Bismillah. How many times have we heard the discussion within our communities: We need to expand the masjid. No, we need an Islamic School first. No, we need to do Dawah ... et cetera, et cetera.
Let us inshaAllah look at the methodology of the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him):
Upon arriving in Madinah he, peace and blessings be upon him, built a masjid. This set in motion the physical and spiritual development of the community, a place where congregational prayers as well as community meetings would be held. In fact there was no delay in the construction of the first masjid. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Al Madinah and selected the location of the masjid right upon arrival. It is also important to note that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) took part in the building himself.
The second stage of community development in Madinah was the effort to ensure that people attended the congregation prayer. The context of the Madinan situation was that not everyone was attending prayers at the same time. Thus the call to prayer was instituted. In our present context we see that people around the world face great difficulty in attending prayers (even Jum'ah) because of work. Thus let us reflect on how we, as a community, can help one another to ensure we are able, as a community, to attend the congregational prayer.
Following the call to prayer, the Messenger of Allah set out to support those in need in the community. The muhaajiroon were paired with ansar, who provided accommodations. In return the Muhaajir would teach Qur'an to his host, or vice versa. However, as more and more people embraced Islam and came to Madinah there were not sufficient available spaces within the houses of the ansar. Therefore the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, set aside the covered northern area of the masjid for those Muslims in need. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) personally cared for these people, called the people of as-Suffah. Donations of money and food would be directed, by the Prophet, to the people of as-Suffah. Even gifts given to the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), he would direct them to the people of as-Saffah. He, peace and blessings be upon him, would invite the people of as-Saffah to eat with him, and within his dwellings. He spared no effort to purchase and provide for their needs - peace and blessings be upon him.
Now, I anticipate that there may be a response of: "But! Our children are going non-Muslim school. So, that should be the priority." My response is this: The Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all) had children. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) first and foremost brought people to the Masjid, if we make this our goal our children will have role models and examples of piousness. Following that, in doing good and helping the poor our children will see, within the community and within the family, people who are implementing the message of Allah: Muslims who are engaged in making the community a better place. Don't get me wrong - I am not saying schools are not important, rather that we have the best model and there is wisdom in the methodology that Allah's Messenger took (peace and blessings be upon him).
And, Allah knows best.
In this there is wisdom for those who reflect. We can learn immensely from this model, for it speaks volumes and the wisdom it expounds is deep - however, for it to become internalized and implemented takes time, effort and commitment. May Allah guide us and make us among those who strive in His cause, working for His sake.
Recommended Reading: The Noble Life of the Prophet by Dr. 'Ali Muhammad As Sallaabee