I chose to research the Muslim religion for my site visit. If you do not know what to expect when visiting a mosque, it can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience for any non-Muslim. I attended Catholic private schools my whole life and was raised as a Catholic and still am. Most religions have a house of prayer; Jews have synagogues, Buddhists/Hindus have temples and Catholic and Christians have churches and cathedrals. Muslims have mosques; each religious center has their own different rules, rituals and services that need to be followed. A mosque is a place of prayer for Muslims within the Islamic belief (Encyclopedia).
Another word for mosque in Arabic is Masjid. Kind of like a church, a mosque is where Muslims worship and bow before Allah to declare their obedience. Mosques date back till the time of the prophet (ReligionFacts). In order to find a mosque, I went on the Internet and stumbled upon Masjid Al Ansar. When approaching Masjid Al Ansar I was a tad edgy, not only because I did not know what to anticipate but also because I was not sure if I had put my hijab on correctly.
When I entered the mosque a man who called himself a “brother” said, “sisters go to the right and brothers go on the left”. My friend (who is also in my class) and I exchanged looks of worry to each other and continued to follow the sister down a path and up the stairs. When walking through the mosque, I noticed it was so much different than my church. The mosque had a library, a kitchen, and a children’s center. It was very friendly in the way that they took care of each other and the less fortunate. It felt like a real community.
When my friend and I made it to the top of the stairs, the sister immediately began to take off her shoes and purse and placed it in a cubby. In order to look like we knew what we were doing, we copied the sisters every move. We immediately took off our shoes and turned off our cellphones and placed them in the cubby. Following the sister, we walked to the back of the room and sat on the rug while the men sat in front. We were 30 minutes early, so we began to talk to a sister who knew we weren’t really Muslim.
She told us to follow her lead and to ask any questions if we were confused about anything. The service began with a man singing beautifully in Arabic. I was in awe because my Catholic masses are not so different; they spoke about different stories about Abraham and the gospels. One thing that really affected me was the length of the service; my legs fell asleep numerous times while the Muslims didn’t even flinch. I guess they were used to that. I had to place my legs in different positions to compensate.
Throughout the service, I felt at peace. I began to ponder at the fact that I never knew how many Muslims there are in Miami. I hate the fact that they get ridiculed because of 9/11. The beginning prayers of the service are called “raktas”. Raktas recognize that you are in a sacred/holy place. The prophet Muhammad was born on a Friday so it is considered the holy day of the week. That explains why services are held on Fridays. Muhammad taught that prayers are obligatory at least five times a day and can be held anywhere as long as it is sincere with Allah (Sister Hamin).
Over all I believe that my understanding of the Muslim religion after visiting and interviewing the sister increased tremendously. People tend to shut down any belief that isn’t their own and aren’t open-minded. When visiting the masjid, I felt welcomed. They welcomed my friend and I with open arms even though we were outsiders. Learning about new beliefs and religions is very fascinating. Fascinating in a way that is it cool to learn how people in different religions live and it’s also better to gain a better perspective on things. Learning about the Islamic religion broadened my horizons on the Islamic faith as a whole, something, which I had very little knowledge about prior to.
At the end of the service, we told the sister who had been helping us out, that we were from FIU and we were doing research for school. I asked the sister if she could answer a few questions that had been nagging me during the whole service and she pointed me in the direction to another sister who would be able to answer all my questions and more. The church official, sister, we spoke to was Afrah Hamin. She was extremely friendly and was open to answer all of our questions. Interview Questions:
1.Which days are the services?
Fridays and on special occasions.
2.Why are the men in front and the women in the back?
It is tradition; men sit in the front to protect their women. 3.Are all the prayers in the service mandatory?
No they are not, only the last prayer is.
4. How many times do you have to pray each day?
Five times a day
5. Is there a specific time for each prayer and specific names? Yes
1.The Dawn Prayer (Fajr) 2 hours before sunrise.
2. Noon Prayer (Zuher) when the sun declines from its highest point at noon. 3. Afternoon Prayer (Asr) during the 3-4 hour preceding sunset. 4. Sunset Prayer (Maghrib) after sunset.
5. Night Prayer (isha) after twilight disappears from the sky. 6.What is the reason for these times?
Because Allah wants us to remember him always.
7. Do women need to wear the hijabs at all times?
Not really, only if you want but modern Muslims do not wear it they only wear it in the Masjid. 8.Are Muslims nowadays the same as the olden times?
No, we have become more flexible towards many things but there are some who remain with the same old traditions and are more conservative. 9.As for marriages, are Muslims able to marry from other religions? For women, they usually marry Muslim men but for men, it is more acceptable to marry from outside religions but only if his family approves. 10. Explain in detail the service.
The beginning prayers, which are called “raktas”, are not mandatory but some people like to do it to recognize that they are in a holy place. After the imam says the words of the Qur’an, he breaks things into two parts: the first one speaks about the history of Islam, the prophet and the religion itself.
The second part is about community life in which he gives us keys to improve ourselves and gives us something that we can think about and improve. After the two parts, the imam calls us back to prayer and we line up and do the mandatory raktas, which is to praise Allah and recognize that Allah is the only perfect one.
“Fast Facts on Islam – ReligionFacts.” Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion. n.d. 26 January 2010
“Islam (religion).” Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 2010.
Encyclopedia Brittanica. 11 January, 2010. < http://www.britannica.com/ EB checked/topic/295507/Islam>