Open Cambridge: the ABU BAKR MASJID

In a city where the Islamic community is pretty slim, one might think that during the Open  Cambridge  days  everyone  would  do  all  the  major  landmarks  in  the  city  and  no  one  would be interested in visiting a random mosque. Surprisingly enough, there were lots of people interested in knowing more and more about Islam and all that comes with it: from how Muslims do the prayer to the 5 pillars of Islam, the visitors who attended this session spared the guide no question.
street-view The building

We started our tour by visiting the mosque and as we wandered  in  it,  the  guide  kindly  enough  explained  several  things.

First  and  foremost,  the  guide  explained  to  us  why  the  Mosque was called “Abu Bakr Masjid”. Abu Bakr was one of the Prophet Muhammad apostles. Furthermore,  ‘Masjid’  literally  means  ‘place  of  prostration’  because when Muslims pray they prostrate to ask Allah for forgiveness and thank him for the many blessings.

The particularity of Abu Bakr Mosque is that it was once both a catholic church and a synagogue ! It then became a mosque in the end of the 20th century.
There are 4 prayer rooms. The main one is where the imam is. Men can pray in this room. The women pray upstairs in a room where there is a television and loudspeakers, so that they  can hear and see the imam and pray  too. The Mosque opens two other rooms  when there are a lot of believers, especially on Fridays (up to hundreds of people). The rest of the week fewer people come (mostly in the evening).

prayer-room

A place to pray…

Of  course the Mosque is firstly an official building for believers to come and pray. In Islam,  the  prayer  (or  salah)  takes place 5 times a day and each  prayer  has  a  specific  time.

The  first one  (Fajr)  is  done at dawn, the second one  (Dhur) at  mid-day,  the  third one (Asr) is prior nightfall,  the  fourth  one  (Maghrib) takes place at the  night fall and the last one (Ichaa) takes place late at night.

To an extent, we got an understanding that Muslims worship God by praying and by performing good deeds and avoiding bad ones. An everyday activity can be considered an act of worship when performed solely for the sake of God.

The  mosque  also  focuses  on  teaching  and studying the Quran : there are islamic teaching  circles  and  lectures  about  various  subjects.
In between  prayers,  people  are  welcome to come and read the  many  books in english or in arabic (Quran,  religious  books) on the shelves. People can come to find answers to their questions in addition to their prayer. There is also a bigger building nearby which only deals with Islamic studies (the Islamic center).

The Five Pillars of Islam

During  our  visit  to  the  Cambridge  Mosque,  the  guide  showed  us  an  exhibition regarding the Five Pillars of Islam, the main framework of Muslims life.

testimony-of-faith

The  first  pillar  is  the  testimony  of  faith  (shahada).  The  worshipper  must  clearly say  ,  « La  ilaha illa Allah,  Mohammad our  rasoulou  Allah ».  « La  ilaha  illa  Allah » means  that  there  is  no  other  deity  than  Allah  so  only  Allah  can  be  worshipped, and  « Mohammadour  rasoulou  Allah »  means that Mahomet is Allah’s prophet.

The  prayer  (salah)  is  the  second  pillar.  Muslims have to pray for a few minutes five times a day in order to create a link between God  and  the  worshipper  and  god.  There  are  precise moments to pray. These moments are the  dawn,  noon,  mid-­‐afternoon,  the  sunset  and during the night. The aim of the prayer is to  feel  Allah,  that  is  to  say,  happiness,  peace  and well being.

The  third  pillar  consists  in  charity:  muslims  have to give money to the poorest (zakat). As everything  belongs  to  Allah,  muslims  have  to  give  at  least  2.5%  of  what  they  have  to  the needy. It gives  them  the  opportunity to  purify  themselves  and  what  they  own  because  it stimulates a new growth.

The  fourth  pillar  (sawm)  consists  in  fasting  during  the  month  of  Ramadan.  Each  year, muslims  fast  from  dawn  to  sunset,  they  don’t drink or eat. While they fast, muslims are  purified  because  they  can  understand  what the poorest have to bear and grow in their spiritual life.

The pilgrimage to Makkah (haji) is the fifth and  the  least  of  the  pillars  of  Islam.  Muslims have to do this annual pilgrimage, which takes place  in  the  twelfth month,  at  least  once  in  their  life.  Every  year,  at Makkah,  there  are  around  two  million  people,  from  all  over  the  world  gather there.

author-photo

(By Cassandre Carat, Oumaima Hadi and Marine Garaïcoechea)

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