In March of 2006 I was able to visit a Mosque with a class I was taking about Islam. All of the information I learned about Islam was from Professor Jeff Morton of Biola University. The rest was direct word of mouth from the Muslims in the Mosque who answered my questions. Information on the mosque we visited can be found at: http://www.masjidomar.com/
Visiting an Islamic Mosque in Orange County, CA.
After visiting the Islamic Institute of Orange County, in Southern California, I learned interesting things about Islam and had some other issues confirmed to me from class lectures and reading.
Our group was comprised of more than 20 students, both male and female. The females in our group wore headscarfs in order to show respect to the muslims, because showing a woman’s hair is offensive to muslims if shown in public. Hair is seen as sensual and it can cause a man to lust. upon entering the prayer room we all had to take off our shoes to show respect as Muslims believe the mosque is holy ground. Many world religions practice this. Muslims themselves also have a ritual washing they do before praying. When I used the restroom there were many shower spaces and benches to use to ritually purify oneself before praying.
When I arrived at the Mosque the artwork had no depictions of living things such as humans or any deity. This is because in the Hadith Muhammad says that man is made in the image of God and you are not to copy the image of God because that would be idolatry. This is why Islamic artwork has become so unique in the world with its many lines and shapes. I asked about photographs and if they are permissible. The tour guide said they are because they are not another man’s interpretation of the image, but an actual copy of the image. What he basically means is that the image of God in a photograph is not altered and is depicted in its true form, but in a drawing there are inaccuracies which are idolatrous.
The architecture was very Arabian stylistically and looked exactly like a mosque would in the Middle East. It was beautiful with gold color and white walls with a fancy minaret on one side. When asked about the dome shape of the mosque, the tour guide told us there is no reason for the shape and that it is just a traditional style. He either did not know the truth or was hiding the real truth from our group since we are not Muslims. But in class we learned that the dome shape is actually a depiction of the Dome of the Rock where Ibrahim (Abraham) was told to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) as a test of his faith from God. It is also where The Prophet Muhammad ascended into the sky up to Heaven. The shape of the mosque is just like the one in Jerusalem which is a depiction of Arab superiority in an unbelieving land according an ex-muslim extremist that became a Christian convert who spoke in our class. So in the same way the mosque is shaped in that way to show Arab superiority in the United States. It was said in class that when a mosque is built in any country, that country then belongs to Allah so it becomes a muslim owned land. This gives some of the insight into how muslim extremists think.
At the end of our tour the imam (leader of the mosque) answered our questions. He was of African descent, but grew up in Saudi Arabia. He spoke almost perfect English. The entire time many of us thought he was an African American, until we were told later. This is where I noticed how the women acted at this particular mosque in the presence of men talking. Islamic stereotypes would say that the women are oppressed and not allowed to think. All of the women had to wear headscarves just as I would expect and they were all very modest, but I noticed that the wife of the tour guide was allowed to break in and voice her opinion whenever she wanted to speak. I thought that was very interesting. She did it politely by asking if she could say something. Every time she wanted to speak the men would gladly let her. Both she and the tour guide told us about the stereotypes of Islam; about women being oppressed and dominated by males. An example being that the females are in the back of the prayer room and the men are in the front. They told us Allah commands this and it’s not because women are not worth anything, it’s actually to protect the men from lust. When praying they bow down, so if the men were in the back they would see the women’s rear end which would distract them from prayer. This was their explanation, but I remember from my Intro to Islam class we learned that Allah said that if a woman or a donkey walks in front of a man when he prays then his prayer is unheard. It is a disgrace for a woman to be in front of a man while he prays according to the Quaran. When we watched them pray, the women were far back in the corner and the few men there that night were up in the front. I wondered why the women had to be so far back if all they need to be is behind the men. So either these Muslims are not telling it exactly like it is or they must be more liberal in their explanations for things. I also realized that most Muslim women believe what the Quaran says and will defend it and explain what most westerners see as oppressive to justify their beliefs.
One amusing moment happened at the mosque. While the tour guide and his wife were telling us how the religion of Islam is one of peace, I noticed that outside were Arab boys playing with toy machine guns and pretending to shoot at people. This reminded me of Arabic stereo types about Muslims being terrorists, and images of terrorist training camps came to mind. Who can blame the parents or boys? I remember when I was a child in my Christian home; I also played with guns and pretended to shoot people. But it was nontheless an amusing situation! No one noticed it but me.
Overall the Mosque visit was very informing and the people were so kind and loving to us. They were very hospitable and friendly. They answered many of our questions. I felt burdened that such sweet people have life so wrong. This is because of of man’s religious hypocrisy where man is considered good, and not evil. All false religions have a man centered idea of how to find God. Even in Islam, the belief is that man was born good; born a Muslim yet he falls away from submission to God as time goes by. His goal is to go back into submission by doing works. So the key to salvation is to follow Islamic Law and be a good person to get into Heaven. There is also no way to know if you are going to Heaven as salvation is not secure. That is why performing the rituals and praising the name of Allah are done all of the time and careful precision of the prayers is motioned through. It is said that if someone dies while praising Allah he will get into heaven. The Muslims in this mosque told us that it is arrogant to claim who is going to Heaven and who is not, and to claim you are going there is prideful. But, when we asked if certain people they knew who were dead were in Heaven they said there is a pretty good chance because they knew how that person lived; that he followed Allah well. So it is okay to assume things and believe, but to claim it as 100% true is seen as wrong to say. This type of attitude is something I have found in many religions in their description of reaching God, Nirvana, Moksha, etc.
All false religions have the problem of hypocrisy where the follower claims to be good and shows it in outward actions through works. But what truly matters to God is the inward heart’s desire to be holy and follow God. This is why there is going to be more religious people in Hell than anyone else. I can only hope that one day these people will realize the truth of Christ. Good works do not get anyone saved, but it is by grace given from God freely that people obtain salvation. Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Islam means “submission to God,” but they have the wrong idea of submission. True submission to God is giving up and denying oneself to follow God and understanding that there is nothing the individual can do to get saved, but believe on Jesus Christ that He took the punishment for their evil. I hope more muslims will realize this. The Islamic idea of submission to God is through rigorous obedience to Islamic Law. It never ends the entire person’s life. Romans 7:1 says, “Since I am speaking to those who understand law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives?” Paul was speaking about Jewish law, but the same idea can be said of Islamic law. Even staying under such authority for an entire lifetime there is no way to know if you will go to Heaven unless if you die for Allah as a martyr, or remember to praise his name at death. Realistically no one can be good enough to follow any law perfect and we need a substitutionary atonement to give us freedom. If man was justified by following a strict Law it would give him the right to boast in his goodness, but there is no goodness in man apart from God. So there is no reason to boast. Ephesians 2:9 says,
“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”
That is why Jesus Christ died on the cross in the place of ungodly men in order that they might be saved through faith. Romans 3:28 says, “For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” Grace is a free gift. All righteousness that we can do is a free gift that God gives us through the Holy Spirit. There is no other way to have this. Mohler (2008) mentions that “[Christians should know that] Islam rejects Christ as the incarnate Son of God and the Cross as the atonement for our salvation. There ultimately can be no reconciliation between the claims of Christianity and the claims of Islam” (p. 51). I hope more Muslins see the hypocrisy and prideful boasting in their religion and seek out true righteousness that comes from grace through the true God: Jesus Christ.
Mohler, A. (2008). Culture Shift. Colorado Springs, CO.: Multnomah Books.