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Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account

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muslim720

Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« on: February 05, 2018, 11:39:33 PM »
Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah,

In order to accommodate brother Ibrahim's comments (regarding positive experiences while visiting mosques outside your denomination), I have started this thread so that we can share our experiences.

I have much to share but since I have initiated this discussion, I will behave as the host and offer brother Ibrahim the floor.

Brother Ibrahim, please :)
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2018, 03:35:51 AM »
Muslim720 my brother, you're too kind :) Both for starting this thread and for offering me the floor. I fear that I may not be up to the task, but I'll try.

There's only one way I could open a thread like this, and that's by relating my experience in the holiest mosque of all, the Masjid Al Haram in the holy city of Makkah Al Mukarrama.

Where to begin? It's October 2012 and alhamdulillah I've had a good year in business, so the funds for Hajj are available. I'd been ill at times in the previous years, which made me think of death, so postponement wasn't an option. I could no longer bear being a stranger to my own holy places, so I was eager to depart.

The plane stopped in Amman and then continued on to Jeddah. Brothers started reciting the talbiyah as we were about to land.

On entering Makkah, the one apprehension I had disappeared: I had been concerned that the Saudi authorities might cause problems for Shia Muslims, but the reality on the ground was nothing like that. The stewards were mostly just young guys carrying rods who were visibly overwhelmed by the crowds, and nobody was troubling anyone else.

What could I say about the Masjid Al Haram? How could I describe the indescribable? Millions of Muslims all around you, gathered for the sole purpose of worshipping Allah; every emotion is visible on their faces, the tears of joy and rapture, the eagerness of those trying to get close to the Holy Ka'aba, the distress of those getting crushed in the packed crowds.

Every emotion is heard in their voices, brothers and sisters calling out their most sincere pledges, saying things they've wanted to say since childhood. Nobody is afraid to cry and many can't hold back the tears. It's as if you're experiencing life and death in the same instant.

All around are the fountains of Zam Zam water, the miraculous spring which quenches the thirst of all the millions of Hajjis. You feel like you've come "home" and you drink Zam Zam while watching the mesmerising sight of the Hajjis making tawaf. Just looking at the Holy Ka'aba is worship.
When you're making sa'iy between Safa and Marwa and when you're making tawaf around the Ka'aba, you won't want to be anywhere else on earth and you'll feel you're fulfilling your life's purpose.

When you try to touch the Holy Ka'aba, the crush becomes so intense that sometimes you can't make it. At Hajj time, the crowd is thick no matter what time of the day or night you go.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts, I stood back from the crowded area, made my niyyah, made du'a and then walked toward the Ka'aba saying bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim over and over. The previously impenetrable crowd parted like a knife passing through butter, and I made it straight to the Holy Ka'aba, moving along the wall to the Hajar Al Aswad. I managed to touch it, but not to kiss it.
Insha'Allah I will kiss it when I return.

This is all I can tell you about the Masjid Al Haram for now. For those who haven't been, go there. Today we are alive, tomorrow we are already in the grave. Go there as soon as you can.

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2018, 06:33:52 AM »
JazakAllah khair for sharing that memorable experience.  I pray that Allah (swt) affords us all to visit the two holy mosques (in Mecca and Madina) and enable us to visit Al-Aqsa as well.

Coming to my experience, my first time at a Shia mosque was on a Friday.  A couple of miles from where I live stands this mosque which is in desperate need for renovation.  At the time of my visit, it was at the peak of its abandonment; nowadays, at least there is an active imam who stays there until they close the mosque at night.

I had (and still have) an Iranian friend who comes from a Shia family but he identifies himself as Sunni only because he learned how to pray the Sunni way.  He had urged me not to visit this mosque as it is viewed to be more on the sectarian side; he suggested I should visit another mosque which identifies itself as "non-denominational" (although it is a Shia mosque).

I am hard-headed so I decided to go anyways.  When I got to the mosque, it was closed.  I knew the place needed renovation and was in transition phase so I was not surprised.  I was there 30 minutes before jummah prayers.  As I waited in the parking lot, a car pulled in and parked next to me.  Three middle to old-aged gentlemen stepped out.  When they saw me, they asked why I was there.  I said salaam and informed them that I was there for Friday prayers.  Their faces lit up.  "Are you really here for Friday prayers", they asked.  I confirmed and they were elated to see a young person show up for Friday prayers; not just that but get there ahead of time and then wait outside for the mosque to open.  They showered me with endless blessings in Farsi.

