A mosque, or "masjid" in Arabic, is an Islamic place of worship. In addition to their function as places of prayer, mosques are often the centre of Muslim communities. As a result, the activities that take place in a mosque include not only religious services but other gatherings such as classes and community events.
Prayer, also called "salah" or "salat" in Arabic, is required of all Muslims five times daily, with some exceptions for those who are unable to meet this obligation. Although Muslims are not required to pray together, many gather at a mosque for prayer. A religious leader called an imam guides the prayer. Prayers on Friday are particularly well attended. Some prayer services are preceded by a sermon given by an imam. Islam requires that those praying are ritually clean; mosques therefore provide facilities for washing. Men and women pray separately.
In addition to prayer, mosques often play an educational role within the community. Religious classes for both adults and children are part of the activities at most mosques. One of the most important qualifications for religious leadership in Islam is a knowledge of the Qur'an, Islam's sacred text, and so Qur'an classes are common. In addition, many also offer classes in other subjects. For example, mosques in non-Arabic-speaking countries may have classes in Arabic, while many mosques also host courses in traditional academic subjects or provide tutoring to help children with their schoolwork.
Mosques play a central role in the cultural life of Muslim communities. As a result, many community events take place in or around mosques. Islamic weddings are not required to be in mosques, but many couples choose to make their vows in a mosque with an imam. Other events can include social gatherings and meals. For instance, during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day. Many mosques host large communal meals after evening prayers during this month, allowing Muslims to celebrate and break their fast together. Similarly, many Islamic holidays are celebrated with gatherings or meals at a mosque.
Charity and community service
Charity, or "zakat," is obligatory for all Muslims. In many cases, the mosque will be responsible for collecting and disbursing the charitable donations made by community members. Similarly, Muslims in need of charity may visit mosques for assistance. Some mosques may provide other services such as child care, libraries, museum exhibitions and more.