Worship and Prayer: How Muslims practice their faith in Memphis

Man praying.

Walking into Masjid Ar-Rahman a mosque near Collierville, Mohammad greeted fellow Muslims before going into prayer. For many years, he has come here to pray.

As a Muslim, prayer is an important part of worship and is required by the Quran. There are five sets of prayer during each day. Each come at different times throughout the day.

“I use this app that tells me what times during the day that I need to pray,” Mohammad said. The app on his phone is through the website, IslamicFinder.com. It breaks down the different prayer times by title and gives the appropriate time for each region of the country.

Unlike churches in the South, mosques are not on every corner. There are only seven in Shelby County. This poses a problem for some that cannot travel long distances to pray throughout the day.

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Prayer, according to Mohammad, does not always have to be done in a mosque; however, it is urged to attend when possible. Muslims can pray at work, at school or at home.

Since attending the mosque is not required, there are Muslims that have decided to not go to a mosque to worship out of safety to their well being such as with Yasmin Toutio’s family.

“My family personally does not go to mosques because of the types of violence that we have been shown,” said Yasmin Toutio. “We used to go to mosques here but when we were returning, we would be attacked by the people in the surrounding areas, so when we worship, we do it in the sanctity of our own home.”

The attacks that her family received were both physical and verbal. She said that there were times when things were thrown at their car as they were leaving the mosque.

Threats against a mosque are not uncommon, according to Mohammad.

“Sometimes people call and make threats but we just call the authorities and let them deal with it,” Mohammad said. “There have been letters sent to Masjid Ar-Rahman. I have actually handed one of them over to the FBI.”

With the possibility of attacks and the threats that have been received by the mosque, leaders have taken a few preventative measures. Their building has been outfitted with security cameras along the outside walls and “no trespassing” signs at the entrances.

Even with the threats, many people are undeterred.

“Eight hundred people can pray in this room,” Mohammad said. “During Friday lectures, five to six hundred people come.”

The lectures usually last about a half hour, and are delivered by a Muslim scholar, called an Imam.

“During this time the Imam will give spiritual help or he will talk about giving to people in need or to people that have been affected by tragedy like Katrina,” Mohammad said.

Another important aspect of worship for Muslims is that men and women are not allowed to pray in the same room. For instance, at Masjid Ar-Rahman, there are separate entrances for men and women as well as separate prayer areas.

“Men and women are kept separate during prayer to keep us from distraction,” he said. “When we pray, their clothing (referring to the women) might be compromised. We are here to pray but as men we are weak and easily distracted by an attractive woman.”

Women are not always separated from the men during worship. During the lectures, it is acceptable for men and women to be in the same room, but the two genders are not allowed to intermingle. Women pray behind the men but even then there is a tinted glass partition that splits the room in two.

“My wife and I cannot be next to each other, we will be separated into different areas of the room,” Mohammad said.

This is part of keeping worshipers from distraction, according to him.

Prayer is an important aspect to Islam and is taken seriously by Muslims everywhere. Even with the obstacles of time and location, most find a way to stay true to their religion.


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About the Author

Austin Kemker

Austin Kemker is a senior journalism student at the University of Memphis. While at the University of Memphis he has covered subjects ranging from construction on or around campus, sports and neighborhood development in the greater Memphis area.
As a Memphis native, he has strong ties to the city and has dedicated his free time to helping improve the area through numerous nonprofit organizations.

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