I went inside and slowly but surely, a small crowd started gathering.  I noticed that I was not the only Sunni there.  Another brother came in (I reckon he was on his lunch break) and he was Sunni.  He walked in, prayed Sunnah (like me) and started making dhikr on rosary.  The (for the lack of a better term) makeshift imam delivered a quick sermon highlighting the lofty station of Imam Ali (ra) and we stood for prayers.

After we were done, the brothers to my right and left shook my hand.  I reciprocated with "taqabal Allah" and that was the first time I prayed Friday prayers in a Shia mosque.  I did not feel out of place for even a split second.  From that point on, I would visit the mosque every now and then because the word on the street was that the mosque would undergo major renovations and transformations; the mosque was (and still is) in desperate need of it and I blame myself first before pointing at anyone else.  So I got in touch with one brother and provided him my contact information (in case they needed volunteers). 

That was almost six years ago and while the renovation work has not started, I went there another few times, each time handing my contact information to a different person hoping that they would call upon me for volunteer help so as to give me a chance to earn some good deeds.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 06:40:34 AM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2018, 01:42:50 AM »
To keep this positive discussion going, I will narrate another incident which took place at the mosque the imam of which said that Imams (ra) are everything that Allah (swt) is but "a notch lower".  By the way, this is my favorite mosque of all the Shia mosques I have visited and despite what the imam said (regarding Imams) and how much I differ with him, I still have tremendous love and respect for this imam and his mosque.  From now on, I shall refer to this mosque as my "favorite Shia mosque", lol.  In due time, it will become apparent why this is my favorite Shia mosque.

They have a custom at this mosque (to keep it in line with their non-denominational approach) to have a Sunni attendant lead the Asr prayers right after Friday prayers (because, as we all know, Shias combine prayers).  It had been a long time that I had attended my "favorite Shia mosque" so I went there on a Friday.  After jummah prayers, they announced that brothers may pray sunnah.  A few minutes later, they requested a Sunni brother to lead the Asr prayers since it is their tradition (at this mosque) to switch it up; if a Shia leads dhuhr prayers, a Sunni must then lead the Asr prayers or vice-versa.  Now I don't combine prayers but this mosque is a good 30 miles away from home (so I figured I can rationalize being a traveler....plus I had much else to do throughout that day) and seeing that no one was ready to volunteer, I raised my hand.  The brother who led jummah prayer put the scholarly gown (whatever it is called) on me and called the iqamah.  I was sweating bullets all throughout - I was shaking the whole time - because of the magnitude of the task and as scared as I was leading a whole congregation in prayers, I really wanted to uphold the custom of my "favorite Shia mosque".  When I made tasleem, the brother was quite encouraging whereas all I could say to him was, "I don't think I'll volunteer again, ever".  He laughed :P

On another occasion, at the same mosque, I was waiting to pray dhuhr because I was in the area and then I had to go see a doctor.  Usually, I pray dhuhr in jama'ah and go through the motions with them when they pray the Asr prayers (out of respect...sometimes I make the niyyah that I'm praying sunnah, sometimes nafl, sometimes nothing).  When I return home, or when the time for Asr arrives, I pray Asr anyways.  I went to the imam (the one who made the statement regarding Imams being a "notch lower") right before the adhan and informed him that I was in a hurry; that I had to leave right after dhuhr.  I clarified with him that I would be leaving out of necessity, not because I want to disrespect their practice of combining prayers.  He had given me the rundown that combining prayers is a sunnah and I had already mentioned that it is done in outstanding situations so there was no need for us to get into it again.  When I said that I had to leave and had to run it past him so as to not come across as disrespectful, he looked at me and said, "you have the akhlaq of Aale Muhammad".  A huge compliment, however, I realized that he had received my message and received it well.  I prayed dhuhr behind him; thereafter, I gave him a smile, waved at him and left.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 01:47:24 AM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2018, 03:01:11 PM »
Al Masjid An-Nabawi, Madinah Al Munawara

After my brief account of my experiences in the Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, it follows that I should give a brief account of the Masjid An-Nabawi in Madinah. The Holy Prophet's(saws) city has a number of differences from Makkah; there are no rites of Hajj here and the atmosphere is more relaxed and much less crowded.

In Madinah you take things at a measured pace and savour every moment. I went to Madinah after Hajj rather than before and alhamdulillah this was ideal. It affords a well-earned repose for the Hajjis, who are bound to be exhausted, and represents the best environment for them to reflect on what they've just experienced.

Madinah is centred on the Masjid An-Nabawi which covers a large area - I was told that this current area actually corresponds to the original area of the city of Madinah itself. There is a part of the masjid with green carpet and I was told that this represents the original area of the masjid before expansion.

