In Islam, I guess it begins when one hears the azhan...the call to prayer. When you're watching a movie, and they want to tell you you're in a Muslim country, you'll often hear a bit of it in the background. It goes like this...
|Allahu Akbar God is Great(or Greater implying Greater than anything) (X4)
Ashadu alla illaha il Allah (I bear witness that there is no god but God) (X2)
Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasullah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God) (X2)
Haya ala Salat (Come to Prayer) (x2)
Haya ala Falah (Come to Success) (x2)
Allahu Akbar (God is Great) (x2)
La illaha il Allah (There is no god but God) (x2)
My favorite bit is that for the morning (dawn) prayer, the line after "come to success" is "Prayer is better than sleep." That always makes me
Muslims also create sacred space whenever they say "Bismillah ar Rahman ar Rahim"... which roughly translates into "In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate."
Muslims say "Bismillah" before beginning anything. They say it before they eat. They say it when they start their car. You name it, they say it. If it's said consciously, that simple act creates a sacred space.
In Islam it's also all about intention. We believe that God rewards one for one's intention.
|Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. Then He explained it [by saying that] he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.
Before prayer, we do special ablutions called wudu.
You start with intention... that you're going to make your wudu. (This is internally done.)
|* wash your hands up to your wrists three times ( While doing this, I'll add the bit that I think... it's a sufi approach, and definitely not a required part of wudu. So, when washing my hands, I think "May these hands be instruments for peace")
* rinse your mouth three times ("May this mouth speak only the pleasing words, the healing words, the truthful words")
* sniff water into your nose three times ("May I someday smell the flowers of paradise")
* wash your whole face ("May this face shine with the light of compassion. May these eyes see the work of the Creator everywhere they look.")
* run your damp hands over your head, then put damp fingers on your ears, and then put your damp hands on the back of your neck
* wash your feet three times ("May these feet walk on holy ground.")
After that, you do your salat/ritual prayer. You can do it in any clean place. It can be pretty much anywhere, but many people use a prayer rug. Some men will put on a knit/crocheted hat... some women use a special hijab (scarf) just for praying.
In a mosque (known as masjid in Arabic), the Imam or Sheykh really doesn't do anything special. When anybody enters the mosque, they do two cycles (rakats) of prayer in honor of the mosque...which kind of starts it. Then when you hear the azhan (call to prayer), you get ready to pray. I guess it all starts with the Azhan.
For me, whenever I enter a mosque...or even a family's prayer room... or step onto a prayer rug...or even am somewhere beautiful in nature.. I feel like I've entered the sacred. I can't really explain it better. Sorry. We have a saying known as a hadith qudsi that says that God said:
|"I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed."
So...to be sacred...one need only mention God... or at least that's how I interpret it.