Mosque Field Trip

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On March 23, 2012 our class patiently waited outside the glass doors of the Southern California Islamic center. We were here to watch and observe the midday prayer that any Muslims attending the temple were going to perform. After a few silent minutes of waiting, a woman in a black hajib ( a scarf that some muslim women use to cover their hair). She immediatly burst into talking, asking us where we were, what is the religion that she practices called, and why is she wearing the hajib. After we had correctly answered all of her questions she led us up a carpeted staircase to another room with about sixty chairs or so and a t.v. Covering the walls were various murals and paintings with fancy arabic calligraphy. After thirty minutes or so of talking, discussing, and sharing our knowledge of Islam a voice of a müezzin( a person who does the call to prayer) fills the room.

After the second call to prayer, we slowly make our way downstairs to the prayer hall. In front of us is a massive room. In the front of the room there was was a platform of sorts, with an intricate wooden platform with a mini roof above the Imam( a person who leads the prayers). On the floor there was a carpet with designated squares for a person to pray on. All of the men who were able to were kneeling on the carpet listening to the imam. to the left of the men was a big shoe rack. Before the prayer, all of the men and women are required to take off their shoes. Behind the men there was some seats for men who can’t kneel on the carpet, and for visitors. Behind the seats there is some glass windows, then the women’s section. The womens section is very similar, with a carpet, seats, and shoe rack, but there is also a big projector screen with live video of the Imam so all of the women can see him as well. Since all of the seats are full, some of the other girls and I follow Soha to the back of the big room. After quietly removing our shoes, we go to sit in the back with all of the elderly women on chairs. As the Imam is giving the service in english, I look around. All of the women are wearing hajibs, some plain white, and some very brightly colored and intricate. Some of them are staring at the screen, taking in the words of the Imam and some are quietly praying, going from a standing position to their knees, then they press their forehead to the ground and stand back up again. After about forty minutes all of the women and men that are seated in the chairs get up and find a space on the prayer carpet. I awkwardly look around for Soha, but she is nowhere to be found. Should we stand up? Or should we keep sitting and just watch? Unsure, I look around. After a few moments we decide to stand up. But immediately after I stand up the women are kneeling on the floor again! We are the only people in the room still standing up. I quickly sit back down again and hope that no one noticed.The Imam is reciting, and all of the men and women rise and kneel in unison, reciting the prayer as one.This continues for a few minutes, then suddenly it ends. The women slowly get up and walk out the door with their shoes on. Suddenly Soha appears in front of us and leads us to put our shoes on and go back upstairs. We then discuss about what happened and what the experience was like. As we slowly make our way back downstairs, people are still lingering in the meeting area in front of the prayer hall, and some men and women are silently praying to Allah(God). A bubbling stream of constant exciting chatter fills the bus as we make our way back to school.

I learn’t a lot of stuff from this field trip about Islam. I was suprised that the Imam gave a sermon of sorts too. I thought that the whole thing would last about half an hour. I guess that I thought they would pray a little bit, then the Imam would talk for a little while, then they would pray some more. I learned that muslims are more likely to pray on Friday. I also thought it was cool that they gave two calls to prayer, one was like the bell, then the other one was like the final call your late if you don’t come right now bell. I thought it was interesting that Soha felt like it was here duty to show Islam in a good light. I thought that it was interesting that they got some letters after the terrorist attack on 9/11, and from people who said either that Islam was wrong, and from people saying that they believed that Islam was right and what Osama Bin Laden did was wrong.

While visiting the mosque I was surprised that there were so many people there. They were everywhere, covering the prayer rug, calmly sitting in all of the seats, and taking off their shoes by the door. When all the women got up to pray, it was like a swarm of angry bees buzzing around the rug, so thick that I could hardly see anything else. There were also thirty or so girls respectfully sitting on the rug with their hijabs on. It looked like they were from the same school, but how could they find the time in their busy school day to get to the Southern California Islamic center? I was amazed that all of the mosque’s inhabitants could find the time on Friday to make their way over to the temple and listen and pray for an hour five times a day!

One of the things that I recognized was the call to prayer. While we were talking to Soha a deep, melodic voice filled the room, chanting in Arabic. It was amazing that we could hear it so clear. It was like the prayer was a blanket, wrapping it’s tune around us. When we went downstairs I recognized the Imam, who was preaching to the Muslims. He was standing on a decorated wooden platform, calmly talking. Lastly, I recognized that all of the paintings and pictures in the mosque didn’t show Muhammad. They mostly showed fancy Arabian calligraphy.

It was really interesting learning about Islam from a Muslims point of view and witnessing a sermon and prayer.I had a really great time at the mosque. It was one of the experiences that I will always cherish with me and will be able to boast about to all of my swim team friends. :D





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