Although I have visited the Islamic country of Turkey, heard the call for prayer, and been in several mosques, I never realized how much I didn’t know about Islam until I spoke to a practicing Muslim in detail about their religion and visited an islamic mosque not visited daily by tourists. I visited the East Cobb Islamic Center which was established in 2009. I was not able to get much information on their history but I heard about them through an ecumenical service held annually at Temple Kol Emeth that they regularly participate in.
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A few years ago, they had a speaker from their community that spoke on the welcoming atmosphere of their small community, which I was privy to when I visited. This small community is surrounded by neighborhoods and they service many muslims in the area but they said on holy occasions, they have slightly less numbers because some decide to go to a large mosque instead to feel a larger community. They also have religious education for children before puberty while everyone else in the family would pray once they reach puberty. Although they are a small community, they said that they are continuing to grow and provide religious engagement in service to Allah.
The East Cobb Islamic Center (ECIC) demonstrated many of the core beliefs of Islam through their actions and words. A man named Abdul who acted as my guide spoke about Tawheed or monotheism which is the core of Aqeedah or Islamic Theology. Tawheed underlines three essential aspects about God in Islam: the oneness of God’s lordship, the oneness of the worship of God, and the oneness of the names and qualities of God. The oneness of God’s lordship means that Allah is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Oneness of the worship of God was explained as Allah having the right to be worshiped, prayed to, giving charity in the name of. This aspect of Tawheed encompasses the pillars Salah or daily prayer to Allah and Zakat or giving to the poor. The oneness of the names and qualities of God means to only qualify God as he qualifies himself or the prophets of God have named him by. In the Qu’ran God is known by 99 attributes, some of which are translated as “”The Most-Beneficent””, “”The Most-Merciful””, “”The Most-Holy””. These names allow Muslims to have an understanding about the nature of God. Tawheed seems like shahadah but through research I learned that Tawheed is the overarching theme that is lived out through the pillars of Islam. Without Tawheed, there is no belief in Islam. Tawheed is essential in understanding the first pillar shahadah or the profession that Allah is the one true God and Muhammad is His messenger. If a Muslim does not believe that Allah creates, organizes, plans, and sustains the universe then there would be no point to being a Muslim because they would not believe Allah is the one true God.
When I first entered the ECIC wearing my hijab I had to remove my shoes and wash my feet, face, and hands. The room where I entered was small and beautifully tiled. As I washed my feet I had a similar experience to Shira Dicker and the Mikveh Bath. I felt incredibly humbled as I purified my body to enter into what Eliade called sacred space. I felt as if I was washing away my sins and even in that room before I entered the prayer area I felt a holy presence. The sacred space in the ECIC was evident by the beautiful tile in the cleansing room and then plush carpet in the prayer room that ECIC had made an effort to distinguish between the profane outside space and the sacred inside space to create a feeling of theophany. The ECIC also demonstrated Eliade’s axis mundi theory by being built to face Mecca. The prayer room had a screen of changing times for prayer based on the time for sunset and was laid out so every Muslim would be able to face east towards Mecca for prayer. In this way, Mecca acts as the axis mundi for Islam because it is the center of prayer, focus, and the world to Muslims. The pillar the hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca once in someone’s life if able reinforces that their holy city of Mecca is their axis mundi.
In conclusion, the East Cobb Islamic Center provided me with a better understanding of Islam by allowing me to speak with a practicing Muslim in detail about their religion and practices. Eliade’s theory on profane/sacred space and axis mundi were both prevalent to me and hold true in the context of my Islamic experience.
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