Should mosques be decorated or not?
Submitted by on Thu, 05/02/2009 - 10:46
Dear Brother / Sister,
In Islam, it has not been well received to give over-importance to a building, to build high-rise buildings, like as in dressing, on buildings, too to burst into showing off. And it is regarded as a contrary appearance to the faith of transience. On this subject, besides many Hadiths, there are some verses, too. For instance, with the 128th and 129th verses of the Surah of Ash-Shuaraa (Qur’an, 26), it is addressed to the past people who had denied the prophets, and their attitudes are censured:
"Do you build a landmark on every high place to amuse yourselves?”
"And do you get for yourselves fine buildings in the hope of living therein (for ever)?”.
Our Prophet, Hazrath Muhammad’s mascid (small mosque –Mascidi Nabaviya-) was plain. And also until the end of the Seljuq Empire, almost all of the mosques of the Islamic world were generally plain as well. The type of “Exalted Mosque” of Seljuqs is evidence to that. But, afterwards, when art became a dizzying propaganda in the West, Muslims came across with the prohibition of picture and sculpture. So, in order to respond with the same weapon against that idea which was being tried to get subordination at both aesthetic pleasure and art against Muslims, Muslims turned towards architecture, especially towards mosque architecture. Actually, by that way they responded with a best answer. At the same time, such a respond may be discussed as well and also may be said that because actual dynamics which were to set forth the superiority of Islam has been lost, there had been a need for architecture. But again, it may be said that, “to build high-rise and ornamented buildings” is not liked “directly” (leezateehe). However, because directly care may result to moral distortions, there may be an “indirectly approach” towards it (leeqayreehe). Accordingly, as a respond towards the cultures trying to have dominion upon Muslims, Muslims’ applying that way is not accepted as “indirectly unpleasant” (leeqayreehe kabeeh), but can be transformed as “indirectly pleasant” (leeqayreehe hasen) and accepted as good.
In fact, when it is looked carefully, it will be seen that, it is not mosques’ interior view which is more magnificent part, but generally their external appearance, on which there may be discussions whether there is extravagance or not.
Besides, decorating mosques excessively may be contrary to the feeling of mortality and modesty, and another reason of it may be because it attracts the attention and affects the awe of the worshippers. So, mostly in that respect our Fiqh (Islamic law). Books have been examined.
In the Qur’an, about that subject only the reconstruction and foundation of the mosques is mentioned.
“The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in Allah and the Last Day, establish regular prayers, and pay Zakat, and fear none (at all) except Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance.” (Qur’an, Al-Tauba, 9/18)
“Never stand thou forth therein. There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of thy standing forth (for prayer) therein. In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loves those who make themselves pure.” (Qur’an, Al-Tauba, 9/108)
There are some Hadiths which give more detailed information about decoration:
“It is not convenient for me to enter a home which is decorated excessively.” (Ebu Davud, Salath, 12).
When explaining that hadith Munavî said as follow: “It is People of the Books who decorates their place of worship. Jews and Christians, after distorting their books, they started to decorate their chapels. So Muslims’ respect on this matter should be middle-of-the-road.”
Hazrath Omar (may Allah give him mercy), did not change the mascid although having a government, economically so much strong. In Islam, the first person who decorated mosques is Valid b. Abdulmalik (Munavî, Fayzul-kaîr, V/426).
According to the narration of Ebu Davud, Ibn Abbas said that:
“But anyway you are going to decorate your mosques like Jews and Christians. That is to say, you are going to give up sincerity, adapt them and make the mosques the means of proud.” (Ebu Davud, Salath, 12).
Also Ebu Davud’s following hadith confirms this:
“Unless people become proud of themselves about mascids, the End of Time will not occur.” (agk.)
And one more hadith which points what mentioned above about decorating mascids is the result of failing of practising the necessaries of religion, is as follow: “Whichever nation’s work got worse, they started to decorate their mascids.” (Ibn Mace, Masacid 2).
It is certain that, the interpreters of Islamic law look to that subject many-sided, both from the point of community, and the position.
Ibn Abidin said as follows: “There is no harm to adorn the mascid, excepting the wall of mihrab (niche of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca). That is to say, it is better not to decorate. Adorning the wall of the mihrab is (near to be) forbidden (tahriman makruh), it breaks the concentration of those who perform prayer. Also painting detailed and elaborated embroiders on the decorated parts are (near to be) forbidden, neither (Ibn Abidin.I/442 (Amira)).
Although it is not makruh (not forbidden by God but looked upon with horror and disgust by Muslim teachers) to calcimine or adorn with gold water the parts that is permissible to decorate, it cannot be done with the money dedicated to that mascid (in order to build a mascid). Only if some one wants to do it, they may do it at their own charges (Hindiye, I/09). The reason why religious officials does not object to that: Those who wasting their time and money in order to decorate (one should not mix “cleaning” and “making it beautiful to decorating, because they are different) the mascid are by that way thought to be warmer towards mascid. (Munavi explains the above, last mentioned hadith accordingly. See Feyzu 1-Qadir, V/449; About subject also see M. C. al-Kasimi, Islahu 1-Mesacid, (Cazair, 1989) p. 96 )
If we sum up:
1. It is the symptom of slackness not to have an aim to educate camaat (community), but to pay attention for decorating the mosques.
2. It is makruh to decorate, gild and hang different pictures to the parts that is visible by the performers of prayer.
3. It is better to clean and keep beautiful other then decorating.
4. The money taken in order to build a mosque cannot be spent on decoration. The decorations which have no harm only can be paid by those who pay from their own pocket. Or when the money taken, one who takes the money must inform the donor about the money will be spent on decoration.
5. It is better to spend the gathered money on telling the children about truths instead of decoration.
Questions on Islam
- Is there any hadith of Our Prophet (pbuh) stating that mosques should not be decorated and it should be simple?
- Why is the covering of the Kaaba black? What chapters and verses are written on this covering?
- Could you explain the hadith “There are three things that are essential for happiness: a righteous wife, a spacious home, and a sound means of transportation.” (Musnad, 1:168)? Could you give some detailed information on home?
- Is it permissible to talk about worldly issues in mosques? Are there any verses, hadiths, words of the companions, etc. that prohibit such conversations?
- Wahhabis say that tombs are indicators of shirk (polytheism). How was the application of the Companions? What are the views of the Islamic scholars regarding the issue?
- Did Al-Aqsa Mosque exist in the times of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?
- To whom is zakah given? What are the people and places that zakah can be given? Is it appropriate to give zakah to associations, charity organizations, Quran schools, students and student hostels?
- Will you give information about the present state of the Mosque of Qurtuba (Cordoba)? Are there any Muslims remaining from that time in Spain?
- I have recently heard that Spain was once an Islamic country; how did it become like this now? Will you give me information about the Andalusian State?