When COVID-19 came, we switched from receiving exegeses of the Qur’an and Hadith from masājid and physical gatherings of knowledge to virtual ones. We attended Facebook Live and Zoom sessions to listen to our favourite scholars. We followed their tafsirs on Mixlr, Google Meet, and Telegram.

These were supposed to be temporary solutions to the social-distancing mandate that COVID-19 imposed, but they have become a norm. It is about time we returned to the masājid to restore its beauty and secure the blessing of learning physically from scholars. 

This Ramadan is a great time to start.

Allāh says in the glorious Qur’an that “fasting “I did not create mankind and the Jinn except to worship me.” The masjid is central to this worship. We observe the congregation salat at the masjid, perform ‘Itikaf there, distribute the Zakah, and listen to explanations from our scholars.

Beyond worship, the masjid unites us as a community by bringing us together with our Muslim brothers and sisters as members of a shared community united by faith. In preserving this faith and community, we must find a way to restore the essence of our masajid, even in the age of online communities. 

Why should we return to the masjid?

Islam is not against technological innovations that would help Muslims. Indeed, we use microphones to project the adhan, telescopes to see the moon, and smartphones and other devices to spread the message of Islam beyond the masajid. Therefore, we are welcome to seek and adopt goodness from whatever source.

However, attending virtual lectures or learning at online madrasahs or Islamic institutes should complement, not substitute, listening to lectures in the masjid or learning physically at the feet of scholars. 

The masjid creates a veritable platform for teachers, scholars, and students to connect physically and leverage the elements of the surroundings, the sound, the sights, the mannerisms, and the divine blessings to achieve maximum benefit from the engagement. Besides, it is the most common place to connect as brothers and sisters and focus solely on learning and worship without distractions. 

So, how can we return to the masjid?

Start small

Returning to lectures at the masjid or taking physical classes would be challenging in the first few days. You are changing a routine, and you need time to adjust. 

So, start small. Instead of joining Twitter spaces for morning reminders, stay back for three to five minutes to listen to short tafsirs of the Qur’an and Hadith. If that is unavailable in your masjid, introduce the idea to the masjid committee. Then, you can listen to your virtual sessions on your way home.

Commit to optimizing Jum’ah sessions

The Jum’ah prayer is our weekly chance to gather in our numbers to worship Allah. Thankfully, Imams deliver khutbahs on salient issues that can provide us with a lot to ponder for the week. We can optimize our schedules to prioritise the Jum’ah sessions. 

Set out early to secure convenient spots. Those of us who sleep through khutbahs can nap before going for Jum’ah. That way, we are more likely to stay sharp till the end of the service and earn the full reward.

Leverage your local masjid

The scholars at the masjid you pray at may not compare with the exotic collection of scholars you can listen to online, but they offer a great platform to keep you grounded on your community realities. 

They speak your language, use local examples to explain Islamic concepts, and are easier to reach than the ones you listen to online. Physical sessions with these scholars and teachers also provide a social presence unmatched by virtual ones. 

The mere fact that they are live before you strengthens your connection and primes you to appreciate better the content and context of the lecture or discussion. So, start with your local masjid and see how a virtual platform can help you improve. 

Remember, the masjid offers more than learning 

Think back to the last time you were at the masjid. Perhaps you met a brother you have not seen in a while or made a new acquaintance. Whatever the case, you must have said tasleem, shook a hand or two, or even felt the warm embrace of your brother in the Deen. Such is the richness that comes with masjid, the one that strengthens our brotherliness and fetches Allah’s mercies.

We can listen to podcasts for hours and join Mixlr, Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook, or YouTube live sessions to follow our favourite scholars. Still, they cannot and should not replace our intimate experience of physical sessions. 

If anything, their many limitations – the distractions, the weaker connection between scholars and students, speakers and listeners, the transient sense of community that virtual platforms foster, and even the difficulties that come with setting up virtual sessions and following them – show that we need our masājid and our halaqah now more than ever. 

Ramadan is here. It’s time to return to the masjid. 



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