ALL MOSQUES FACE MECCA, the holiest meeting site in the Islamic religion. It was where the Islamic prophet Muhammed proclaimed Islam in the seventh century.

On entering a mosque, the first thing that a Muslim looks for is the “qiblah”, which points to the direction of Mecca where a Muslim faces when he prays. Most mosques contain a niche in the wall of the prayer hall that indicates the “qiblah”.

Muslims pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, and at nightfall. They know it is time for prayer when the “mu’addin” calls for prayer. The “mu’addin” watches the time and makes the prayer call from the minaret (tall spires which are distinctive features of mosques).

The first call alerts Muslims to get ready for prayer. The second call invites Muslims to pray.

Before praying, a Muslim needs to perform ablution (ritual purification). Muslims wash their hands and forearms till the elbows, their legs till behind the ankles, and their faces till behind their ears. These are the parts of the body that are usually exposed to the world, and hence are in need of cleansing before prayer.

Though cleaning themselves physically is important, even more important is the “cleaning of the heart”. “God will accept praying only when we pray with a clean heart, so we ask God to forgive us our sins before we start,” explained Habib Hassan.

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