WOKING, Surrey – Over 250 Mosques across the UK opened their doors to visitors on March 3rd as part of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Visit My Mosque open day.
The oldest purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, took part in the program with four offerings: A chance to look inside the historical mosque, with its dome and turrets, unique in every respect; an exhibition in one of the prayer halls; activities such as henna; and refreshments that included traditional South Asian treats such as samosas and pakoras.
From midday till 3 pm, smiling, friendly, and happy volunteers greeted men, women, and children as they made their way to the property even during the winter rains.
The property is divided into three parts, the old architectural beautiful mosque, the newly converted warehouse into prayer halls for men, women, and activities, and a library building in which snacks were served.
With many people visiting the mosque for the first time, AboutIslam explored their opinions, feelings, and reflections on the visit.
“It’s my first time in a mosque in the UK, but I have been to mosques in other countries, in the Middle East. I don’t know what the differences would be to mosques here, but I know that some of those are absolutely huge, in Qatar, the UAE, and Oman. I didn’t see any praying there as we were in separate areas. They weren’t geared up for tourists, so it felt quite authentic.
“We (my friend and I) were talking about doing different things, and as I haven’t been to a mosque in the UK we thought we would come today and do something a bit different. We are keen to read some of the information and see what it is like.”
Claire from Cranleigh
“I’ve never been to a mosque before so I thought it would be interesting to come along and see what it’s like.”
Claire from Surbiton
“Really just wanted to introduce the girls, our children, to another religion, so they understand a little more about it. I saw this on this internet, that there was an open day. It’s great to see the building as you always see a tiny little sliver of it as you drive past. It’s great to show the girls the different architecture. It’s beautiful. I didn’t even know there was anything like this in Woking. I was really surprised.”
Lydia and Mark from Ripley
“We came from South Wales today, from Cardiff, to see the first mosque that was built in the UK today. It’s a beautiful mosque. Inviting people from all different cities to discover the religion of Islam, which is a peaceful religion; and it’s here for anyone who wants to learn and move forward. It’s very well organized, the building is very well maintained, and it’s good to open it up to the community, to learn about new things and the religion.”
Ahmed and Caroline
“This is my home town, born and bred. I was last here on a school trip about 25 years ago. It’s a great opportunity to come back and see it through adult eyes. I’ve obviously grown up a lot in 25 years and it’s nice to see this again. Somewhere so close to home, it’s nice to support the local community as well with open days and open events, and this is a great one to come to. The architecture is stunning, absolutely stunning. It’s a shame we do not have a blue sky, but it’s still a very nice building.
Anthony, Photographer for Woking News & Mail
“It’s an open day at the mosque and we are just trying to encourage people to learn a bit more about Islam. Opening ourselves up to everybody to see what goes on. Ramadan at the mosque is amazing, we have tarawih prayers and there is iftar for everybody attending the mosque as well. I think (this open can) can alleviate unknowns I suppose that people may have about coming to mosques about people being different and not like them. Everyone is welcome to come along and see what goes on.”.
Annabel near Guildford and Amna from Woking
“I live in Woking, I’ve been living here all my life. We are inviting the wider community into the mosque, to explore the mosque and the history of the mosque and to learn more about Islam. I try to come to the mosque every day if I can.
“I think there is a lot of stigma against the Muslim community a lot of the time, my message is that our doors are always open, and you are more than welcome to come in and to find out more about us, as we are part of your community and you are part of our community as well”
Danyal, Mosque Volunteer
“I grew up here. My father always wanted us to pray our five times daily prayer here. When I grew up here I thought let’s have something for the community. One thing I introduced was archery. I’m a level 1 instructor, so I do sessions for ladies, men, and children. It is strengthening from what it was before. It is our job to see it through to ensure that it lasts not now, not a hundred years, but until the Day of Judgment.
The thing is, about Islam itself, two things that go well together, it is food and happy days. Food is the essence of greeting people. What better way to bring people in than to say have a samosa, an onion baji, some biscuits, a cup of tea. It brings people along”
Abdul Qayyum, Mosque Committee Member
With Islamophobia at an all-time high, this initiative is designed to bring communities closer together by sharing the spiritual space of the Muslim community. While any person can visit a mosque at almost any time, having a dedicated day to do so allows visitors a day to discover more about their local community. And any effort which brings communities together has to be a step to improved relationships, something which helps make a life for us all, beautiful.
As part of this year’s Visit My Mosque Day, under the auspices of Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), volunteers from over 250 mosques in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland supported street clean-up initiatives on Sunday, February 24.
Woking Mosque in the snow
Woking Mosque @ShahJahanMosque in the #Snow
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— Farrukh (@implausibleblog) March 18, 2018