Islam is a religion that is globally accepted with quite a significant number of followers. This is so because of its ability to progressively narrate and express the word of the Supreme Being in the same proportion it was revealed through his prophets (Esposito). As such, Muslims all across the globe view this religion not only as a step of faith but also as a comprehensive way of life. Islam is deeply rooted and committed to peace, mercy, and essentially portraying some degree of forgiveness to those who trespass against their will or wishes.
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Historically, Islamic traditions are best traced at the various phases of the seventh century Arabia, with prophet Mohamed as a prophet and a messenger (Esposito). His role was typically to spread the divine revelation of Allah as recorded in the holy book, Quran. Important to note, while many regard Islam as a new religion, it is not because they-Muslims-believe that the same Allah who revealed himself to Mohamed was the same God who revealed Himself to Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. Therefore, despite the various difference notable among the various religions, Muslims believe that they serve and are followers of the same God. In other words, we are all cousins with a common ancestral background and a common faith.
Primarily, Allah is the central fact regarding the Islamic religion, and the Supreme Being expressed in the holy book-Quran-never changes and is transcendent (GainPeace). He is also the creator, the overwhelming concerns of all believers, and most importantly the sustainer of the entire universe. On that note, Islam, which means submission, acknowledges a Muslim as an individual who totally submits to Allah, and lives to serve and abide by Allah’s will and rules (GainPeace).
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This research was primarily conducted in the Islamic Center of America on the 27 day of October 2017. Notably, this was the most convenient time to carry out the research, since it is the Muslims day of worship. During my visit to the great institution, the facilities management including sheikh Omar, who guided and walked me around the institution, humbly welcomed me. Owing to the profound relation that coexisted between the sheikh and I, he became one of my interviewees. As we walked around the great facility, a lot was available in my vicinity including the mosques outstanding architectural layout and design.
Some of this architectural designs include a large dome-shaped features and minarets (Huda). The latter is the slender tower, which is vastly used too effectively convey or rather inform about the prayer time to people living in, out, and around the neighborhood. However, due to the advancement in the technological sector, mosques are currently using the loudspeaker. The former is a circular structure that is erected when setting up the roof and it creates a hollow when looked from the inside. Other than the architectural designs, there were features and elements available in the Islamic Center of America. These included decorations and washing facilities. Normally, the washing facility is thoughtfully essential in every mosque since prior to stepping or gathering into the sacred prayer area, they have to take off their shoes and wash their feet. This is a tradition that has been there for quite a long time and has continued to be strictly observed as due to the need of observing cleanliness necessary in the place of worship. In addition, the mosques are located in a serene and a clean environment suitable for conducting and observing their holy day. Being the Muslim’s day of worship, a lot of men, women, and children were seen in the facilities environment. I totally had an amazing time being in the environs of the Islamic Center of America especially because of the great company I had, and the fact that it was my first time being in a mosques since I am a Christian.
After the long exterior survey, it was time for prayers and as required, everyone-including me-was supposed to be congregated inside the mosque prayer area. Unlike the usual Christian setting, Muslims have a distinct area where they conduct their prayers. This includes a distinct layout and arrangement of the various structure. Inside the prayer area also known as Musalla, the place is completely left bare (Huda). This is so because, worshippers in the mosques sit, kneel, and bow directly on the floor during their prayer sessions. Nonetheless, there are chances to find a few chairs, which in this case are meant are meant for aiding the elderly or even the disabled who in this case have a problem with their mobility (Huda).
In the prayer hall, bookshelves are also seen along the walls and pillars. Their sole purpose is to hold Qurans, the wooden bookstands, and other religious material including the prayer rugs. In addition, the prayer hall is extensively decorated with ornaments and other jewelry (Huda). For example, Mihrab is an ornamental decoration, which is semi-circularly indented in the prayer hall. Normally, this section indicates and points towards the direction of Mecca, which is the ultimate place or direction that Muslim’s face during prayers. Important to note, Mihrabs vary in color and size in different mosques (Huda). Even then, they still retain the same shape, which resembles a doorway and decorated using mosaic, tiles, and calligraphy to enhance the attractiveness of the sacred place as well as to make the place stand out.
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On the other hand, in front of the prayer hall, there is an erected raised platform known as the Minbar (Huda). Essentially, this place is purposely meant to be a platform from where sermons and other religious teachings are given from by Imams and sheikhs. Typically, this place is made of wood or carved stones and bricks, and it includes a staircase that leads the Imams and sheikhs to the top platform, which in most case is covered by a small dome.
As stated earlier, worshippers in the mosques sit, kneel, and bow directly on the ground and thus there is need to have prayer rug in the prayer hall. The prayer rug is also vital in the prayer hall typically because Islam believes that prayers should be conducted at a clean place. Notably, the adoption of carpets and rugs have been in practice since time in memorial as a code of maintaining and observing the cleanliness of the prayer hall. Carpets and rugs also establish some sense of comfort during the prayer session by cushioning the floor. In Islam Center of America prayer area was covered by large carpets and small rugs were also available for personal use.
