Your First Visit to the Masjid

Note:  Part Four of Seven in the “Am I Muslim” series for new muslims.

My actual first trip to the masjid occurred while I was in college, doing research for a religion class.  I remember I was asked to wear a headscarf (and provided with one) and was guided into the women’s section of the masjid, which was behind a thick wall, blocking all view of the Imam.  I went into the masjid with an open mind, but seeing the separation (not to mention the very small area that the women were crammed into) was upsetting to me.  The woman who was guiding me through the masjid continued to make excuses for the situation, but I just wasn’t convinced.  I didn’t blame it on Islam – I already knew the religion stressed equality among the sexes – but I did feel that it was a situation that should be changed.

The second time I entered a masjid was as a muslim.  The masjid I went to was nothing like the first one I had attended.  I saw right away that the prayer area for the women was placed on a second floor, so that the women had full view of everything that was happening and a clear view of the Imam.  This seemed so much more appropriate and as a woman, I felt much more comfortable in this environment.  But this time was different, as I wasn’t just there to make observations and leave.  This time I was there as a Muslim, as a member of the community – or so I desired to be.

Luckily my experience was wonderful.  I was welcomed into the masjid so easily – there was a meeting organized just for people like me – new muslims who were unfamiliar with the masjid or perhaps with the religion of Islam itself.  We discussed all kinds of things openly and freely, the Imam came to meet with us to welcome us and answer questions, and we were placed on an email list for further communications. 

But not everyone has a similar experience.  Some who visit the masjid may feel alienated or distant from others.  Some may be too scared or nervous to even attempt a visit.  It can take some time before you are ready to make that the first step outside of your comfort zone.

I’d like to help you on your journey with knowing what to expect from your first visit, and how to have the best experience possible in order for the masjid to become a comfortable place of worship.  It seems that every masjid has a different “feel” to it.  Some are more family-oriented, with programs for kids, outdoor community gatherings, and after-school activities.  Others are more individual-centered, with less discussions and more educational activities, avenues for gaining more knowledge about Islam.  So if one masjid doesn’t seem to fit with your personality, keep looking and perhaps you will find one that is more suitable for your lifestyle. 

But all masjids are there for a place to worship, so the prayer hall is probably the most important area of the masjid.  It can help if you have a guide, someone to help you through on your first trip.  All you would have to do to arrange this is to call the masjid, introduce yourself, and ask them for help.  This way you will know exactly where you will be going when you first enter, and you won’t be like me who wandered around for 5 minutes before getting up the gall to ask someone where the meeting was!  If you want to go there just to pray, it won’t be difficult to find your way around, as this is usually the central “hub” of the masjid. 

Another bit of advice is to get to know your Imam.  The Imam has alot of connections and knowledge about the activities and schedules of the masjid, so he can be your number one resource for answering any questions you may have.  They usually have time periods set aside for things like this, so you can call just to ask when the Imam is available to meet with you.  This can be a great way to introduce yourself to the masjid.

There is a great list of masjid etiquette and customs written by a fellow blogger.  These posts on Masjid Etiquette are so concise and well-written that I refer you to them now, as there is no better way to guide you on this issue than to direct you to this site and helpful posts.  (Click here for the follow-up post regarding masjid etiquette.)

One more thing I want to point out is this:  It’s okay if you make mistakes.  There were a couple of things that I completely overlooked when I first visited – I forgot to take off my shoes in the prayer area.  I passed in front of someone praying.  I left too much space between myself and the next person praying.  I entered the prayer at an inappropriate time.  I made all kinds of mistakes.  But the best part was that I learned as I went, and others helped me along the way.  It’s okay if you don’t know everything there is to know about Islam.  It’s alright if you don’t know all the proper things to do or say.  You will learn and then someday it will be you teaching another who may not be aware.

The best benefit I have found of being at the masjid is praying in congregation.  There is nothing like being a member of a community of people who believe in exactly the same things you do, who believe in the oneness of Allah and believe in the Qur’an as a message from Allah.  To pray alongside another who prays the same as you, to be a part of such an environment does wonders for your soul.  For years I stayed away from the masjid because I was too afraid to step outside of my comfort zone.  But since I started regularly attending the masjid and praying in congregation, my imaan (faith) has improved beyond anything I could have expected, and in such a short amount of time.  Knowing other muslims and reconnecting with a religious community has helped me to strengthen my faith as I have wanted for the past several years. 

