Saturday, April 14, 2012

Meeting at the Mosque

I've been wanting to visit a mosque for a long time, just to see what it's like inside. However, going into a mosque by myself on a random day made me uncomfortable as I'm sure I'd stick out like a sore thumb.

Luckily I received an opportunity through the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth, where they host World Religion Forums for educators. They hold two such conferences a year and this one took place at the Islamic Center of Irving over the religion of Islam. I was so excited to go!

Some of the things they taught I already knew:
  • Islam means peaceful submission/surrender to God (Allah)
  • Largest population of Muslims comes from South Asia, specifically Indonesia.
  • 5 Pillars of Islam: profession of faith, prayer 5 times a day, tithing, fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
  • Difference between Shia and Sunni is based on who the Imans were picked (either by righteous Muslims, or those with a direct hereditary link to Muhammed)
  • No images are displayed of Muhammed
  • Muslims come from a range of origins, race, ethnic background, economic status, culture, education, and upbringing
  • Most of the significant differences between Muslims (like those in Saudi Arabia who can't drive and those in Pakistan who can be subjected to arrange marriages, are not a result of the religion of Islam but come from cultural backgrounds and sometimes the government).
  • Islam had direct links to Jewish and Christian history and teachings and acknowledges all the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus as a prophet, and Mary as giving a virginal birth to Jesus per message via Angel Gabriel.

Other things were completely new information for me:
  • 20% of all Muslims are Arabs, the remainder come from other geographical regions (22 million are from China... who knew right?)
  • They do believe in both heaven and hell and that God chooses who goes where, regardless of their religion. They believe religion doesn't determine a person's afterlife
  • Mecca is where Abraham is said to have left Ishmael and his mother Haggar. The Kaaba in Mecca (the big black cube in the center) is where Abraham supposedly built the foundations for a place of worship to God.
  • Ramadan is the month when the Qu'ran was revealed. And the Qu'ran was revealed over the course of 23 years.
  • Every year, 2.3 million Muslims go to Mecca to perform the Hajj each year.
  • It's against Sharia law to enforce religion on someone else, and non-Muslims cannot be subjected to Sharia law.
  • 2 Muslim holidays- Eid ul-Fitr "Festival of Breaking the Fast" (celebrated after Ramadan) and "Eid ul-Adha "Festival of Sacrifice" (celebrated during the time of the Hajj in Mecca).

Either way, it was exciting to see inside.

They had separate entrances for men and women.

Once inside, they had a nook full of shelves where you take off your shoes.

Then nearby there is a 'washing room' where you clean your face, arms up to your elbows, and your feet from your ankles down. (No pictures of this)

Then in the prayer area men and women are separated and it is mostly a large carpeted area. Before children hit puberty they are allowed in both areas, which also have cry rooms for the younger children.

Prayers are led by the iman or the most knowledgeable Muslim on the carpet. And the others line up behind the prayer leader. No shoes allowed... thus my bare feet.

Daily prayers last about 5 - 10 minutes. And Friday afternoon prayers may last an hour as they include a 'sermon' of sorts and the 'service' lasts about an hour.

Coming from Kansas and Arkansas there really aren't that many Islamic centers or areas in the region, so many people probably don't get a chance to experience a mosque or the Islamic culture. However, hopefully you get an opportunity, but if not, I hope you enjoyed a glimpse inside from the pictures I took. Oh... and just like normal Texas, they also enjoy a good community BBQ. I chose to decline, but was invited that evening to attend their BBQ.

For more information about the Islamic Center of Irving and it's offerings, please click HERE.

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