“A Visit to the Jerrahi Masjid”
By Arshe Ahmed*
This is the story of two people and a random masjid visit. The two people are myself, Arshe, and my husband, Sohaib. And the masjid is the Jerrahi Order Masjid in Spring Valley, NY.
Anytime we travel, one of the things we enjoy looking up are nearby masjids. And the purpose is two fold: to find a space where we can offer prayer and see how different communities have setup their mosques in terms of architecture and layout. So one Saturday in Ramadan, we found ourselves in Rockland County, NY. After a day of activities, we wanted to find a place to pray ‘Isha (night prayers) and Tarawih (extra night prayers in Ramadan).
As we drove in, a kind gentleman helped guide us to an open parking spot. We walked toward the masjid building and saw many lights decorating the grounds that created a festive atmosphere.
As we reached the actual building, the first thing that crossed my mind was: where is the women’s entrance? Can this one door serve both men and women? It’s a common question many women ask themselves anytime they approach a new masjid space.
We entered through the same entrance. It was a small hallway that was beautifully decorated with colorful geometric patterned tile work. The tile works adorned the door and the walls throughout the building.
We placed our shoes on the shoe rack and entered the main musalla (prayer space), again, through the same door. The layout of the space was ingenious. The women’s space was raised a bit and diagonally carved but there wasn’t quite a demarcation of the beginning and end. And as such, the space flowed without disruption. It created a feeling of separation between the genders while also allowing for everyone to be in one space, in one community.
As I entered, I smiled at the women sitting and they smiled back. We offered our individual prayers and then we stood for the congregational prayer. There were some unique aspects of the prayer that created a sense of togetherness. Certain phrases were said aloud in unison: Allah hu Akbar (God is Great) and Rabbana lakal hamd (Our Lord, praise be to You).
By the end of the night, I truly felt connected to God and felt comfortable with the fellow Muslims around me. The layout of a space can really contribute to how one feels. And this space lent itself to a sense of tranquility and togetherness.
All in all, this is one example of what a mosque experience should fundamentally feel like. To feel connected with the Creator as well as with His devotees.
* Arshe Ahmed grew up in Brooklyn, NY and currently lives in Hamilton, NJ. She is an affiliate with Princeton University Muslim Life (princeton.edu/muslimlife) where she coordinates events and social media outreach. Her fleeting musings can be found at twitter.com/arshe2020