Going to the Masjid (Part 1): Knowing the Masjid

You’re a new Muslim and you’re going to a Masjid? Yeay! It’s going to be fun. You’re going to meet new friends, you’re going to learn more on Islam, and maybe there’s even free food there. LOL. But wait a minute. Before you go, please take note of several things. Now, let’s go to the Masjid!    

As a new Muslim revert, there are so many things you will learn and do for the first time. And these first-time things in your new beautiful religion will always stick in your memories. 

You’ll always remember how your heart raced the moment you said Shahadah (your declaration of belief in the oneness of God and on Muhammad as his final Prophet) for the first time. 

You’ll always remember the moment you raised your hands and said the Takbiratul Ihram in your solat (prayer) for the first time. 

You’ll always remember the satisfaction of  withstanding the hunger and hardship in completing your Ramadhan fast for the first time, or how hard it was to memorise the al-Fatihah verses for the first time.

But how about your experience of going to the mosque for the first time? 

It may be easy to visualise in your mind about the mosque if you are a born Muslim. You may have been there since the time you learned to walk.  But as reverts, non-Muslims and those who have never been inside a mosque, have you ever imagined what the mosque is like?

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Reverts going to the mosque for the first time have varied experiences. Some are fun and exciting experiences, some enlightening,  and some even awkward. Before any untoward experience happens to you, it is advisable that you get to know some basic things about the mosque. 

What is a mosque?

If you have been in a typical  Muslim country, you must have heard a loud calling for prayers five times a day. The sound comes from the mosque (masjid), as a sign that the praying time has come.

The Arabic term masjid simply means “place of prostration”. A mosque is a building in which Muslims worship Allah by performing the congregational (jama’ah) prayers . It is also a local  community centre for Muslims. 

The role of the mosque has frequently been misconceived as a place for spedific worship rituals only. Ideally, a mosque should also be a centre of Muslim development, knowledge and welfare. 

It is a symbol of unity and strength of the Muslim community. Muslims praying in neat rows (saff), shoulder to shoulder, regardless of rich or poor, old or young, black or white, signify  that everyone is equal before Allah.

What do mosques look like?

Mosques come in all shapes and sizes, based on the density of the Muslim population in a certain area. A distinct feature common to most mosques is the minaret, a slim tower  normally used to make the daily call (adhan) to prayers. Some mosques have more than one minaret.

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Other features common to mosques are a dome, a mihrab (an indention in the wall for the imam who leads the prayer, and marks the direction of qiblah (the Holy Mosque in Mecca),  and a mimbar (a raised platform on which the khutbah or speeches are delivered).

What does the interior of the mosque look like?

The most significant area inside a mosque is of course the praying hall. This is where the Muslims pray. Depending on the size of the mosque, and the number of people in the local Muslim community, some mosques do have a big and vast praying hall, while some others have a smaller one. At the front side of the praying hall is where the mihrab is, which indicates the direction of qiblah

A qiblah refers to the direction faced by Muslims performing prayers. Muslims are instructed to face in the direction of the Kaabah in Mecca while praying. One important aspect to be understood here is that  Muslims do not worship the Kaabah. Rather, the Muslims direct their worship only to Allah. The Kaabah is merely a symbolic unifying focal point for the entire Muslim world:    

To Allah belongs the East and the West. Wherever you turn, there is the presence of Allah. For Allah is all-Pervading, all-Knowing” (Quran 2:115)

So, basically no matter where the mosque is, it will always face toward the qiblah, as a symbol of universal unity among Muslims in worshiping one God. Thus, a qiblah in London will face to the south east and a qiblah in Kuala Lumpur will face to the west. 

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Another thing you’ll see inside the mosque is the ablution area. Muslims are commanded to make ablution (wudhu’) as a part of preparation to pray. In some mosques , a separate space for ablution is set in a restroom or washroom. In others, the place for ablution is a fountain-like structure along a wall or in a courtyard.

Abdul Hakim Abd Jalil

Author Abdul Hakim Abd Jalil

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