Public worship

Key facts about IslamBBC, 2003 AND 2013; GUARDIAN, 2003

Tawhid is the Muslim belief that Allah has no equal, so to worship anyone or anything else is considered shirk. Muslims may love and respect the Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, but they do not worship him as he is not divine and not equal to Allah.

Muslim place of worship

Public worship takes place in the mosque. The muezzin (mu'adhdhin) calls the people to prayer, sometimes from a minaret. Salah is led by the Imam, a man chosen for his knowledge of the Qur'an.

The Imam leads the people in the rak'ahs. At Friday prayers, also called Jumu'ah, he preaches a sermon using words from the Qur'an. The Friday prayers are obligatory for men.

Before worshipping Allah, Muslims perform ritual washing called wudu, to prepare for prayer.

  • Sunni Muslims wash their hands, mouth, nose, face, arms, forehead and hair, ears and feet three times - in that order.
  • Shi'ah Muslims wash their face first, then arms and use the moisture to wipe their head and feet.
  • If there is no water available, clean sand may be used.

When they enter the mosque, Muslims remove their shoes and sit on the floor facing the qiblah or prayer wall which orients them in the direction of Makkah (Mecca).

Together they complete several rak'ahs of Salah, which involve recitations from the Qur'an and a series of bodily movements including prostration, with forehead, hands, knees and feet touching the floor. Afterwards personal prayers called du'a may be said.

Women may attend the mosque but sit separately from men.

Use and significance of symbolism in public worship

Mosaics with complicated patterns decorate many mosques, but there are no images of Allah, Muhammad or any other human or animal figures. Allah is considered to be beyond human understanding and therefore cannot be portrayed. Pictures or statues of other human figures are avoided because they could mistakenly be worshipped, which would be idolotry or shirk, which is one of the gravest sins in Islam.

Instead, calligraphy is often used to decorate the walls of the mosque with important passages from the Qur'an.