Muslims are always delighted to show others their place of worship. It allows them to share something very dear to their heart. Muslims hope however, that visitors observe certain rules of conduct during their visit.
Non-Muslims commonly use the term mosque to describe the place where Muslims worship, however the correct term is ‘Masjid’.
Clothing in a Masjid
Clothing should be modest for both men and women. This means an ankle length skirt or trousers, which should not be tight fitting or translucent, together with a long sleeved and high-necked top. A headscarf is usually essential for women. Before entering the prayer hall the custom is to remove your shoes and place them on a rack. Clean and presentable socks, stockings, or tights are therefore a good idea.
Entering a Masjid
Men and women usually enter the prayer hall by separate entrances. Visitors may be greeted by the Arabic greeting “As-salam Alaikum” which means “peace be upon you.” The answer, if the visitor chooses to use it, is “Wa ‘alaikum-as-salam”, which means “peace be upon you too”. Do not offer, or expect, to shake hands with people of the opposite sex. Before entering the prayer hall or prayer room, Muslim men and women perform wudhu or cleansing ablutions if they have not already done so earlier or from home. This is not necessary for non-Muslim visitors who do not join in the prayer.
The Prayer Hall
Remove your shoes and enter the prayer hall quietly. Muslims sit and pray on the floor in the prayer hall. Chairs are available for visitors in the rear of the prayer hall. If you choose to sit on the floor, then avoiding pointing your feet in the direction of the Qibla (the wall with the niche or alcove in it, indicating the direction of Makkah), unless a medical condition makes this the only possible posture. If visiting as a group during a time when prayers are taking place, sit together toward the rear of the hall.
Worship in the Masjid
When salat (Arabic for prayer) or namaz (in Persian/Urdu), one of the five daily prayer is in progress, visitors are welcome to observe. The salat generally lasts five to ten minutes and is lead by the Imam. He leads the congregation from the front and faces towards the direction of Makkah, as does the rest of the congregation. The congregation will form straight lines and act in unison during the entire prayer and follow the motions of the Imam. The Imam recites some portions of the prayer loudly and some portions silently. His recitations are short verses of the Quran (Muslim holy book), but the rest of the congregation follows his actions silently. If a visitor arrives when the prayer is in progress, he or she should find a place near the rear wall and quietly observe the prayer. There are no sacred or holy objects in the masjid, except copies of the Quran on bookshelves along the side walls or elsewhere in the prayer hall. Muslims do not make sacred offerings or carry out blessing of food during salat. The only gestures expected of visitors are to remove their shoes, act respectfully in the prayer hall and silently observe the ritual of prayer.
The Community Halls are used for community gatherings and the place where food is served. These areas are for socializing and there are no requirements for removing shoes and the conversation is usually loud. Most visitors are welcomed in the Community Halls before being escorted to the Prayer Halls. There are separate Community Halls for men and women in the Islamic Center of New Mexico.