Art and other symbols of worship are highly acceptable in Islam unlike in Christianity where they face a lot of criticism and rejection. However, the artistic works and other religious symbols in Islam are only acceptable if and only if they reflect the Islamic traditions, culture, and depict a strong appeal of time and space. Moreover, the distinct artwork and symbols have to illustrate or rather indicate the differences in language and culture among Islamic groups worldwide. Some of the artwork and religious symbols available in the Islamic Center of America include calligraphy and geometric decorations in the various phases of the mosque. For example, the mosque is beautified with an ottoman velvet geometric decoration on the floor. Notably, the adoption of geometric patterns in the place of worship significantly aid in the reflection of the universal language, and it also aids the diverse pool of believers to reflect on their life and the greatness of creation. On the other hand, calligraphy is also highly incorporated into Islamic writing, for instance, in the Quran manuscripts. Its adoption in writing down the various parts and sections of the Quran enables the Holy Scripture to achieve a vibrant and a distinctive look that is both captivating and legible to the worshippers.
While the Islamic religion is perceived to be strict especially regarding the dressing code, it does not restricts anyone from wearing nice outfits and look good. Instead, the Islamic religion authenticates and advocates for decency in the manner in which its followers dress. This is thoughtfully paid attention to especially when they are attending sermon. Regardless of age, this religion encourages cleanliness and good appearance, which in most cases symbolizes and signifies God’s blessing upon them. Women, for instance, are not allowed to put on clothes that show their body parts or even an outright of how their body looks like. As such, the female believers in the Islamic Center of America dressed in long loose skirts and hijabs that did not reveal the skin part of the face or even hair as they moved around during the prayer session. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to wear clothes that do not reveal their body parts, and clothes that are not made up of silk or gold. However, they are allowed to put on clothes made up of goat or camel wool. This is because the latter are considered holy in the holy Quran. In the Islamic Center of America, men dressed in long loose shirts and caps. Usually, these clothing’s regardless of whether they are worn by men or women differed in color and sizes as long as they did not reveal an individual’s body parts.
Rituals are part of the Islamic religion and are regarded as important elements especially because of their role in defining the distinct set of rules that ought to be strictly followed by believers. In the Islamic Center of America, the first ritual started at the entrance to the mosque. At this point, believers were required to step into the mosque using their right foot dressed in accordance with the set rules and regulations. In addition, believers are required to be clean including the elimination of bad odor from food and other edible substances. After that, they were required to enter the mosque reciting the appropriate prayer known as adua. I also observed believers conduct the cleansing ritual. Normally, this ritual requires that they take off their shoes and clean their feet. After that, the Muslim believers could now go ahead with their prayers ritual scheduled five times a day.
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My visit to the Islamic Center of America was a success and educative of the Islamic religion. Notably, during the visit, I learned quite a number of things that Muslims all across the globe engage in when observing and worshipping their God. Besides, I learnt of the various architectural designs and layout present in the mosques, and their importance. Interestingly, I learnt that the Mihrab is erected in the same direction as mecca. Through the visit, I also got familiar with some of the rituals that the Islamic religion pays attention to including the type of clothing that respective gender should put on especially when attending a prayer session. In other words, I totally enjoyed my visit to the great institution in Michigan, North America and having met Sheikh Omar who guided me during my research process.
In my opinion, there is no great difference between my religion-Christianity- and Islam because we all serve and believe in the same God who revealed Himself through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. However, there are some notable difference between the two religions especially on matters regarding the dressing code and cleanliness. Normally, for Muslim, they have to wash their feet prior to getting into the place of worship unlike for Christians who do that at home. Therefore, Islam is a religion that highly perceived to observes, and monitors the manner in which believers conduct themselves. It is also a religion that is not swept away or overwhelmed by the global and technological advancements, especially in spiritual matters. Therefore, this is a religion that I would thoughtfully consider joining not only because of its strict nature but also because of its capacity to observe and act by the set rules and regulations.
- Esposito, John L. “Introduction: The Islamic Tradition.” Usccb.Org, 2017. Accessed 28 Oct 2017. www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/introduction-the-islamic-tradition.cfm.
- GainPeace. “What Is Islam? – Gainpeace.” Gainpeace.Com, 2017. Accessed 28 Oct 2017. www.gainpeace.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=104:what-is-islam&catid=34:what-is-islam&Itemid=107.
- Huda. “What Are The Parts Of An Islamic Mosque?” Thoughtco, 2017. Accessed 28 Oct 2017. www.thoughtco.com/parts-of-a-mosque-2004464.