Thursday, August 27, 2009

Going to a Mosque

In Cairo it is not common for women to go and pray in mosques, so I've never had the chance to go and pray or attend lectures or pray Taraweeh. The only time I have prayed in a mosque was during Umrah, and I fell in love with it. It's nice to pray at home sometimes, but the experience of praying in a mosque with other Muslims is an amazing one.

I know there are a lot of mosques in The Hague, but I'm too scared to go and check them out. What do I do when I go there? Do I just go inside and pray? Or should I talk to someone there? How do I find out about events, classes, Taraweeh? I know these sound like stupid questions but I really have no idea since I've never been to a mosque before!

I've also heard about bad experiences in mosques, for example women forming cliques etc, which kind of makes me not want to go. I'm scared that everyone will be really judgmental or unfriendly, and that it'll be a negative experience.

On the other hand, I've had a really lonely Ramadan so far (eating iftar alone is not fun!) so it would be really nice to meet some Muslims. I'm starting to notice a barrier between people I've met so far and me, in that they all love to party and drink, and I don't. So maybe meeting other Muslims means I'll find a social environment that suits me better, inshallah.

What was your experience of going to a mosque for the first time? Did you go alone?
Does anyone have any advice on what I should do?


Stephanie said...

salam alaikum--My first time in a masjid was when I took shahadda (alone) and everyone was so incredibly friendly and welcoming. After that though, nothing, comletely ignored, it was like i didn't exist. No salams, smiles, nothing. I used to force myself to go despite it being an incredibly stressful experience. Now, I am more comfortable in my own skin and my religion and know enough sisters that it's not too bad. I also think the environment in my masjid has changed and everyone's just more friendly overall.
Do any of the larger masjids have a website? You could look into any community events that might be going on. some masjids have a welcoming committee for new members or converts.Or start by going to jumah or an iftar. If you could, see about any classes. That might be a smaller, more intimate environment where you could really get to know some sisters. Good luck!

Sarah the Seeker said...

I was so nervous the first time I went for one of those lectures at the mosque, even though it was a public event. I was worried I wouldn't know where to go, would go into a men-only area and be told off, would go somewhere with my shoes that I wasn't supposed to go. I felt pretty stupid for that afterwards. :)

I also would like to know about any classes/groups/etc but have no idea how you find that out. I'll be interested in any answers you get. Have you looked to see if any of the mosques near you have websites with this sort of information on?

I suppose the easiest way is to get someone to take you and show you the ropes, but if you don't know anyone then that's not an option! It's nerve-wracking, but if there are a lot of mosques around, at least you can try a few and hopefully get talking to people somewhere. Maybe if there's one near the university it will be quite cosmopolitan and there will be friendly students?

Does your university have an Islamic Society? That might be a good place to meet people. Mine has one, but not much seems to be happening over the summer. It is probably mostly undergrads anyway that join societies, but still, it might be worth going to a meeting and checking it out.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely go to the Iftars held on campus. Many times college campuses have Muslim groups that hold iftars for students. You should look into it! I have always had a good time at iftars held on campus, it allows you to meet all the Muslim students at your campus also.. I would go that route. I would also join the Muslim student organization at your school, then you can get in the loop and not have to break fast alone.

Plus all the different food is fun :)

At my campus during my undergrad, I went to 3 different Iftars and ate some good food! There was one held by the Malaysian student association, one held by the Jewish student organization, and one held by the Muslim Student org. It was open to the public and I just walked right in and took a seat. If you join a group at your campus you will get emails of events etc...

As far as the Mosque, I guess I am not one to give sound advice regarding that. My expereinces have varied, but the one near my apartment doesn't even really have an area for women to go and pray. Supposedly they are having iftars but the women are on like the 3rd floor or something, meaning it will be women eating and talking, but no prayers heard by the men for us to go along with, no real community feeling.. No thanks.

Mrs. S said...

Just go. You'll be fine. I used to be scared about going to mosques alone, but when I finished college and lived on my own for a bit I had no choice. So I just made a plan to visit different mosques on their "off" hours to get acquainted with them. It helped me feel more confident because I knew the space and had an idea of who attended. Besides if I embarrassed myself it wasn't like I had to see anyone ever again. :)

It's sad that going to a mosque can be a nerve wracking experience. You would think that as Muslims living in the West we would want to be as inclusive and inviting as possible and make our interactions with other Muslims (and non-Muslims) friendly and positive.

Amanda said...

I can feel your pain..hehe.. I'm planning to visit a mosque soon but I am absolutely terrified! There are many, many mosques here in Dubai, howeve I don't feel comfortable even thinking about going there!
I'm going home next month and hopefully I'll find it easier, as there will be no language barriers
All the best for you this Ramadan, I'll be back here more often!

