It all comes down to prayer at the Woodland mosque

By Sara Hedberg

There were three other women and myself.  I was the only woman without a hijab around my head last Friday at the Islamic Center of Twin Ports (ICTP) prayer gathering.

“It is just like your Sunday morning,” said Muhammad Haris Vohra, a student who regularly worships at the ICTP.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are 35,000 households in Duluth. Vohra estimates approximately 70 of those are Islamic families.

Before entering, everyone removed their shoes, men and women alike. I sat on the floor with the other women behind a glass-paned wall.  One of the women greeted me with a smile and told me her name was Nasreen Hussein.

Men were spread out on the floor in front of me, all facing the same direction.

“When we pray we face the city of Makkah, in Duluth that direction is northeast. When I am in Pakistan it is a different direction, the idea is that everyone prays at the same time, all facing this one place,” Vohra said.

As the men entered the room I noticed that they would bow half way down to a 90-degree angle, come up, and then bend all the way over twice. Vohra later told me that this entire sequence is called a rakts, and when you enter the mosque you complete the sequence twice.

The gathering occurred around 1:30 p.m., during the second prayer of the day called Zuhr. Vohra said that they pray five times each day. The prayer time before Zuhr is called Fajr, it is the early-morning prayer and it should happen when the sun is about to rise. They pray again when the sun has almost gone down, and then again when the sun has completely set. The final prayer is called Isha; it happens when everything is completely dark.

As I listened to the speaker it sounded very similar to the sermons I’ve heard over the years at church. The message was not exactly the same, but the concept was: to encourage followers to trust what they believe in and follow the righteous path.

After the message, just like at my church, they talked about events and things going on during the up coming week in their community. And just like every Sunday, they didn’t fail to bring up money and the need for donations.

Everyone quickly stood and moved closer to the front to pray. It felt like the final hymn at church when some members of the congregation stay and sing, and others leave after the first verse. Some stayed and prayed longer than others, Hussein came over to me and explained what they were doing, and encouraged me to ask questions if I had any.

As each individual finished prayer, they looked to their right and then to their left.

“I think there is somewhat the same concept in Christianity,” Vohra said. “We believe that you have two angels, one sits on your right and the other on your left. One of the angels writes down all of the good things that you do, and the other writes down all of the bad things. The good should out weigh the bad, like heaven and hell. At the end of prayer you greet both of your angels, acknowledging them.”

As each person walked out the door and down the stairs to go back to work, back to their homes, back to school, I realized maybe we are more alike than we think.

Location of the ICTP: View 145 W Winona St in a larger map

Related article: Woodland mosque may face forced closure


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