Encountering Different Sacred Spaces

In this piece, we share a Muslim reflection on visiting a church and a Christian reflection on visiting a mosque.

A graduate of Islamic Studies at the Islamic College in London

Visiting the church of Northcote road for their Bible study session with two other fellow Muslims was a very calm and insightful experience. Michael and Glynne who run the sessions welcomed us in at the entrance while they were preparing. They led us to the corner where some others were and gave us each a handout; sitting quietly in the dim-lit church along with six others felt close and friendly.

Everyone started and ended with a prayer, and the topic of discussion was from the passages of the Bible which were to be read the following day. Some of the things mentioned in the session were very similar to the view Muslims have and Michael kindly pointed this out acknowledging our presence.

We later got to take some pictures of the artwork in the church and there minimalist greenary decorations and coloured candles. It would’ve been nice to see further into the church (i.e. areas where the choir group sing, where the preistly garments are put on, etc) but overall it was a pleasant visit.

Sarah Quinn is training for ordination in the Church of England at Cranmer Hall, Durham.

I felt very warmly welcome at Madina Masjid. I contacted them in advance and they warmly encouraged me to come and made time to sit and chat with me and show me around. The Masjid is near the centre of Newcastle in a very residential area, which was quite nice to see as it sits right in the middle of the community. When I entered I took off my shoes and we sat and chatted and they let me ask a lot of questions. Then I watched one of the prayers before we chatted some more and reflected on the worship.

Here are a few things that we discussed:

  • The role of the Imam who is leading prayers is to bring unity. Everyone is equal in the community and stands shoulder to shoulder, worshipping together, and the Imam is one of the community and is leading them so that they can worship as one.
  • There is great importance in education. You only need to know what you need to live well, but it is important to know that, and to look into or learn about the best way for you to do each thing in life. If you are unsure you should find out.
  • Modesty is a blessing rather than oppression.
  • There is a heightened responsibility for men to worship at the Masjid. This is not to exclude women but is enabling the woman to remain at home. Men do not have the same responsibilities at home and therefore should attend the Masjid.
  • Muslims must acknowledge Jesus as prophet as this is in the Qu’ran, but it is disrespectful to say that Jesus is God as it reduces God to human attributes. Jesus was the only prophet since birth because he spoke prophetically from the cradle.

One of the main things I took away from the worship is the view of the role of the Imam as bringing unity. I would appreciate the adoption of this more in Christianity, particularly in my denomination the Church of England, as the role of the Priest. I love that everyone stood next to each other rather than spreading out, and that Covid has not taken this away from them. It was beautiful to watch them worshipping as one and whilst I appreciate and wish to maintain the variety of worship in Christianity, I believe we could learn a lot from how Muslims pray together.

We also talked a lot about how it is difficult to live in a society that is so unreligious. It is difficult because society largerly does not understand what faith and worship is and so make assumptions about what Christians and Muslims are like based on our religions. It also makes it more difficult to live ethically or according to what we believe to be right because it is getting further and further from the ‘right’ of society. Finally, it is difficult because the struggle of living in a society that is not of your religion means people are drifting away from faith. In some senses these difficulties were more pronounced for the Imams I was talking to as we live in a nominally Christian society, but we shared a lot of concerns and struggles in this regard. It was refreshing to talk so openly about these difficulties and to support each other in that.

I am very grateful to Imam Abdullah Kola, Imam Ali Asad and everyone at Madina Masjid for welcoming me and answering my questions and I look forward to meeting again in the future as we serve God in the North East.


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