What exactly is a masjid (mosque)? Is there a difference between a masjid (mosque), musalla, and jamat khana, etc? These are questions which need detailed discussion.
Nowadays, in the west, many Islamic Centers being managed include, among other things, a prayer hall, musalla, or jamat khana. Some communities rent an industrial unit, a store front, a house, or an apartment in which members of the Muslim community gather to perform congregational prayer (and in many cases social activities). Many communities actually have purchased property which they consider their masjid (mosque).
Which of the above can technically be considered a masjid (mosque), and what are the related rulings?
There is a difference between a masjid (mosque) and a musalla (or jamat khana). A musalla (or jamat khana) literally means a place where prayer is performed or where congregations are held, or worded differently, any temporary place in which worshippers congregate to perform their prayers. A musalla is also a place that has not been made an endowment or not yet intended to become a permanent masjid (mosque) until the Last Day. In many cases, it is a temporary place from which the community will transfer once they find a more suitable, convenient, or permanent location. Though Muslims today commonly refer to their “musalla” as their “masjid (mosque),” which the literal meaning of masjid (mosque) (a place where the prostration is made) allows, a musalla cannot technically be considered a legal [shar‘i] masjid (mosque). Likewise the reward for prayer in a musalla is not the same as in a proper masjid (mosque).
The masjid (mosque)
The masjid (mosque) is a sanctified area, in which the rewards of prayers in congregation increase 25 to 27 times and where the mercy of Allah descends. It is considered the best of places by the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace). Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) relates:
masjid (mosque)s are the houses of Allah on the earth. They shine up to the inhabitants of the heavens just as the stars in the sky shine down to the inhabitants of the earth (Tabarani).
A masjid (mosque) is normally made into a waqf or endowment (sometimes difficult to establish depending on the legal connotations of endowment in some countries). However, once a masjid (mosque) is erected, it will always be a masjid (mosque) and the property of Allah. It cannot return to being the property of any person or community even those who may have paid for establishing it. Allama Haskafi writes:
If the inhabitants surrounding the masjid (mosque) wither away and the masjid (mosque) becomes desolate, it will still remain a masjid (mosque) according to Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf until the Last Day, and the fatwa is on this opinion (Hawi al-Qudsi)” (al-Durr al-Mukhtar 3:371).
The Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
All the earth will disappear on the Day of Judgment with the exception of the masjid (mosque)s for they will join with one another (Suyuti, Jami al-Shaghir).
Designation of a masjid (mosque)
A masjid (mosque) (to become a masjid (mosque)) must be formally designated by the committee or persons in charge. They do this by defining the area it will occupy and its boundaries. Along with this they can designate other adjoining areas to be used as bathrooms, lobby, storage, etc. The latter however will be considered the auxiliary areas of the masjid (mosque) and, though part of the endowment, will not classify as “masjid (mosque)” area that was previously defined by the committee.& Therefore, it is possible, for example, to designate only the front half of a large hall (i.e. the first 10 rows) as the "masjid (mosque)", while the rest of the hall is classified as a musalla. Once the front half has been designated as such, then that part, both above and below it, becomes a shari masjid (mosque). This means that neither above it nor below it on any floor can be used for anything but as a masjid (mosque). Hence, all rulings that apply to a masjid (mosque) will now apply to the exact same area directly below it on each of the lower floors (including the basement); and likewise on all floors above it. Constructing toilets, bathrooms, or holding any non-suitable activities above or below the "masjid (mosque)" area will also be impermissible. However, it is permissible to have toilets or bathrooms constructed out of the boundary of the designated masjid (mosque) area on any of the floors, since those areas will be considered the auxiliary area of the masjid (mosque) and not technically the masjid (mosque) itself. Allama Haskafi writes in his well-accepted text al-
“It is prohibitively disliked to have sexual intercourse above the masjid (mosque). Likewise it is disliked to urinate or defecate above it because it is a masjid (mosque) to the peaks of t