So I wish you luck and I encourage you to try going to the masjid.  Ask Allah for help if you are nervous and know that Allah is with you always.

 

This concludes Part Four of the “Am I Muslim” series.  Look here next week on Monday for some guidance on “How to Start Your Prayers.”

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3 responses to “Your First Visit to the Masjid

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I know its a little late but I was going to the masjid for the first time for laylat al qadr and I was so scared. I ended up finding this post and it really helped. Shukran sister!! May Allah bless you for your good deeds.

  2. Assalam alaykum.

    I very much enjoyed this post. I remember the first time I went (after my childhood) to a mosque. It was in Jordan. I made the mistake of sitting on a chair near the door which is meant for the elderly or disabled. I felt quite embarrassed afterwards even though no-one really noticed.

    I love the way Mosques fill up every Friday to the brim and sometimes overfill.

    Mosques can be places of learning, making new friends, but ultimately they are a place of Ibadah (worship). So we shouldn’t be distracted by local mosque politics or culture barriers. Just get on with Salat and greet people with salams.

    P.s. thanks for leaving a comment at my site
    You’ll be in labour sometime soon, won’t you? Congratulations inshallah on your new baby!

  3. Myhijabpinhatesme

    I have been planning to move to Morocco in the next 2 years, and so I decided to fast for Ramadan and read the Qur’an as a mark of respect and to understand the culture better.

    It’s been years since I quit the church I belonged to, but I still have my faith, and hadn’t actually considered “converting.”

    It took three approaches to the door, chickening out each time, for me to finally ask a passing Muslim where I should go and what I should do. I was just about to just hop back in my car and leave when he happened out the door — if he hadn’t done so at that moment, I would not have gone.

    Truly there are signs for those who seek wisdom, yes?

    I really liked my experience there, and despite some difficulty hearing the Imam because of the thick folding barriers, the group worship was spiritually fulfilling in a heartfelt way that I really hadn’t expected.

    I like Islam. I’m not sure if I am cut out to be a Muslim — it’s my understanding that the word means, “Obedient” and while I can accept the Five Pillars of Faith, and so some would call me a Muslim because of that, I am not sure if I can call myself a Muslim. I am just not sure I can be obedient to all the traditions that have arisen as part of the sunah. I need time to finish reading the Qur’an and do so way more than once, and time to understand it in relation to my own personal beliefs.

    For me, adult commitment to any religion is a three-way covenant:

    1) Your commitment to God to pray regularly and open yourself to regular reminders of your faith as part of the community you choose,

    2) Your commitment to that community to be respectful of and participate fully in its traditions, and

    3) Your commitment to yourself to make healthy and lasting choices that will enrich you spiritually, and socially, and not create emotional upheaval by constantly flitting from one focus to another

    Breaking that covenant, even for ethical reasons, is still destructive, and painful, and bears you to others in a semblance of one who is not sincere, not responsible enough to make the effort to get to know the faith and the community properly before making promises you can’t keep.

    Joining a religion can be like people who are so lonely in the secular world, that they dive into bed with lovers they don’t know for comfort. Promiscuity isn’t good in the passions of love — including spiritual love, so I think it’s important to take one’s time.

    Of course, there are those in any religious group who are hoping for visitors to convert. But one thing (among many) that I like about Islam, is that conversion is seen as coming from Allah; Allah leads those whom he wishes to understanding. So, at the Mosque, there is no pressure.

    The faithful are not cornering you with a 50 pound Scofield Reference Bible and the threat of Hellfire at coffee hour if you don’t accept Allah as your personal Lord and Savior right this minute. The congregation is not staring you down as the gent with the microphone sweats and offers up Hallelujahs and waiting …and waiting… and waiting for you to jump up out of your seat, run up on stage, and be accepted into the fold, inshahallah!

    But they’re also not aloof, leaving you to sit alone and figure everything out the hard way, like some other places of worship.

    Muslims all enthusiastically greet you (and everyone they meet as they enter), are willing to answer questions, show you what to do during your visits, and pray simply for your guidance.

    All in all, I’d say, don’t be afraid — if you are curious, contact the Mosque about attending, go and arrive about a half hour or 40 minutes early — that way someone can instruct you in how to wash and find you the appropriate clothing to go over what you have on. You will meet a lot of great people, and leave feeling humbled and inspired no matter what religion you are.

    Peace

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