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I'm thinking of visiting a mosque on Wednesday. I've done this before a couple of years ago and it was a very valuable experience. The last time I visited I joined in the Salat and thought it was a great way to pray.

I've since wondered whether it is actually ok to pray the Salat. I don't think there is anything heretical about the movements; I find them quite beautiful and I believe that they are worshipping the true God. However I have reservations about the fact that the Salat is prayed towards the Kaabah in Mecca.

If it was prayed towards a tabernacle, a Eucharistic host, liturgical east, or no particular direction at all then I wouldn't have any problems with it. But because it is prayed towards a stone box in Saudi Arabia I worry that the whole thing might be a form of idolatry.

What is the Catholic view of this situation? Two main questions:

  1. Is it permissible to pray the Salat while facing Mecca?
  2. Is it permissible to pray the Salat while facing a Eucharistic host, a tabernacle, liturgical east, or nowhere in particular?

Note that for the purposes of this question I'm considering Allah and Yahweh to be the same God, as per dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium and the CCC paragraph 841. Any answer which disagrees is out of scope and will be downvoted

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    Catholics could not join in prayer with Muslims because of the fundamental incompatibility of their religions: the divinity of Jesus and his sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection to new life. – curiousdannii Feb 6 '17 at 11:50
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    Are you talking about praying salat to the Christian god or the Islamic god? – curiousdannii Feb 6 '17 at 12:02
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    The current official Catholic position (since Vatican 2) is that they are the same God. See dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium and CCC841 – TheIronKnuckle Feb 6 '17 at 12:22
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    @TheIronKnuckle All that we may not do is receive communion. We are not banned from attending, for example, a Lutheran or Episcopalean Church and attending a wedding celebration from start to finish. The question of form is relevant, yes, I guess my suggestion was that form (by itself) is an insufficient basis for considering what crosses the line. This is a hard question. – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 '17 at 13:13
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    @KorvinStarmast my understanding is that we can attend, but we should not participate. Eg we should not stand when they stand, kneel when they kneel, or join in singing the songs – TheIronKnuckle Feb 6 '17 at 17:18
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Ask your priest. There are a lot of good reasons for attending non-Catholic religious ceremonies and Islamic ones are no exception. Your key concern-- whether or not the actions you are considering would constitute communicatio in sacris-- is the correct key concern to have, but it is well possible that what you are contemplating either will not in fact constitute such a sin, or, if it does, that you can arrive at some other possible course of action by discussion with your priest that both satisfies your good desire to 'sing a new song unto the Lord' and avoids the problem of false communion. It is certainly the case that attending non-Catholic prayer service and, separately, praying with non-Catholics have been approved by the Church in special circumstances numerous times in the past. Furthermore, the adoption of non-Catholic prayers to Catholic purpose is as old as the Church itself and speaks to the universality of human regard for the One True God. Because the exact circumstances are so important and because you likely should receive pastoral advice as to how to go about doing this, I think as a Catholic you need to talk with a priest. But if your priest approves of this course of action than you're definitely good to go!

Although it does not directly concern you, be aware that this is one of the situations where your priest is advised to request the action of a Bishop on the matter provided the situation is sufficiently unprecedented:

  1. The ecumenical movement seeks to be obedient to the Word of God, to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to the authority of those whose ministry it is to ensure that the Church remains faithful to that apostolic Tradition in which the Word of God and the gifts of the Spirit are received. What is being sought is the communion that is at the heart of the mystery of the Church, and for this reason there is a particular need for the apostolic ministry of Bishops in the area of ecumenical activity. The situations being dealt with in ecumenism are often unprecedented, and vary from place to place and time to time. The initiatives of the faithful in the ecumenical domain are to be encouraged. But there is need for constant and careful discernment by those who have ultimate responsibility for the doctrine and the discipline of the Church.48 It belongs to them to encourage responsible initiatives and to ensure that they are carried out according to Catholic principles of ecumenism. They must reassure those who may be discouraged by difficulties and moderate the imprudent generosity of those who do not give sufficiently serious consideration to the real difficulties in the way of reunion. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose role and responsibility it is to provide direction and advice on ecumenical activity, offers the same service to the whole Church.

