“A Sacred Place”
A masjid, also known as a mosque, is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The first mosque in the world is often considered to be the area around the Kaaba in Mecca now known as the Masjid al-Haram. Muhammad went on to establish another mosque in Medina, which is now known as the Masjid an-Nabawi, or the Prophet's Mosque. Built on the site of his home, Muhammad participated in the construction of the mosque himself and helped pioneer the concept of the mosque as the focal point of the Islamic city. Throughout Islamic history, the mosque was the center of the community and towns formed around this pivotal building. Nowadays, especially in Muslim countries mosques are found on nearly every street corner, making it a simple matter for Muslims to attend the five daily prayers. In the West mosques are integral parts of Islamic centers that also contain teaching and community facilities. There are however, certain features that are common to all mosques. Every mosque has a mihrab, a niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca; the direction towards which Muslims pray. Most mosques have a minbar (or pulpit) from which an Islamic scholar is able to deliver a sermon or speech. Muslims are permitted to pray anywhere, excluding filthy or impure places such as toilets or in graveyards. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said, “The entire earth was made a masjid for me”. Masjid is the Arabic word for mosque. However, while the term mosque has come to mean a building specifically for prayer the word masjid has retained several layers of meaning. In the very literal sense, masjid means place of prostration. The Arabic word comes from the root “sa-ja-da” meaning to prostrate. When a Muslim’s forehead touches the ground, he or she is close to God. Prayer establishes the connection between the believer and his Lord and prostration symbolizes complete submission. All Masjids have sacred routines and rituals they follow, and when a Non-Muslim enters the Masjid, he will enter with a sense of wonder and curiosity of the cultures of the people and what and why the Muslims perform these specific actions inside the Mosque. When first entering a Masjid, the first thing a person will notice are the people. They will see many diverse outfits. Kufis, thobes, hijabs, and many other types of attire they don’t see very often. They would be interested in knowing why muslims wear these accessories; is it a rule? Or is it just a part of the Islamic culture. Is that Masjid the only one that requires that type of clothing? A person should know that yes those types of clothing are a part of the Islamic culture. They are worn to please God. t is reprehensible not to cover the head in prayer if one is able to do so as it is part of the excellence of adornment which Allah ordered when He said: "O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer" (7: 31). If one cannot afford a shirt or a head-cover, he may pray without them, but if he can, then he is remiss in obeying Allah in this verse and in heeding the Prophet in the hadith: "Allah likes to see the mark of His benevolence on His servant." But it this type is clothing is not restricting anyone from entering the Masjid. God also says come as you are. Today the clothing is not taken as much serious but it is still very important that you at least where modest clothing, so there will be no distractions, just you and Allah. The second thing a person will notice is how you must take off your shoes before entering the Mussallah. Now this is definitely a rule. Many people the only reason this is a rule is because we do not want the floor to become dirty. But that is only a partial reason; In both the Quran and the Bible, in the story of Moses God commands him to take off his shoes because he is on holy ground. Muslims take off their shoes before entering a Mussallah because they are entering where they are in the presence of the Lord, and must stay pure. If a non-Muslim happens to enter the restroom in a Masjid , he will more than likely see others washing not just their hands, but their feet, face and mouth. This process is called Wudu. Wudu is the Islamic procedure for washing parts of the body using water, typically in preparation for formal prayers (salat). The Qur'an says "For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean." Purification of the body and clothes is called taharah. The Islamic prophet Muhammad said that "Cleanliness is half of faith". There are four obligatory acts. If one of these acts is omitted, it must be returned to and then completions of the successive acts are to be performed. “O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favor to you, that ye may be grateful.” —Al-Ma'ida, Sura 5, Ayah 6 I was once told that if you do not perform tahara that your prayers will not be accepted, so, if true, it is vital that all Muslims perform wudu before making salat. After a non-Muslim has entered the Musallah, he will notice that men sit in the front and the women sit in the back. Muslims do not mix in mosques because it is the nature of men to be attracted to women and whenever they see a female, they may think immorally about them. The only thing that should be on a mind or woman’s mind while at the masjid is to worship Allah. This is also another reason why it is asked of us to dress modestly in the Masjid. The arrangement also gives women privacy and makes them feel more comfortable and do whatever they like without any man looking at them. Haji Nsereko Mutumba says, “Imagine a woman breastfeeding her baby with men in the surrounding, would any red-blooded man not stare at her? So, to give women peace of mind, they are separated from the men.” When finally seated inside the Musallah, the person will notice a man began to speak like a pastor would for a Christian church. This will probably raise the most questions. “What is his title?’ “What is his purpose?” “What is his sermon called?” “Is it required for him to speak or can they just make salat?” “Can a woman lead the prayer?” “Is there a strict time limit?” Etc…
