Visiting a mosque
Almost by chance (thank you Facebook, and my cousin Helen) I learned that last Sunday was Visit My Mosque Day. In February 2016 80 British mosques opened their doors to visitors; this year it was 150. Oddly none of the mosques in Nottingham took part, so I travelled to a very small and perhaps atypical mosque (or “masjid”) in Long Eaton.
It was quite difficult to find, being just one of the buildings in a small terraced street, with a handwritten invitation outside. Inside the door was a crowded porch space to leave one’s shoes, and then two rooms.
These rooms were normal room-sized, but with windows too high up to see out of. Both had a cloth picture of the holiest Muslim site in Mecca hanging on the east wall, and lots of small rugs on the floor. The first room had a set of low steps for the preaching imam to sit on. There was no other furniture or decoration, although there were leaflets, and free nibbles.
The miscellaneous visitors were welcomed warmly by one older man, one older woman and three younger men. There was also a boy of maybe twelve who obligingly demonstrated the postures for daily prayer when asked. The visitors included a woman from the Unitarian church, and an obviously American Long Eaton resident, whose cousin is married to a Muslim with dual Saudi/US citizenship.
We had some general discussion about Islam, and its practice in Long Eaton. All of us were interested to learn that this little mosque was set up originally (less than two years ago) to provide a place for local Muslim taxi-drivers to pray during the day, Beeston being too far to travel during a brief lunch break. When you think about it, bowing to the ground in a car is not a viable option. Muslims are supposed to pray the standard prayers five times a day, facing Mecca, and they come to this place for this purpose. The prayers begin with “Allahu akbar”, meaning “God is great”. This phrase has been hijacked by terrorists committing atrocities, but it is prayed many times every day with no terrorist intent.
The mosque is also open on Friday for the standard prayer meeting of sermon and prayers, although for major festivals more people go to the better-established mosque in Beeston.
The purpose of the two rooms is to segregate the sexes, which are regarded as different but not unequal.
One visitor asked the older man what he thought of Donald Trump. His answer effectively was “God is in control of everything; therefore we have something to learn through this presidency.”
I didn’t learn anything amazing, but it was an enjoyable trip, I think it increased my understanding and empathy, and I’m glad I went.
Love from the PPI Blogger