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I am a Christian by personal faith, genetics and through circumstance of being raised in the church. I have been a Christian so long that any other religion to me is of little concern to me personally. But, I do not say this to be mean because I have many friends of different religions, beliefs and races. Whatever they believe in is fine with me and vice versa. I decided to go to a mosque with my best friend since fourth grade since she is a Muslim. I learned a lot more than I originally thought and this is my journey.
Humama and I have been best friends since fourth grade. My family and hers are close despite one being Christian and the other Muslim. To each other we are people, friends, and religion does not define our relationship. I asked Humama to come with me to the mosque downtown on King Street because I would feel more comfortable being with someone who knew what was going on. We decided to go on a Friday, which is their holy day.
Before leaving her house in Goose Creek, we performed ritual called a Wudu. It is washing of body parts important to performing formal prayers, called Salah. She said that there is a station at the mosque for it, or they use a sink for it but it would be easier to do it before we left home. She gave me a blue outfit to wear with a matching veil to cover everything from our wrists to our ankles for modesty and respect.
On the drive downtown, bundled up in a beautiful outfit completely out of my normal
form of dressing, I wondered how I would be greeted and how I would be changed by this. I have walked and drove past the mosque on King Street many times. After living downtown for almost a year, you would have to be blind not to notice it. It sits there on the corner of King and Romney street, quiet and not architecturally designed like the mosques I have seen in pictures. It is simplistic in its design for its purpose.
We parked and walked to the mosque and I noticed people of different races entering the mosque which surprised me. There were Blacks, Whites, and many people of Middle Eastern descent. There were young people, old people and all seemed unified in their beliefs of Allah. We entered the mosque and entered a quick prayer to bless the mosque. The prayer had not started yet, so Humama introduced me to other Muslims in the hallway. My anxiety was easing somewhat speaking to others that did not seem to mind I was there, despite being a Christian. Before entering the actual mosque, Humama and I took off our shoes to show another form of respect.
Humama and I sat facing Mecca, after speaking for a few minutes to the others, she said we could offer other quick prayers while waiting for the sermon to start. I realized for the first time that the men and women were separated in the mosque. The men were in the front and the women in the back, though we could still see everything. I noticed that there were two rows of chairs and I saw that the handicapped or men of importance sat there. I sat beside Humama thinking, this is kind of unfair having to sit all the way in back and not among the men. In my church you sit anywhere, but I pulled the thought back, to not judge but participate in her faith. To get my mind off it, I thought to myself that I really enjoyed not having my shoes on since I am somewhat bohemian.
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Humama informed me we were waiting for the Imam, the preacher and leader of the
mosque, to come out and “preach” which is called the Pre-Prayer. She informed that the Imam would usually come out and give a sermon on whatever he wished to or tell a religious story. He would later in the sermon connect the meaning of it to his sermon. I became a little impatient waiting for the Imam to come out, but she reassured me that he would be out shortly. After five more minutes he walked out and reality finally set in that I was completely out of my depth.
The Imam, whose actual name is Mohamed Melhem did not look like a “preacher” to me. He seemed like a regular man yet easy to talk to. He began the sermon by welcoming everyone to the mosque and praising Allah. He was easy to listen to and to understand. He gave a sermon on serving Allah and fasting. That by fasting you gain a closer relationship with Allah. Allah is there for us and there is only one. Prayer should be consistent (they pray five times per day) and that the Quran is there to guide us. He spoke of being a Muslim in the world, that all aspects of being a Muslim should be retained once leaving the mosque. As a Muslim, your ethics and how you stick to them in the world shows how Allah is working through you.
I noticed that everyone seemed in awe and took in every word he said. They seemed completely devoted to listening to the Imam speak about this, because by looking at them you could tell some found themselves again by being among peers like themselves. After finishing the sermon, the Adhan or Azan, did a call to prayer. Everyone listened and moved forward face down listening to the Azan pray. After the prayer was finished, some people continued to pray and others got up to socialize. The mosque offered food to us to raise money for the mosque. The food was similar to what I had eaten before at Humama’s house and it was delicious. I do not remember the names of the food, but it did not matter at the time. Everyone socialized for about an hour and a half and some continued to speak about Allah, others about school and work. Some people were coming in late having just got off work to come in at the right time to pray.
Leaving the mosque, I felt a little different. The peace of praying with others who get along despite your race. The sacredness of leaving the world outside and finding yourself again when entering the mosque. Facing Mecca and everyone praying in one direction and at one time. They all believe the same way and it shows why they have such a strong community. No one is trying to pull away and do their own thing. It made me feel closer to my own God, and that it makes life easier knowing that essentially we all have the same belief in one God, despite the different ways we worship. I gained a closer relationship with my best friend and with my God and that really changed me.
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