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Fatwa Bank

Q: I’ve heard many people saying that we should use masjid rather than the word mosque. Some people say that they’ve heard someone say that mosque is a derogatory term made by the Crusaders who used the word for mosquito to refer to the Muslim place of worship in order to squash them like a bug!

A: In the name of God to whom all praise is due and may peace and blessings be upon His messenger…

The spread of conspiracy theories in our community is getting out of hand. There are plenty of real well established threats we are facing and our energy should be focused toward these. There are a couple of issues here. Even if at one time there were some basis to this claim, the fact remains that this was hundreds of years ago and nobody knows about it. Everyone understands the word Mosque to mean a Muslim house of worship because that’s what it means.

In using popular custom as a basis for a ruling our scholars of Usool al-Fiqh (jurstic methodology), our scholars have outlined conditions. One is for it to be well established among the people, another is that it must exist at the time of the establishment of the ruling and yet another is that the ruling doesn’t conflict with establish custom. So to prohibit the use of the word mosque at a time and place when it meant and was used as a derogatory term would apply, but not in our case since 3 of the 6 conditions aren’t present to use such a ruling. It’s like someone saying celebrating a birthday is prohibited because pagan history across the world originally instituted it as a religious practice whereas no one in America knows about this nor do they care since it has nothing to do with religion in our custom.

The second and perhaps more obvious issue is when looking up the etymology of the word mosque in any dictionary or encyclopedia we don’t find this claim. Rather we find that the word is the Latin evolution of the Arabic word masjid. So for example from the famous Merriam- Webster’s online encyclopedic dictionary we get the following under the heading “Origin and Etymology of mosque”

“Mosques were known to the English-speaking world long before we called them mosques. In the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, we used many different variations of the word – moseak, muskey, moschy, mos’keh, among others – until we finally hit on mosquee, emulating Middle French. The Middle French word had come by way of Italian and Old Spanish from the Arabic word for “temple,” which is masjid. In the early 1700s, we settled on the present spelling.

From we get – Mosque: a Muslim temple or place of public worship.

Origin: 1600-10; earlier mosquee< Middle French < Italian moschea≪ Arabic masjid, derivative of sajada to worship, literally, prostrate oneself; the -ee seems to have been taken as diminutive suffix and dropped, ultimately from Arabic masjid temple, place of prostration.

When you go into google translate and put in the word mosquito in Spanish you get mosquito because that is originally a Spanish word. This is basically the word for a small fly. A fly has been called mosca since before Muslims lived in Spain. If you put mezquita it will translate to mosque because that is the word that evolved from the Arabic masjid.Mezquita is the word for mosque in Spanish and it has nothing to do with the word mosquito. The word Mosque is the English evolution of masjid derived long after the word mosca meant fly in Spanish.

The irony of our conspiracy theory is that we have confused many, including the dictionary! When you look up Masjid in any dictionary it says: A Mosque.

I leave you with a few advices…

  1. Let’s not buy into or spread conspiracy theories without solid evidence.
  2. Be principled when deriving a ruling.
  3. For those who got used to saying Masjid, let’s not reinvent the wheel guys it has been known as a mosque in English for many centuries and there is no reason to change it or confuse people about what to call our house of worship. It is a mosque.

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