The green area, which is called Riadhul Jannah, becomes full a while before each prayer time, one reason for which is that the rewards for praying here are immeasurably high. You have to be early to get a space, and alhamdulillah I did on a number of occasions and managed to pray from this very special place.

The Holy Prophet(saws) is buried here and the mu'mineen come to give their salaams. When I was there, the Saudi authorities had created a lane which they were moving people through quickly, so it was not possible to greet Rasulullah(saws) except in passing, unless you were to do so from a more distant part of the masjid.

Adjacent to the Masjid An-Nabawi is Jannatul Baqi, where many of the sahaaba and members of the Ahl Al Bayt(as) are buried. Again, the authorities placed restrictions on greeting them and would reproach those who did so visibly. This presented a difficulty which did not prove insurmountable, la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah.

One of my most memorable times in Madinah was when I went upstairs to a section on the roof of the masjid. To my surprise this area was totally empty and I sat down with a Qur'an mushaf.
There I started reciting and memorising the first ayats of Surah Qaf, which I went on to memorise fully not long after I returned.

Now, whenever I recite or listen to this surah, it takes me back to roof of Masjid An-Nabawi, with warm November sunshine illuminating the pages of the Holy Qur'an.

I've been yearning to return to Madinah Al Munawara and to Masjid An-Nabawi. I pray that Allah grants me this soon.

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2018, 10:11:11 AM »
Muslim720 Jazakallah khair, thank you for relating your amiable experiences above.

That "favourite mosque" of yours sounds like an amazing place. I travel quite a lot and I visit masaajid whenever I can on my travels, so insha'Allah I'll find myself there one day.

The brother's compliment on your akhlaq seems fitting. I think that if more of us learn good akhlaq and show a will to listen and grow, many more masaajid like that will come into being, Insha'Allah.

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2018, 06:21:53 AM »
Muslim720 Jazakallah khair, thank you for relating your amiable experiences above.

That "favourite mosque" of yours sounds like an amazing place. I travel quite a lot and I visit masaajid whenever I can on my travels, so insha'Allah I'll find myself there one day.

The brother's compliment on your akhlaq seems fitting. I think that if more of us learn good akhlaq and show a will to listen and grow, many more masaajid like that will come into being, Insha'Allah.

If you find yourself in the DC metropolitan area, let me know and I will take you there.

Continuing with another story from the same mosque, let us go back to Thanksgiving 2012 (that would be November 2012).  The first ten days of Muharram, leading up to Ashura, coincided with the week of Thanksgiving.  On Thanksgiving Eve, the day before Thanksgiving (I still remember it was a Wednesday), I went to my boxing gym, got a quick workout, showered and then drove to "my favorite Shia mosque".

Driving on the highway which I consider to be the biggest parking lot (thanks to the traffic congestion) was a breeze.  With everyone gearing up for Thanksgiving and staying home (indoors), I cruised down the highway and was at the mosque within minutes.  I seated myself next to a gentleman who was later called upon to deliver a quick talk.  This man - I love him for the sake of Allah (swt) and more - went to the podium and talked about the story of the throne of Bilqees and how it was brought in an instant (due to faith and knowledge).

As he was returning to sit down, the imam (the same imam who made the "a notch lower" comment) thanked him and made a remark jokingly.  He said, "may Allah (swt) bless your father-in-law".  So I realized that this man is the son-in-law of the imam and next, the imam announced that the man (who just spoke, his son-in-law, in other words) would be starting an IT class at the masjid.

I immediately tapped on his shoulder, said salaam and introduced myself.  In Farsi I said to him that I was always interested in learning IT although I had just graduated with a Bachelors in Biology.  He asked me to follow him.  We walked to the library and past the library, he opened the door to his IT class.  Inside, he had routers, switches and other hardware.  He explained the class, his vision (which was nothing short of noble) and gave me the sign-up form; the last seat or opening was mine.  This was Allah's (swt) plan; a plan that would redefine and reshape my future.

In the weeks to come, I learned that this brother would teach almost 4 different classes on Saturdays (on his day off) from 7 AM till 8:30 PM at the mosque for free.  Seeing his pure intentions, dedication, patience and effort, I had to reciprocate.  Months later, I was the first student from among all of his students to get certified and then land a job.  He was so happy that he requested a copy of my certification and hung it up on the wall in our classroom inside the masjid. 

Last year, he started a VMWare class at his own house and I felt extremely privileged for having him call me for the opportunity.  He selected a few of his students (from his previous classes at the masjid) to come and learn the latest technology, virtualization....all for no cost to us.  He would even serve us breakfast (since our class would meet early Sunday mornings at his house).

