For a decade I’ve lived along the road from a mosque, a fairly rare being in Scotland where we have comparatively few immigrants compared to say London. It’s an old shop front with smoked out windows. It’s nice to know your local community and I’ve been into the church at the other end of the street plenty times for garden parties, concerts, meetings and Scouts. But I could never find an excuse to go and visit the mosque, a community that can’t talk to itself is a potentially dangerous thing so I was pleased to find a Facebook page and ask for a visit.
I was met with a friendly young man who invited me in. I took off my shoes as asked and was shown around, there’s a couple of main rooms in it and each had half a dozen children in a class learning Arabic from an Iman. The decor was simple enough if a bit dated. They spoke Urdu to each other and the junior Iman gave me a long shake of the hand while the children, who seem to go to the same primary school I went to, were very friendly and asked about footballers who I knew.
Invited into the back room I met the chair of the mosque, an older man with a well trimmed beard, and got a cup of tea. He said this was everyone’s mosque, not just for Muslims. He showed me some security videos of the prayer from last Friday, it looks like a cross between a yoga move and the hokey-cokey and he said it was indeed exercise for the body. He gave me a copy of the Quoran in English and recommended I watch a TV channel called Peace TV of which he seemed to be a big fan. He explained how jihad was any struggle but using violence with guns is forbidden in Islam, only states can do that.
He showed me the timetable for prayer, 5 times a day at varying times depending on sunrise and set. He showed me their washing area to clean feet, hands and face before prayer and said it was very important to be clean for prayer, although if you don’t pass air or go to the toilet or urinate between prayers you don’t need to clean yourself again.
He said that men and women pray separately, when I asked why he said it was because if you put cheese next to a fire it will melt. Women have to cover the heads with a scarf and their hands, I didn’t ask why men didn’t have to do the same. He said that men and women shouldn’t look each other in the eye. Girlfriends aren’t allowed in Islam and men can only have four wives he continued. These wives can be at the same time but you have to treat each of them equally in every respect, he wasn’t sure if anyone in Edinburgh did this, it wouldn’t be legal but in Islam marriage is a simple arrangement he continued. Having multiple wives is ok because there are more women in the world than men.by