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

I know what you mean. I've visited mosques where no one spoke to me, or where the women's entrance wasn't clearly marked. Checking on websites is a good idea and checking with local MSA's is an even better idea. I think with students they can often be more welcoming and open-minded, which is refreshing.

xoxo, nadia said...

When I came to Australia, I joined my Uni's muslim society and that's how I found out about lectures, taraweeh prayers as well as iftar. I also made some awesome friends.

If there isnt one in your uni, then you should just walk into the mosque and see if there's any sister you could approach for some information..

tell us how it goes!

Shahrazad said...

Beautiful blog :)

Like all said, you might want to check your Uni's Muslim Student Association. They should be very welcoming, friendly and helpful.

It's always good to go with someone!

I lived in Scotland for 5 years, I used the Masjid mostly to pray if I was out shopping during the time of prayers! I also visited during Ramadhan. I wish I went more often though but I couldn't because it was some 45 mins drive from campus.

Go and let us know, you never know who you're gonna meet :)

Candice said...

I think you should just go! I went for the first time in a year or so to the mosque, and alone for the first time. And first time there being Muslim. There's nothing that should make you uncomfortable. I went once to another mosque than this one and it was OK, but no one really said salam or even smiled... But if you go there to pray, and if you at least do your part in smiling and saying salam, you're doing good and who cares about those who don't?

About Egypt, my mother in law goes to the mosque pretty often and goes for taraweeh. She's supposed to bring my daughter there with her sometime this week :) And my husband's cousin we met up with goes too (maybe less now that she has a child though) so I was under the impression that they attended kinda regularly.

Sara said...

I don't think I remember the first time I have experienced going to a masjid. I was really young, my dad would take my sister and I with him when we went to pray.

Now that I am older, I would go to pray taraweeh, also with my sister :D

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie - I think once I meet some sisters it'll be much easier to go to a mosque.
There aren't really any big mosques in the Hague, as far as I know, so I can't find any websites.
The welcoming committee thing sounds great, but I don't think they have that in any mosques here. Maybe I should try and find out.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah - I can't find websites for any of the mosques in the Hague. My university does have an Islamic society but since my university is in another city, they would probably only know about mosques in that city, and not the city I live in.
Once classes start I will definitely try and go check the society out, maybe I'll be able to meet Muslims at least =)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth - I will def check out the Islamic society once classes start; and try and see whether they have any iftars. I'm very shy though so it's sometimes hard for me to go to gatherings by myself hehe. But I should try.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mrs S - yes, I might check out the different mosques during "off-hours". If something bad happens I can always just never go back :P
I honestly don't know whether Muslims in Holland are unfriendly or whether they are friendly, since I haven't met many yet. Inshallah they'll be welcoming :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Amanda - you should try going to a mosque in Dubai! Maybe try a very big one so you won't stand out too much, since it'll be very busy.
And try go to the mosque in Canada you mentioned on your blog!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stacy - I don't think the Islamic community here is as organized as in the States/Canada. There aren't many websites or info centres that I can check to find out about mosques, classes, events, etc.
Hopefully the Islamic society at my university will help.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nadia - I will def try to join my university's Islamic society :) And I might actually try that if I go to mosque: just approaching a sister. Hopefully language won't be too big of a barrier, inshallah.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Shahrazad: as soon as classes start I'll go and check out the Islamic society at my university. Inshallah it'll be nice and hopefully language won't be a barrier!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice: you're right, I should just go and pray, and if people aren't nice it shouldn't stop me from going to the mosque again.
About Egypt, there are definitely a lot of women who go to the mosque, but many don't. In some countries you find almost equal amounts of men and women going to the mosque, but this isn't the case in Egypt.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara - I really want to try praying taraweeh! It's pretty late here, and I need to find a mosque first, but inshallah I will this Ramadan :)

Candice said...

It's me again.

Come get your award at my blog. :)

NoortheNinjabi said...

Salaam alykom,
My first time in a masjid was about a week after I converted. It was scary...No one talked to me except the woman who brought me and the two women she introduced me to. Every time I've been to that particular masjid, the same thing has happened. Actually, most of the masjids I've been to in Wisconsin (US) have been that way. BUT! We have a musallah. And the musallah sisters are some of the nicest, warmest, most welcoming wonderful people ever. They hold halaqa, have a sisters email list, have tarawih, have iftars all the time... I miss them now that I'm in Cairo. :( So try to find them! The Muslims on your campus will, inshaAllah, be able to point them out for you.

Maybe try to find the married women's group? It sounds weird, but I've found that some of the younger, unmarried sisters are less focused on Islam and more focused on living life. Maybe that's just the US.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor - that's a good idea. Insh'Allah I'll ask about that. I hope it works!