Mon 17 Apr 2006
On Friday, April 14th, I visited a Muslim Mosque in Harrisburg Pa. This was definitely a different experience to say the least. It was hard enough the first time visiting a Christian non denominational church but visiting a Muslim Mosque was quite the opposite, at least from my Catholic services. First, this mosque is in what used to be a church, so its shape might be a bit different from other mosques, at least different then what I expected. I was told to wear loose clothing that covered me as much as possible, and I did. Once we arrived at the Mosque I had to wear a scarf over my head to hide my hair. I was taken aback by this because I just thought I could be an observer in the back watching it all. Then came another surprise: I had to enter the mosque through a different door, and before entering I had to wash my hands. This made the experience a bit more difficult because I would not have my friend to guide me through everything, but he said once inside there would probably be someone to help. Well, I found my way in after asking for directions a couple of times, and I took off my shoes and kneeled down with all the other women, BEHIND A CURTAIN. That was my next surprise, I knew that the women would be seperated but I thought it would be men on the right and women on the left. No, we had maybe a 10 by 10 foot space surrounded by a green curtain, where I could see the shadows of the men moving.
All I could do was listen to the voice lecture while I knelt with the women and children. The Imam talked about a monkey who outwit the villagers who tried to poison him, which I believe was used to show that even animals have some love or faith in God, and so we as humans should too. The rest of the prayer was in Arabic and so I had no idea what he said, but according to Ellwood they were all praises to God. I knelt when they knelt but did not put my head to the floor. Then the noon prayer was done.
I was able to talk to the woman next to me who told me that this was not always how the prayers were celebrated. She said in her mosque they did not have children running around and although the women did sit in the back they were not hidden behind a curtain. She explained to me that the calligraphy on the stained glass windows were a few of the 99 names of God. I thanked her, and headed out the mosque where I joined my friend who told me I could not take off the scarf until after we left the parking lot of the mosque, and so ended my encounter with Islam.
Overall, this was a great learning experience. I was faced with a whole new religion I knew nothing about and I embraced it, and reading the Ellwood chapter I was able to better understand it. There were some parts I did not like such as the subordination of women, but I do love the submission of all the Muslims to God.