Log: Day 02 in Sydney. 1pm AEST 6/7/10 Loc: Auburn Gallipoli Mosque.
In the mosque, there was an upper floor where the women were to pray, separately from the men. Suhayla commented: there are fair amount of movement in the Islamic prayer and so the men and women are separated so they can focus more on Allah, the most merciful. In the photo below is a raised chair on which the teacher can sit to overview his pupils. There is also a deadend staircase on which a speaker stands to explain the Qu'ran. One key comment that Suhayla made was that the lack of symbolism in the room was to avoid detracting from the purity, the inexpressibility of Allah, the unknowable.
Our tour guide was reluctant to specifically say that all people are born muslim and as they grow up, choose to continue or turn away from Allah. However, Suhayla did say that Allah, the merciful, has put it in us to give praise to God and that we as conscious beings can choose to 'allign' ourselves with that, or not.
One critique that one of my trainers ('Sam') made was that she seemed quite keen to overly positive/agreeable about similarities between Christianity and Islam as well as Islam's critique of Aussie society and tended to answer questions somewhat indirectly when they delved into the differences (such as humankind's inate tendencies, how to get to heaven).
The biggest takehome lesson from going to the mosque was that, sadly, often Muslims are indeed trying to be good Muslims to get God's favour, to be 'clean'. They do their 5 pillars to 'scrub themselves up' for God, rather than coming to him as broken and dirty, needing to be cleaned by God himself. This is the fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. In contrast, Christians trust in Jesus (also known as 'Isa', peace be upon him) to clean them and so openly declare their brokenness and dependency on him as their saviour.
Only then can Christians say they are 'at peace with God' or 'friends with God'.