be removed from people”; these are our Prophetic traditions.

The things that make us humans unique to other species, is our Aql (intellect).

Human beings are losing all sense of what they were intended for. Our whole purpose is to get to Paradise.

Selfies in Arabic are called Nafsies.

More

The Best Cure for Darkness: Light

According to Bukhari and Muslim:

The Prophet ﷺ said that Allah has angels roaming the roads to find the gatherings of dhikr. When they find a group of people reciting dhikr, they call each other and encompass them in layers reaching up to the first heaven.

Allah asks His angels, and He knows already, “What are My servants saying?”

The angels say, “They are praising You (tasbih) and magnifying Your Name (takbir), and glorifying You (tahmid), and giving You the best Attributes (tamjid).

Allah asks, “Have they seen Me?”

More

Revise Better: 10 Remedies for Exam Day Anxiety

The Revise Better Series: Being host of the Tracklist for the Dean’s List show on IIUM.FM for the past semester has taught me a couple of things about what makes certain students excel. Since it’s Revision Week once again for IIUM students, in this series I will share some of the studying patterns I found in Dean’s List students over the next few days. I hope they’ll benefit, insyaAllah.

Today’s Pattern: Flee from Exam Day Anxiety

Exam Day Anxiety, henceforth known as EDA, is a sickness that a lot of students face. Signs of being infected by EDA would include (but not withstanding):

  • rapid heart movement,
  • bouts of breathlessness,
  • not being able to feel your legs,
  • migraine,
  • an irrational extreme worry of suddenly losing one’s memory,
  • an immense, overwhelming and inescapable feeling of doom,
  • having to go to the toilet an exaggerated number of times, or
  • an overall tendency to want to go on holiday or get things over and done with because your poor heart cannot take it anymore.

Even the best of students face EDA, so if you fall into any of the above categories, don’t worry – you’re normal :)

Thankfully, there are remedies for EDA that have been tested and proven which I will share in this article, but first let us look to the root of EDA. I believe that EDA stems from four issues:

  1. Knowing that you have not given your best to prepare for the examination,
  2. The lack of tawakkul (reliance upon Allah SWT’s plans)
  3. Not being able to put one’s self in the right state of mind
  4. A combination of points 2 and 3.

More

99% Intentions and Attitudes, 1% Hard Work

Why hard work is not the key to success.

(Originally written for my campus paper)

If there is one lesson I intend to ingrain in my mind from my many interviews with Dean’s list students, successful entrepreneurs, and communication industry experts, it is that working hard is not the recipe for success.

Having the right intentions and attitude is.

The premise is this:

When you have the right intentions and attitude towards the work you are doing, no work is hard work.

Every hour you put in, every “opportunity cost” you incur, and every extra mile you take on, is part of an enjoyable journey towards that which you intend for.

Take Mr. Irwan Rauf from ASTRO, a Malaysian satellite television service. When he started out in the broadcasting industry, he took it upon himself to extend his internship with a local broadcasting company. For months, he dedicated himself to being the “Yes-boy”; whatever anyone in the company wanted him to do – from driving to assisting in productions – he would say yes without flinching, all for an intern’s pay.

“Why on earth would you do that? Wasn’t it hard?”, I asked.

More