I went to a mosque for the first time. It is very interesting and helpful in all the discussion of different religions and world events to meet people and get to know what is going on firsthand and not just spout opinions.
The first thing that I noticed that caused me to laugh was their address. It is a bit more difficult to find them, and I can understand this, as we live in a country that either feels threatened by Islam or wishes to threaten Muslims. When they emailed me their location and address it looked familiar. It was pointed out to me that it was next door to where my son lives in Orono, and that was why the address was familiar. We live in a small world.
I was impressed by their service. They were a remarkably welcoming and friendly group of people, more than willing to greet me and to have me join them. I was made to feel at home and I stood and sat as they prayed, but did not join in as I am not a Muslim, nor a member of their congregation. There were many similarities that were shared between us as we talked about maintaining a religious community and the issues that arise in doing such. They were planning for a big congregational dinner that night, with all that comes with such an event.
For the worship I felt that they were very similar to the Russian Orthodox in that there were very, very few seats. I was also struck by the much larger ratio of men to women than in most churches. The service was very simple with prayers and a sermon. It was very Protestant in its starkness in space, or perhaps more of a Buddhist simplicity. They would not see it as such, rather an adherence to the teaching of the prophet in the Koran. There was a fair bit of Arabic spoken, which I did not understand. But it was a nice time to be still, listen and offer my own prayers. Many of the people were from different countries or perhaps not mostly white, like most of Maine. I found that very refreshing and a very good thing reminding me of the time I lived in New York City.
Theologically I thought that they had much in common with more evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Both groups look to their sacred book, the Bible or Koran, as the final say that cannot be challenged or reinterpreted. Both feel very certain of the truth and rightness of their holy word and relationship with it. Though both would not want to be associated with the other theologically in any way.
A young woman helped explain much of the practical aspects of the faith and the role of women, which our western society has stereotyped and misunderstood in many ways. There are issues to address and yet so is there everywhere.
The meeting of these good people was a great blessing. I pray that their new facilities and growing community does well. Knowing the people, not just the ideas is very important. I feel blessed for having gone. I also hope to go back with a group of young people in a few months.