by Ryan Rhoden, Interfaith Center volunteer
The UNF Interfaith Center was invited to visit the Bosnian Mosque located off of Museum Avenue to observe Jumu’ah, or Friday Prayer. There were about 13 students that loaded up on the bus that Friday. We were all dressed very modestly and the ladies wore coverings on their heads. When we arrived, we were instructed to take off our shoes and the men were escorted to one room while the women were escorted into the room nextdoor.
After a few minutes of going through the prayer rituals, the Imam welcomed us, then welcomed a guest to who gave the sermon. I was intrigued by the sermon because I, being of the Christian faith, began to hear some common phrases and terms that I heard in my own Christian services. It was interesting to hear references to certain Old Testament scriptures and how they were similar to the ones I had heard. While I do know that there are significant differences, it was intriguing to identify the similarities. Another interesting aspect of the sermon was how much emphasis was put on community service and doing good unto others. I never realized Islam has so much emphasis on doing good towards the community. After the service we were then able to take a few minutes as a group and learn about the the religions of Islam. One of the primary things we learned was the five pillars of faith, which are:
- Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
- Establishment of the daily prayers;
- Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
- Self-purification through fasting; and.
- The pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able.
We were also given the opportunity to ask any questions we had regarding the religion and it was amazing to see that many presumptions people associate with Islam for the most part aren’t even close to their beliefs. I went to this event because I wanted to broaden my horizons and really understand culture and religion of Islam. I am thankful to say that I was not disappointed. The people at the mosque were very kind and did not make me feel like I had to do anything that I didn’t want to do, rather they truly wanted me, and the other students, to know and understand Islam. This experience also taught me how much of a sacrifice it is for Muslims to practice their religion. In my Christian Faith, we are only required to go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and are able to pray at our leisure. People of Muslims however, are required to attend services on Fridays, which can be an inconvenience because of the American work schedule. Muslims are also required to pray five times a day in relation to certain positions of the sun. So this experience really opened my eyes to see what an Islamic follower really has to go through to practice their religion.
Another thing that I found interesting was the food that they provided for us. They took us into a building beside the mosque and immediately my senses were filled with the aroma of heavenly authentic Bosnian food. Another interesting fact I didn’t’ know- Bosnians are particularly famous for their pie-like dishes. Some of the dishes we were able to experience were Bureks, Cevapi,Pita Zeljanica and rice.
Overall this was a great experience and I was happy to be invited to take part in this educational experience. It’s amazing to see what you can learn when you step out of your comfort zone.