Now, brother Ibrahim, you might see my line of thinking and way of approach (toward Shias) making sense to you.  I will not hesitate to defend my beliefs but in terms of association, I would rather be with people like this brother (my teacher and mentor) than with those who may call themselves Sunnis but make takfir on Shias (as a whole) and call for violence and hatred toward Shias.

It is my teacher's vision to rent out a warehouse (i.e., bigger space) and offer free IT classes to Muslims (he wants me to teach there and I will gladly do anything for him).  It might sound like playing favorites but I love him for this; he says that once we are ready to put his vision into action, any Muslim who walks in can pay a minimal fee or attend classes for free (if he or she is unable to pay).  As for non-Muslims, he wants to charge them one-third of what other IT schools would charge them for the same course.  He wants to continue with "sadaqa jariya" and he wants us (his students) to be a part of it.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 06:30:40 AM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

heathen

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2018, 06:29:46 AM »
I still haven't been to a Shia mosque. Not against going though. There is one near me but all the other mosques in my county are Sunni.

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2018, 02:53:05 PM »
Heathen, Masaajid are for Allah(swt) and I'm sure the brothers will welcome and accommodate you at any "Shia mosque" you make the journey to.

If you make the effort some time I'm sure you'll find it rewarding.

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2018, 02:59:15 PM »
Muslim720 Yes akhi, I must say that your attitude is wonderful and may Allah guide you to all the best things through your open will to learn.

I also prefer to associate with those who are most sincere. One of the main problems facing us as Muslims at large is that non-Muslims often display better character traits than we do, and this is why it's heart warming to hear of accounts like yours above.

I've actually visited D.C. a number of times in the past. I'm not sure if I'll visit in the near future since I was in Iran last year, and that poses problems for entering the U.S. which I'm not willing to undergo at the moment.

Insha'Allah if my plans change I'll let you know :)

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2018, 11:56:55 PM »
Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque)  Istanbul, Turkey

This masjid is considered the major masjid of Istanbul and is one of the most well-known and celebrated in the Muslim world.

It lies in the heart of the historic peninsula and when you go there you'll immediately notice the nature of its surroundings. That is to say, it's directly adjacent to the Hagia Sophia, which was the major historic church of Christianity. When the Ottomans conquered Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was known back then) they converted this church into a mosque and it remained so until the time of Kemal Ataturk, who changed it into a museum.

There is some controversy as to whether the Hagia Sophia should have been converted into a mosque in the first place, since Muslims are not meant to violate the places of worship of the Ahl al Kitab. If Sultan Mehmet II had left the Hagia Sophia intact as a church, it would have sent out a loud message to the world that Muslim rule is benign and that Muslims are capable of showing respect and clemency even when they have the upper hand. However, Sultan Mehmet was a conqueror and not necessarily a statesman or a humanitarian and his actions may best be seen in this context.

The Blue Mosque is built in such a way that it challenges the Hagia Sophia for prominence, as if to outdo and outshine in an architectural competition between Islam and Christianity. It's said that Sultan Ahmet’s architect wanted to build the Blue Mosque with a dome larger than that of the Hagia Sophia but was unable to. As an alternative, he constructed it with six minarets. A problem arose in that the only masjid with six minarets was the Masjid Al Haram in Makkah which it was considered wrong to match, so to solve this problem he added a seventh minaret to the Masjid Al Haram.

Our brother Muslim720, commenting on another thread, has drawn attention to the tourist presence in the Blue Mosque. I can say that from my experience, it is a fully-functioning masjid and the tourist presence does not detract from this. The mosque is closed to non-Muslim tourists for a considerable period before and after each prayer time, so the tourists are inconvenienced for the sake of those praying, not the other way round.

Inside the masjid, the visitors are restricted to the edges and do not enter the main prayer area. If anything the tourist presence actually adds to the Islamic character of the masjid. The reason I say this is for considerations of da’wah: for tourists to see Muslims gracefully praying in a building which displays architectural mastery and artistic refinement is a strong contradiction of the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. It's a sublime scene which shows Islam as a religion of conscience and civilisation. 

I went to the Blue Mosque a number of times on my most recent trip to Turkey and due to a favourable schedule I was able to attend Friday prayers there. The area for wudhu (there may be others) is on the side of the masjid which faces the Hagia Sophia, and it's an extensive area stretching along the wall, so the queues at the taps aren’t too long.

