What I learned at mosque


Huffington Post columnist Leora Tannenbaum attends a pre-Shabbat lecture at the local mosque and concludes that “devout Muslims and Jews are not altogether that different, particularly in the worship department.”

Just as when I attend my own Orthodox synagogue, located a half-mile away from the mosque, I was separated from the men. After we placed our shoes in cubbyholes, we women filed up the staircase to the cramped balcony above while the men found places in the majestic sanctuary downstairs. There appeared to be nearly a thousand men and perhaps sixty women in attendance for the congregational prayer.

Imam Ali delivered his khutba (sermon). He told the worshippers that Muslims need to reach out and live harmoniously with other people because all people are servants of Allah. If someone chooses another path, he said, Muslims have a responsibility to show them the right way. However, one may not force others to follow the Islamic way. “We must show respect and dignity to all children of Adam,” he said. “Everyone is dignified by Allah.” It is human nature, he continued, that different people have different opinions, and Allah knows this. “But this difference of opinions does not make us hate each other. This diversity is seen in Islam as good,” Imam Ali declared, and all of us must “make an effort to get to know one another.”

Although I tried, I could not see the imam at all during his sermon. He spoke from a platform that was obscured from all but a few choice seats in the women’s section. So I ran my gaze across the women listening to him. Their hijabs reminded me of the tichels common in Borough Park and other Hasidic neighborhoods. I craned my head to check out the men below. The several men from JTS blended in with the crowd, the kippot on their heads closely resembling the kufis. After the sermon, it was time to pray. The bowing and prostrating was not altogether different from the shuckling (rhythmic swaying) commonly done during Jewish prayer.

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