Short Answer: Mosques differ. Some are very rigidly divided according to gender while others follow the sunnah. Some are very welcoming to new-comers, and to women, while others are not. There are a few things to know before you enter, as far as proper mosque etiquette, but prayer is basically the same as praying at home, just follow the imam. Keep this is mind: mosques are physical buildings with human people inside, and some may let you down. Don’t be discouraged. Keep looking for a community that will support you, and branch out into online communities, as well, for support. We are all in this together.
Firstly, let me congratulate you on coming to Islam. I, myself, am a revert of almost nine years.
So I know how difficult it can be to try and find a place for yourself in your community.
I understand how difficult it can be to go to a place that is unfamiliar to you, surrounded by people you do not know.
Taking the first step can be unnerving.
Mosques Differ from Community to Community
Different mosques operate differently.
I have been to mosques where men and women enter through separate doors.
And I have been to mosques where they enter the same way and there is a common area, but the praying areas are separate.
I have been to mosques with no common area whatsoever.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to your questions.
Finding a Mosque to Attend
I would advise you to get started by looking for local mosques online and checking out the mosque website and/or Facebook page for the nearest mosque to you.
You might be able to get a feel for the community through pictures or posted events.
I recommend looking for mosques that offer services for reverts, though this is not entirely common, in my experience.
This is a great website that will arrange a visit to the closest mosque to you!
Upon Entering the Mosque
Before entering the mosque, there are some things to keep in mind, as far as etiquette.
Check to see if there is a separate entrance for women. In my experience, if there are separate entrances, they are usually clearly labeled.
Make sure to remove your shoes and place them on the racks that usually stand right near the door.
People place their faces on the carpet, so we don’t want to be tracking in dirt and debris and bacteria from the streets.
As far as praying in the mosque, for congregational prayers you follow along with the imam.
If you are in a mosque where the imam is not visible and you are uncertain of what to do, look at what the women around you are doing and imitate them.
But, having been Muslim for two years, you are likely already capable of performing salaah.
Doing it in the mosque is not much different from doing it at home.
Be Realistic: Mosques Are Full Of Human People
I wish I could tell you that all Muslim communities will welcome you with open arms, as they welcomed new Muslims in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
While I have been fortunate enough to have found a mosque that is very welcoming to newcomers, that is not an experience that people have across the board.
It’s very common to have people pressuring new Muslims (especially women) to marry quickly.
Even in a friendly community, having a strong backbone is important.
For Western reverts, it is common for us to crave a community to connect with.
Some of us are fortunate enough to find other Muslims to engage with, while others of us have negative experiences and feel jaded by this.
My purpose for telling you this is not to try to discourage you from attempting to connect with a community, but just to give you a realistic picture of what to expect.
In fact, I do encourage you to try to find a mosque that is welcoming.
Think Outside the Proverbial Mosque Box
Whether or not you are successful in your endeavor, I also encourage you to take advantage of the Islamic communities of the 21st century.
It can take some digging to find the right group for you, but I am a member of a handful of online communities centered around Muslims that I enjoy.
I have formed some very real friendships with women I have met online, reverts and women raised Muslim, alike.
Going to the mosque in and of itself can be intimidating the first time or two, but it is something that you can become acclimated to.
Engaging in communal prayers is rewarding, in my experience.
Connecting with a community is not quite so easy, but whatever path feels the most comfortable to you, I hope, insha’Allah, you find a good way to connect with other like-minded Muslimahs.
I hope this help. Please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)