What did surprise me though was the sheer number of people attending the Jumu’ah prayers. I got there quite late and the masjid itself, despite being huge, was full with the prayer lines stretching way out into the courtyard. The khutba was still being read so all were sat listening.

The natural thing to do in this situation might be to simply take a place outside (the weather was fine) but I was determined to pray from within the mosque itself.
My experiences in the Haramain in Makkah and Madinah, along with the holy sites in Iraq and Iran, had taught me a couple of simple techniques for finding a space in a packed masjid.

If you walk in among the lines and keep going with your eyes open, then even in the most crowded environments you will eventually pass by someone who’s sitting in a way that he’s taking up slightly more space than he needs. A polite gesture to this brother will usually result in him moving to make space for you, and bi-ithnillah you will have found your place.

I did this and, as elsewhere, found a space in due course, alhamdulillah. The khutba was being read in Turkish and I didn’t understand it; maybe the khutba was read in Arabic before I arrived in which case I would have understood some of it, but in any case it wasn’t long until the prayer began.

The overall experience of praying Jumu’ah here was heightened for me by the large jama’at, which I wasn’t expecting. Just as praying in a small, close-knit congregation has its own particular feel to it, so does praying in a very large one, and this feeling can’t be known except through participation.

I would recommend for anyone to visit Istanbul, one of my favourite cities, and to pray in the Blue Mosque, especially for the Friday prayers.
I have no doubt that you will be happy with your experience.

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2018, 01:35:06 PM »
Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah,
To keep this discussion alive and always on the front page, allow me to narrate a short story (I wish...none of my stories have been short of being novels, lol).

Attending three local Shia mosques, I've heard unfavorable opinions (from Shia brothers) regarding the one Shia mosque closest to my house (referenced in my first story) where I first prayed jummah (at a Shia mosques) with Shias.  However, I've never had any bad experiences there (or anywhere), although I've not been to this particular mosque as much as I've been to the other two.

This was in 2011, if I'm not mistaken!  It was Muharram and I went there for the lectures and when I arrived, I did not know where they would pray 'Isha.  The mosque has two levels and three halls; one hall for Arab speakers, one hall for Urdu/Hindi speakers and the entire downstairs level (or basement) is reserved for Afghans and Iranians, in other words, Farsi/Dari speakers.  They may have prayed 'Isha upstairs but nonetheless, I prayed 'Isha in the downstairs lecture hall.  However, I did not pray sunnah and I was feeling the void.

At some point during the lecture - by then the lecture hall had filled up - I stood up to pray sunnah right then and there; I admit, it wasn't the best call.  Anyways, I started praying and the brother who was seated next to me couldn't see me, except my legs (because he was sitting and I was standing in prayer) so he didn't see my hand placement (clasping left wrist with right hand).  He must've thought I was a Shia.  With good intent, he put a paper on the carpet for my prostration.  Right before I made sajdah (brought my face in contact with the ground), I removed the paper and completed my sajdah.  When I sat in jalasa, he quickly placed the paper again and I removed it (again) before I made my sajdah.

When I stood for the second rakah, he looked up and noticed my hands and realized that I'm not Shia so he never placed the paper again.  After I was done and it was about time for everyone to stand up for matam, he looked at me, smiled and apologized.  I smiled back, put my arm around him and hugged him.  I said, "I know you meant well and you did not offend me at all".
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 01:38:55 PM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

simplemuslim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2018, 05:25:14 PM »
Very good thread bro. I am actually surprised at this discussion as I have not read anything positive comments on this website about shia's. Anyway, I go to more sunni mosques than shia mosques. Where I live (in the UK) sunnis mosques are mostly dominated by two factions, Brelvies and Deobandis. There are two ahul hadith mosques as well. But I go to the brelvi and deobandi mosques even though they refuse to read a shia janaza (funeral) at their mosque. I have no issues in praying behind sunni imams. That's because I just go with the intention of praying and also showing unity that these are my Muslim brothers. I just wanted to share my positive experiences at the mosques.

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2018, 06:05:29 PM »
Very good thread bro. I am actually surprised at this discussion as I have not read anything positive comments on this website about shia's. Anyway, I go to more sunni mosques than shia mosques. Where I live (in the UK) sunnis mosques are mostly dominated by two factions, Brelvies and Deobandis. There are two ahul hadith mosques as well. But I go to the brelvi and deobandi mosques even though they refuse to read a shia janaza (funeral) at their mosque. I have no issues in praying behind sunni imams. That's because I just go with the intention of praying and also showing unity that these are my Muslim brothers. I just wanted to share my positive experiences at the mosques.

