Islam in America

Islam in America

Islam in America

Islam in America

Synopsis

Most Americans are only vaguely aware of the Muslim community in the United States and know little about the religion itself, despite Islam's increasing importance in international affairs and the rapid growth in the number of Americans who call themselves Muslims. Now a foremost authority in the field has crafted a richly textured portrait of the Muslim community in the United States today. Jane I. Smith introduces the basic tenets of the Muslim faith, surveys the history of Islam in this country, and profiles the lifestyles, religious practices, and worldviews of American Muslims. The volume pays particular attention to the tension felt by many in this community as they attempt to live faithfully, adhering to their traditions while at the same time adapting to an alien culture that appears to many Muslims to be excessively secular and materialistic. The book also covers the role of women in American Islam, the raising and educating of children, the use of products acceptable to Muslims, appropriate dress and behavior, concerns about prejudice and unfair treatment, and other issues related to life in a country in which Islam is often misunderstood.

Excerpt

On Friday shortly after noon in the small inner-city mosque, primarily African American, the worshipers slowly gather. A man who has volunteered to vacuum before each prayer service makes certain that the carpets are clean to receive the foreheads of those who will soon bow in prostration to God. Each person removes his or her shoes before entering the worship hall, placing them in a wooden rack near the front door. The carpets, which are really thin runners, are arranged so that those gathered for prayer will be facing in the direction of Mecca, indicated by a plaque in the front of the hall. The room is bare of furniture except for a lectern in the front and a few folding chairs in the back for those who are unable to sit on the floor. Arabic calligraphy on the wall proclaims the Basmalla, or invocation— "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate"—with which all chapters of the Qur'an save one begin. The vacuum stops. Worshipers, who have performed their ablutions in the basement before entering the prayer hall, individually prepare themselves for participation in the communal worship. A man rises, faces front, puts his hands behind his ears, and sings out the call that will begin the service: "Come to the prayer, come to the time of felicity...." The imam steps forward, and the ritual begins.

For the Muslim, prayer is not simply a mental or spiritual attitude or even just a matter of thanksgiving of the mind and heart. It involves a total bodily response, not simply sitting but putting oneself through a series of complete prostrations. For that reason, mosques do not have chairs or pews. Each of the five daily prayers consists of a series of ritual bowings and bendings (each called a raka') accompanied by the appropriate prayers and . . .

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