I have struggled over the past few days to stay out of the deliberate provocation and the raging controversy relating to the launching of the so called ‘Open Mosque’ in Wynberg today. Several media houses and individuals have contacted me for a response, and I have consistently responded with no comment.
However, of concern to me is that I have been alerted to the fact that CMRM’s ethos and practices are being likened to the ‘Open Mosque’, especially on social media platforms, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively.
Hence, in this khutbah, I wish to clarify the ethos, traditions and practices of the Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM), rather than allowing others to define who we are, what we do or what we are about.
In light of the confusing and sometimes deliberately mischievous reports swirling around cyber space and tabloids, it might be expedient to begin by reminding ourselves about an important ethico-moral virtue in Islam.
In Surah al-Hujurat (The Inner Apartments) Chapter 49, Verse 6, Allah the Sublime proclaims:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَأٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا
أَنْ تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا
عَلَى مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
If an iniquitous person comes to you with any news,
Verify it and ascertain the truth,
Lest you harm people unwittingly,
And afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.” (Q:49:6)
In the above verse of the Qur`an, Allah enjoins us to be scrupulous in investigating any news that is brought to us, so as to make sure of its authenticity, especially to verify the reliability of the source of the information. This verse further exhorts us not to rush into judgment and action on the basis of hearsay or information that has not been verified. Such rash action may lead to committing an injustice against an individual or an entire community, and subsequent regret.
We at CMRM know first-hand what it means when people react to hearsay and spread slanderous rumours about our ethos and practices. We also have first-hand experience of how misinformation and mass hysteria can erupt into deplorable campaigns of intolerance and violence. My purpose in this khutbah therefore, is to restate clearly how we at CMRM define ourselves through our ethos, practices and traditions.
There are 5 features of the ethos of CMRM that I wish to identify:
- CMRM embraces the enduring values of pluralism and co-existence and regards human diversity not as incidental and negative but rather as representing a God-willed, basic factor of human existence (Q10:99).
- We respect the right of others to hold their own views and consider this to be both a part of our Islamic beliefs and central to our commitment to a democratic South Africa (Q11:118).
- We embrace the Qur’anic concept of ta’arufe. recognition and affirmation of each other through intimate knowledge, and not mere toleration (Q49:13).
- We welcome critical debate on contentious issues and advocate an ethics of disagreement (adab al-ikhtilaf) that respects the right of others to hold views that may differ from our own (Q16:125).
- It is within this ethos, that CMRM endorses the anti-sectarian sentiment expressed in the 2005 Amman Message (Risalatu ‘Amman), which calls on all Muslims to rise above differences that separate them, to emphasize the commonalities that unite them, and desist from declaring each other as infidels (takfir) (ammanmessage.com).
CMRM Practices and Traditions
In relation to the practices and traditions at CMRM, there are 10 dimensions of our practices and traditions that I wish to highlight:
- We affirm that the Qur’an is the primary source of Islamic teachings, and that the sunnah and hadith are an important complementary source.
- We aspire to follow the prophetic traditions (sunnah and hadith), but also embrace what we consider to be ‘good cultural innovations’ (bid’a hasana) that do not violate the spirit and teachings of Islam.
- We embrace sound customary (‘urf al-sahih) practices, but we do not follow these practices rigidly or dogmatically.
- We embrace all the traditional Muslim schools of law (madhahib), but do not adhere strictly to any one madhab.
- We have established a socially responsive vision of Islam that seeks to engage in and build sustainable social justice programmes that transcend the apartheid legacy of racial and class divisions in our society.
- We have striven and continue to cultivate CMRM as a sacred and welcoming space wherein the spirits of both men and women and people of other faiths and worldviews are nurtured, their intellects inspired and their skills and contributions appreciated and utilized.
- CMRM is committed to the struggle for the equivalence and full dignity of women within our country, our homes and most importantly our masajid (Q:33:35).
- We endeavor to always include women on our Board, we accommodate women in a designated space in the main prayer area of the masjid and women are regularly invited to deliver talks.
- People of other faiths and worldviews are regularly invited as guest speakers and are always welcome.
- Last, but not least, CMRM has actively sought to institutionalise enabling platforms for youth development and empowerment.
In conclusion, I have enumerated 5 key features of the ethos and 10 significant dimensions of the practices and traditions that define who we are and what we do at CMRM. I hope that this will help to dispel misconceptions within the broader Muslim community about the ethos, practices and traditions of CMRM.
Finally, it is our considered view that a masjid should serve as a real space for nurturing community solidarity and supporting social justice struggles. In order for any masjid to be able to play this broader and more dynamic role it needs to delicately balance between the spiritual, educational and social roles of the masjid in a way that does not erode the sanctity and hallowed space of the masjid.
I end with the famous du`a recorded in the Glorious Qur’an that Prophet’s Ibrahim and Isma`il (peace be upon them) made after they had completed building the ka`bah, the first masjid or house of worship dedicated to worshipping Allah ever to be established on earth:
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
(Rabbana Taqabbal Minna Innaka Antas Sami`ul `Alim)
Our Lord and Sustainer! Accept from us (this house that we have dedicated for your worship);
For, surely Thou art All-Hearing,