Yesterday I went to the masjid again. I had only gone to the masjid (this is an Islamic place of worship) once before. I felt so nervous – a new muslim’s first visit to the masjid is often scary. For me it was stepping out of my comfort zone to a place I was not familiar with. I was worried before I went – what would they think of me? What mistakes would I make? What if I screwed up something? And I did make mistakes – for instance, just yesterday I noticed that I took off my shoes on the carpet instead of the spot designated for shoes (the idea is to keep the prayer area clean; you aren’t supposed to walk on it with your shoes on). I made other mistakes, too, like cutting in front of people while they were praying, which I later learned is not good to do.
There were many types of etiquette that I didn’t learn until later. But I also know that I never felt judged while being there. People were so open and inviting to me, they included me in their conversations even though we had never met, they offered to answer questions for me and made me feel comfortable to ask them anything. So even though I may have made mistakes, I didn’t feel like it would be held against me.
This second trip I made really reinforced all the feelings I had about the masjid the first time I went. I am still learning how to pray, and the first time I went to prayer, I felt so uncomfortable because I didn’t know the words. I was embarrassed. Last night I asked the Imam (this is the Muslim leader of the masjid – he is like a scholar of Islam who leads the community in prayer and gives lectures) what I should do during prayer time since I don’t know how to pray – should I sit out and just observe? Should I follow along? Should I use a piece of paper and read from it?
He told me that when the whole congregation is in prayer, Allah scans the hearts of everyone. He can see the sincerity and see the faith in their hearts. So even if I don’t know the words, even if I am just FEELING the power of the act of worship, feel the power of what I am doing, standing before Allah, bowing down to Him in prayer, my prayers will still be accepted. So when I went to pray, I just asked some ladies if I could follow along beside them, and it was so much easier this time. I felt more like I was really praying than I ever have before.
I still need to learn the prayers, learn the arabic and learn what they mean in English. But I am so glad to know that I don’t have to know them perfectly in order to pray. Allah knows what is in my heart, so even if I may make mistakes, Allah still accepts my salat.
*Here is an additional post from the link I have placed above regarding etiquette in the masjid. It is from the same blog but was published at a later date: Masjid Etiquette Follow-Up.