Posts Tagged London Central Mosque

A Visit to the London Mosque

24 March 2012

London Mosque from Regent's Park

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the London Central Mosque with a group of students from a Christian university in the U.S. who were studying the topic of Middle East relations. As we arrived at the mosque, the air was filled with a mixture of nervousness and anticipation: this was a new experience for most of us. What would it be like?

Our Guide Omar

We waited a few minutes at a guard station for Omar, our escort, to arrive. The women we saw were all much more heavily veiled than we were, even though the women in our group had taken care to dress modestly and to cover their heads with scarves, as had been recommended to us when the tour was set up.

We seemed to stir up a bit of curiosity among the mosque-goers. Omar, who is the chief PR person for the mosque, was an excellent and genial host. He had a heavy beard, was very young (probably mid-20s), of Afghan background and therefore darker skinned, with a white skull cap. He was in Western dress – a button-down shirt and trousers.

A Lesson in Mosque Etiquette

Before we walked into the prayer hall, we were required to remove our shoes and put them on shelves – a shoe rack of sorts. I wish I’d had time to read the sign that outlined mosque etiquette but we were moving too quickly. At a glance, I saw that one of the first rules was that anyone coming for prayer should refrain from eating onion or garlic or anything that would cause bad breath and distract other people. That might be a good rule for our churches as well! They were also admonished to wear clean socks. Women should refrain from wearing perfume because it might excite desire among the men.

After removing our shoes, we all sat down on the carpeted floor in the middle of the prayer hall to listen to Omar. It was a stunningly beautiful room, more beautiful and full of light than any cathedral I’ve ever seen. But, then again, I kind of overdosed on cathedrals as a child growing up in France so perhaps what I admired was the novel aspect of the architecture.

Point to Ponder: Pray Continually

Muslims pray five obligatory prayers per day, and are encouraged to do so in congregation with other Muslims. This encourages a discipline and builds a sense of fraternity and community among those who pray, and an opportunity for them to exchange thoughts and help each other with problems. Can you imagine the wonderful things that could happen if Christians prayed fervently five times a day, every day? Consider putting this theory into practice and setting an alarm on your phone or other device to go off at five preset times during the day as a reminder to drop everything and focus on what’s most important: God and prayer.

Barefoot Inside the Prayer Hall

It helped that the hall was decorated in my favorite color: blue. The room was domed and the ceiling painted in different shades of blue. Just below the domed ceiling were beautiful Arab inscriptions, also in blue. There were bookshelves along part of the wall. No icons, no pictures, no statues.

It was pretty quiet, this not being a Friday or the mosque’s most popular prayer time, with people (only males) praying or sitting in small groups. Some were lying on the floor (one guy was snoring until his mobile phone – another mosque no-no – woke him up).

Omar was a very good teacher, using a question and answer method. One of the first things Omar clarified was that removing shoes is in no way an act of worship. It’s just common sense: it’s to keep the carpet clean. He spoke for nearly an hour about the five pillars and I found his method of explanation very clear and easy to understand. I was struck by how sincere and passionate he was about devotion to God, about prayer, about giving to others, about fasting and about his own pilgrimage to Mecca.

A Poignant Moment

The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful as he spoke and there was a nice breeze floating in from the open windows. It rather reminded me of nursery nap time. A scene that really marked me was the sight of a little blond-headed boy, probably about two years old, kneeling to pray beside his dad.

A visit to a mosque, while perhaps controversial for some Christians, can be an excellent way of gaining insight into the Islamic faith and of praying for Muslims “on location.”

For a suggested half-day’s itinerary of the Regent’s Park area of London, see Walk 5: Parks & Recreation.

PrayerWalk London: The London Central Mosque

9 April 2011

The last excerpt of PrayerWalk London took us from Park Crescent, south of the Regent’s Park, through Harley Street to St. Marylebone Parish Church. This part of the route takes us clockwise around the park to London’s Central Mosque.

London Central Mosque

Visitor information. The Islamic Cultural Centre & The London Central Mosque. 146 Park Road, London, NW8 7RG. Tel. 0207 725 2213; 0207 725 2152. Email: info@iccuk.org. Website: www.iccuk.org. Guided tours by appointment only.

London Mosque from Regent's Park

The idea of building a mosque in London was originally put forth by Lord Headley, an English convert to Islam. After several decades of advocacy, a prime building site on the edge of Regent’s Park was presented to the Muslim community by the British Government as an “unconditional gift.” Construction of the mosque began in 1974 and was completed in 1977.  

