Thursday, April 24, 2008

First Visit

I remember my first visit to the masjid. It was the day after I said shahadah--I said shahadah over the phone on a Thursday night. And on Friday afternoon, after work, I went by the masjid, wearing a pair of long pants and a loose button-up blouse with elbow-length sleeves. I considered it a more modest outfit than what I could have worn--a knee-length skirt, short-sleeve, low cut blouse--though I know I still wasn't entirely covered.

So a few months after that, after I had begun to practice Islam and started going to MSA events, I remember having a discussion at a meeting about non-Muslims going to the masjid, and how to treat them. A rude remark was made about a woman (theoretical, to my knowledge it's not something that happened) who would visit the masjid for the first time wearing shorts. According to the speaker, such a woman should not be allowed to enter the masjid.

Apparently, she was supposed to know better... "It's the masjid!" Like everyone is automatically aware of Muslim customs, despite the fact they might not have ever had any contact with Muslims? Some people don't know better, is my point.

I wouldn't keep her out of the building, though, as it would be profoundly rude. So the best thing to do is to gently explain that it's appropriate to dress modestly in a house of worship, and take the opportunity to give da'wah.

And if you know someone who wants to visit a mosque, it might be wise to inform them ahead of time that they should wear long pants and sleeves. I think if they are politely told early on, there won't be a shock or any offense when they arrive.

Wondering what to tell someone before they visit a mosque?

Perhaps, that they might be expected to remove their shoes, and that it would be courteous to wear modest clothes. It's also useful to know that men and women usually don't mix or mingle in the masjid--something Muslims try to avoid in general. So to explain that there are separate spaces for men and women early on is useful. Some people want to know why there are footsinks in the bathroom, something else which is easy to explain. It's also polite to be quiet, especially in the prayer hall, where anyone might be praying or reading Qur'an. Because above all, the purpose of the mosque is for worship. Is there anything I left out?


Jamilah said...

ahhh, brings back memories.. my first visit to the masjid was about 3 months after I took shahada. I remember trying to carefully select what I was going to wear.. long skirt loose shirt.. I think I attempted hijabing about 20 times that day! Anyway, I was supposed to be going to a new muslims class, and was going to be met by the woman who is now my teacher. When we drove up, I saw my teacher and 2 other girls get out of the car. They were all full niqabis! I turned to my husband and said... lets just go, I don't think I can do this! But I did stay and found out that they were not scary at all. Funny thing is now I look just like they do!

Oh and that morning I took extra care to make sure that my really long gel nails were perfect! HA! Got rid of those pretty quickly too.

MedGirl said...

Salam, I completely agree with you to gently inform them before they go to the masjid, but even if they do come uninformed its never nice to push them away. I've heard stories of people scaring revert sisters or (potential revert sisters) from literally blocking the doorway and not letting them in because they weren't dressed appropriately or without a headscarf. It was really embarrasing to hear. From the revert sisters that I've talked to, they were really nervous going to the Masjid for the first time, and its best to make them as comfortable as possible.

Jamilah said...

Made me think of something else. One of my dear sisters reverted to Islam at 51. She reverted after her son did, but before she reverted she would go to the masjid looking for him sometimes and walk right in the front door in shorts and a tank top. She tells the funniest story of one of the older brothers yelling something in Arabic and waving his hands madly as if to shoo her away. I mean its not funny because it could have put her off, but she is oblivious to those things anyway, but it does go to show you that a lot of masjids just aren't prepared for strange visitors.

We have had a lot of sisters revert lately. They usually come to a few classes first and they are sometimes better dressed than the sisters that have been Muslim their whole lives!

jana z. said...

amy i think thats awesome. to think of others that way i mean. no of course a non muslims wouldnt automatically know what the wrongs and rights were of the masjid. and it was an oversight on the person who made the rude remark. if she had been turned away, she probably would have lost interest thinking we were a "rude" unwelcoming religion. good for you sis!!!

Amy said...

As-salaamu Alaikum

Thanks for the comments! I think it is a little silly to try to keep someone out of the masjid for their clothes. It is rude, and a missed opportunity for da'wah. And being rude is ALWAYS bad da'wah.

I actually didn't go back to the masjid for 6 and a half months!! After my first time, I felt like the brothers were kind of rude to me and I wasn't interested in returning for a while. But I did go back alhamdulillah. And now try to make it easier for others.

dino said...

As-salaamu Alaikum

I fully enjoy your blogs. However I politely disagree with one of your points. Having been raised in many different cultures I have always felt it is the resposibility of the outsider to ask what the traditions are of any culture not there own. Not only does it show respect to another culture it shows a desire to be culturally proper. I have found we as americans seem to think our culture is the only one worth respecting.

I find your openess to be refreshing as well honorable not to mention a great introduction for americans and non-muslims to the peacefullness of Islam.

Keep up the good work. Even if you should not have to do it.


jana z. said...

sometimes ppl have no way of finding out in advance what is expected. sometimes they dont even have anyone to ask. and this is why many ppl are afraid to step foot in a masjid.....for fear that they will do something wrong and be shunned. some of us are lucky and have someone to tell us the proper etiquette priot to going. if a person enters the masjid in disarray and exposed, there is nothing wrong with a kind person explaining patiently to that person. in such a way that they wont be afraid to come back. let them know that there is no harm done.

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum

I don't think the point was really about respecting different cultures at all.

It was about da'wah.

Holly said...

Hey Amy~It's been a whil I have found my way here and read your blog. Very Interesting and I like the points you made. I hope eberything is going well for you, hit me up when you get the chance

Holly said...

sorry for the ahurry ;P