I am originally Christian and for the last year I have been discovering Islam. I have now stopped going to church and praying according to the Christian tradition because I gradually became unconvinced of the key Christian teachings about Jesus. I am missing prayer very much, and I would like to pray and fast also in a Muslim way – however, I am not yet ready to convert fully and accept all the teachings of Prophet Mohammad as I still have many questions un-answered. Is it allowed to perform Salat and go to a mosque without being a Muslim? Many thanks in advance for your reply.

Thank you for your question and thank you for your interest in Islam.

Praying the Muslim Way

To start with, the answer is: Yes. You could pray the way Muslims pray, for sure. These prayers belong to God and not humans.

No Muslim should assume some sort of monopoly over the way of prayer that Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught humanity.

In fact, Muslims believe that Muhammad merely revived prayers, fasting, and acts of worship that followers of previous prophets originally practiced.

I think that you have got to try to pray and fast the Muslim way and try to discover for yourself the feelings and spirituality associated with these ways of praying and fasting etc., whether in their individual or collective forms.

In the mosque or the house of worship, ideally speaking, you will meet pious people, witness many acts of charity, and find the light of belief.

God says in the Quran about His own Light:

{God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is enclosed in glass, the glass shining like a radiant star: a lamp lit from a blessed tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west the oil whereof is so bright that it would well-nigh give light of itself even though fire had not touched it: light upon light. God guides unto His light him that wills to be guided; and to this end, God propounds parables unto humans, since God alone has full knowledge of all things.

In the houses of worship which God has allowed to be raised so that His name be remembered in them, there are such as extol His limitless glory at morn and evening –people whom neither worldly commerce nor striving after gain can divert from the remembrance of God, and from con­stancy in prayer, and from charity: people who are filled with fear at the thought of the Day on which all hearts and eyes will be convulsed, and who only hope that God may reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did, and give them, out of His bounty, more than they deserve: for, God grants sustenance unto whom He wills, beyond all reckon­ing.} (Quran 24:35-38)

A Mirror of Local Community

However, frankly, I would like to mention to you, sister, that any mosque is a mirror of its local community. In Islam, mosques do not have any divine or doctrinal status, as it is the case in many Christian churches.

A mosque does not represent God or Islam; it only represents its Muslim local community. It is, more or less, a community place that is opened for their collective prayers, in addition to their social events and community functions, and so on.

I do not know exactly which mosque you will visit in order to pray, and thus, I do not know whether the local community of that mosque would be friendly and open to people from outside the community, or otherwise.

So, if you happen to feel uncomfortable in a mosque that you visit, try another mosque.

In addition, pray at home as well. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Observe some of your prayers in your houses. (Muslim)

On the other hand, various Muslim cultures in various mosques are adamant about a certain dress code for all attendees.

Therefore, when you go to the mosque, call ahead to see what they require women wear and try to adhere to this code of dress, whatever it is, merely out of respect to the local community.

It is also a good opportunity in the mosque to try to make new Muslim friends and find answers for your questions.

The ABCs of Being Muslim

Accepting Islam does not mean to have all your questions answered. To become Muslim, you must believe in what is called the six pillars of belief. These are:

1) One God

2) God’s Prophets (including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad)

3) God’s Noble books (which He had sent to these prophets)

4) the Hereafter

5) the Angels

6) that God created everything that has happened and everything that is destined to happen.

If you believe in the above, then you are Muslim (a good translation of the word “Muslim” is: a believer), and the rest is details. The search for answers for these detailed questions could continue within Islam.

Unanswered Questions

From my experience with questions about Islam, I find that many questions that remain ‘unanswered’ are related to certain historical factors, being political, social, cultural, or even environmental.

The problem is that many Muslims, including some Muslim scholars, do not recognize these historical dimensions of some of the Islamic rulings, and hence fail to offer reasonable and adequate answers to important questions.

This leads to confusion in the minds of many seekers of the truth, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

For example, some of the common difficulties that many non-Muslims have with Islam are related to the issue of the status of women in the Islamic law.

However, a closer look at many of the popular rulings concerning women will reveal certain underlying historical basis for these rulings that are, today, non-applicable, such as certain guardianship patterns, marriage customs, or acceptable costumes.

These things are subject to change, as long as the principles and moral values behind them are fixed and preserved. Islam is about these principles and moral values; not about the specific manifestations that they take in certain cultures in the past or present.

What I would like to say here is that such unanswered questions, as long as they are not about the basic pillars of belief mentioned above, do not affect the fact that you are a believer in the Islamic sense.

Many Muslims, too, do have unanswered questions in these areas, including myself. But we all know that the Islamic spirit of knowledge is to keep on searching for the truth and finding answers.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch and send us your own unanswered questions and we will try our best to answer them.