Discovering the mosque


The washing room in the mosque at the Islamic Education Center looks like a normal bathroom at first glance. But you’ll quickly notice the foot showers in the corner, and the wet footprints covering the floor. This is because the washing room is more than just a bathroom; it’s a place for wudu, literal and symbolic cleansing before prayers. The cleansing is part of the Muslim belief that prayer is a holy process that connects you to God. When the Muslim AFS YES High School exchange students brought us there as part of our comparative religions class at Congregation Beth El of Bethesda, I decided to take part in the ritual to see what it was about.
I began by cleaning my right hand with my left hand three times; and then by cleaning my left hand with my right three times. I cleaned every exposed part of my body three times; from my arms to my hair; and that included gargling water. Everything is done in three, because in the time of Mohammed, three was considered complete.
We then headed over to the foot wash, where we washed our feet three times. The process felt refreshing and even cleansing, but I wouldn’t replace a shower with it. Keeping with the cleanliness theme, you are not allowed to wear shoes to pray. Socks are optional, but I chose to go barefoot because my feet were still wet.
The AFS student leading the service, Saimon Islam from Bangladesh, started with the Adzan, a public call to prayer, to gather people. Next, he and Mariyam Bachani from Pakistan said a short prayer in Arabic with synchronized body movements from the congregation standing shoulder to shoulder or sitting on the floor. Then, the participants were left to have their own inner monologue of prayer with Allah. Unlike a Jewish service, most of the prayer is a silent conversation with God.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience that I would do again.
Joel Liss is a member of the comparative religions class at Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County.

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