On June 5th, we visited the La Grande Mosquée de Paris on the final day of Ramandan. Upon entering, as people were removing prayer mats for over 10,000 people who joined that morning for prayer, I noticed the mosaic tiles, wooden carvings on the ceilings, and Arabic inscriptions lining the walls. Our guide noted how each tile was placed individually around the massive prayer area without any depiction of Allah or prophets. This ensures that holy figures remain in the mind of the worshipper without any value placed on a physicalized version.
This thinking continued as we talked to the Imam of the mosque. We were able to sit down with him, eat desserts, drink tea, and ask him questions which is the most honorable thing that can happen in mosque. The Imam of this place of worship talked to us about his experience becoming Imam, his philosophies on how people misinterpret his religion and people, and how he helps people come to faith. One of the most remarkable things I took away from the experience was his answer when asked about his responsibilities. He said that when people want to convert or are having doubts about the religion he does not act as an ambassador of the Islamic faith. He honors the person for where they are on their journey and respects their thinking. He also described being Muslim as the faith that honors all religions. This conversation brought me to tears thinking about how he believes in honoring people and acting out of love and not obligation. Outside of the prayer and administration rooms, older women were sitting around the center garden reading the Quran and chatting. This reminded me of my hometown Baptist church and how the older ladies would do the same thing between services. It also reminded me of how at the center of the religion there is supposed to be the idea of love, which the Imam spoke to.
This experience has pushed my own thinking and has inspired me to both study different religions and languages to further dive into ideas of love, compassion, and understanding. I wish to expand my thinking and derive my own principles to adopt into my daily life.
Following the Imam's lead, I would challenge everyone to constantly re-evaluate their values regardless of a relationship with religion. Even as a spiritual person or person that is not religiously affiliated, it is important to act out of love. From that place, your mind can be clear enough to discern emotion and make decisions about your actions.