The man speaking is usually an Imam. An imam is an Islamic leadership position. It is most commonly in the context of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community by Sunni Muslims. Imams may lead Islamic worship services, serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance. All mosques have an imam to lead the congregational prayers, even though it may sometimes just be a member from the gathered congregation rather than an officially appointed salaried person. Women cannot lead prayers, except amongst female-only congregations; these are often the wives of imams. The person that should be chosen according to Hadith is one who has most knowledge of the Qu'ran and is of good character, the age is immaterial. The sermon a Imam gives is called a Khutbah. Khutbah serves as the primary formal occasion for public preaching in the Islamic tradition. The Islamic tradition can be formally at the dhuhr (noon) congregation prayer on Friday. Religious narration (including sermons) may be pronounced in a variety of settings and at various times. The khutbah, however, refers to khutbat al-jum'a, usually meaning the address delivered in the mosque at weekly and annual rituals. he khutbah originates from the practice of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, who used to deliver words of exhortation, instruction, or command at gatherings for worship in the mosque, which consisted of the courtyard of his house in Medina. After the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad presented himself as a khatib to the city in AD 630. The first four caliphs, and the Ummayads caliphs and provincial governors all delivered sermons. There were not necessarily exhortatory, but addressed practical questions of government and sometimes even included direct orders. Traditionally, as instructed in classical Islamic legal treatises, Friday congregational prayers in which sermons were delivered were restricted to urban centers and normally to one major mosque in each city. Such a mosque is referred to as a masjid jami‘, that is, a "Friday Mosque" (or a "cathedral mosque"). Sermons on special occasions generally contain features that are relevant to the celebrations or the natural phenomena at whose arrival they are delivered. For instance, on Eid al-Fitr, the preacher has a duty to instruct the faithful congregation concerning the zakat, or almsgiving. On Eid al-Adha the preacher includes remarks specifying the rules for the sacrifice. There are rules and prohibitions when the khutbah is being performed. Talking, eating and drinking, to engage in conversation, and reciting the Quran Shareef. At the beginning of the service the adhan (call of prayer) is given, during which the khatib (the individual who delivers the khutbah) remains sitting. The iqama is given when the khatib descends. The sermon is delivered in two parts. Both parts are delivered while khatib is standing and punctuated by a pause in between them when the khatib sits down. During the sermon itself, it is obligatory to pronounce the following: the hamdala, or an expression to praise God and show gratitude towards him; saying al-hamdu li'llāh "Praise belongs to Allāh" at the beginning of the sermon is usually sufficient. The salawaat, or invocations of peace and blessings on Muhammad. Recitation of a part of the Qur'an in the first part of the sermon. Admonitions to piety in both parts of the sermon,and dua (prayer) on behalf of the faithful. The khatib (Imam) must be in a state of ritual purity; his dress must be in accord with the prescriptions. It is commendable for the khatib to be on a pulpit or an elevated place; to salute the congregation when directing himself towards them; to sit down until the adhan is pronounced by the muezzin; and to direct himself straightway to his audience. Finally the khatib should make the sermon short. “Make your salat (prayer) long and your khutba (sermon) short.” –Prophet Muhammad. Salat is then finally given, which is the actual prayer. To perform valid Salat, Muslims must be in a state of ritual purity, which is mainly achieved by wudu, according to prescribed procedures. Salat is always given in the direction of the Kabba in Mecca. Salat consists of the repetition of a unit called a rakat consisting of prescribed actions and words. The number of obligatory rakat varies from two to four according to the time of day or other circumstances (such as Friday congregational worship, which has two rakats). These are the key routines and rituals a non-Muslim will notice when first entering a Masjid. They should understand that no matter how serious or minor they are, they should be respected. Because in the end, it is all to gain favor from the Lord.