Move to limit use of chairs in mosques welcomed

December 20, 2010
By

Muslims in Bahrain have welcomed a decision taken in Turkey to limit the use of chairs and seats in mosques by worshippers who claim they have problems sitting down or kneeling.

On Thursday, Turkey’s religious affairs directorate said that the increasing use of seats in Turkey’s mosques “is not compatible with Islamic culture,” and urged physically able Muslims to refrain from sitting while praying.

“The people who pray while sitting can have clear consciences while doing so only if they can perform the rite no other way,” the directorate said as it addressed seats in mosques and critical claims that their presence caused the Muslim houses of worship to resemble Christian churches, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

“Minor physical ailments or illness should not be an excuse to incorporate seating into the performance of prayer as it presents an “unappealing image” of Islam and could provoke arguments within the community,” the board said.

According to the officials, the Muslim prayer, performed five times a day, is carried out on a small rug and requires worshippers to stand, bow, kneel and prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca. “Offering seating in mosques is thus incompatible with the culture of Islamic prayer and even the ill or disabled should pray while sitting on a rug on the floor.”

The board said that people who can stand, but cannot bow, should start praying in a standing position and perform the rest of the traditional motions while sitting down. It made the same recommendation for people who can stand but cannot get up after sitting. Only those who can neither stand nor sit on the floor may sit on a stool or chair to perform the rite, the board said, quoted by the daily.

“I totally agree with the Turkish decision,” Omar Bouhelal, a school head teacher, said. “People are getting nervous these days after seeing so many worshippers pulling chairs and sitting on them to perform prayers. I understand that they need to do that when they are physically challenged, but you see some of these people walking unaided into the mosque. So they do not really need the chairs,” he said.

For Abdul Aziz Bu Quais, the practice of using chairs is now bordering on exaggeration.

“I sometimes wonder whether these people are doing that so that they deploy the minimum of effort,” said the office clerk. “I suffer from terrible back problems, but I do not even think about using a chair. There are traditions that we have venerated for years, so let us avoid easy solutions that kill the spirit of practices in mosques,” he said.

Haytham Abdullah hoped that the Bahraini Islamic council would also issue a statement on the issue.

“There are many changes in mosques, and the council should be close enough to the people to issue statements either supporting or rejecting the changes. This is the least they can do, especially that Islam is not frozen in time and has encouraged competent authorities to suggest new ideas to keep up with modern changes,” he said.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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