Visiting an Islamic Center
Here are seven pointers to better prepare you for your first visit to a mosque or Islamic Center in the US or Canada:
1) Welcome: Know that all of us who work at the mosque are really grateful to you for taking the time to reach out to us and to learn more about Muslims and the Islamic faith. So you are welcome anytime, during any of the five daily prayers, on any day of the week and on any day of the year. You are free to come either alone, with a friend, or even an entire classroom. At most masjids, you can arrange to have someone guide you and walk you around the center. You would need to request a guide in advance.
2) What is a good time to visit? Most mosques are open from before sunrise (at Fajr) to two hours after sunset (after Isha). Thus it is open all day to accommodate worshipers attending the five daily prayers. We recommend visiting the mosque during the prayer time so you will be able to meet other Muslims and learn from observation.
3) How long will a visit take?
Prayers last for about fifteen minutes. Set thirty minutes aside on your first visit. Arrive ten minutes early and leave a few minutes after prayer is over.
4) Visiting during prayer time: When someone is praying they do not talk or respond to something you may have said. How do you know their prayer is complete? When they turn their head to the right and then to the left, it signifies the end of a prayer. Walking in front of someone praying is disrespectful. When a prayer is in session, you can take a seat at the back of the room and make yourself comfortable. As mentioned earlier, a prayer in a mosque lasts for about ten to fifteen minutes.
5) Dress: Visitors to the mosque are requested to dress modestly, which means men can wear sleeved shirts and pants/jeans that cover your knees at least. Women are requested to wear long bottoms. A head scarf is preferred, but not mandatory. Choose something conservative. Be comfortable.
6) Layout: At many masjids, there are two prayer halls and restrooms for men and women. Many bathrooms are fitted with foot-baths for ablution as well as other amenities like bidets. It will be a little different than what you are used to seeing.
7) Once at the mosque: There are separate doors for men and women. As soon as you enter you'll see a shoe rack where you can place your footwear. Remember to leave both your shoes and your inhibitions at the door. Smile :) , you are now in the mosque and we are so happy to have you over!
Feel free to speak to other Muslim men and women you meet. They are always glad to answer questions or guide you around. You can find the nearest mosque to you here. You may also contact us for assistance.