On April 27, the Islamic Center of New Mexico opened its doors to students of the University of New Mexico, allowing those of all religions, genders and walks of life to attend its daily prayer service.

UNM students were allowed to attend the daily prayer services held at the mosque, which was followed by a missionary Muslim speaker’s presentation to the student group. Those attending were also given the opportunity to talk with members of Albuquerque’s Muslim community to attend the daily prayer services, themselves.

Each semester, the Islamic Center of New Mexico allows UNM students to visit the mosque and attend and daily prayer. The trip is organized with the intent of allowing students the opportunity to learn about Islamic daily life and traditions through engaging them and allowing for personal experience.

“After the sermon and after the prayer, they may ask you to stay and listen to some missionary explanation about Islam. It’s up to you,” said Mozafar Banihashemi, a religion professor at UNM. “If you want to stay and learn — that is your choice.”

Banihashemi organized the event and led the student group throughout their visit to the Mosque along with a religious studies graduate assistant. Many of the students in attendance were enrolled in Banihashemi’s Islamic Mysticism class.

Upon arriving at the mosque, students were asked to remove their shoes and were separated by gender. Professor Banihashemi accompanied the male students while the female graduate assistant accompanied the female students inside. The two groups sat in separate rooms, divided by a one-way window.

Students sat on fold out chairs and on the floor in the back of the room, observing the prayer service and listening to a sermon led by a member of Muslim Legal Fund of America. The entire service lasted a total of one hour, stretching from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Days before visiting the mosque, students were advised to dress appropriately in order to observe and respect Islamic dress codes. Students were asked to wear either long pants or skirts, and women in attendance were asked to wear a scarf to cover their hair.

“I have been able to learn a lot about Islam through books and the media, but attending the mosque allowed me a whole different learning opportunity,” said UNM student, Maria Lopez. “There is a huge difference between reading about something and actually experiencing it first hand.”

Non-muslim students who are interested in observing a prayer service and sermon at the Islamic Center of New Mexico can contact the center directly or can attend with UNM at the end of the Fall 2018 semester.

Timber Mabes is a culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @timbermabes.