Personal Experience of a Visit to the Islamic Center of Bacon Raton Florida





Personal Experience of a Visit to the Islamic Center of Bacon Raton Florida

Descriptive Section

The Islamic Mosque represents one of the prime destinations listed deep in my bucket list simply because I have never understood how so many diverse individuals can become so strong and together under one religion. I had the desire to visit such a place and the Islamic center of Boca Raton Florida offered such an opportunity. It took me around two hours to reach the centre to be welcomed by a group of eager Muslims. The warm reception was rather peculiar as individuals like me are regarded normally as infidels, highly ignorant and impure. At the lobby, a senior usher met me. The individual was receptive to my inquisitions and patiently described all the facilities and services present at the mosque. As he continued to define Bacon Raton, I could not help but be amazed at how all worshippers were dressed in bright white. Women added to this by covering their heads with a different type of white hijab. All individuals inside the center were bear feet, shoes smartly arranged at the lobby.

The inside of the mosque was quite modern when compared to its rather dilapidated exteriors. The roof structured in a dome shaped allowed mats to be set at the core-middle space of the facility. As explained to me by the usher, the carpets had no ritual significance, as their sole purpose was to accommodate the worship during one’s prayers. The floor was made out of pure marble incorporating various Arabic designs, images and patterns. A narrow carpet led me to the middle of the dome where individuals were doing a religious ablution referred to as the ‘Wudu’. Explained by the usher, this was a practice where the worshipper would dip his feet, arms and face in clear water as a symbolic act of spiritual cleansing. At all sides of the dome’s epicenter, there were numerous small rooms designed in different ways to facilitate the act of praying.

The small rooms unlike the dome were decorated in plush green in the wallpapers and floor carpets. Worshippers in the rooms were all sitting in a cross-legged fashion, hands lifted up to a height just above the middle thorax. Surprising in the rooms was several individuals who were fast asleep in the middle of the prayer service. This contrasted my religion, which could not allow any person to fall asleep in the middle of worship, more so within its holy walls. Another surprise was a young boy, probably less than five years, who was seated next to his father imitating all of his actions. The child appeared highly focused on the imitations. With every passing minute, the mosque continued to fill up with incoming worshippers. There was divergence in the gowns and headgears worn by men. Some wore caps while others caps. There were long gowns that went to cover the ankles while there others low as t-shirts. The usher expounded that the differences in headgear was because each distinct culture had its specific symbol.

A call for prayer begun and every individual present made a line facing the direction of Mecca. Inside the dome, the lines were facing a large arch shaped window with no glass panes. People stood side by side and made sure not to overlap the neighbor’s feet or shoulders. Despite the careful alignment, one could firmly feel the physical presence of his or her neighbor. Important to note was that the lines were separated in terms of gender and age. Each group had its own assigned room. There was great discomfort in the tight lines, as one had no sense of personal space. The large speakers then announced it was time to carry out the ‘Tahwid’ ritual. After completion of the ritual, the speakers announced the onset of traditional prayers known as the ‘Salat’. This was a memorized prayer spoken out in unison, accompanied with various postures and gestures. After the prayers, men gathered for a certain prayer known as the ‘Isha’. Learnt was that this was the fifth required prayer and involved a certain seating position that gave the worshipper pain at the ankle.

As a visitor, I could not participate in the Isha prayers. I was accommodated in a special room with large windows to observe the worshippers. In the room was several clocks all set differently in accordance to the city that they represented. As explained by the usher, the different times were specific in relation to how Salat shifts with seasons. As I sat viewing the worshippers, I realized that all through the service there was no song or use of musical instruments. All along there was one saturated voice, the imam, who gave instructions to his flock. This central voice gave Bacon Raton the sacred and serious atmosphere it required for effective worship. One man stepped forward to the altar, opened the Quran held in a Kursi, and stared at the wall marked with God’s initials in various ornate calligraphies. He later went on to read a certain passage in the book. This process went on and on throughout the day. All through there were worshippers coming in late to make their prayers. There was no point that the center was inaccessible to late worshippers.

