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Cleanup Day at the Masjid

ImageWhen was the last time you attended the Cleanup Day at the local Islamic center? What? You have never heard of that day before? That's okay, I understand that revealing such personal information may be a breach of your privacy, so we'll assume that you're innocent and had no idea that the day ever existed. 

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Eww…what is that?!

When was the last time you attended the Cleanup Day at the local Islamic center? What? You have never heard of that day before? That's okay, I understand that revealing such personal information may be a breach of your privacy, so we'll assume that you're innocent and had no idea that the day ever existed. 

As per the aforementioned assumption, let us enlighten you about what this day entails. The ideal definition of the cleanup day is: an adventurous event whereby the community gets together to clean up the Islamic center to leave it squeaky clean, a process which should only last a few hours. Realistically, the festivities usually extend over several days, and the "community" is represented by those few individuals who have no better way to spend spring break than to clean up the mosque.

Surprisingly, I'm one of those individuals who actually enjoy participating in Cleanup Day. In fact, I'm one of the organizers of many such exciting events. Initially, it was a bit of a letdown when the 600 people who always manage to drop by when some generous soul decides to sponsor dinner for the entire community said that they would "try their best" to come, only to find that it's just the organizers, the friends we drag along, and the Imam who actually turn up and leave our place of worship truly sparkling clean!

The point of this article is not to persuade you to come along to the next Cleanup Day if you don't want to. Rather, I would like to inform you about what we – the "annual cleaners" – get up to while the majority of the community is preoccupied with other, much more important tasks in life. In the midst of our soap fights and "Who Can Clean the Walls the Fastest?" and "Who Can Sandpaper the Most Mohrs Without Breaking Them?" competitions, we have actually devised a game called "Which Community Member Made THIS Bit of Mess?"

Sure, I'll admit that the game sounds a bit lame, and it's not exactly the most popular entertainment method going around. But because we got so good at this game (which we pretty much created while facing absolute boredom of cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning) and because it was the best alternative to reading the ingredients on the dishwashing liquid or throwing around empty soft drink bottles, our game actually worked very well with identifying the Islamic Center Litter Bandits. We are now able to keep an eye out for our once make-believe characters and catch them red-handed while committing the egregious crime of making a mess at the mosque.

Surely you cannot be one of those characters which we conjured up as a direct result of our lack of activity during our cleaning breaks; so instead, we would like to employ you as a Litter Cop at an Islamic center of your choice. (For more information regarding pay dates and rates, speak to the angel recording your good deeds, also known as Raqeeb, located on your right shoulder.) Your role is to basically keep an eye out for people who fit the descriptions and who fulfill the appropriate pollution criteria, and if you are friends with such people or perhaps have relatives (or yourself are one of these people…!), then your simple duty is to approach them in a polite and casual manner and ask them to try and refrain from (or at least cut down on) making such a mess every time they grace the center with their auspicious presence.

We have two possible reasons as to why people would agree to comply with our public hygiene tips: #1) out of the kindness of their heart or #2) for the love and concern of the health of the annual cleaners. (Especially since some of the cleaners are actually allergic to certain cleaning products and go on sneezing fits every few minutes…)

Here is a list compiled by several active members of the community who have participated in the game of "Which Community Member Made This Bit of Mess?". Feel free to add or suggest more characters, or to make changes to the current ones to adapt to your local concerns.

The Smokers: Usually males, these people are almost always found outside the Islamic center satisfying their nicotine cravings while the rest of the community is indoors. Because all the smokers are outside and the non-smokers inside, the best way to identify them if you don't catch them red-handed is to look at the shape of their pockets. You are searching for a square-shaped cigarette container. Compliments of the smokers, our Islamic center appears to resemble a field full of glowworms from a bird's eye view, no doubt great entertainment for planes flying above at night.

The Compulsive Gum Chewer: The lovely group of believers who get bored a few minutes into the speech and start rummaging around their pockets or handbags for something to do or eat, these people usually let gum wrappers slip from their hands after rolling them into perfect little balls. Perhaps if the Islamic centers offered the wrapper-less rock-like sugar-less Arab gum, then perhaps we'd have a drastic decline in compulsive gum chewers and abandoned wrappers. 

The Overdressed Females: These females, both young and old, are found crowding around the mirror in the bathrooms perfecting their eye shadow or doing a touch-up of their foundation. While beauty within the limits of Hijab is not a crime, the new make-up packaging and abandoned hair ties and pins on the bathroom floor is. With the bathroom floors already wet from overzealous Ghusl­-resembling Wudhus, these objects on the floor are a grave public hazard for the Overdressed Females themselves, especially while they attempt to catwalk on those five-inch matching stilettos.

The Unintentional Profanity User: How exactly does the overly-comfortable-with-swearing person make a physical "mess" at the center? This hypothesis of ours is yet to be proven, but if anyone has any better explanation as to how poorly-spelled four-letter expletives manage to magically write themselves on walls and on the back of tables and chairs in crayons and colored pen, we are all ears. 

The Tea-Addicted Adult: The only logical explanation we have for those torn-off teabag tags making their way into the prayer rooms is the caffeine-addicted adults who unintentionally fiddle and fumble with the tea bags. Ironically, those very same teabag tags with the little staples get right back at us, jagging us in the palms and knees during prayers.

The Bored Children: Usually children under the age of ten-years-old, these little buggers are equipped with the stationary version of a tool belt, with everything from glitter-glue pens to coloring books and confetti. While this is usually a method employed to distract children from the religious lecture and keep them from running amuck, the creative kids suddenly don't seem so cute when their glue ends up in a teenage girl's Versace bag full of electronic gadgets which she uses to entertain her friends during prayer time.

The Food Junkies: Either the community's youngsters are addicted to junk food, or every second person frequenting the center seems to be accidently dropping his/her lunchbox crumbs and wrappers left, right, and center. While we love the spirit of parents bringing their children to the Islamic center in order to quench their thirst for knowledge, it seems that, at least during the speech, parents are more successful in fulfilling the high-in-sugar and high-in-fat food (rather than spirituality) cravings of their children.

If you are one of the few people who can't help but feel a little distraught when somebody's Bollywood ringtone goes off on full blast at the wrong time (for example, during the second Qunut of the first Rak'at of Eid prayers) at the Islamic center, then you'd most probably make a fantastic Litter Cop for your community. Feel free to carry a copy of the characters of the game, and, without hesitation, make multiple copies of it and post it around the center to use it as evidence while convicting those who unintentionally (we must give them 70 excuses!) dirty the center and who so lovingly and selflessly wish to give others a chance of being spiritually uplifted on the Islamic center's annual Cleanup Day!

About Zehrah Naqvi

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  • masooma

    Very cute article with a good point! 😉 Thanks for your work cleaning your masjid.

  • Husain

    very creative article mashaAllah. we need innovative ideas to help our communities. thanks!

  • MM

    the “overdressed female”, catwalking in the centre?! astaghfirullah! lol funny piece, serving its purpose IA – jazakallah for the tips!