Whether to experience the religious culture and atmosphere or admire the towering minarets and elaborate architectural designs, people of many faiths visit and view the exteriors and interiors of mosques throughout the world. Prior to visiting the structures designed for members of the Islamic religion to worship Allah, or God, visitors should learn the proper attire, rituals and behavior needed to show respect to the Muslims who welcome all to discover more about their religion and houses of worship.
Attire worn in mosques should be modest for both men and women. Women are expected to wear ankle-length dresses and skirts or loose trousers with long-sleeved tops and conservative necklines to ensure that the majority of their skin is covered. Women should also cover their hair with headscarves, which are often provided free of charge by mosques. Men should wear slacks or jeans with plain, basic-colored long-sleeved shirts. Both men and women should remove their shoes prior to entering mosques and leave them in or on the provided racks or lockers. Many mosques will provide cover-ups for men and women wearing inappropriate attire.
Men and women should look for separate entrances prior to entering mosques and enter through the proper ones. It is customary to enter mosques by putting your right foot before your left. It is also respectful to respond to mosque greeters, who will welcome you with the phrase “Assalamu alaikum” or “Peace be upon you,” with the phrase “Wa alaikum assalam” or “Peace be upon you too.” It is not acceptable to shake hands with members of the opposite sex in mosques. When leaving mosques, you should leave with your left foot before your right.
Most mosques allow men and women to visit during the prayer times that occur throughout the day at pre-dawn, dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and night. However, it is advisable for visitors to stand near the back of a mosque while prayers are in progress or outside the mosque if the prayer hall is full. Most mosques post the prayer times for those who wish to avoid the religious worship. In addition to remaining quiet during prayer times, visitors should avoid sitting with their feet facing towards the wall used to signify the direction of Mecca, the holy city of Islam and the direction in which Muslims are intended to pray.
Showing respect for the people and the religion is essential when visiting mosques. It is important for men and women to speak in soft and quiet tones inside mosques, to preserve the atmosphere for those who are there to pray. Visitors should also avoid bringing or consuming food or drinks inside mosques, especially during periods of fasting. While taking pictures is often permitted, they should not be taken during prayer times and should not include those who are there to pray inside the mosques. It is also polite to refrain from smoking or using a cell phone in or around mosques.
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