In this research, I am going to explain an experience that I encounter. What was like to be inside a mosque? I went to The Islamic Center of Passaic on Sunday 10/7/12 at 7:00 AM, the Sufi mosque is located in 152 Derrom Ave in Paterson, NJ. To start my research first, I went to the mosque in person and of course I needed their permission, so I spoke with Inman Mohammad Qatanani, which I thank him so much for letting me have the experience.
I told the Inman my reason to be in his mosque on Sunday and I was coming from BCC and that I was catholic, he looked at me very seriously and in my mind, I thought that because I am not Muslim, I was going to be rejected but in his broken English he told me it was okay. So that being said by the Inman I arrived on Sunday. The mosque from outside was very interesting and very eye catching to be in the middle of the city of Paterson.
It had bricked colored walls, but on the roof where it was all of my attention, I saw a golden dome, neither to big nor too small, it was more like a medium size dome, and by the entrance it has two columns. Above the two columns I saw in green Arabic letters “Islamic center of Passaic”; and of course the entrance door. Inside the Sufi mosque, I saw the offices of the Inman and of course the Hall. The hall had a gigantic carpet that covered the whole room; it was burgundy with tan Middle Eastern designs, and I could say it was very clean, it looked to me that it was clean every day.
At the front there was the Inman he was standing on front of an altar with the microphone. When he saw me he gave me a hand sign to come in and to the right of the entrance I saw a place to put the shoes, of course I was expecting the first rule that I read on the chapter which was taking my shoes off, but I forgot another rule. In Islam before you enter a mosque you must wash your hands and your face. So I did, but since I was doing a research he just told me to wash my hands, as I did I finished washing and he told me to sit. The hall had no chairs.
The few people I saw there, which I counted seven 5 males and 2 females were reading the Quran. The males were dressed in their traditional clothing some of them in white pants, bearded and of course the traditional taquiyah varying in colors; I was dressed in a white sweater and jeans and of course the only thing I had in common with the male worshipers was my beard, but some of them were looking at me like I was out of this planet. But I also heard and saw one of the worshipers signing or chanting in Arabic, he was reading off the Quran. The ceremony started and the Chanting stopped.
The Inman addressed in his language that I was there to visit, I did not understand exactly what he said, but I knew he was addressing me because all I heard is my name. When the service started the believers kneeled down to their heads. This remind me in the chapter that I read that in Islam the believer must pray facing the mecca. Once they did then they sat down and Inman Mohammad Qatanani started his sermon. The Inman picked up the Quran and started reading in Arabic. Of course I was lost. But besides being lost because I don’t speak Arabic it was that the service lasted almost 15 minutes, it was very short.
To me it was surprise, because coming from a catholic background I thought that the service would last almost 45 min to an hour. After the Inman ended his speech some of the worshipers left and the others stayed for a little reading the Quran. I went put on my shoes and waited for the Inman outside his office. The Inman came and the asked me what did a think about the ceremony, I replied that it was interesting for me because everything seem new to me. He later apologized, because he was preaching in his native language and then later in his broken English he told me that he took a section from the Quran.
He took the quotes from the section of the Taha, he showed me in his Quran which of course was written in Arabic. The quotes were from Quran 20:10-20:12. I did my research to find out what was the translation of the quotes in English, I went to Quran. com and they read like this. 20:10 -“When he saw a fire and said to his family, “Stay here; indeed, I have perceived a fire; perhaps I can bring you a torch or find at the fire some guidance. ” 20:11- “And when he came to it, he was called, “O Moses 20:12- “Indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals.
Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa”(Quran. com) He explained to me “ Allah is the only one who can give you the light to be successful, Allah is the one who can give light to your family and as well guidance, but also you have to remove your sandals in the sacred valley”. I gave him a confused look and he told me “Yes, of course you can understand better as the other worshippers, because you share the same god as us, so according to the quote 20:12 of the Quran everyone must respect Allah in order to get the proper guidance.
But of course I had one more question that I could not left out, which I did not understand well and I needed more clarification. I asked the Inman what is the message that you portrayed the worshippers? According to the Inman in his own words, he told me “Is not a message I am portraying, is a teaching of knowledge, is a teaching from our prophet Mohammed, that people needs to seek more often the guidance of Allah. Then our little interview ended when he told me “Andres it was nice to meet you, if you want to come again our mosque will be open for you”.
I was very pleased with the Inman because he treated me like with respect and also because he helped me make this research come to light. After I left the mosque, I was analyzing all the information that I had. I was comparing from first person point of view versus the book, and I came to the conclusion that everything came up expected as to the readings; men and women were not separated like in other religions. Both genders were doing their praying and chanting from the Quran. Another aspect of this experience that catch my attention is the way that people pray and worship Allah.
When they kneel down and then they get back up, I can see some of the worshippers getting more relaxed, to me I can see that when they are praying this way, they are releasing their body to Allah, so Allah can take over for guidance. I think that believers in the mosque gets a learning rather than an experience from a Inman , what I think is that they get nothing out, but just a learning from a preacher of how to be a better Muslim, a learning how to be closer with Allah, a learning to be a good person in life.
To me this experience, make me understand more in detail Islam, since is the religion I choose to do this research. Coming from a catholic background I was able to compare and contrast Islam VS Catholicism. Comparing both religions and both experiences, gave me a better perspective on both religions. One of the comparisons is that we share the same god and we are monotheistic which we believe in one god; in Islam is called Allah and of course in Catholicism we called it god, we have a holy book which in Islam is called the Quran and in Catholicism is called the bible.
In Catholicism we have churches, which they have benches, the saints are portrayed in the church windows, usually is not as big as the mosque. In Islam they have mosques which they have a dome in the center of the hall which signifies the vaults of heaven and the sky, also in mosques the floor is carpet and there is no benches but an arrow to point at the mecca. Also the way of worship god is different. In Catholicism we pray to god seating or standing or kneel. In Islam there is only one way to pray and is kneeling down. Also another difference is the way we read the holy text book.
In Catholicism we read the bible silently instead of Islam the Quran must be read in chanting. Rather than comparing these two religions. Lastly in Catholicism our praying day is Sunday, which in Islam is Friday afternoon. this experience did not affect at all instead the Islamic experience that I went to that Sunday, showed me that I have to be closer with god, which I have to pray more and go to the church more often; it definitely teach me how to depend more on god and have more faith in god, and putting aside work, school, etc. but to dedicate only one day to god and become a better believer.
When I arrived at the mosque that Sunday, I did not expect that I have to wash my hands; I thought that only Muslims at the mosque have to do it, I was not expecting that. Everything that I read on the book came up to my visit site research, because everything is mentioned on the book, that every Muslim must follow the five pillars, that every Muslim must pray five times a day, that every time that a Muslim enters the Mosque have to remove the shoes. I can say that the book did not left out anything that I needed to know about Islam it cover everything.