MA: THE FAITH BEHIND THE MOSQUE
Visitors streamed into the main hall Sunday at the Islamic Center of Burlington, taking in a buffet-style lunch with pizza and submarine sandwiches, reading laminated wall posters explaining the tenets of Islam.
They chatted with mosque volunteers and watched snippets of a PBS video, "Mohammed: Legacy of a Prophet."
For organizers, the open house event, "Discover Islam," was a way to invite residents of area towns, especially those of other faiths, to gain a basic understanding of Islamic beliefs and practices.
The open house activities included two tours, and two of the five prayer sessions Muslims observe daily.
Visitors removed their shoes to enter the two prayer rooms, one for men and one for women. Gathering in the men's prayer room, they listened to an explanation of prayer as a daily duty, but also as a respite from the petty cares of life and a chance to focus on a relationship with God.
The call to prayer begins with the words "Allahu Akbar," meaning, "God is most great" in Arabic, the universal language of prayer in Islam.
"Allahu Akbar - the prayer itself, it's for our creator," said Ali Rabbani of Woburn, president of the mosque's board of directors. "It will prevent us from thinking about other things - your grocery list, your job, your wife, whatever."
Rabbani pointed to the ornate prayer rugs, lined in rows at a slight angle, to orient them toward the direction of the Kaaba, a sacred site in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia.
"The mosque, or masjid, it's not just a place for prayers," Rabbani said, adding that the mosque is a center of learning and community.