faith · Islam · Life · Life, the Universe & Everything · Scouting

Visiting Telford Central Mosque (A Scouting Adventure)

On Sunday, we loaded a coach with Cubs, leaders, and a few Scouts and Exploders (aka Explorers to normal people… but we are not normal), and headed off to visit Telford Central Mosque who invited us to come and learn about the Islam faith with them to help towards our World Faiths badges, and also to learn more about other cultures in our local area.

I had never visited a Mosque before, so I was quite excited to learn more about Islam and how Muslims practice from a more personal view than what I learned in GCSE RE years ago.

We were welcomed into their schoolroom to begin with, removing our shoes and then settling together on the floor whilst the Imam (what would be a minister or vicar in a Church) introduced themselves and got the kids (and us grown ups!) to share what we knew (or thought we knew) about Islam and what happens in Mosques.

One of the first things I learned is that I have been saying Islam and Muslim wrong since forever. They should both be said with a soft ss sound, rather than a harsh z, so Mu-ss-lim rather than Muz-lim, and Iss-lahm rather than Iz-lam. The z sounds come from us reading the words with Western pronunciation, rather than looking at them as Arabic words, which is what they are.

We also learned that the Arabic word for Mosque is Masjid.

Once it was established that when it came to famous Muslims, most of the Cubs could come up with footballers and boxers, the Imam shared a powerpoint presentation with us about the history of the Islam faith.

I knew that there was crossover between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, but it was really interesting to learn about how they can all be traced back to Abraham (or Ibrahim) and that they ultimately all share the same God, just call Him by different names (God/Jehovah/Yahweh/Allah), and that Muslims are taught to accept and respect Judaism and Christianity as sister faiths, as they are historically older than Islam and all share faith in the same Creator.

The divide came with Abraham and two of his wives – Sarah, mother of Isaac, lead to the Hebrew-based religions of Christianity and Judaism, whereas Hajar, mother of Ishmael, lead to the Arabic-based religion of Islam.

After this we learned about the word Islam itself means ‘submission’ and also ‘peace’, to be a Muslim is to submit to the teachings and beliefs of Islam, and in doing so finding peace with themselves and the world.

The Imam told us about how there are five pillars of Islam – five things Muslims must do to keep their faith strong throughout their life:

Shahada (The Profession Of Faith) One becomes a Muslim first by reciting the following with conviction and faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

Salat (Prayer) – Muslims pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark – facing Qibla, either on their own or together and guided by an Imam in a Mosque. They often pray on mats or rugs specially for the purpose of prayer, and Friday is their Sabbath day with prayers and a lecture or sermon at noon in the Mosque.

Zakat (Charity) – All Muslims are committed to donating some of their income to charities and to helping others in their community. This act helps to purify them from greed and cleanse their souls for Allah.

Sawm (Fasting) – During Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims are expected to fast during daylight hours for thirty days – this is to renew their awareness of and gratitude for everything Allah provides, and acts as a reminder of the hunger and thirst suffered by others in the world, which their Zakat helps to relieve.

The final pillar is Hajj (Pilgrimage) – Every Muslim who has the health and finances to allow it, should make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

A tiled floor in red and white diamond pattern, shimmers in the daylight.
The entrance hall floor was very pretty and super sparkly, my picture entirely failed to capture the glitter.

Then we learned about the three most holy sites for Muslims – the Al Asqa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Masjid ar-Rasul in Medina, and the Masjid al-Haram (including the Kaaba) in Mecca, and why they were important.

The Al Asqa Mosque is believed to be built near the site in Jerusalem where Muhammed (pbuh) tied his horse by the Western Wall before he ascended to Heaven, and where the Scales of Judgement are going to be placed on Judgement Day.

The Masjid ar-Rasul, or The Prophet’s Mosque, is the second most important holy site for Muslims and is where the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is buried along with other important figures from Muslim history. There is also an empty grave beside where Muhammed (pbuh) is laid, which is for Jesus when he returns to Earth. Another belief that the Islam and Christian faiths share – whilst he is not their main religious figure, Jesus is still an important Prophet to Muslims.

The third and most important holy site of all is in Mecca, the Masjid al-Haram or Grand Mosque, which is the home of the sacred Ka’bah building. (This spot is also considered by many to be the ‘centre of the world’, with weird natural magnetic stuff happening there and compasses not working).

The Ka’bah is a cuboid building draped in black silk, the foundations of which are believed to have been laid by Abraham himself, and is also called Bayt Allah or the House of God, and it represents the Qibla, or Direction of Prayer for Muslims to face when they are reciting their daily prayers. This means that no matter where in the world a Muslim finds themself, they will be in unity with everyone else during their prayers and facing the same direction as one.

Tori and I in our headscarves and uniforms outside the Mosque.

We then all moved into the main prayer hall itself, which had special carpet that indicated the direction of Qibla, and a large clock on the wall showing the prayer times for the day (the times change with the seasons/daylight hours).

We talked about the features of the room that can be found in Mosques all over the world:

The minbar, which is the equivalent of a pulpit in a Church, which takes the form of a set of stairs which the Imam stands or sits on to lead sermons and lectures on a Friday or at events.

There is a carved niche at the front of the hall from which the Imam leads prayers – as they also face Qibla, they have their back to the rest of the room which can make it hard to hear for those attending. Whilst some Mosques these days have sound systems and microphones to solve this, the smooth curved niche naturally reflects sound back into the room, making it easier for the congregation to hear the prayers.

Finally there is the distinctive dome which makes many Mosque buildings recognisable from miles away. The Telford building doesn’t have an external dome – it was originally a military building back in the day – but they do have a small internal dome set into the ceiling of the prayer hall. The purpose of the domes is as a natural cooling system from before the days of air conditioning, the warm air rises to the top of the dome and then cools as it drops down the side of the dome – important in the hot Arabic countries where Mosques were originally designed for.

We were then shown around the main entrance of the building and the special wash rooms where people go to wash their hands and feet before entering the prayer hall for prayers. This act of washing purifies the body and helps them to focus and clear their minds ready for their prayer time.

After this we returned to the school room and all sat down together for snacks and drinks, until it was time for Asr prayers where we were allowed to sit quietly at the back of the prayer hall and watch the Imam lead the prayers for members of the Mosque.

Then it was time to herd the rabble back onto the bus, say our goodbyes to our hosts, and trundle on home.

This trip ticked off a big chunk of the Cubs’ World Faiths badge but was also good fun and I learned a lot, so hopefully the Cubs did, too!

Our next trip is to Cadbury World, which I have been to before but not for about 15 years, which doesn’t count towards a badge, but does involve chocolate so it’s just as exciting. (Hmmm, I wonder if I can find a chocolate themed badge for my camp blanket…)


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