On my way out, the Imam greeted me. He was a joyous fellow who was appreciative that I took the time to make a visit to Bacon Raton. The initial welcoming party was impressive, but the send off was touching. Muslims had gathered at the ‘Sahn’ or courtyard. All were deep in dialogue with each other establishing a strong feeling of community and unity. The closeness between these men was highly contrasting to the masculine banter we normally see in out television sets. At the far corner of the courtyard was a group of women counseling a new convert to Islam. The warmness in the Sahn gave a nostalgic sensation that went to remind me on the initial purpose of religion. Islam has many aspects and teachings that other religions can borrow and emulate in their practices.

Analytical Section

The first element that necessitated research was on the significance of the ‘hijab’ worn by women inside and outside the mosque. The hijab is a special clothing worn around the head and chest. According to the ‘Hajib’ or court official, the dressing is worn by women past their adolescent years to symbolize modest behavior and seclude the feminine gender from their male counterparts in public circles. Most Islamic women employ the attire to establish their private space. On a spiritual level, the hijab separates the flesh world from the divine heavens. The covering of the head acts as a veil between the two worlds giving supremacy to the spiritual one. The Quran teaches male believers that they should take their wives before God who is behind the curtain. Drawing of the veil is the responsibility of men and not women. The hijab is subject to Western criticism as a garment that encourages the oppression of the feminine gender (Maudūdı̄ and Muran 119). According to critics, the garment allows men to silence and control women given that it is the responsibility of men to undo the veil. This is an ill perception as the Quran subjects wearing of the veil only to women who consider themselves wives of Muhammad and not ‘Suleiman’. It is not all Islamic women wear hijabs.

The Wudu as explained by Fry and King in the article Candid Confrontation: The Muslim Umma, The Christian Church, published in the book Encountering the World of Islam is defined as an imperative cleansing ritual. As stated earlier, the practice involves the dipping of the feet, arms and face in clear water (Swartley 133). This ritual is performed prior to the first prayer of the day. According to the authors, the cleansing process is significant because it cognitively prepares the individual for the seriousness in prayer. The cleansing of the mind is based under the perception that an unclear mind will make blurred prayers. In addition, fast cleaning of the mind will result in rushing of prayers. The objective in Wudu is to help the individual improve himself before and during prayers.

Bacon Raton in its small rooms was decorated using green wallpapers and carpets. There were no benches in the entire dome apart from at the altar. Worshippers would pray either kneeling or seating cross-legged. The emphasis on ground worship is symbolic for humility when addressing the Supreme Being. This contrasts Christian churches that employ sits and benches in service. No clear study makes a comparison on the effectiveness of the two approaches (Maudūdı̄ and Muran 127). The sleeping or rather napping worshipper in the small room teaches on the openness of the Muslim community. The individual is allowed to nap in the facility because of the Islamic concept, Tahwid. The idea promotes communion by rejecting the secular and maintaining the concrete boundaries of the sacred (Swartley 111). In meaning, an individual invested in prayer can make frequent naps to facilitate continuous intercession. The mosque unlike churches is constantly open and accessible to its community.

The physical presence felt by worshippers during Tahwid is significant in that it establishes unity while negating preferential treatment of individuals. When the call for Mecca is announced, one stands in line wherever he is. Irrespective, one has to bump the neighbor. According to Maudūdı̄ and Muran in the book Witnesses Unto Mankind: The Purpose and Duty of the Muslim Ummah, the act of Tahwid in its close positioning of worshippers gives the expression of individual and communal integration and harmonious living based on the will of God. The initial discomfort t when one loses their personal space allows appreciation of the closeness found amongst the believers. The pain at the ankle during Isha is symbolic for the suffering imposed on humanity. The act allows worshippers to remember that because o sin, they are not worthy of God’s mercy. Moreover, the act equally familiarizes them with the supremacy and power gap in God. The raising of hands and stiff posture during Salat also promotes humility in man by fighting against arrogance manifesting in the physical form.