JazakAllah khair for your beautiful post.  I need to learn how to keep my posts precise and short from you, lol.  I believe that if we focus on pixels, a lot will not add up and we lose sight of the overall picture.  I tend to look at the overall picture.

When I was new to Shia-Sunni discussions, with no desire to learn about it but I was dragged into it, I immediately made it a priority to visit as many Shia mosques as I could.  Why did I make it a priority?  Because I read horrible things about Shias on the internet.  I wanted to give Shias a chance to speak for themselves.  After I sat through many lectures and khutbahs, I realized that not everything I read about Shias was true.  So I located three Shia mosques in our area, two of them at least more than 30 miles away, and I visited them all (and I still continue to regularly visit them).

I remember my first discussion at my favorite Shia mosque was after my IT class (which was held at the mosque).  My instructor, may Allah (swt) bless him infinitely, used to teach four sessions on Saturdays from 7 AM - 8 PM for free.  I wanted to treat him so I asked him to join me for lunch; instead he warmed me up some food someone had left in the fridge (for us to eat).  As we were eating, the imam of the masjid (my instructor's father-in-law), knowing that I'm Sunni, wanted to put a few things to me.  Now this is the same imam who, years later, told me that Imams (ra) are everything that Allah (swt) is but a notch lower.

The imam started with the placement of the hands during salah.  He asked me if I'd believe someone if that person told me that the Prophet (saw) placed his hands upon his head during salah?  I was not well-versed back then but I knew the fundamentals so I reminded him that these are matters of fiqh and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama'ah has a big heart when it comes to fiqh; plenty of room to accommodate various fiqhi issues.

He moved the discussion to anthropomorphism and immediately targeted Ibn Taymiyyah (rah).  I asked him to show me where Ibn Taymiyyah (rah) said he believed in Allah (swt) having a form, etc.  We were sitting in the mosque's library with plenty of Sunni books on its shelves; Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Tafseer Ibn Kathir, etc.  So I requested him to show me the quote or the book. 

He mentioned the name of some brother (who wasn't there) and said that he had shown him the quote.  He also stated that the brother was an ex-Sunni.  I asked him to request the brother bring his book next time.  The imam said that it wasn't a book; it was some software the ex-Sunni brother brought to the masjid which you could search narrations from (maybe some hadith software) and you would read about Allah's Hand, etc.  And somehow, all this incoherence, was attributed to Ibn Taymiyyah (rah) and all of Sunnism.

Needless to say, the more I tried to scrutinize his source and this software, the more uncomfortable things got, with my instructor not saying a word.  Maybe he did not want to cut off his own father-in-law.  However, he finally broke his silence and said that being a follower of Imam Khomeini (rah), he believes in unity; that we are one ummah.  He quoted Imam Khomeini (rah) and I'll never forget his words; he said that our enemies will cut off our arms whether we pray with our hands clasped (qabd) or arms hanging on the side (sadl)....to them, we're the same.

Anyways, my point is that Ahlus Sunnah is very tolerant towards differing opinions so long as they do not go into extremes.  For example, you can be a Sunni and believe that Imam Ali (ra) should have been the first Caliph; no problem there!  You cannot, however, call those who came before him "kafirs".  This last piece was my little tidbit to you; I hope you don't turn it into a discussion....we are only sharing our experiences here :)
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 06:15:09 PM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2018, 05:03:01 PM »
Very good thread bro. I am actually surprised at this discussion as I have not read anything positive comments on this website about shia's. Anyway, I go to more sunni mosques than shia mosques. Where I live (in the UK) sunnis mosques are mostly dominated by two factions, Brelvies and Deobandis. There are two ahul hadith mosques as well. But I go to the brelvi and deobandi mosques even though they refuse to read a shia janaza (funeral) at their mosque. I have no issues in praying behind sunni imams. That's because I just go with the intention of praying and also showing unity that these are my Muslim brothers. I just wanted to share my positive experiences at the mosques.

After a little while on this forum I've noticed that there's quite a difference in attitudes among those posting here.
At first it seems hostile, but with time human faces start to show through.

I also spend a lot of time in "Sunni mosques" and pray behind Sunni imams. They will often be the only mosques available in an area, but aside from that I find too much in common with Sunni Muslims for me to desist from spending time around them.

It's also firmly my belief that we need to unite for the sake of Palestine Al Quds. If we fail to do this, it's possible that we're failing in the major challenge of our era.

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2018, 02:01:53 AM »
Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden is a country well-known for its relatively large population of Muslims and also for controversies surrounding the Muslim community.

