My first Friday prayers in Madrid were naturally an extremely emotional experience. Knowing the history of Islam in Spain and the tortuous period where Muslims had to conceal their faith for fear of being murdered made hearing the athan echoing around the Mezquita de Madrid an extremely symbolic moment of contemplation. At one point in history (and most Muslims are oblivious to this fact), it seemed very likely that the words La illaha ilallah would never be heard in Madrid again. Alhamdulilah, alhamdulilah, alhamdulilah for His mercy! It was also beautiful that this mosque was located right across the street from a cathedral, a modern realization of the old notion of convivencia.
The aesthetic beauty and genuine hospitality of the Madrid Muslim community aside, I have to say that I was quite shocked by the fact that the khutba was given by a Saudi shaykh (whose knowledge was tremendous and speech excellent!) speaking in fluent classical Arabic. I was expecting a khutba in Spanish (in fact, this is one of the reasons I attended) given that most of the mosque was filled with native Spaniards as well as North African/West African youths who most likely would not understand much of the speech. This fact just struck me as problematic…and I’m one of the biggest enthusiasts of the Arabic language! It should be recalled that during the medieval period, in Christian Spain, many mosque preachers gave the khutba in Castilian or Aragonese…the language of the inhabitants of the land. Whatever happened to the wisdom behind that concept?