London Journal – Monday, October 13, 2008

We have had warm, sunny weather in the first few days of our stay here, but today turned out to be cloudy and chilly. The sun broke through for only five minutes or so.

This was a day for office work in our hotel room.

In the evening we met with two of our London Team members and about ten others from a training group that meets regularly at a large church downtown, and we all went to East London Mosque on Whitechapel Road. There was to be an interfaith dialogue with talks given by a Christian and a Muslim, but this event was canceled, but we went to the mosque anyway, hoping to learn about the mosque and Islam if anyone would available to talk with us.

Someone was. Mr. Rayhan Uddin, the Community Engagement Officer of the mosque happened to be there (he is not ususally there on a Monday evening) and gladly told us about the main teachings of Islam, allowing us to ask questions, and described this facility, which is huge, encompassing four stories of meeting rooms, large halls used for various events, an Islamic school for all grades, and exercise rooms and equipment, which are available to the entire community at stated times. He described the many ways this mosque is involved in serving the social needs of the community, in cooperation with the churches and synagogues of the area, and although he gave no details about the forms this cooperative effort takes, he did emphasize that the community involvement of this mosque exceeds the work of the famous Central Mosque located in downtown London.

Finally, he took us, women and all, into the main prayer hall, where Muslim men were sitting on the carpeted floor, reading books and saying their prayers. In this prayer hall Rayhan continued his talk about Islam and invited more comments, which surprised us greatly, since we assumed that the prayer hall, being sacred space, would be off limits for such talking.

We left the mosque having gotten valuable firsthand insights into Islam and the way this particular leader presents Muslim beliefs. Upon our inquiry, Rayhan gave each of us a copy of the Quran in an English translation.

On a different line entirely, the walls of the Underground are filled with all kinds of advertizements and messages. Here is one of the more thoughtful ones.

What ways are you finding to change the world for the better?

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