My Paradise is My Mosque
There is no desert in my heart.
For my land is a rainforest, full of tropical trees, flower and fauna.
Green rivers and streams meander across my heart from the hills that dot my land.
Valleys and ravines follow the water, clean and pure like the rain
That showers regularly on the emerald roof of the jungle.
Birds and mousedeers, tigers and elephants co-habitat, flowers, leaves
And fruits of wondrous variety, colour and benefit hang from the branches
Waiting for my eye and ministration.
For I am not only the master of my heart and my land,
I am also its custodian and servant.
My eyes takes rest and pleasure gazing on this Earth,
Its riches spilling over into the tenuous civilization raised by Man.
And were I to build a mosque here, a House of God,
I would not build high walls to separate the mosque from the forest,
Nor find the need to decorate it with the pictures of paradise.
For my land is both my paradise and my mosque
And wherever I am praying,
I want to see heaven all around me.
From the Desert I Came. The religion of Islam is often associated with the desert. For it was in the desert dunes of Arabia that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) completed the message and deen of Islam, thereby completing the comprehensive beliefs and rites that make up the faith. There is an old saying, which I cannot remember who said it, that God created the forest for Man, but created the desert for Himself. And I guess when you are thinking of setting the atmosphere for contemplation of Man's vulnerability and insignificance, nothing beats a night in the desert, alone with a billion stars twinkling in the heavens above. Questions like "Who am I?'', "Why am I here?" and "Who is out there?" will come to your heart as naturally as breathing.
The Arabian Heaven. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is not one of the three Great Mosques of Islam (the Masijidil Haram in Mecca, the Masjid Nabi in Medina and the al-Aqsa in Jerusalem), but in context of the End of Time sequence, it will play a significant role because it is here that Muslims anticipate the Second Coming of Jesus (Isa a.s.). But my interest in the Umayyad Mosque is not about its prophetic relevance, but the design. In particular, the interior walls on which is engraved with green and gold depictions of Paradise, of palm trees overflowing with dates, clear blue rivers of Jannah running through the gardens, and mansions and palaces on the hills for the believers. It is a religious propaganda (and I mean this well) and a spiritual assurance for the believers, as they pray, rest and learn beneath the pillars of the Mosque, a visual persuasion playing upon the Arab's ideal of paradise... "Ah, lovely, beautiful, inspiring..." they must be thinking.
The Tropical Paradise. But it is a little different here. For in Malaysia, as in most tropical and equatorial regions, there is no desert. There is no sand dunes or far-off desert horizons to inspire us. The forest and the jungle is right next door. And some of us ethnic aboriginals even live in the jungle. Tall rain forest trees of hundred years old tower over dense undergrowth. And through them run gentle streams and rivers full of fish, turtles and even alligators. Is this not paradise (well, sans the mosquitoes, alligators, tigers and leeches!) already? So even if you are expelled from your village, in days of yore, you would not starve to death. You will undoubtedly be inconvenienced, but you will live. (My little caveat here is that this might not be the case now for soft, fleshy city folks like me... I would probably misstep and fall into a ravine within hours. And get eaten by tigers. But you get the picture)
An Architectural Proposition for the Mosque. I am not an architect, so all I can venture is a proposition for an open concept Mosque which sits in sympathy with its tropical surroundings. It can be of any size, but the surroundings must be a tropical garden and a running stream drifting around the mosque and perhaps even through it. And the view from inside the mosque must rest upon the bountiful brilliance of the rain forest however far the congregation can see. The mosque must be built with wood and stone, with river pebbles shining darkly from the lower part of the walls while timbered pillars rise up to the wooden beamed roof. But from within the mosque, one ought to be able to see and hear the surrounding garden with its crickets and frogs. Especially at night. After all, the sound of nature is the sound of dzikr (recitation and remembrance of God's Names)
Shutting out Paradise. One of the reason why the proposition encompasses the outside surroundings of the mosque is because the truth is Muslims have been too lazy in caring and nurturing the environment. The mosque should not be a building to shut out the world and dream for paradise. Especially not in this tropical country. Not when just outside most mosques and suraus (small mosques), we find litter, pollution, environmental destruction and ecological disasters staring in the face of the Ummah (the Muslim nation).
The Desert is Coming. So in reality are we shutting out the outside world because we cannot now bear to look upon the handiwork of our modern society on this paradise garden that we have been given? Are we turning our beautiful forests and jungles into deserts? If so, then we need not wait too long. The desert is coming if we do not change our ways.
Beginning with the Mosque. I reckon we can begin to accept our responsibility for the Earth this way - From the mosque, and if we believe in Allah (s.w.t.) and the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), from our conscience which must always be in sympathy for all of creation and all of God's creatures that we share this planet with.
I think that this makes more sense than all the political and often violent upheavals that are presently besieging the Ummah. After all, what is the point of Islam in a world already despoiled and destroyed..?
Don't you agree, sunshine?
Wa min Allah at-taufiq
Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way