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FAQ

  • Q1- Why are there no pictures or statues in the mosque?
  • Answer-
  • As a matter of fact, it sounds better if the question is put the other way: Why should there be pictures or statues at a place of worship? Since the sole object of worship is GOD -- the One and Unique, and the incomparable GOD -- pictures and statues have no relevance to the mosque.
  • Islam is a religion founded on pure monotheism. Furthermore, it takes care of protecting its pure monotheistic character by blocking all means and ways which may dilute this character. Keeping pictures or statues of living beings would gradually lead to their veneration, then ultimately to some kind of deification, and thus a deviation from monotheism.
  • Interestingly, the concept is in harmony with the First Commandment in the Bible.
  • However, if the idea of keeping pictures and statues is for aesthetic reasons, then the mosques can be decorated by some other ways, such as by Arabic calligraphy using Qur'anic verses, by Arabesque designs, by floral and geometrical designs, by beautiful architecture, stained glass panes, etc.
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  • Q2- Why do Muslims have to pray 5 times a day?
  • Answer-
  • We have to first understand that the performing the Islamic prayer is not simply an unmindful ritual. The prayer establishes a direct link between man and his Creator. It instills and invigorates God-consciousness in man. Praying 5 times a day is in fact a manifestation of a loving submission to God.
  • Prayer is like ‘spiritual food’. As we need to eat and drink three or more times in a day to keep our body fit, similarly we need to take care of our spiritual health by praying different times a day. Prayer when performed correctly purifies the human soul and keeps him away from committing sins. It is like cleansing ourselves by taking bath so many times.
  • Prayer is our duty towards God, ordained by God Himself for our own good. God does not need our prayer (or anything else for that matter); it is we who need it in order to maintain our true human nature, by not losing the sight of our role and responsibilities towards the Creator and towards the fellow creatures.
  • The prayer times are spanned throughout the day and night such that the person remains in full awareness of God, while being busy in the worldly affairs of life fulfilling his various mundane needs.
  • Praying 5 times a day is not a big deal, since it takes only a few minutes for a person to perform the prayer.
  • By the way, it would be interesting to note that the practice of praying at different times in a day did exist even prior to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). We notice some glimpses of this in the Bible.
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  • Q3- Is the Imam like priest? And how is he appointed or selected?
  • Answer-
  • In order to answer this question, we first need to clarify the role of Imam in Islam.
  • The role of the Imam is to lead a congregational prayer and to guide people in matters related to faith. He has no special religious hierarchy or authority such as to forgive sins or to listen to confessions. He leads a normal life like other people, i.e., he can marry, have children, and take another job to earn livelihood.
  • In a congregational prayer, if the Imam appears late, or is absent at the prayer time, any other person from the congregation (who knows how to lead congregational prayers) can replace him; then this person becomes the Imam at that time.
  • Priests on the other hand have special religious authority to listen to confessions of sins by members of their congregation. In some denominations, such as Catholic Church, the priests are not permitted to marry, and have to be devoted totally to their profession and be full time pastors.
  • In order to smoothly facilitate the congregational prayers 5 times a day in a mosque, usually an Imam is appointed. Generally, an appointed Imam is paid for this duty, but there are Imams who lead the prayers voluntarily.
  • An Imam is a respectable person, selected mainly on the basis of his ability to recite the Qur’an in a proper way, his knowledge of Islam, and his good conduct.
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  • Q4- Why do Muslim women have to be covered?
  • Answer-
  • Almighty God ( Allah) has established a dress code for both men and women in the Holy Qur'an to protect their dignity and modesty. In chapter 24 of the Qur'an (Surah An-Noor) verse 31, God commands believing women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and not to display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appears thereof. And that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their brothers or their brother's sons or their sister's sons etc….. In principle, Muslims should not wear clothing that is skin tight, transparent or attracts the opposite sex. Since the hair and hair style is an important part of a woman's beauty looks and may add to her attractiveness, women avoid displaying the area by covering the hair also. According to the tradition or saying of the Prophet (pbuh), nothing of a woman's body should be publicly visible except her face and her hands.
  • Attraction between men and women is a natural urge. This is how God has created us. The same God has also prescribed certain dress code for both men and women, enjoining them to be modest in dress and behavior. This is to channel their natural impulses in a proper, wholesome way.
  • Man particularly has a stronger drive towards woman, especially towards her body and looks. As such, in public her dress code is to cover her body in such a way that is not revealing. This way it helps both men and women to protect their modesty and dignity, and to keep the society healthy -- physically, psychologically/mentally, morally, and of course, spiritually.
  • A modest dress code is suggested in other religions also. In fact, the scanty dressing of women of modern times has been a relatively recent phenomenon in human civilization.
