Come Friday, and most mosques in the region undergo rigorous cleaning. The day is an important one for Muslims as they offer the prescribed Juma prayers and listen to the mandatory Khutba (sermon). Almost every Friday noon, one can find mosques being flocked by people for the purpose. In Mangalore, the prominent places where Juma prayers are offered include the renowned Eidgah mosque at Light House Hill, the Pumpwell mosque, Katchi Memon Masjid, Bunder, Kudroli Jamia Masjid and several other mosques in and around the city.
A notable characteristic of many a Juma congregational prayer in the region is the use of newspapers for the offering of Salah (prayer). Many people are forced to offer the prayer outside the mosque or in the verandah of the mosque premises due to unavailability of space inside. It is here that many resort to using the newspapers to offer the prayers. Newspaper sheets are laid down on the floor on which people are seen standing and offering prayers. The act is in no way acceptable.
To begin with, it goes completely against the very basics of an Islamic prayer. Refraining from the use of images and idols accentuate the Muslim prayer. Prayer is nothing but engaging in a conversation and establishing connection with the Almighty. Needless to say, a newspaper is loaded with several photos and images. Since it is a firm belief of the Muslims that the Supreme One does not have an image, the concept of having an image in front of one while praying is taken as something highly objectionable in Islamic circles.
Secondly, the act is sure to divert one’s attention and bring down one’s concentration levels in the prayer. While offering Salah, one is expected to lower his gaze and look at the ground, (that place on the floor where he/she places his/her forehead for ‘sajdah’ or prostration). If you have a newspaper as your ‘janimaaz’, wherein you are expected to keep your eyes at the prescribed place, nine out of ten times, you are bound to get distracted. Just imagine, one stands before the Almighty to speak to Him and instead gets engrossed in finding out what Deve Gowda has to say about Yediyurappa regarding the NICE issue! Worse, one might not be able to move his eyes off the scantily dressed IPL cheergirls!
Generally, a newspaper sheet as such does not hold much value in the eyes of many which is why it is used as a tool to make ‘pooda’ (cone shaped packets) to pack dal and other commodities in general stores, as a tissue paper in many a restaurant, to polish shoes, and similar acts. Using it to stand on during prayer, is no less abusive. The written content in a newspaper, in this case, needs to be treated with respect. You never know, you might well be disrespecting a name or related content of someone who you respect and hold in high regard right under your feet! There are times when newspapers carry content relating to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In such a situation, the case could well get even worse, and instead of scoring ‘rewards’ for the prayer offered, one might end up incurring the wrath of Allah.
Besides, the scene that is at display after the prayers are over, simply serves as the cherry on the icing. One can find a whole lot of newspaper sheets lying on the floor as if it is some kind of a garbage dumping hotspot. The people, who use these newspapers for prayer, don’t bother to pick them up from the floor, thereby leaving the place in a dirty, unclean, messy state.
There are a few things that can be looked into here. The respective mosque authorities should try to provide facilities and enough space for the people to offer Friday prayers with ease. Secondly, even the people have to look for better alternatives. Nowadays the ‘safri musalla’ (travel prayer carpet) is very much available. They are made of plastic and are foldable to such an extent that you can carry them in your pocket. One can easily avoid the newspaper and bring these plastic carpets into use.
One only hopes that usage of newspapers during prayers disappears as a practice in the local Muslim circles and prayer is treated the way it is supposed to.