Places & Forms of Worship

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Public and Private Muslim Worship

A mosque is the muslim place of worship

  • the prophet muhammad said that any clean place could be used for worship
  • some mosques are simple, others are very grand, but all have a dome representing the universe
  • most mosques will have at least one minaret - a tall tower where the muezzin calls the adhan 

Inside the mosque

  • beautiful mosaic tiles often decorate both the outside & inside of a mosque
  • theres no pictures of muhammad or allah, bc noones allowed to draw them & pictures of other living things are usually banned
  • richly coloured arabic calligraphy is often used to decorate mosques w the words from the qu'ran & names of allah & muhammad
  • the colour green is traditionally used in mosques
  • shoes must be left at the door, & every mosque must have somewere to wash before prayer
  • theres no seats bu the whole floor is usually covered w rich carpet
  • theres not much furniture, but there will be a pulpit where the imam will lead prayers from 
  • muslims face makkah when they pray, and the mihrab shows the direction of makkah
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The Design of a Mosque

  • whole mosque could be described as a symbol of the muslim faith & the features of both the exterior & the interior have symbolic meanings 
  • some mosques are easy to identify from the outside bc they have domes & towers - minarets

The mInaret

  • the Mu'adhin (muezzin) calls the believers to prayer 5 times daily from the minaret. stands facing the Ka'bah in makkah. 
  • the call to prayer begins 'allah is the greatest' 
  • inside the prayer hall before worship begins, the muezzin repreats the call w slightly different words 
  • everyone worships shoulder to shoulder facing makkah

the dome

  • the dome symbolises the universe which allah created & over which he rules 
  • some mosques have 4 minarets & a dome - said to represent 5 pillars of islam 
  • the dome allows the air to ciruclate & amplifies the human voice 
  • sometimes the domes are decorated beautifully inside & out 
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The Design of a Mosque 2

  • theres always a place for ritual washing before entering the area where they pray - important bc important to approach allah in a state of purity, washing called wudu' 
  • place for shoes to be left outside the praying area
  • the area for prayer is the heart of the mosque & plenty of space is needed 
  • theres no chairs in a prayer hall 
  • no furniture needed apart from the minbar from which the imam preaches the friday sermon
  • the qiblah (direction) wall is very special & its in the mihrab 

the mihrab & the qiblah 

  • the mihrab is a niche, which shows that its the qiblah wall - wall indicating the direction of the ka'bah in makkah. 
  • muslims have a picture or text from the qur'an on a wall showing the qiblah so they know which way to face in their prayers

the minbar 

  • stand or platform in the prayer area, where the imam delivers his khutbah, speech or sermon
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The Design of a Mosque 3


  • there are no pictures, statues or images in the mosque bc islam has been against idoltary
  • only allah is to be worshipped 
  • another reason why there are no likenesses to allah is bc allah is beyone human imagining & too great to be portrayed by human hands 
  • decorative patterns used instead of statues & pictures 
  • often patterns are decorative designs made up of calligraphy w declarations in arabic which are the very words of Allah from the Qur'an 
  • the writing is done in different styles 
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The Mosque in the Community

The mosques serve many functions for the community as well as being places of prayer. it is the school where children learn arabic & how to recite the Qur'an. they also learn english & other languages such as Urdu. 

there may be a reading room, a library & bookshop. the prayer hall may be used for teaching. its also used for funeral services, but not for weddings. there may be a morturary for laying out the dead & preparing the corpse for burial. the mosque may also serve as a lawcourt for the community. 

there will be kitchens & community rooms, maybe even games rooms. more recently constructed mosques are purpose-built to accomodate the full range of community activities. 

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The Role of the Imam

All muslims are equal in the sight of allah. 'imam' means 'in the front' and the imam is the person who stands at the front, facing the qiblah, to lead the prayers. behind him or her, the whole congregation in rows, also faces the qiblah. 

the imam isnt usually paid, although he may earn money as a caretaker or secretary of the mosque, but not for leading prayers. large mosques may have a full time paid imam & sometimes more than one because the building & activities require more supervision. there are no priests, monks or nuns in islam, so the imam isn't ordained as a holy man.

the word 'teacher' is often used for the role of the imam and this does describe some aspects of his work.

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Salah (prayer) is obligatory. its one of 5 pillars of Islam. Muslims pray 5 times a day. 

Prepartations for Salah: prayer is such a special occassion that the place should be clean & the worshipper should prepare w wudu', which means 'to wash'. the outward cleanliness symbolises inner purity of the heart & soul which is neccessary if a muslim is entering the presence of allah who is holy & pure. its not neccessary to perform wudu' for every prayer time, or its not neccessary to keep washing the feet. 

after washing, muslims cover their heads before praying. men wear a topi & women wear a burka ( a shawl draped over their head & shoulders). worshippers must face makkah, which is indicated by the mihrab in the qiblah wall. they stand in rows behind the leader of the prayers who is also facing the direction of the Ka'bah. the leader gives timing of the actions so they're made in unison. in some mosques theres a seperate section for women; in others theres an area behind the men. 

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Salah is a formal prayer. it's in arabic. when salah is completed, the muslim raises their hands with palms upwards and Du'a commences. du'a is a personal prayer. 

the worshipper may stay seated after salah & pray in his or her own language. they may recite an extra rak'ahs or parts of the qur'an. they may use prayer beads. at the end of du'a the believer wipes the hands acoss the face to show the blessing of allah has been received. du'a may be prayed anytime. 

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