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  • Q5- Why do women wear black and men wear white clothes?
  • Answer-
  • Women to wear black clothes or men to wear white clothes is not a religious requirement. The Islamic dress code does not specify a particular color, but recommends modest colors. It is mainly an individual’s choice, which is usually influenced by the local culture and/or climate.
  • However, most women in the Arabian Gulf countries prefer to wear black Abayas because it is least attractive and it is not transparent even if it is made with light material.
  • As far as white color for men's clothes is concerned, the white color has its own merits. It reflects simplicity, it suits well for the hot climate, and also it generates in a person some consciousness to be neat and clean. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) liked this color and has recommended for men especially for Friday and Eid prayers.
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  • Q6- Why do women pray separately from men?
  • Answer-
  • The Islamic ritual prayer is a spiritual experience of the mind and the heart. At the same time it also involves body movements from one position to another -- standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. Worshippers have to stand together in straight rows, shoulder to shoulder, and make unified movements up and down.
  • Were men and women to pray together side by side, it would create distraction and lack of concentration in prayers, by which the very purpose of prayers would be affected or lost. This is why women are usually located in an area for prayers either behind the men or in a separate section.
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  • Q7- Do the patterns on the wall have any religious significance?
  • Answer-
  • What you see on the wall is actually a pattern of Arabic calligraphy. Its only religious significance is that these are verses from the Qur'an (the Holy Book of Islam). Such patterns are not a requirement for the mosque, but rather add to the aesthetic sense of the mosque environment.
  • The Qur’anic Arabic is written in a variety of calligraphic styles. This particular calligraphy in this mosque is called ‘Kufi’ style.
  • The meanings of these verses can be found in any translation of the Holy Qur'an in English, French, German, or any other language. A free copy of the English translation is available upon request.
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  • Q8- Why do Muslims bow and prostrate in the prayers?
  • Answer-
  • The Islamic ritual prayer involves the positions of standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting, and specific supplications are made in all these positions. This is the way Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) had prayed and taught his followers. The Prophet (pbuh) himself had been taught by Angel Gabriel (pbuh) in this manner.
  • Each position expresses humility, adoration and reverence to God, while the climax reaches in prostration. According to a saying of the Prophet, a person is closest to Almighty God while he or she is in prostration.
  • Bowing and prostration is an act of devotion reserved exclusively for God, the only legitimate object of worship. Muslims are not allowed to bow or prostrate to any being other than God, the Lord of the universe.
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  • Q9- What is the purpose of prayer beads and mats? Do you always have to bring them to the mosque?
  • Answer-
  • There is no Islamic requirement to bring prayer beads or mats to the mosque.
  • The prayer beads can be used as a tool for keeping counts of one’s supplications which are normally recited after ritual prayers (e.g., Glory be to God, 33 times; Praise be to God, 33 times; God is Most Great, 34 times; and also ‘I seek forgiveness from God my Lord’, ‘there is no deity worthy of worship except God’, etc., many a time). However, there is no religious significance of using beads. The Prophet (pbuh) did not count these supplications with prayer beads, nor did his companions; they rather used the fingers of the right hand.
  • Since it is required to prostrate on a clean surface, Muslims use the prayer mats at a place where it is not clean, such as outside the mosque, or while traveling. But if the surface is already clean, such as inside a mosque, then there is no need to bring one’s own prayer mat.
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  • Q10- What is the difference between the Sunni and the Shi'a sects of Islam?
  • Answer-
  • The terms Sunni and Shi`a denote groupings within the community of Islam, but not based upon differences in fundamentals of belief (Shi`a literally means party). The difference is essentially on the concept of successor ship to the Prophet (pbuh).
  • Sunnis hold that the Prophet did not designate anyone to succeed him as the leader and head of the Muslim state after his death, and thus the first four caliphs were rightly chosen from among the people, while Shi`as hold that the Prophet designated Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his successor, and that the leader of the Muslim community should be from among the Prophet’s descendants through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali. Ali, however, was the fourth chosen caliph, accepted by Sunnis.
  • The political difference on the succession the Prophet, that started at the time of his death, remained and continued among Shi`as. They held it hard to the extent that later on certain strange beliefs and practices crept in their community. However, Shi`as are 10 - 15 % of the world Muslim population, concentrated mainly in Iran.
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  • Q11- Why in some countries women cover their faces, e.g., in Saudi Arabia?
  • Answer-
  • There is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars regarding the need to cover the face for the women, based on their interpretation of the Qur’anic verse ( 24: 31) which states that (in translation of the meaning) "… they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what [ordinarily] appears thereof."
  • Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that the face of a woman is her most beautiful aspect and hence needs to be covered. However, the majority of Muslim scholars consider that the face of a woman is not included in this divine injunction; this is supported by a tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) which states that: "No part of a woman should be visible in public after she attains puberty except her face and her hands."
