I paid a visit to the local Islamic Centre today. It was a peaceful and educational experience. Two hours does not seem long when all of existence is the topic of the day, but what an enjoyable two hours they were. When I entered our local Muslim brothers’ place of worship, the congregation were just beginning their Friday Kuthbah (Kuthbah is their sermon, akin to a “Mass”; and Friday to a muslim is like Saturday to a Jew, or Sunday to a Christian).
Seating myself on the carpeted floor to the rear of the building, I observed this group of 50-60 Muslim gentlemen (originating from Pakistan to Algeria, and beyond) taking in the wisened words of the Imam (Islamic religious leader, akin to a priest/pastor). Although I could not understand what was being spoken (as it was in Arabic), it was quite obvious that the Imam was passionate about what he was saying, and the surrounding men were listening intently.
One of the things I enjoyed while there, was the Adhan, which is the Islamic call to prayer, performed in the mosque by the “muezzin” five times a day. Its intention is to bring mindfulness to those who hear its easily comprehensible spiritual ideology. There is much beauty to be witnessed in the sound of praise and adoration for The Almighty Supreme.
Rather than standing up, sitting down and kneeling every few minutes (as Catholics do), Muslims prefer to wait until the end of their sermon to perform Salah (Salah is the practice of a formal/ritual prayer in Islam). [sidenote: Salah is performed five times per day, in accordance with the movement of the Sun, i.e. around dawn (fajr), exactly noon (dhuhr), afternoon (asr), just after sunset (maghrib), and around nightfall (isha’a). Which is also interesting because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycles. Each new month begins with the birth of a crescent/new moon.]
When the Kuthbah was over and most of the people had left, I was approached by a friendly Algerian known as Sha’aban who in turn introduced me to the Imam who was both welcoming and willing to share his knowledge of Islam and the Muslim faith.
Things I learned today:
- The division betwen Sunni and Shia originated after the death of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him ;)). When he passed, Shias wanted Ali (Muhammed’s cousin/son-in-law) to be successor. Whereas Sunnis wanted the new head of the Islamic faith to be elected from those capable of the job at hand. [sidenote: The word “Sunni” in Arabic comes from a word meaning “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.”]
- Muslims believe in a foretold “apocalypse” and that (surprisingly) Jesus is the one who shall return to finish the business and lead us to paradise (Jannah).
- Abraham had two sons “Ishmael” and “Isaac”. Ishmael bore the lineage of Muhammed and so the nation of Islam, while Isaac bore the lineage of Jesus, and so Judaism and Christianity.
- Music is allowed, but only if it does not corrupt and lead the listeners away from Allah. They have a musical instrument which I’m sure many in Ireland will be instantly familiar with:
- Uninvited and unannounced, I felt welcome and at home amongst my Muslim brothers.
- Finally, the true essence of Islam is one of love, peace, and an appreciation for the existence which we all share, as one, through The Supreme Being.
Extra notes: “As-Salamu Alaykum” is a traditional Muslim greeting, often translated as “Peace be upon you”. To which the correct response is “wa Alaykum As-Salaam”, which means “and upon you be peace”.