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For many years I have been fascinated by how various religions influence certain cultures and the magnitude that certain religions have on individuals. There are so many religions that are worshipped by billions of people on Earth so I decided to take one of the main religions in the world and learn something from it. For my site visit I decided to take the Islamic route because I was always intrigued by that culture and their praise for Allah. I know that they have five daily prayers and must pray facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
I wanted to learn more about the religion of Islam and generally see their prayer in action. After some minimal research I discovered that their main prayer is on a Friday and called Jumma, which is similar to a Sunday service in Christianity. It occurs at approximately 1:30 pm in a masjid, generally referred to as a mosque, which is their house of worship.
Before going to the masjid I looked online to see the proper attire that a man should wear and it mainly just said long sleeve shirt and long pants. Therefore, I attended the Masjid-al-Noor in West Kendall for their Friday Jumma service on February 14, 2014. I arrived at 1:15pm to the masjid and I saw a huge beautiful building in a tan color. It sported a dome on top of the roof with a golden crescent pointing towards the sky. Upon arrival before entering the building, there was a row of shelves where you place your shoes. With no intention of disrespect, I removed my shoes and put them on one of the shelves and proceeded to walk inside the building.
Instantly I noticed these huge portraits of Arabic text on either side of the wall in a narrow hallway. I took a sip of water from the water fountain right next to the entrance before going into the main prayer room. The doors to the prayer room where wide open and there were already approximately fifty people inside. There was a little area to the front of the room with a podium and a chandelier and a huge carpet that took up the whole floor with individual rectangle sections for people to pray on. What I noticed that was interesting was that some people where sitting on the carpet and others where standing up and praying.
There was no real order or uniformity among everyone in the prayer room until about 1:45pm, when the Imam walked in. At the time of his entrance, there were approximately two hundred people inside the prayer room with each designated area on the carpet being full. The Imam, whom I later learned was similar to a priest in Christianity, was the main speaker who led the prayer.
As he walked in, any little chatter that was going on stopped and everyone sat down to listen to what he had to say. He started with the common greeting in Islam, “Salam”, and proceeded to tell his sermon. He talked half of the time in Arabic, which meant that I could not understand what he was saying, and the other half in English. When he was giving his sermon about praising Allah and such, he went on a tangent and began a story in English.
His story was composed of how in the Quran, which is the holy book of Islam, there have been things proven before modern science to help humans. He gave the example of how in the Quran it was advised that when a baby is born or still in infancy, it be given a sweet in its mouth. This was supposed to prevent certain diseases and reduce pain before circumcision.
Then he went on to say how it was not until 1995 when the British Medical Journal posted the medical benefits of putting a sweet in an infant’s mouth. His point was that in Islam, there are so many things that have been known before modern science has proven it due to the guide that Allah has given to the human race through the Quran. Then after his story, a different man came and did the Adhan, which is the call to prayer (Howard).
Then everyone stood up and the prayer started. What I noticed that happened during this was that various different motions were done whenever he said “Allah”, including placing hands on the knees. Also everyone got on the ground and prayed twice before getting back up on their feet.
After the main prayer, everyone sat back down and listened to an announcement about a nearby masjid that is being constructed and donations that were needed. They passed a box around and people put money in and some people started leaving. I waited until the Imam started walking out of the room and I introduced myself to him. He told me his name was Imam Zakaria and I told him that I was writing a paper for a religion class and asked if he could enlighten me on more aspects of Islam. He told me that he could sit down with me and talk to me about Islam on that upcoming Sunday and answer any questions I had. We agreed to see each other around 11:00 am on February 16, and then we shook hands and I returned home.
Upon returning home from the masjid I had many questions as to different parts of the service since I was confused about seeing some of the things, like their prayer and the call to God that the Imam repeated over and over by using the word “Allah”. I then decided to devise some questions to ask the Imam when I meet with him that Sunday. Some of these included why their holy day and Jumma prayer is on Fridays, and the main idea of Islam.
I also did some personal research about the whole process for Jumma and I discovered something called “wudu”. Wudu is the symbolic process of becoming pure that is achieved through cleaning certain areas of one’s body before prayer and is done with water (Burton). It’s a process that takes about five minutes and must be done in a certain order. You must first start by washing your hands from the tips of your fingers to your wrists. Then you gargle some water in your mouth and spit it out. Next you put water in your nose followed by washing your face. Then you wash your fingertips to your elbow and wash your hair.
Lastly, you wash your feet from your toes to your ankles. All of these washes require three repetitions each except for when you wash your hair, and are essential to prepare wudu. The things that can break wudu are passing gas, doing anything that is unpure which can range from listening to bad words in music to sinning. Bleeding and using the restroom breaks your wudu also. In these examples, one must redo the entire process of cleaning themselves for wudu before they pray Jumma.
When Sunday arrived I drove to the masjid to meet with Imam Zakaria. I took my shoes off before entering the masjid just like I did for the Jumma service, and I was escorted to the second floor where he was supervising some children while they practiced reading their Arabic. He greeted me welcome and I returned his salutation and he had me sit down with him.
I asked him the first question on my mind, which was: “Why is Friday the holy day for Muslims and why is the Jumma prayer done on that day?” He went on to tell me a story about how long ago when Muhammad was alive and acting as the Prophet of Allah he would have the whole city of Medinah meet in one place.
At the meetings he would recite some of the things the angel had told him for praise of Allah along with his teachings. This would happen so often that it eventually became known as “Jumma”, which in Arabic means coming together. Over time as cities became huge, not everyone could fit in a masjid, so several masjids held Jumma service so that many people could attend it at once. In the modern day, millions of people attend Jumma service at the masjid during the prayer of “D’uhr”, which occurs around 1:30 pm.
The second important thing I asked the Imam involved me wondering what the main purpose or principle in the Islamic religion was. What he told me was that the main concept is to be clean. Whether it’s the “wudu” that Muslims do to wash themselves before each prayer, or simply washing their hands after using the restroom, every Muslim has a born sense of innate cleanliness.
This is the main reason why Muslims cannot eat pork or meat that is not “halal”, blessed, or have dogs inside the house due to the whole principal and way of life of being clean. Apart from this clean lifestyle that the Muslims have, they are very devoted to Allah and follow a lot of what Prophet Muhammad did. They will not do anything that is against their God and that’s really remarkable.
When I returned home from my talks with the Imam I was very curious about the five different prayers that Muslims do everyday, so I decided to investigate. Upon my research I discovered that it is important for every Muslim to pray five times a day after they reach puberty. These different prayers, or salats, have names known as Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha (Husayn). Fajr is the prayer that occurs from dawn to sunrise as soon as you wake up.
Next is Zhur prayer which happens from noon until Asr prayer. Asr prayer starts in the afternoon and lasts for a couple of hours. Then, Maghrib occurs from sunset to dusk followed by Isha, which is prayed from dusk until dawn. On Fridays the Jumma prayer would occur during Zuhr time frame since it falls between 1:30 p.m., which would be considered between noon and afternoon (Husayn).
My overall experience for the Jumma service that I attended was very positive because the atmosphere was really sincere and sacred. Nobody was fooling around and it was apparent that this religion meant a lot to so many people and that they took it seriously. This experience was very interesting and eye opening and just makes me wonder what other religions out there can bring to the “sacred table”.
I was also very fortunate that the Imam was a very nice man and was so good about answering any questions I had and educating me. The site visit was a great way of opening my eyes towards Islam and why they do what they do. I hope to have other religious experiences just like this one so that I develop a more open mind about people and their religions.
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