The main hall can hold 5,000 men, with women praying separately on a balcony overlooking the hall. The mosque includes six important features: 

  1. The mirhab, a special room where the imam (spiritual leader) stands to lead the congregation in prayer. It also helps indicate the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
  2. The minbar, or pulpit, where the imam stands to deliver sermons on Fridays, the Muslim holy day. Every Muslim man is required to attend jumu’ah (congregational) prayer on Fridays.
  3. The minaret, perhaps the most visible part of the mosque as it reaches to the sky and can be seen from miles around. A muezzin stands in the minaret to deliver the call to prayer.
  4.  The dome, a common architectural feature of mosques. The London dome is crowned with a crescent. The dome serves the practical purpose of helping with the acoustics and air circulation within the main prayer hall.
  5. The facilities for wudu, or ritual washing, which are crucial in a mosque as they provide a place to wash and purify parts of the body before prayer. The washing areas are separate for men and women. 
  6. The library, an integral part of a mosque, because the Prophet Muhammad taught his followers that seeking knowledge was obligatory to their faith. 

Point to Ponder: Pray continually 

Muslims pray five obligatory prayers per day, and are encouraged to do so in congregation with other Muslims. This encourages a discipline and builds a sense of fraternity and community among those who pray, and an opportunity for them to exchange thoughts and help each other with problems. Can you imagine the wonderful things that could happen if Christians prayed fervently five times a day, every day? Consider putting this theory into practice and setting an alarm on your phone or other device to go off at five preset times during the day as a reminder to drop everything and focus on what’s most important: God and prayer.

If Time Permits: Prayer Hall

A visit to the mosque, while perhaps controversial for some Christians, can be an excellent way of gaining insight into the Islamic faith and of praying for Muslims “on location.” Check in at the security gate at the Park Road entrance. Out of cultural respect, women should consider covering their heads with a scarf before entering. If positions were reversed and a Muslim were visiting a Christian church, wouldn’t we be grateful for his consideration in not removing his shoes?

Prayer Points

  • Pray against any religion and any creed that hinders or prevents knowledge, sets itself against the knowledge of Christ and that does not acknowledge Christ for who He is – The one and only Savior of the world, the Way, the Truth, the Life.
  • Pray that God might continue revealing His Son to Muslims through dreams and visions of Jesus Christ, as is happening throughout the Middle East.
  • Pray that Christians might lead lives so blameless through the help of God that their Muslim neighbors have nothing to hold against them.
  • Pray that true friendships might be forged between Muslims and Christians and that without ignoring our fundamental differences we might realize and respect what we have in common: sincerity in our search for God and for the Truth, zeal in our worship and proselytizing, and a deep faith and conviction that God is real and governs the lives of men.
  • Pray that God might move on the heart of Christians and grow both their desire to pray and their discipline to make prayer a priority.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

PrayerWalk London: “Parks & Recreation” Highlights

5 March 2011

Walk 5

Parks & Recreation: Regent’s Park and Marylebone

Summary of Area

Have you ever wondered what Londoners do in their free time (besides going to pubs)? Uncover the secrets of “London at rest,” as you wind your way along a scenic canal dotted with picturesque houseboats, enjoy spectacular views from one of the highest hills in London, amble through the king’s former hunting grounds, discover a garden with over 400 varieties of roses, and wind down in a street voted “Best Street in London” by listeners of the BBC.

Key Facts

Boating Lake, Regent's Park

  • Starting Point: Park Crescent  (Station: Regent’s Park)
  • Finishing Point: Marylebone High Street (Station: Baker Street)
  • Days to Avoid: Rainy days — but seeing as this is London, grab an umbrella and head out anyway
  • Best Day: Sunday
  • Length of Walk: 2 miles
  • Time Needed: 60-90 minutes

Walk Highlights*

1. Park Crescent. Dramatically curving set of “flats” designed by architect John Nash in 1821.

2. Regent’s Canal. Picturesque, houseboat-dotted canal built in 1820 that stretches eight miles from Little Venice to the Docklands.

3. Primrose Hill. 256 ft-high hill with unbroken skyline views of central London. Surrounding area often associated with the superstars who live there.

4. Regent’s Park. Designed by John Nash in 1812 as a royal park. Bounded by Regent’s Canal to the north and surrounded by terraces and villas.

5. Queen Mary’s Gardens. Described as England’s largest and best rose garden and located in an area of Regent’s Park formerly used as a botanical garden.

6. Marylebone High Street. Quiet shopping street lined with restaurants, boutiques and cafés.

*As mentioned in my previous blog, this manuscript is a work in progress. Each highlight above currently links to Internet sites providing general information. Eventually they will link to sections of PrayerWalk London.