Have a religion etiquette question? Send e-mail to Arthur Magida, author of How to Be a Perfect Stranger, at email@example.com.
Q. My wife and I aren't Muslims, but we're interested in seeing how Muslims worship on Fridays. Are these services open to the public?
As with most faiths' worship services, Muslim services are open to members of other denominations. The Friday services you're interested in observing are called jumma and convene at noon.
You don't need anyone's permission to go to the mosque, but it would be good to have someone sit with you who is familiar with Muslim congregational worship because it so different from most Western practice. Outside the mosque, Muslims remove their shoes and wash their hands, mouth, face and feet; inside the mosque, they face Mecca, Islam's holiest site (a city located in Saudi Arabia).
Men and women form separate lines that extend from one side of the sanctuary to the other. In these rows, they recite prayers and bow and prostrate in unison; their cohesiveness symbolizes unity within the Muslim community.
Non-Muslims do remove their shoes at the mosque entrance. Instead of joining the rows of worshippers, they sit or stand along the sides of the mosque. If you've never attended jumma, you might ask a Muslim friend to accompany you; if you don't have any friends who are Muslim, call the imam who presides at the mosque you'd like to attend and tell him you plan to visit. Having someone explain what is being said and the reasons for the various prostrations will make your visit far more meaningful. Q. My boss's father, who was Jewish, died last week. At the end of the funeral, people held out little dishes in which we were asked to place money. Some people contributed a few dollars; others gave as much as $10 or even $20. I'm a Protestant and had never seen anything like this. How much should I have put in? Did the money go toward funeral expenses?
The donations almost certainly were not used for the cost of the funeral. Guests attending a funeral are not asked to underwrite the costs of the event. Most probably, the funds being raised went to a charity--quite possibly one in which the deceased had a special interest.
A contribution of a few dollars would have been sufficient. Anything as high as $10 and especially $20 would have been exorbitant.
The practice is most common at Orthodox funerals in the New York area.
Q. Since our previous marriages weren't annulled, my fiancee and I--who are
both Catholic--can't get married in a Catholic church. I hear that certain
Presbyterian ministers might marry us, but I'm reluctant to do that because a
Presbyterian ceremony will probably offend many of my relatives.
Ordinarily, the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of any marriage, except those in which a prospective partner who has been previously married has not had that marriage annulled by the church. Even Jews who have been divorced and are engaged to Catholics who want a priest to officiate at the ceremony must have their prior marriage annulled by the church for a Catholic clergyman to officiate.
With the chances of a priest officiating at your marriage hovering around zero, you seem to have two choices: Have a civil ceremony or a non-Catholic Christian ceremony. You have to decide which will be more meaningful to you. Offending your relatives should be an ancillary consideration; satisfying yourself and your fiancee should be your primary concern.