Along with other Scandinavian countries, Sweden is often held up by the political left as a model of a progressive society brought about by their ideals; on the other hand the political right often criticises its tolerance and claims that this has led to the emergence of ‘’Muslim no-go-areas’’. These claims have also been made about the UK and other countries, but Sweden seems to be a particular source of focus.

As someone who has, by the grace of Allah, travelled to over 20 European countries and over 30 U.S. states, I’m well aware of certain social realities in the West: the more deprived neighbourhoods tend to be populated by people of African, Asian or Hispanic descent, while the more desirable areas tend to be populated by people of European descent.

This general pattern holds true regardless of religious adherence, so for example Americans of African and Hispanic descent tend to be poorer than Americans of European descent and live in more dangerous areas regardless of all groups being predominantly Christian. At no point do you look around Western countries and see social deprivation associated specifically with Islam and Muslims, as the anti-Islam voices in the far-right and in the media like to claim.   

Likewise, economically successful populations of non-European origin are just as likely to be Muslim as any other religion. So just as you have many successful doctors and solicitors from China and India who may be Buddhist and Hindu respectively, you also have equally large numbers in these professions who may be Pakistani and Muslim.

So, even though I already knew that the ‘’Muslim no-go-areas’’ hype was false, I still wanted to see the reality for myself on a day trip to Sweden earlier this winter.
I arrived in the morning and walked around the historic centre, known as the Gamla Stan, until the time for Zuhr prayers approached. From preliminary research I knew that Stockholm’s major masjid is a short walk south of this area.

This in itself was quite a refreshing surprise, since in many European countries the planning permission for mosques is usually granted in remote areas far from the city centre. In Stockholm by contrast the main mosque is only about a 15 minute walk from the Gamla Stan tourist sites.

I arrived just in time for the jama’at. It was arranged in such a way that there was no curtain or veil in between the brothers’ and the sisters’ areas. The sisters simply prayed together about 10 spaces behind where the brothers were praying. Since this is fairly unusual in my experience, I wondered whether it was the independent choice of the Muslim community to arrange it this way or if the Swedish government had a say in the matter.
In any case, to my understanding there’s nothing to say there has to be a physical barrier between men and women during prayer and you will find no such barrier in the Haramain when on Hajj.

The jama’at was fairly large and contained brothers from various nationalities. When it finished I remained to complete my ‘Asr prayer since joining prayers on a journey is highly convenient, especially in non-Muslim countries where masaajid may be few and far between.
Overall the masjid was spacious and well designed, with liberal use of the colour green adding to the sense of peace and tranquillity. The wudhu area was extensive and clean and the Muslim community is blessed to have such a good masjid so close to the city centre.

After spending a few hours more exploring the city and taking in the sights, I decided to head for one of the ‘’Muslim no-go-areas’’ to pray Maghrib there and to see it for myself. The Rinkeby neighbourhood is perhaps the most well-known of these and easily reached by metro, so I took the metro and arrived there around half an hour later.

On exiting the metro to Rinkeby’s small central square, the first thing I noticed was a floral memorial to someone who had been shot dead a few days prior. The masjid itself is in this same square just outside the metro station and had a sign saying something akin to ‘’Rinkeby mosque and cultural centre’’.

It’s not uncommon to see masaajid marked as ‘’cultural centres’’ although I always feel it’s improper to tie the two together, since a masjid should be welcoming and accessible to all. It’s inevitable that certain mosques will be funded or frequented by people of certain nationalities, but surely this should be incidental rather than something specifically aimed for.

The predominant nationality at this masjid was Somali and there was a café adjacent to the prayer area where all the Somali brothers were sitting together talking, drinking tea and watching tv. I had arrived too late for the jama’at and so after making wudhu I entered the prayer area, put down my turba and prayed Maghrib and ‘Isha together.

As usual in the masaajid frequented by Ahl us-Sunnah, nobody approached me for seeing me praying differently or even seemed to notice. This is one of my own personal ways of knowing that sectarian animosity of the kind which is often displayed on this site is thankfully quite rare among the world’s Sunni Muslim populations.

Many Sunni Muslims are hardly aware of Sunni-Shia differences in the first place, and of those who are it’s only a segment of them who make sectarian antagonism a driving concern and a focus of their energies.

After the prayer I looked around Rinkeby, which consists mostly of housing estates with a few shopping areas, and spoke to some of the locals. The housing is monotonous but of fair standard and well kept. The neighbourhood activity was the usual scene of people going about their daily affairs, like anywhere else.