  • In some societies women cover their faces because of their local culture and tradition.
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  • Q12- Who selects the Imam, Khateeb and Muadhin? What religious powers do they have?
  • Answer-
  • In Bahrain, the Imam (one who leads the congregational prayers), the Muadhin (one who calls for the prayers), and the Khateeb (one who delivers the Friday sermon) are appointed by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs. There is a special committee which normally interviews candidates interested in becoming Imams and Muadhins, while the Friday Khateebs are appointed directly by the Ministry.
  • It is possible for an Imam and Muadhin to be nominated by the community members of the mosque, if the mosque is built by a local charity organization or financed by donations from the community and businesses. This procedure may differ in other Muslim countries.
  • Neither the Imam, nor the Muadhin, nor the Khateeb have any religious or divineauthority beyond their respective roles for which they are appointed or selected
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  • Q13- What is the Khutbah (sermon) on Friday about?
  • Answer-
  • The Khutbah (sermon) on Friday is divided into two sections, with a break for a minute in between. The first part of the Khutbah will normally consist of reminders to the Muslims regarding their religious duties towards God and towards other humans, and to encourage the Muslims to fulfill these religious obligations. (This will last about 15-20 minutes). The second part of the Khutbah may be a continuation of the first part, or it may include any issue or subject -- political, economic, social, cultural, or moral -- having a bearing on the community.
  • The length of the Friday Sermon can vary between 20 minutes to 1 hour. In most cases it averages about 30-40 minutes.
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  • Q14- Why are we not allowed in the mosques in Saudi Arabia? Can we go toMakkah?
  • Answer-
  • Every country has its own rules and regulations which the visitors, as well as the residents of the country, have to abide by. For example, in USA, Europe and other countries there are certain "restricted" or "off limits" areas, where civilians are not allowed even to come close to them, such as, military installations, and other strategic areas. The same situation applies to Saudi Arabia where the mosques are by the laws of the country "off limits" to non Muslims.
  • As for non-Muslims going to Makkah, these cities are not tourist sites, but rather the holiest places of spiritual fulfillment for Muslims, where strict monotheistic character of Islam in its pristine purity is preserved. The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to maintain this special character of these areas by not allowing non-Muslims there (cf. 9:28).
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  • Q15- Is the meaning of Jihad "Holy War"?
  • Answer-
  • No. Jihad does not mean ‘holy war’. "Jihad" is one of the most misunderstood terms, usually interpreted as waging a war against non-Muslims, or indicative of religious intolerance. “Holy war” (harbmuqaddasa) is not at all an Islamic term, nor does it occur in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s traditions which are the basic sources of Islamic teachings. Rather it was a term used by Christians to refer to the crusades and the wars against Muslims.
  • The Arabic word “jihad” means “to exert one's utmost efforts, to strive, or to struggle". The concept of "Jihad" in Islam covers many aspects. As the Prophet (pbuh) explained, the prime Jihad is at the level of one’s own self, to struggle against one’s evil inclinations, for self- purification – the inner jihad. At another level, it is a struggle to remove or fight evil and corruption in the community – the social jihad; but this is to be done by using just and fair means and in a wise way.
  • Another level of struggle is on a wider scale, which is aimed at defending Islam, removing oppression, and restoring peace and justice in society. It is not intended for material and political gains, nor is properly motivated when carried out with ethnic or nationalistic prejudices. At this level of Jihad, force (an armed struggle) is allowed but under strict conditions, such as not to kill or harm women, children, the elderly, clergymen, and in general all non-combatants. To defend oneself against an evil, or against oppression, is in fact a basic human right.
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  • Q16- Why do Muslims refrain from eating pork?
  • Answer-
  • Prohibition of eating pork is a Qur’anic injunction, and this fact itself is sufficient for Muslims to abide by it. Muslims do not question the divine injunctions, since they believe that these cannot be whimsical, but rather beneficial to man; there is always some wisdom behind them. It is a different matter that we humans may or may not understand this wisdom fully. It is like listening to a specialist physician’s medical advice. When we do not hesitate to follow the dietary and other prohibitions from the specialist, understanding well that the advise is for our own good, it should not be surprising if an advice from GOD, the Supreme physician, is accepted wholeheartedly.
  • Interestingly, the Bible also prohibits the consumption of pork as is stated in the book of Leviticus: "And the swine, though he divide the hoof and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud: he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat and their carcass shall ye not touch, they are unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8)
  • Viewing from the non-religious angle, we notice that the pig is, by nature, a filthy animal and feeds on mud, feces and dirt. As such its meat is not healthy or suitable for human consumption.