(from here)

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    "if your priest approves of this course of action than you're definitely good to go!" Not necessarily; priests aren't necessarily infallible. Pope Pius XI condemned the ecumenical movement in his encyclical Mortalium Animos (cf. esp. §7). – Geremia Feb 7 '17 at 3:59
  • In the end I've decided not to participate in Salat at the mosque. I believe they are worshipping God, I don't have any objections to the movements and I can comfortably pray most of the prayers; however they include one prayer which is an indirect denial of the Trinity. I can't get behind that as that is indeed an explicit statement of heresy which I don't want to associate myself with. There is also another "Muhammed is his messenger" prayer which I'd rather avoid. – TheIronKnuckle Feb 7 '17 at 5:26
  • @Geremia That is not a condemnation of ecumenicism. That is a condemnation of the way Protestants go about ecumenicism. The Church has long desired the unity of the human family in Christ. C.f. a traditional prayer on Good Friday which reads in part: "Let us also pray for heretics and schismatics: that Our Lord and God may be pleased to deliver them from all their errors, and to recall them to our holy Mother the Catholic and Apostolic Church... that having set aside all heretical evil, the hearts of those who err may repent, and return to the unity of Your truth." – Please stop being evil Feb 7 '17 at 19:20
  • @TheIronKnuckle That's too bad :( I really think that you should have discussed this decision with a priest, but it is of course your decision, and you should do what you believe to be right. – Please stop being evil Feb 7 '17 at 19:23
  • @thedarkwanderer yeah, I was keen to do Salat again. I highly approve of it as a form of prayer and worship. However I just can't get past those anti-trinity prayers, they sorta poison the whole thing and prevent me from participating in good conscience – TheIronKnuckle Feb 7 '17 at 22:52
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No, it is forbidden for Catholics to engage in communicatio in sacris (joining others in false worship, e.g., worshipping Islam's false god Allah, who is not the Holy Trinity):

1917 Canon 1258 §1 It is not licit for the faithful by any manner to assist actively or to have a part in the sacred [rites] of non-Catholics.

cf. Dom Augustine's A Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law on '17 Can. 1258

This law is expressed in the 1983 code, in the section "Delicts against religion and the unity of the Church," as:

1983 Can. 1365 A person guilty of prohibited participation in sacred rites (communicatio in sacris) is to be punished with a just penalty.

cf. this commentary on '83 Can. 1365

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    @TheIronKnuckle I've added to my answer the '83 Code's canon against communicatio in sacris. – Geremia Feb 6 '17 at 18:09
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    Isn't Canon 1365 talking about receiving communion in state of mortal sin, or without first having received catechesis and First Communion? – Wtrmute Feb 6 '17 at 20:18
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    @TheIronKnuckle Whether or not it is meaningful to call the God of the Bible and Allah the "same" it is indisputable that Allah is not the Trinity. – curiousdannii Feb 6 '17 at 22:17
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    @TheIronKnuckle Maybe you could ask on the Islam site whether someone who thinks Allah is in reality the Trinitarian God should pray in a mosque - could have some interesting answers – curiousdannii Feb 6 '17 at 22:27
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    @TheIronKnuckle The Muslims I have spoken to consider Jesus a prophet not divine. (For example, Jeremiah was a prophet, but he was not divine). That's a non-trivial distinction. They consider Mohammed to be The Prophet with some vigor. The connotation I've always understood is that this means "the last and true" prophet." – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 '17 at 23:08
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According to the tafsīr (commentary) of Ibn Kathir, a Muslim Qurʿānic commentator, the phrase وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ (walā ḍ-ḍāllīna)—“nor of those who go astray,” refers to the Christians.

Allah asserted that the two paths He described here are both misguided when He repeated the negation 'not'. These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why `anger' descended upon the Jews, while being described as 'led astray' is more appropriate of the Christians. Those who know, but avoid implementing the truth, deserve the anger, unlike those who are ignorant. The Christians want to seek the true knowledge, but are unable to find it because they did not seek it from its proper resources.

Therefore, by reciting Salah, which is found in Sūratu l-Fātiḥa, the initial surah of the Qurʿān, a Christian would in fact be denouncing the truthfulness of Christianity and affirming the truthfulness of the Qurʿān. This has severe implications, including denouncing the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, his resurrection, and his ascension, all of which are denied in the Qurʿān.

  • That's what I was worried about. It's similar to how making the sign of the cross with five fingers left to right implicitly says "I am Catholic and believe everything the church teaches" – TheIronKnuckle Feb 6 '17 at 21:05
  • @TheIronKnuckle It isn't just Catholics who do that. – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 '17 at 21:35
  • Ah haha i stand corrected XD. I guess a better example would be how participating in Catholic communion is a physical statement of agreement with the church's teachings – TheIronKnuckle Feb 6 '17 at 21:54
  • @TheIronKnuckle Both physical and spiritual. Yeah. – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 '17 at 23:06
  • Just like a sacrament is literally an oath @iron – Peter Turner Feb 6 '17 at 23:23

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