I visited the Islamic Center of Washington which is the center of Islam and a mosque. The mosque is situated on the Embassy Row near the Rock Creek and was opened in 1957 as the biggest mosque in the western hemisphere. A mosque also known as Masjid is the site for adoration in Islam although prayers can be conducted privately (Russell & Cohn, 2012). I reached the site during the mid-day players where I met a huge congregation of believers taking part in prayer led by the Sheikh. I was allowed to enter after the prayers were over, but I was allowed to check how they were done. After prayers, I was able to visit different sections within the mosque where I observed different features.
The mosque consists different architectural parts including the dome, minaret, prayer hall, mihrab, minbar and ablution area. Minaret refers to the slim tower which is one of the distinctive feature of all mosques in the world. The major purpose of the tower was to make the call for prayers during the worship time. The rooftop was decorated with the dome which holds no symbolic or spiritual significance, but it is purely aesthetic. The dome covered the major prayer hall, and its interior was highly adorned with geometric, floral and different patterns.
The prayer area is located at the center of the structure which is also regarded as musalla and is left bare. However, the floor is covered with the prayer rugs where worshippers kneel, prostrate and bow on the ground in humbleness before God. However, there were few benches and chairs to help disabled and elderly Muslims who have problems with mobility. There are bookshelves along the pillars and walls which are meant to hold wooden book stands, Quran, personal prayer rugs and other religious materials. The prayer site is a larger and open space which can accommodate many people. Further, a mihrab which is the semi-circular ornament is placed on the wall of the prayer room and marks the direction of Mecca where Muslims face when praying. The mihrab was decorated with calligraphy and mosaic tiles while designed like the doorway.
At the front areas of the prayer hall, there is a raised platform known as minbar where speeches or sermons are given. The platform is made of carved stone, wood and brick. Also, the minbar entails the short staircase leading to the highest platform which was covered by the small dome, and at the bottom, there is a doorway. The speaker moves up the stairs and either stands or sits on the minbar while talking to the congregation. There were microphones which were used to amplify voice so that it can reach all worshippers. On the washrooms, there was the ablution section that contains small stools and running water for the washing of feet before entering the mosque. During the ablution, worshippers washed their body parts that are exposed to grime and dirt. On the entrance, there were shoe shelves because Muslims remove do not enter the mosque with footwear. Instead of dumping piles of shoes near the entrance, shelves are strategically placed at the main door so that visitors may neatly organize and find their shoes.
The prayer rugs in the prayer room were about one meter long where an adult can fit when prostrating or kneeling. Many Qurans that were placed on the wall of the prayer areas were divided into chapters and verses known as surah and ayat, but the entire doctrine is separated into 30 sections. However, the mosque had separate praying places for men and women because they are not supposed to interact. According to Islamic culture, the separation of males and females in the mosque is to preserve the sense of decorum and maintain the focus of the attendants to God (Russell & Cohn, 2012). I was restricted from getting into the sacred place which is the prayer section because I was a nonbeliever.
During the prayers, believers must step with their right leg inside the mosque while wearing appropriate clothes. The imam prayed similar role to that of a priest, and all worshippers faced Mecca while reciting some verses of Quran. After recitation, the next step is the sequence of position regarded as salat. When comparing the prayer session at the mosque and my Christian faith, I realized that there existed a big difference. Initially, prayers were conducted when all believers are bowing and kneeling down whereas in Christian faith the kneeling is voluntary. Additionally, the Islam emphasizes on fixed prayer periods and requires people to pray five times a day. On the other hand, praying in Christianity is voluntary, and one can pray in different instances and as many times as possible. Conclusively, the field trip was educative since I learned knew things about Islam and the structure of a mosque. Furthermore, the tour helped me to realize that we have different religious in the world that have specific culture and way of doing things hence we should respect each other.