  • It has been scientifically established that consumption of pork causes several diseases (about 70 different types of diseases some are even fatal). The pork meat contains many parasites such as round worms, pin worms, hook worms and tapeworms etc. The tapeworm is most dangerous; it harbors in the intestine and is very large. When entering the blood stream, the eggs of the tapeworm can cause memory loss, heart attacks and even blindness depending upon which organ they affect. They can damage almost all the organs of the body. Another incurable disease caused by eating pork is trichinosis (a skin disorder).
  • Another interesting point is that the pig is the most shameless animal. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. And as we know from real life experiences, you are what you eat.
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  • Q17- How do you get married in Islam, if you are not allowed to date prior to Marriage?
  • Answer-
  • In Muslim society, members of the opposite sex do see or meet each other during family visits or special occasions. However, the concept of dating is different; they can see each other and talk only within the prescribed limits of accepted behavior. If a man wants to marry a particular girl, he can propose to the father or guardian of the girl through his own father or guardian. It is also permitted to have an engagement period usually ranging from 6 months to 1 year in order to give the couple a chance to get to know each other better prior to signing the marriage contract. However, during the engagement period, they are not allowed to sit alone or go out alone by themselves unless they are accompanied by a chaperon (usually the girl's younger brother, who should be at least 7 years old).
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  • Marriage can also take place by arrangement through the intermediaries, without involving the process of dating in person.
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  • Q18- Is divorce allowed in Islam? Are divorced men and women allowed to re-marry?
  • Answer-
  • Yes, Muslims are allowed to divorce, but divorce is discouraged and detested. According to a saying of the Prophet (pbuh), among all permitted things in Islam, divorce is the one most disliked by God.
  • Divorce is the last resort, when all other means to avoid it have been exhausted; among them: a) Reminding the transgressing party to fear God, and to be considerate b) Abstaining from sexual relations c) Arbitration of dispute through representatives from both parties.
  • Divorced men and women may remarry. However the women are required to observe a waiting period (termed "iddah", which is three menstrual cycles) to ensure that no pregnancy exists.
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  • Q19- Why alcohol is prohibited in Islam?
  • Answer-
  • Since time immemorial, alcohol has been found to be the root cause of many problems in human society, both at an individual as well as social level. The Islamic stance on prohibitions is that:
  • Islam prohibits all harmful things (intoxicants included) for the protection of our body, minds, honor, dignity, religion, wealth and property.
  • Islam stops the wrong at the very inception and not at the end, as it blocks all the avenues to the wrong.
  • Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol as it is the most effective tool for Satan to destroy man by leading him astray from the path of God and keeping him away from the remembrance of God.
  • Effects of alcohol on an individual:
  • Alcohol is a highly addictive psychoactive drug, perhaps more so than any other drug. (About six million Americans persistently misuse it and another 8 million are permanently addicted to it.)
  • Alcohol befogs the mind and prevents rational thinking. It acts on the CNS (Central Nervous System). When a person is intoxicated, he or she loses the power to reason, his/her mind is blurred, and hence he/she may commit shameful and evil deeds without realizing what he/she is doing.
  • Alcohol is detrimental to health. Of the many, some alcohol related diseases are: 1) Cirrhosis of the liver. 2) Cancer of the, esophagus, head, neck, liver and large intestine. 3) High blood pressure, heart attacks, other heart diseases, strokes, fits and different types of paralysis. 4) Certain diseases affecting brain and memory. 5) Irritation of the stomach and interference with absorption of vitamins, minerals and othernutrients, gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers. 6) Alcohol can contribute to obesity due to its high calorie content.
  • Many people spend years in and out of treatment centers with their lives wrecked as well as of those close to them. Most of such outpatients suffer from illnesses such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
  • Alcohol may cause financial ruin to the addicts, especially in poorer societies.
  • Effects of alcohol on a society:
  • Alcohol causes road accidents and loss of innocent lives.
  • Alcohol may give rise to the occurrence of domestic violence, divorce and broken homes.
  • Alcohol is the cause many crimes such as, rape, murder, incest, adultery, etc.
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  • Q20- At what age are children taught prayers or required to fast and pray?
  • Answer-
  • It is not obligatory for children to perform prayers or to observe fasting until they attain puberty (generally at the age of around 15 for boys, and 12 for girls). However, they are taught and encouraged prayers and fasting from an early age , which can be earlier than 7 years.
  • According to a saying of the Prophet (pbuh), we should teach our children how to pray by the age of 7 years, and to be strict with them from the age of 10 years. Children are encouraged to pray with their parents at home, or to accompany the parents to the masjid even prior to the age of 7 years. Similarly, they are encouraged to fast even partially.
  • Training from an early age helps them later to perform the religious duties with familiarity and ease.