How do mosques differ from Synagogues and Churches? Ayatollah Khamenei answers
Of course, places of worship exist in all religions. These are places where people sit and worship God. However, mosques are different from the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious temples that we have seen and heard about. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) did not just go to a mosque to say prayers and then leave. He used to speak about those issues which occurred to society and which were important.
Mosques are an innovation that Islam introduced at its birth. Islam chose the people’s gathering place on the basis of dhikr, praying and attention to God the Exalted. Naturally, people’s gatherings exert some influence. Well, some people gather together and they speak and listen to one another, they make certain decisions, they establish intellectual relationships and they give and take intellectual lessons. Where does this happen? For example, it happens in aristocratic and rich clubs where different issues are discussed. This is common in the west. Another example is coffee houses. In ancient Rome, such gatherings used to be held in baths. The people used to gather in baths. Going to a public bath would provide them with an opportunity to speak and to listen to one another.
Such gatherings can also be held in those places where the main pivot is saying daily prayers. This is very different from the other cases. When gatherings are held on the basis of daily prayers and dhikr, then they take on a different meaning and a different direction. This draws hearts towards a different direction. This was Islam’s innovation.
Of course, places of worship exist in all religions. These are places where people sit and worship God. However, mosques are different from the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious temples that we have seen and heard about. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) did not just go to a mosque to say prayers and then leave. He used to speak about those issues which occurred to society and which were important. They used to call out, “Salaat gathers the people” [speaking in Arabic]. This call invited the people to gather in mosques. What for? For consulting and cooperating with one another about the issue of war, for gathering all the resources and for other purposes. You can witness in the history of Islam that mosques were places of teaching. We have heard and read in narrations that in the Masjid al-Haram and the Masjid al-Nabi, there were chains of classes taught by different personalities with different intellectual and religious orientations. This is completely different from churches and Jewish synagogues where the people go to worship God and then leave. Mosques are a base and this base pivots around dhikr and daily prayers.
Here, the significance of daily prayers becomes clear as well. Each and every one of us needs to adopt a different outlook towards daily prayers. Of course, all of you are men of thinking and reason and you are familiar with divine and religious teachings. I am saying this as a word of advice for myself. We – people in general – keep failing to appreciate the value of daily prayers the way we should. Daily prayers maintain the structure of religion in the real sense of the word. This means that if it were not for daily prayers, the ceiling of religion would cave in and the structure would lose its real form. This is what daily prayers are.
Therefore, the great structure of religion is founded on daily prayers. What kind of daily prayers can preserve this structure? Only the kind of daily prayers that enjoy ideal characteristics can preserve this structure: “Daily Prayers help every pious individual to get close to God” [al-Kafi, Vol.3, page 265]. Daily prayers should prevent us from doing evil deeds and they should be accompanied by dhikr [remembrance of God]: “And remembrance of Allah is the greatest” [The Holy Quran, 29: 45]. We should both act on and promote this dhikr.
Mosques are a base for all sorts of social activities. In other words, when we gather the people around this pivot, what do we want with them? One of the things that we want them to do is to engage in social activities. In an Islamic society, all the people are responsible. All the people have certain duties and they should carry out certain tasks. These tasks should be carried out for the progress of society and for the nation. Therefore, mosques are places for getting ideas, for distributing different responsibilities and for drawing the people towards various tasks. Mosques are built with the purpose of doing social activities. They are a base for social activities.
Another issue about mosques is that they are a resistance nucleus. When the word “resistance” is mentioned, one’s mind immediately thinks of military and security resistance and other such forms of resistance. Of course, this is definitely resistance, but a higher form of resistance is cultural resistance. If the cultural rampart and the cultural trench in the country is shaky and frail, everything will be lost. I will tell you that today – after the passage of 37, 38 years from the victory of the Revolution – the enemies’ motivation for infiltrating the cultural rampart of the country is more than the first day. Not only has it not been decreased, but it has also increased, without a doubt. You can witness what methods they are using: these cyber methods, different promotional means, satellites and the like. This means that their motivation has increased.
And the target of this movement is what has become the main ingredient and nucleus of the Islamic Republic: religious faith. This is their target. They are opposed to the Islamic government, to the Islamic Republic and to the policies of the Islamic Republic because of their opposition towards religious faith. This is because they know that if it had not been for religious faith, this Revolution would not have achieved victory, the Islamic Republic would not have been established and this big earthquake and vibration would not have shaken the structure of global arrogance. The movement of Islam and the Islamic Revolution created a fierce quake in the structure of global arrogance.
Statements made during a meeting with Tehran’s prayer leaders; August 21, 2016 .
Imam Ayatollah Seyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (May 17, 1900 – June 3, 1989) was a Muslim cleric and Marja, and the political leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran which overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Following the Revolution, Imam Khomeini became Grand Leader of Iran — the paramount figure in the political system of the new Islamic Republic — until his demise.
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