It was getting dark by this point yet there was no sense of danger and nowhere did I see anything which was different from deprived areas anywhere else in the world.
Upon enquiring about the shooting I was told that there are indeed a minority of criminals and troublemakers in Rinkeby, but that their violence does not corrupt the overall nature of the area and that most people are simply living their everyday lives normally and productively.

Although the area is made up mostly of people of African and Asian descent, there are native Swedes there too and I saw police cars casually patrolling around. Apparently, these ‘’no-go-areas’’ are so dangerous that even the police will no longer venture in, but I was seeing the contradiction to this right in front of my eyes. Not only was there a police presence, but they were visibly relaxed and in their element.

Every facet of the ‘’Muslim no-go-areas’’ scare stories had proven to be false or highly exaggerated during my brief stay in Rinkeby. It's clearly a way for certain elements in society to benefit by demonising Muslims and portraying us as "the other" and "the enemy within".

It's all the more ironic because many Muslim countries have traditionally had very low crime rates, while many of today's true no-go zones, places where your life might be in real danger if you venture in, are found in Latin America in nominally Catholic counties.

Overall I will say that Sweden appears to be one of relatively few Western countries which has openly cooperated with Muslims in establishing a native community. As a result, despite being a small country, it has quite a sizeable Muslim community with good facilities and good prospects for the future.

muslim720

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2018, 06:25:23 PM »
I was on Facebook one day - this was in late 2015 - and noticed that someone had posted a news article regarding a bomb threat made to one of the local mosques.  I clicked on the article and realized that the threat was made against my favorite Shia mosque.  Some idiot (in this case, non-Muslim), with no fear of God and short on courage, had left a voicemail on the mosque's main phone.  By then, my weekly IT classes were long over; I was not making my regular trips to the mosque (although I'd go as often as time permitted) but I kept thinking of the mosque.

Well, when I read about this threat - I think it was a day or two before Friday prayers (hence, the largest gathering outside Ramadan and Muharram) - I knew I had to go.  Friday rolled around and I was at the mosque by 11 AM, giving myself enough time to get caught up with the imam and all that I had missed during my absence which, at that time, had stretched to a few months.

I walked in and went straight to the imam's desk.  After greeting him and asking about his health, I brought up the threat.  He smiled and assured me that no harm would befall the mosque.  I said something by which he was taken back, at least initially.  I expressed my gratitude to Allah (swt) for this fool (who had made the threat).  The imam looked confused.  I continued by saying that the threat gave me a reason to drive 30 miles out of my way to attend jummah at his mosque.  And I told the imam that if this person were to show up, I'd be in the front line to meet him, if not the first one.

It still kills me not to remember the verse he recited from the Qur'an and said, "Allah (swt) has described people like yourself in the following verse".  Needless to say, praises inflate our egos and I, for one, struggle with them.  I sought his permission in cutting our conversation short so as to afford me a chance to pray Tahiyyat al-Masjid.  As I wrapped up my prayer and sat in a corner to do some dhikr, I noticed a wave of reporters, from various local news channels, flocking to the mosque.  We even had the local Hispanic channel (Telemundo, if I'm not mistaken) interview the imam, lol.

Fast forward to August 2017 when, again on Facebook, a friend had posted an article related to Herat in Afghanistan.  In an act of defiance to ISIS, who had attacked a Shia mosque only a few days prior, Sunnis flocked to the same Shia mosque and prayed in congregation with the Shias.  Now I know it is in our (Afghan) blood to stand against injustice and barbarism, be it perpetrated against anyone, especially when it is visited upon our brothers never mind our differences.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2018, 06:28:53 PM by muslim720 »
"Our coward ran from those in authority" - Iceman (admitting the truth regarding his 12th Imam)

Ibrahim

Re: Positive Experiences at Mosques - A Non-Denominational Account
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2018, 11:05:24 PM »
Masha'Allah, a heart-warming show of solidarity in Herat. Not only heart-warming but politically effective, a symbolic stand of defiance against those who wish to weaken Islam by sowing discord.

Afghanistan, particularly Herat, is somewhere I've been wanting to visit for a long time. On a car journey in Iran from Mashhad to Neyshabur, I cast my gaze to the east realising that the Afghan border was only just beyond the mountains on the horizon, and it seemed such a shame not to be able to simply cross over and visit.

Afghanistan, like Iraq and Syria, is a major historic centre of Islam which used to be known for its architectural beauty, cultural refinement and scholarly tradition, but which is now only known to many for war.

I knew a sister who had worked in Kabul as a doctor who used to marvel at how respected and well taken care of she felt there - she called Afghanistan her spiritual home.

Insha'Allah I'll make it there one day.

 

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