THE IN-FIELD EXPERIENCE ASSIGNMENT 7
Religious:The In-Field Experience Assignment
Ivividly remember it was a moon sighting ceremony that was meant tomark the beginning of the month of fasting for the Muslims (Ramadan).I was attending this event to have an experience with the Muslims.This was an exceedingly unique day since it was my first day toexperience how Muslims conduct themselves during a religious ceremonyas well as my first day to enter a mosque. Being my first day tovisit a Muslim ceremony, I was nervous. I had made earlierarrangements concerning my visit with the Imam of the mosque, whichwas the venue for the moon sighting. The Imam urged me to attend theceremony early and warned me that being late for such a ceremonywould portray me as a disrespectful person. The ceremony wasscheduled to start at exactly 6:00 P.M. therefore, I started myjourney early enough so that I arrive before the scheduled time formoon sighting. By 5:00 P.M, I was on the road driving heading towardsthe mosque. Along the road, I was keen to notice men, women, andyoung adults heading in the same direction of the mosque as I was. Iobserved that they had a unique dress code, where the male wore whiteclothes while females covered the whole body apart from the hands andthe face. At first, I did not understand the history behind theirdressing. Otherwise, I continued with my journey as I enjoyed thecool music from the radio of my car. Upon arrival, I parked the carin the parking lot, and I could tell that Muslims take religiousceremonies seriously from the number of vehicles that were around.
Immediately,I called the Imam who sent someone to welcome me. From that point, Istarted to note that Muslims do their things in a totally differentway from what I thought throughout my life. For instance, I noticedthat there are no delays in starting a ceremony, and they strictlyfollow a program. Moon sighting was scheduled to take place outsidethe mosque, but before sighting the moon, the Imam was to conduct ashort mass in the mosque to inform people how they were expected tobehave after sighting the moon.
Thefirst thing that I noticed is that Muslims respect their places ofworship. Before entering into the mosque, all had to remove shoes andwash faces, feet, and their hands, which I came to learn wasconsidered as a sign of purity. Another thing that revealed to methat Muslims consider mosques as holy places is the fact that thefloor was covered by glamorous carpets having unique patterns. Thiswas strange to me as I was used to seeing carpets in residentialrooms, but not in places of worship. I felt like I was in a palace. Iexpected to find chairs inside the mosque, but there were no chairsand people sat on the carpets. The mosque was beautifully built withattractive interior designs. By 6:00 P.M, the ceremony had alreadystarted, and all the people remained silent while listening to themessage from the Imam. Imam had started with warm greetings before heembarked on the teachings of the day. In the process, I observed thatMuslims uphold high discipline while in their worship places. This isbecause, throughout the service, people did not make any unnecessarymovements as I see in my local church.
TheImam explained everything about moon sighting and Ramadan. He saidthat if we happen to sight the crescent moon (Hilal), then it was thetime to start Ramadan. Ramadan is a month which Muslims consider holyas they fast from the morning to the sunset solely as a sign ofdevotion to the commandment of Allah. Fasting has to be voluntary,genuine, include a lot of prayers, and sharing with the lessfortunate in the society. Furthermore, Muslims believe that there arehealthy benefits of fasting during the Ramadan such as boosting theirimmune system, improving the sensitivity of insulin, boosting the waythe brain functions, and self-enlightenment. In addition, I was ableto clear the misconception that Muslims fast during the Ramadan toexperience what the needy people and the hungry experience. Iconfirmed that this is not true because even those people who areneedy also fast during Ramadan. The process of fasting during theRamadan involves denying oneself food, sexual intercourse, and water.Moreover, people have to avoid back-biting others and telling lies soas to have a holy and fulfilling Ramadan.
Surprisingly,I was able to learn that there is a group of Muslims who are exemptedfrom fasting during the period. These are people who are sufferingfrom chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension among others.Suckling mothers, women having their menstruation periods, andtravelers are also exempted from fasting, but they are supposed tofast afterward. While still in the service, I observed that when theImam read some verses from the Koran, people would recite the versesand after hearing other verses they would bend forward.
Afterthe Imam had explained entirely everything about the Ramadan, peoplewere requested to gather outside the mosque where the ceremony was togoing to its climax. The Imam took binoculars and started to sightthe moon. After a few minutes of silence, the Imam shouted that itwas time for Ramadan. I automatically knew that he had sighted thecrescent moon.
Afterthe ceremony, I got a chance to have a dialogue with the Imam andenquire further about the dress code as well as whether there areother religious ceremonies among the Muslims. The Imam started byexplaining about other ceremonies present in Islam. He indicated thatthere are five pillars of Islam. All these pillars are essential toMuslims’ faith, which includes Ramadan (the first pillar),confession of faith (shahada), ritual prayers (salat), Alms tax(zakat), and pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
Ritualprayers constitute the second pillar of Islam that is performed fivetimes in a day. This is during the dawn, midday, late in theafternoon, just after sunset, and before midnight. I understood thatMuslims pray to unite the body, mind and soul. Alms tax, also knownas Zakat, is the share of one’s wealth that goes to the poor in theIslamic land. There is a portion of what every Muslim has saved thatshould go to the needy people. Zakat makes the third pillar of Islam.Shahada is considered to be the fourth pillar of Islam. Pilgrimage,also known as Hajj, is a religious duty that is usually carried outonce in a lifetime of every Muslim, who is physically fit andfinancially able, to visit Mecca. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam.
Finally,the Imam explained to me about the dress code that I noticed amongthe Muslims. I learned that women are supposed to wear clothes thatconceal the whole body apart from the hands and the face. Thesedresses are known as the hijab. The Hijab are not supposed to betight or translucent. On the other hand, Muslim men are supposed towear clothes that cover the body from the navel to the knees andshould not resemble the women’s clothes. Again, men’s clothes arenot supposed to be translucent just like those of women.
Toconclude, I had a wonderful learning experience, and I came tounderstand that I pray the same God that the Muslims pray, which wascontrary to what I thought before I visited Islam. However, I came torealize that Islam is unique in the way Muslims celebrate religiousceremonies. I was also able to note that Muslims respect mosques andpurity is valued among Islam. Furthermore, I observed that Muslimsare very united, and they care much about the needy individualsamongst them. Moreover, I learned about the key pillars that Muslimsfollow as part of exercising their faith. It was a great learningexperience that every non-Muslim should desire to have since it helpsin understanding other people’s faith. From the experience I hadwith the Muslims, I can now be in a position to identify with theirreligious ceremonies without fear of what will be expected of mesince I now know how to behave when associating with them. Hence, theincident with the Muslims was an important learning lesson that madea great impact in my life. Indeed, I would desire having some amoment in the near future.
Warner,B., & Center for the Study of Political Islam. (2010). Sharialaw for the non-Muslim.Nashville, Tenn.: Centre for the Study of Political Islam.
Interviewwith the Imam