Written by current student Hope Zigterman (Gordon College, Massachusetts)
It was a giant eight-sided room with wall-to-wall carpeting. The room was lit with a giant circular chandelier and there were stained-glass windows all along the upper part of the wall. The “decorations” included no pictures or paintings, but only geometric designs and Arabic writing. It was a very beautiful and peaceful room.
Before the call to prayer, a few men trickled in and began their individual prayers. One man in a wheel chair came in and he was helped into a chair. A few others grabbed chairs as well – a demonstration of the principle of ease. Following the call to prayer, more men slowly began to enter. They remained pretty spread out, with only about twenty men in the room. However, once the group prayer began, being led by someone calling out a few words softly (all I heard/understood was “Allah”), all of the men gathered towards the front in two long rows. As more men entered, a third row was started. Altogether, there were probably about 250 men. Between 100 and 200 men were there when the group prayer began and the rest filed in as it continued. Afterwards, most of the men dispersed, but a decent amount stayed to complete individual prayers, again, spreading out throughout the room.
What struck me about the service/praying, was that all of the men came as they were. Some came in jeans, some in the traditional long garments, some had hats, some had their construction clothes on, and some wore business suits. The only uniformity was that everyone takes off their shoes before entering. The idea of people coming as they were reminded me of haj (pilgrimage to Mecca), when everyone wears a white robe so that they are all equal. I think it is also significant that on normal days they do not all wear the same thing, but come from wherever there walk of life has situated them. As they all prayed together, they are equal before God. I was impressed by the fact that it was not just older men. A lot of shebab (“young men”) were also praying. Islam is not just a religion for one type of people, but it is for all people, regardless of their race, age, or employment. I was also struck by the sense of peace available in the room. Maybe it was because the carpet made it cozy. However, as I watched the men praying, I thought to myself, that Islam is truly a religion of peace. The men in that room were taking time out of their day and their schedules to come and pray. This takes effort and commitment and suggests a deep belief in God.