In Arabic, the word Islam mean self-surrender and is very much related to the word salaam meaning peace. Islam includes five main fundamentals which are obligatory to all Muslims. The first is that they must believe in Allah and proclaim “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” and must truly believe with all their heart that this is true. The second fundamental is that Muslims must perform the ritual prayer five times a day at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and nightfall. These five daily prayers are crucial because they help one to constantly be in the presence and power of Allah. The third fundamental of Islam is emphasized on giving as a way of cleansing one’s soul. The charity is known as Zakat, Muslims are to give whenever they can but are required to pay a tax two percent and a half of their income to give to the needy. The fourth principle is the fast of Ramadan which begins at dawn and last until sunset. During this time, Muslim abstains from three main things eating, and drinking and sexual activities. The fifth one is that all Muslims are required to go to Mecca at least once during their lifetime to participate in the annual pilgrimage as a way to draw closer to Allah.
The sacred scripture that is used is the Qur’an which to the Muslims is the speech of God without any editing from humans. In the book, Islam; a very short introduction by Malise Ruthven writes that the Qur’an came to be regarded as “uncreated”, hence coextensive with God. Unless a Muslim in a ritual purity, he or she must not handle the text. There are two main sects in the Islamic religion which is Sunni and Shi’a. I chose to do my work on Sunni because a majority of Muslims are Sunni. They are known to put more emphasis on the power of god and his determination of human fate.
In South Florida, there is a diverse community of Muslims from all regions such as Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Oceania. There is also a mix of Sunni and Shi’a and the global population of 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shi’a. South Florida has a residence of around 90,000 to 110,000 Muslims according to the Huffpost Miami. Because there are quite a few Muslims in South Florida, there are currently over forty Islamic Centers and Schools and most are based on Sunni sect.
Within the Mosques itself, the Muslims get together and meet up for the Friday prayer. One of the women I spoke with explained how Friday prayers are very important in the Muslim faith because it is very much seen as a festival since they get a chance to get together. I observed how people through their rituals left cares of their world and began to commune with their god. The act of removing their shoes before entering the prayer room mentally gives one a feeling of transitioning. What I consider to be the axis mundi is the place where the man giving out the sermon was standing which I came to find out is known as the mimbar. According to the text Islam: A short Introduction written by Abdulkader Tayob, “authority and leadership are inextricably part of the religion, a part for which the minbar (pulpit) in the mosque is the most powerful symbol”. Even before the central mosque was built, the prophet Muhammad started Friday worship once he arrived to Medina, a city in western Saudi Arabia considered the second most holy Islamic city. The mimbar was created in order to make available a way in which the congregation can be addressed with a sermon, mainly on Fridays as well as other occasions. This was a symbol of the prophet’s leadership and authority is because the congregation being addressed from the center of the mosque was a very important function in the Prophetic office. Tayob suggests that the name of the sacred scripture in Islam is a Qur’an (a recitation) because it was announced and recited on such a public platform. It is considered as the axis mundi because everyone had very much focused their attention to that area and person whom they regard as a leader.
In the text, Anatomy of the sacred, James C. Livingston defines Imago mundi as an image of the original world order and explains that a sacred place represents not only an opening to heaven but also a reproduction. As I observed the people in the mosque, it appears as though feeling of holiness or sacredness fills each one as they enter the silent room that’s only soothed by the mumbling of firm prayers. When in this state through the adoration of god, they internally repeat the acts of god as they attempt to purify their hearts and mind as they approach their sovereign, Allah. As the people began to pray, one could feel the cares and pains of the world leaving the room. The world doesn’t become any less chaotic but rather the mind of the individual through the sacred space has brought heavens order within. Holiness has then become the byproduct of these experiences within the sacred space. When the service was over people moral was greater as they were greeting each other as they left.
Majority of the time spent there was considered sacred time in my opinion because during the time of prayer, none of the people were speaking or interact with others, but they kept their focus only on the prayer. None of them were drinking or eating during the time of prayer. Additionally, during this sacred time, both men and women were wearing certain attire to cover their body. Once it was time for the sermon, known as the Khubtah, everyone sat down to gain knowledge and the prayers were mainly a way to be purified.
Besides the mimbar, as I entered the place I noticed that most of the people were dressed in black and white which made me curious therefore I questioned that and I was told that black and white symbolizes purity and peace. Although most consider black to be related to darkness, it was said that to some of them it represents modesty.
I was unaware that Muslims actually believe that Jesus did exist. During a sermon they mentioned something relating to Him and that the angels came to Mary saying she will give birth. I was taken aback because one of my myths was that I thought Muslims completely disregarded stories from the New Testament.
I would say one that what impacted me the most was how devoted they are to their religion, god, and the Qur’an. They believe that the mosque is in fact the house of Allah and they treat it with great respect. I think that is phenomenal because in some churches I’ve visited, even though the pastors refer to the church as the House of God, enough respect is not given to it. They are so devoted that they do exactly as the Qur’an ask and also they did not let it touch the floor. I have always wanted to get a better understanding of Islam because I always feel as though I, as well as many others, misinterpret Islam quite a bit. Growing up as a Christian, I always thought that Muslims were worshipers of a completely new god but doing this site visit has given me an entirely new way of looking at Islam.
Livingston, James C. “Chapter 3.” Anatomy of the Sacred. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 44-45. Print.
Ruthven, Malise. Islam: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.
Hamze, Nezar. “South Florida’s Muslim Community: A Melting Pot.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
Martin, Richard C. Islam, a Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982. Print
Tayob, Abdulkader. Islam: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Oneworld, 2000. Print.