After my first Mosque visit – see my previous posting for that story – it was a while before I went to another Mosque. First was in a large hotel when I was traveling on business – but I was alone in the prayer room.
Next….. was Istanbul. I am so amazingly fortunate! I was able to go to these enormous, beautiful, historic mosques.
And this is where I really gained insight into what it means to pray in congregation – or at least an insight.
I was still a bit nervous going in to pray, and I definitely caused a bit of confusion. Heading to the Blue Mosque for Asr I was greeted with shouts of, “Lady. Lady! The Mosque is closed to tourists. Lady!” I did not break stride, I just kept going until I found the place for wudu for women, where I received more looks of confusion. Then I went into the Mosque and entered the woman’s area.
It was a bit before Asr still. There was a small group of women in a corner chatting, a young woman sitting in the window reading a book, an older lady peeking over the partition at the men’s area, a couple of other women praying according to their own rhythm, and children running in and out and all around.
And, if I am really honest, there was also the smell of feet. But that could have been me as my shoes were in my bag that was just in front of me, and it was a very hot day.
As we reached the time of prayer, the place was packed and we all prayed together in our little section of the Mosque. It was wonderful.
I went to a different Mosque each day I was in Istanbul, and it was a similar experience to varying degrees depending on the time of day that I was there — women chatting quietly, praying, lying down, reading.
And it occurred to me. The women’s section is a total coffee klatch but without the coffee! A place to go think, rest, chat and – of course – pray. And how wonderfully this supports, or is the result of, the importance of community in Islam.