I hadn’t planned to attend Friday prayers.  My plan was to grab lunch.  I was in Singapore preaching and teaching.  It was my fifth time and I had some fellow travellers with me who’d never been – my brother-in-law and my nephew.  So it fell on me to be the travel guide, a role I quite enjoyed.  I especially enjoyed taking them to try foods new to them.  I wouldn’t tell them where we were going; I liked to preserve the element of surprise. 

That morning we’d been to the Singapore Air Force Museum.  A short trip on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and we were in the neighbourhood of Kembangan to find our lunch.  Mikey Chen is a well-known YouTuber who travels and tries different foods.  He told me about Al Jasra.  This is an eatery where you can find all-you-can-eat roti prata for a really great price.  Roti prata is an Indian flatbread, usually prepared with various fillings.  You then dip the roti in a curry sauce and eat. 

As we arrived at Al Jasra, it quickly became apparent that we were in an Islamic neighbourhood.  Most of the clientele were obviously Muslims and, it being Friday, there were numerous Muslims walking past on their way to Friday prayers.  In fact, right across the street from Al Jasra is the historic Masjid Kassim, one of the oldest mosques in Singapore

We enjoyed several varieties of roti prata and then it was time for our next adventure.  I had planned to take my b-i-l and nephew to the Asian Civilizations Museum.  However, as we were finishing up, my b-i-l wondered whether we’d be able to visit the mosque.  He’d never been, neither had I, and certainly not my 15 year old nephew.  I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea – that was a little outside my comfort zone.  I thought my brother-in-law would leave it alone.  While he generously paid the bill for our meal, my nephew and I were wandering down the street, hoping to move us along. 

My b-i-l then came ambling up and said, “Hey guys, I asked the guy at the counter if we could visit the mosque.  He said we’d be most welcome.  We just have to take off our shoes.  You think we should do it?”  I still wasn’t that keen, but this time around he was the most adventurous of our little group and clearly wanted to do it.  We decided to go with the flow and cross the street to the mosque.

As we came to the entrance, we were met with shoes and sandals – hundreds of them.  It was obvious what we were supposed to do.  After removing our footwear and our socks, we made our way in and the first stop was the washing station.  Worshippers are expected to wash themselves before proceeding.  When in Masjid… Then we found a spot where we thought we might be inconspicuous. 

We weren’t standing there long when a man approached us.  He had special garments for us.  You see, mosque etiquette dictates you don’t show your knees or anything above your knees, even if you’re a man.  All of us were wearing shorts – this is a tropical country.  Oops.  So, being good Canadians we apologized then followed his directions and put on this sort of modest skirt.  That took care of some of the daggers being shot at us. 

A friendly worshipper finally approached me.  His first comments had something to do with monotheism and how Muslims worship only one deity.  I suppose that was the most important point he needed to get across.  I listened respectfully.  Respectfully enough, in fact, that he asked me whether I was a convert.  “No, I’m a Christian,” I replied, “but I’m curious about what you believe and how you worship.”  He continued to be friendly with me after I told him that.

I found it interesting that this worshipper was engaging with me while the imam was delivering his sermon.  The sermon was being delivered in Arabic, so perhaps like many Muslims he didn’t understand what was being said.  An English translation was being projected onto a screen, but perhaps he was illiterate or had poor eyesight.  Or maybe it was just more important to engage with me than to listen to the message.

Now about the sermon.  I didn’t follow the whole thing.  We only stayed for about 20 minutes.  It didn’t appear to be based on a particular passage of the Qur’an, but was more of a topical message.  It was addressed to the “brothers.”  As we looked around, that’s all we saw.  It was only men in the part of the mosque where we were standing.  I’m told that the women were worshipping in a separate area.  The sermon, however, was for the men and it was about how to conduct oneself as a Muslim husband. 

As I was listening I got to thinking about how, sadly, almost this exact message could be heard in many Christian churches.  These were Muslims, so there was nothing about Jesus and nothing about the gospel.  I knew better than to expect that.  But when you attend a Christian church, what we hear should be grounded in the person and work of Christ.  Yet sadly so often it isn’t.  That happens in Reformed and Presbyterian churches too.   

While I was thinking that, my b-i-l told me later that he was praying for the worshippers around him.  I was so absorbed with the homiletical goings-on that the desire to do that escaped me.  I’m glad he remembered at that moment and it was a good reminder for me to do it later.

We only stayed for a short while, but it was enough to get a glimpse into how something like 24% of the world worships each Friday.  I’d always been curious, but it took my brother-in-law’s drive to get me across the street.  I’m certainly not going to make a habit of attending Friday prayers, but I’m glad I did it this once to gain a slightly better understanding of my Muslim neighbours.