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Being an unalienable part of human culture, religion served as a kind of watermark of nearly every civilization or nation. However, despite a number of differences and specifics of every religion, the general idea of each one remains approximately the same. Religion serves as a beacon of hope and salvation during the high times in one’s life. Earlier in human history, religion played a nearly vital role, filling the gaps of unknown and explaining various process in and around life to people, regardless of their background and occupation. When comparing a religious service in Christianity and Islam, it becomes clear that both religions have very similar core elements, mostly seeking salvation, kindness, and forgiveness in this world.
Visiting an Islamic Religious Center
To study a different religion, I have decided to visit an Islamic Center of Southern California in Rampart Village of Los Angeles, the nearest Islamic Center near me. I was born and raised in the Catholic family; hence, my general comparisons will concern the religious services in Islam and Catholicism. I have never been a largely religious person, however, can recall visiting a few services and masses during the early years of my childhood. The visits were quite few as my parents have never been particularly religious as well. Hence, my reflections and comparisons will be largely general and based on some the most common elements and general observations.
Every comparative religious study has some of its core elements that define the character of the study, thus, I must define them before I begin my research. According to Oliver Freiberger, the comparative method of religious study revolves around the goal, mode, scale, and scope of the research (75). My study has a goal to prove that most modern monotheistic religions follow similar processes and rituals during the service. The mode of study is a field study as I empirically research a service at the Islam Center of Southern California. The scale of my study is quite narrow as it is limited to one regular service. Finally, the scope of the study is similarly narrow and inductive as it attempts to come to generalized conclusion using a limited scale of research.
Before I arrived at the Islamic Center, I have decided to select an appropriate wardrobe in order not to cause any misunderstandings between me and potential visitors. Hence, I wore a regular green sweater, a pair of jeans, and sneakers. I have also taken my mother’s shawl with me, considering that Islamic tradition might require women to cover their head during the service. This element is somewhat similar to Catholicism already, as it sometimes might be required for women to wear some kind of head dress during similar circumstances. This, however, mostly applies to married women in Catholicism and Christianity overall.
As I arrived at the Center at 8 am, the regular morning service was already starting. I was told to remove my shoes and wear a shawl if I wanted to participate in the prayer. I followed the instruction and after that, a preacher named Shafiq started a ceremony. First, he spoke the words of praise to Allah in Arabic and everyone, including me, repeated. After that, we stood on our knees, bowed, and touched a specific ceremonial carpet with our foreheads. Further, Shafiq spoke the blessings of peace and kindness from Allah and all attendees repeated. Then the bow followed, and the ceremony was over. It took around 20 minutes, however, the sensation did not seem incomplete and brought much positivity to my day and the day of my co-attendees.
As the service was over, it left a strong impression of familiarity on me. The prayer of blessings, peace, and kindness brought to all attendees and their families is largely similar to that of the Catholic tradition. The difference relies mostly on the content of the prayers and the ritual itself. In Catholicism, the prayers are much longer and complex, however, they do not require any specific movements, such as bows to be performed. The crux gesture might be performed, though it is not required.
My visit to the Islamic Center of Southern California provided me with some valuable knowledge and understanding of the services and process in Islam and Christianity. It is evident that both religions attempt to motivate people to seek kindness and positivity in their lives through service. Some details might differ, yet the essence remains the same. This drives to a conclusion that different religions serve a purpose of salvation and searching peace between people, thus, creating a set of worldviews targeted at positive co-existence and cooperation between people.
Freiberger, Oliver. "Elements Of A Comparative Methodology In The Study Of Religion". Comparative Methods In Law, Humanities And Social Sciences, 2021, pp. 75-95. Edward
Elgar Publishing, https://doi.org/10.4337/9781802201468.00010. Accessed 29 June 2022.
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