A mosque is a place where Muslims meet to worship God (Allah). The word 'mosque' is linked to an Arabic word meaning 'prostrate oneself' and it is a place where Muslims bow before God (prostrate means bow down). Mosques are generally rectangular in shape and the walls define the sacred area inside the building however, whilst some mosques are purpose built others can be found in converted houses.
A basic feature of all mosques is a tower called the minaret. In Islamic countries the muezzin (caller) enters the minaret and calls the people to prayer. In Britain this is not allowed so some Islamic communities broadcast the call to prayer on a radio frequency which Muslims can pick up in their homes and places of work using a small receiver. The call to prayer goes like this:
'God is great,
God is most Great, (x3)
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, (x3)
I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah (x2)
Come to prayer, (x2)
Come to your good, (x2)
God is most great, (x2)
I bear Witness that there is no God but Allah
[IMAGE]Muslims pray five times a day and prayer times are fixed by the sun and change daily. Because people lead busy lives it is the role of the muezzin to make sure people know when the correct time for prayer is. Each time for prayer has a special name and each time is separated by two hours. These times are Fajr (before dawn and sunrise), Zuhr (after midday), 'Asr (between late afternoon and sunset), Maghrib (between sunset and the end of daylight) and 'Isha (night until dawn).
[IMAGE]The first thing a person does before entering the mosque is to take off their shoes.
[IMAGE]This is because they are entering a sacred place and it is a sign of reverence to Allah. Also, when a Muslim prays at the mosque at times they put their face on the floor. Muslims who come to the Mosque to pray must perform wudu before doing so.
This is a sacred wash that symbolises spiritual cleansing and purity in readiness for coming before God. When a Muslim performs wudu they wash their hands, mouth, throat, nose, ears, arms up to the elbow and feet. When washing their hands, arms and feet they always wash the right one first. As in most places men and women have separate washing areas.
When entering the prayer hall you immediately notice that there are no seats. This is because when Muslims sit on [IMAGE]the floor and pray using a prayer mat. They go through the Rak'ah routine the routine is stand, bow, kneel, and touch the floor with the forehead. There are also no pictures on the walls. This is because Muslims believe you should not make images of God. They do not even consider it right to draw pictures of the prophet Muhammad so that they remained focused on God (Allah). In this mosque there are cupboards on the walls with copies of the Qu'ran in. All mosques have a minbar (set of steps) from which the imam (leader of the Mosque) may stand to teach the people.
Because Muslims do not allow images or pictures in their mosques they often decorate them with famous verses from the Qu'ran (the Islamic scriptures) and geometrical patterns. Inscriptions taken from the Qu'ran are sometimes made with gold leaf (or thread if woven onto a tapestry).
When a Muslim prays in the mosque they always face Makkah. This is the holy city where Muhammad lived and it is also the place where the Ka'bah is found (this is the stone building which Muslims believe was the first place built by Adam (the first human) for the worship of God). Once inside the mosque it is important for Muslims to know which direction Makkah is and this they do by making a recess (called a Mihrab) in the Qiblah (the name for the wall facing Mecca). Outside the Mosque the direction of Makkah is indicated on the
[IMAGE]Minaret and dome by a crescent moon. The dome not only symbolises the universe but also has a practical purpose in...
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