I’d never been to a mosque before. It was the 6th Annual Open Mosque Day for the Islamic Society of Orange County – an event to promote a correct awareness of the Islamic faith. With the rise of public opinions informed and sponsored by the news media, I jumped at the chance to go with my cousin, Elliott.
With friendly welcomes and greetings, we removed our shoes and entered the prayer room. It was a large room where rows of individuals would face the front and prostrate themselves in prayer. A number were already gathered for the afternoon prayer observation. We were invited to sit while some were finishing their prayers. As I watched, I felt a reverence that was very familiar to me. I also felt a peaceful calm. I wanted to pray with them, and not just in my heart.
After the prayer observation, we listened to a few presentations and the Q&A that followed. We were then invited to eat food they had prepared for the occasion. It was delicious. My regret is that I no longer remember the names of the dishes they had prepared for their guests.
My experience gave me much to ponder, both there and long after we left. I reflected on the beautiful modesty of the Hijab the women wore. I noted the friendly handshake I had received from many of the men. I felt greatly impressed by their kindness.
Certainly there were some differences between their faith and mine, but I found there was much more we shared in common. Somehow, the differences didn’t seem to stand in the way of feelings I felt in my heart. I felt that we are truly brothers and sisters worshiping the same God. Their reverence and submission was inspiring. If anything, I realized there were some ways in which they were better at living my religion than I am.
Among the several lessons I learned in my brief visit, the blessing of prayer is one that was reaffirmed in my mind. I couldn’t help but feel the love of God as I watched others offer prayers to him. Some prayers may more closely resemble recitation than conversation, but I truly believe that God answers those who earnestly seek him.
I look at my own life, and I can without hesitation say that God answers my prayers daily – not just generally, but specific answers that make it clear someone is helping me. Clearly the Christian scripture teaches, “Ask and ye shall receive,” because Father will give good things to His children who ask Him.
During the times in my life when I am least selfish, and most focused on helping other people, I feel closest to Father. I feel Him guiding my footsteps and filling my heart with peace and happiness. It is during those times that I feel closer to Him in prayer, and I feel that He answers my prayers with greater rapidity.
I feel blessed to have visited the mosque this last Sunday. I am strengthened by others’ careful practice of prayer. More so now I am inclined to ask myself, “Am I as diligent as I can be in my personal prayer? How can I be more submissive, more grateful, and more sincere?”
Thank you, my brothers of another faith. As I was greeted, “Assalamu Alaikum.” Or in English, “Peace be upon you.”
For more information about the Islamic Society of Orange County, visit www.isocmasjid.com.