Activity time: 90 minutes
Preparation for Activity
- See general suggestions on Engagement in the program Introduction, under Implementation.
- Contact a local mosque and arrange a visit during communal prayers on a Friday evening. Ask if females are allowed inside the mosque and clarify seating arrangements. Most mosques in the West allow men and women to attend mosque at the same time, but they are seated separately. Find out any hair/head covering and other dress requirements for males as well as females.
- Make sure at least one female and one male facilitator are available if males and females will be seated separately inside the mosque.
- Invite your contact at the mosque to visit the group and share any expectations for dress, behavior, and what they may experience. If the contact is not available, convey clothing and behavioral expectations to the youth. If you lack specific guidance, ask that youth wear neat, modest, loose-fitting clothing, perhaps head coverings for girls and women. They should wear nice shoes they can easily remove; attendees are required to remove shoes inside a mosque.
- Suggest that during the visit participants take note of:
- The level of reverence and concentration by Muslims during prayer at the mosque. How much socializing seems to happen? How focused do Muslim attendees seem to be on their prayers?
- Programs for the community, other than worship. Are there classes, activities, advertisements for services, or other public postings at the mosque?
- Connection to history and Arabic culture. Are signs posted in Arabic? Are materials available in Arabic as well as English and other languages spoken locally? What language or languages are prayers conducted in?
- Architecture, artwork, and building design. Do these combine Western and Arabic features, or do they seem more one, or the other?
- Level of respect. How well behaved are children and youth attending prayers? Is there communal parenting; in other words, do adults correct other people's kids? How do people interact with the prayer leader? How do people interact with guests?
Description of Activity
Participants engage with the Islamic community and process the experience.
After returning to the congregation, ask participants for their first impressions. What did they think of the experience? Continue the discussion with these questions:
- Did the experience affect you differently from services of other faiths you have attended? If so, how? Why?
- Did the presence of a prayer leader affect the feeling of the service for you? If so, in what way? Did the sound of many voices, if there were many, joined in prayer affect you in some way?
- What seemed to be the level of concentration of attendees? Did their level of engagement differ from that of attendees at other services you have attended? If so, how? And if so, what might explain the difference?
- How long did the prayers last, from beginning to end? Was the length of the service surprising? Why or why not? If so, in what way?
- Was there a sermon? If so, what was the content? How was it like or unlike other sermons you have heard?
- Was there interaction between men and women at the mosque before or after prayers? What about between boys and girls?
- Was there a notable difference between the behavior of men and women? Did adults seem to interact differently with female children than with male children?
- How did the furnishings, art work, and worship space differ from those you have seen at other houses of worship?
- Was money collected during the service?
- The Qur'an is central to the lives of Muslims. Were sacred texts present at the mosque? Were individuals carrying them, or was one used by the prayer leader? Why might they be present, or not?
- What made you feel welcomed in the mosque?
- How would you sum up your observations, comparing Islamic services with Jewish, Christian, or Unitarian Universalist services?
Thank the youth for their respectful attendance and thoughtful observations.