Critical Section

Islam is a religious system that is highly effective. The religion captures nearly all elements of spiritual and social support necessary for optimum growth of its believers. For instance, the young toddler who mimics every action made by the father ascertains that the child learns from his primary social figure. Father-son relationships ensure that the toddler has interest and adheres to spiritual doctrines (Nguyen et. al. 535). At a later stage, the child joins his gender group where he is able to establish beneficial relationships with his peers. Therefore, the system highlights a good social architecture for worship marked with smooth transitions. A shortfall in the system is that the gender disintegration lowers community cohesion. Authors of the article Mosque-Based Emotional Support among Young Muslim Americans highlights that Muslim women in their faction give each other more support when compared to men (Nguyen et. al. 545). This is because of the high interactional natures of women. In order to improve on the overall societal unification, it is my recommendation that the gender factions be broken down and joined into one. The only division in worship should be based on age.

The negation of personal space based on Isha and Tahwid captures the community life taught in Islamic doctrines. The lack of comfort allows an individual to interact and appreciate the closeness shared by his or her neighbor. In addition to close proximity, the strict necessitation that individual make a line where he or she stands when the call for prayer is made ascertains that no person gets special treatment in terms of space. There is no preferred position for special persons. Islam teaches that all beings are created and ascend as equals. The numerous calligraphic words inscribed on the Sahn (courtyard), mihrab (niche) and qubba (dome) ascertain that the worshipper constantly remains aware of the omnipresent nature of God. Mosques inscribe the name ‘God’ in twelve languages according to the twelve languages in which initial Quran texts were documented (Maudūdı̄ and Muran 124).

Music plays an important role in worship that the visit to Bacon Raton suggests Islam lacks in its worship practices. Contemporary cultures and technical advancements have allowed the development of new possibilities when it comes to the integration of music into worship. People in the modern society are surrounded by music coming from public media, personal voices and random synthesizers. Music give worshippers serious avenues for listening and expressing personal desires in their relationships with their respective deities. Melodic tunes are gifts from God and represent part of his creation. Moreover, singing is a vital part of ministry as it allows unification of individuals as they harmoniously worship. To improve on capture and maintenance of serious worship in Bacon Raton, leaders need to integrate music. The team must ascertain that there is adequate liturgical breadth in their musical ministry. Music should capture the historical, generational and cultural background of the religion.

In conclusion, Bacon Raton highlights how Islam is rich and rooted in history. Starting from the arched windows, dome epicenter and open courtyard, the architectural elements of religious structures are in strict adherence to written doctrines. From a social perspective, gender groups facilitate easy social transformation of young children and adolescent teenagers. Gender separation equally maintains the strong bonds held amongst adults (Nguyen et. al. 545). The nature of hospitality in Mosques attracts converts while it intensifies the commitment of its members. The Hajib cordially invites, directs and accommodates visitors. Leaders ensure that the center remains constantly open for worshippers even providing areas for napping. I argue that the religion is effective as a system because it does not champion only for individual salvation, but societal.




Works Cited

Maudūdı̄, Sayyid A, and Khurram Murad. Witnesses Unto Mankind: The Purpose and Duty of the Muslim Ummah. Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 2006. Print.

Nguyen, Ann W, Robert J. Taylor, Linda M. Chatters, Aaron Ahuvia, Elif Izberk-Bilgin, and Fiona Lee. “Mosque-based Emotional Support Among Young Muslim Americans.” Review of Religious Research : the Official Journal of the Religious Research Association. 55.4 (2013): 535-555. Print.

Swartley, Keith E. Encountering the World of Islam. Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2005. Print.

Swartley, Keith. Candid Confrontation: The Muslim Umma, The Christian Church. Encountering the World of Islam. 2. 1. (2005). 133. Print.

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