Visitors are welcome in most mosques throughout the year. Many mosques are not only places of worship, but are used as community and education centers as well. Non-Muslim visitors may wish to attend an official function, meet Muslim community members, observe or learn about our way of worship, or simply admire the Islamic architecture of the building. Below are some common-sense guidelines that may help make your visit both respectful and pleasant.
Finding a Mosque Mosques are found in a variety of neighborhoods, and there are many different sizes and styles. Some may be purpose-built, elaborate examples of Islamic architecture that can hold thousands of worshippers, while others may be located in a simple rented room. Some mosques are open and welcoming to all Muslims, while others may cater to certain ethnic or sectarian groups.
In order to locate a mosque, you may ask Muslims in your area, consult a worship directory in your city, or visit an online directory. You may find the following words used in a listing: Mosque, Masjid, or Islamic Center.
What Time to Go After you decide which mosque to visit, it may be best to reach out and learn more about the site. Many mosques have websites or Facebook pages which list prayer times, opening hours, and contact information. Walk-ins are welcome in some more-visited places, especially in Muslim countries. In other places, it is recommended that you phone or email ahead of time. This is for security reasons, and to be sure that someone is there to greet you.
Mosques are usually open during the times of the five daily prayers and may be open for additional hours between. Some mosques have special visiting hours set aside for non-Muslims who wish to learn more about the faith. Where to Enter Some mosques have common areas that are used as gathering rooms, separate from the prayer areas. Most have separate entrances for men and women. It is best to ask about parking and doors when you contact the mosque ahead of time or go with a Muslim community member who can guide you.
Before entering a prayer area, you will be requested to remove your shoes. There are shelves provided outside the door to place them on, or you may bring a plastic bag to hold them with you until you leave. Who You Might Meet It is not required for all Muslims to attend all prayers in the mosque, so you may or may not find a group of people gathered at a given time. If you contact the mosque ahead of time, you may be greeted and hosted by the Imam, or another senior community member.
If you visit during a time of prayer, especially Friday prayer, you may see various community members including children. Men and women usually pray in separate areas, either in separate rooms or divided by a curtain or screen. Female visitors may be guided to the women’s area, while male visitors may be guided to the men’s area. In other cases, there may be a common gathering room where all community members mingle.
What People Will Be Doing During prayer, you will see people standing in rows, bowing, and prostrating/sitting on the floor in unison, following the leadership of an Imam. You may also see people making these movements in individual prayer, before or after the congregational prayer. Outside of the prayer hall, you will see people greeting each other and gathering to talk. In a community hall, people may be eating together or watching the children play.