BUILDING MOSQUES ON FREE LAND; AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN
By Abdul-Ganiyy Raji
Prophet Muhmmad (SAW) taught his followers a lesson in long-term planning and visionary leadership immediately he got to Madina in 622CE. His first line of action upon arriving in Madina was to build his mosque which stands tall and strong till date.
After identifying the appropriate land to situate his mosque, he asked his followers who the owner of the land was. He was told that the land belonged to two orphans (i.e. Sahl and Suhayl).
He sent for the two of them and told them that he needed their land to build a mosque. Upon hearing that the Prophet needed their land to build a mosque, the two young men were very happy and, therefore, insisted that he should take the land for free. The Prophet thanked them for their generous gesture but demanded that they should name a price for the land as he would not build his mosque on free land. Ultimately, the two orphans gave a price and the Prophet paid it before he commenced work on the land.
The important lesson here is that you should not build a mosque on free land or on donated land that does not have necessary documents showing that the land is no longer owned by the donor. This can backfire in the long run.
In a recent study I conducted, I found out that many mosques in Nigeria, particularly in Yoruba land, are sitting on land donated by one rich Muslim or the other. I also came to learn in the course of the study that the donors of the land upon which most mosques in Yoruba land stand are now dead. My findings also revealed that children of some of these donors are either nominal Muslims or have completely renounced Islam. Some of such children are now asking the congregants to vacate their parents’ land as they intend to put it up for sale. This is a very common phenomenon in Yoruba land, particularly in Lagos State. Many mosques have been sold off and more are still being sold off in Lagos State.
I used to know a mosque in my vicinity here in Lagos State whose land was donated by a Muslim man who was later found to be a strong member of an occult group. He was serving as the Muadhdhin of the mosque before the congregants unearthed his secret. Upon learning that he belonged to an occult group, the congregants insisted that he should vacate his position as the Muadhdhin of the mosque as they were no longer comfortable having an occult man as their Muadhdhin. In an outburst of anger, the Muadhdhin told the congregants to move their mosque and vacate his land. The matter resulted in a protracted legal war which the Muadhdhin eventually won. The court gave the verdict that the congregants should vacate his land. Today, the mosque has been demolished and the land has been sold to a non-Muslim. Many Muslim communities have lost their mosques to non-Muslims on account of similar experiences.
Muslims should stop accepting free land to build mosques. This is a time bomb. If we are to accept free land to build mosques, we should ensure that all necessary documents are obtained while the donors are alive. Congregants of neighbourhood mosques built by individuals should also find a way to get necessary documents from the donors before they die and their children will want to reclaim their parents’ land. This caveat also goes to owners of Arabic schools (i.e. Madāris) who have their schools built on free land. Let your benefactors prepare documents that confirm that the plots of land where your schools are located have been donated. This will obviate any litigation or bickering over ownership in the future.
We cannot continue to lose our mosques because the land upon which they are standing was given for free by a man or woman who is now late and whose children are insisting that they want to take back their father or mother’s land.
Muslims should also learn to pool their resources to build mosques instead of looking for one rich Muslim man or woman to donate land or sponsor the construction of a mosque.
It is a fact that most of our rich men and women are not exposing their children to the tenets of Islam. Most of their children understand little or nothing about our religion. Such children will not value Salat after their parents’ death, and therefore, may consider selling off the land where mosques built by their parents are standing.
Muslims should stop depending on rich people to donate land for mosques or build mosques. This could spell a disaster or could cause us serious regret in the future. Any rich man who donates land or builds a mosque for us should hand over all necessary documents to us.
By Abdul-Ganiyy Raji
Founder and Director, Learn Islam With Ibn Raji