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AT A GLANCE

June 2007 : :

Features

Demolition Derby

Radio-Controlled Planes

'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'

Zion in Fall

Yellow of Logan Canyon

'This is God's house'

Colosimo's the Real Italian Stuff

The Hot Dog Man and His White Van

Rock and Punk Music

Merrill-Cazier

Black and White and Shades of Gray

Carnegie Professors

Cheer 'Em On!

LDS General Conference

Logan After Dark

Parade of Homes



Profiles
Jill Prichard









'This is the House of God'

Photography and story:: Sarah Ali

LOGAN -- If not for the small wooden sign placed on the front windowsill, illuminated by Christmas lights, the Logan Islamic Center would be just like any other home on 600 East Street.

On the inside, however, it's the house of God, home to all believers.

I arrived in the early afternoon and walked toward the center, just before the Friday prayers were to begin. Unsure of the proper manner to enter, I rang the door bell and waited for a response. I attempted to peer through the white lace curtains to see if anyone was inside, but was blinded by the bright white glare of the sunshine on the window pane.

After waiting a few minutes, I opened the screen door and knocked on the wooden door, decorated with a sticker of a Quranic verse. It read, "La illaha il Allah, Muhammad rashol Allah." ("There is no God greater than God, and Muhammad is his prophet.")

Moments later the door was opened by an elderly gentleman. He opened the door only enough to poke his head through and ask me to go around the back.

I turned around and walked toward the driveway leading to the back of the center. Once inside I was promptly instructed to remove my shoes by an inscription on the floor. The floor of the shoe area, which would normally be a kitchen, with shelves full not of dishes but books and tapes on Islam, was covered with three other pairs of shoes. Ready in hand was my blue head scarf, which matched my Aggie hoodie and loose blue jeans.

I approached the mirror hung in front of the hall leading to the prayer area. Throwing the scarf around my head, I tucked the edges around my ears to conceal any of my brown curls from the view of my Muslim brothers. In a mosque, both men and women are instructed to dress in a manner that is not distracting to those who are praying.

Inside the prayer area, which is actually the living room, the owners of the three pairs of shoes were sitting on the floor, waiting for the prayer to begin. Two of them, Ibrahim Suliyman and Davut Tuncer, I recognized from previous introductions on campus. When you have a last name like Ali, as I do, it's hard to avoid being recognized as a Muslim.

I greeted them and introduced myself to the man who had opened the door earlier, who identified himself only as Ahmed.

"I've lived here for 20 years and have forgotten much of my Arabic," said Ahmed, who was originally from Syria, "but my English is not that good either." I smiled at him as I tried to spit out the right Arabic words that express my understanding. With a toothless smile back at me, Ahmed and I had broken the ice.

Walking into the room I situated myself behind the men so as not to attract attention to myself as I began to prepare myself for prayer. Real mosques have a separate area closed off for women's exclusive use. In the center there isn't anything like this, so women are directed to the back when there are only a few. When there are many women, the men go to the basement and the women remain upstairs.

We faced northeast, the direction of the Qaaba, (the site all Muslims pray toward because it is believed that it was built by Abraham, the father of monotheism). The direction was indicated by a photo of Mecca on the wall and a green prayer rug on the floor.

I began to pray the traditional two raqaa prayers for the mosque. A raqaa is a series of movements and corresponding scripture that a Muslim recites during prayer. When entering, a Muslim prays two raqaa prayers for the mosque to bring blessings on it and on those who built it.

Davut said the Logan Center was established by a group of Cache Valley Muslims 25 years ago and has been maintained by a committee made up of local members, consisting mostly of college students.

When I finished my prayer I sat down and quietly waited for the Friday prayers to begin.

As the time approached, more and more men began to file into the room, following the same ritual as I did when entering.

Most sat in silence waiting the khudba, or sermon. Some chatted among themselves, while others read from the Qurans that had been stacked on the mantel above the fireplace.

The prayer area was extremely plain in comparison to mosques in any of the homelands of the Muslims who had gathered today in Logan.

The white walls were decorated with posters that had the many names of Allah, and mosques in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca.

On a bulletin above the fireplace were five paper clocks that reminded me of how my second-grade teacher taught me how to read time. Each clock displayed a different time of the day, indicating the times of the five prayers: 6 a.m. fagr (the morning), 12:30 p.m. dohr (the afternoon), 4:15 p.m. asr (the midday), 8:10 p.m. maghrib (the evening), and 9:25 p.m. isha (the night).

At exactly 1:30 a man walked toward the front and placed one hand over his ear. He began to say the athan, the musical call to prayer. Because the Quran is basically a long poem, all the scriptures are to be read in the same way poetry is to be read, as a song.

"Allahu Akbar. . . . Allahu Akbar . . . Allahu Akbar. . . . Allahu Akbar. . . . Ashadu anna la illaha il Allah. . . . Ashadu anna la illaha il Allah. . . .Ashadu anna Muhammad ar rasul Allah. . . . Ashadu anna Muhammad ar rasul Allah. . . .Hayya alal salah. . . . Hayya alal salah. . . . Hayya alal fallah. . . . Hayya alal fallah. . . . Allahu Akbar. . . . Allahu Akbar. . . . La ellaha il Allah. . . . La illaha il Allah." That translates as, "Allah is the Greatest" (recited four times); "I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah" (recited twice); "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah" (recited twice); "Come to Prayer" (recited twice); "Come to success" (recited twice); "Allah is the Greatest" (recited twice); "There is none worthy of worship except Allah."

Standing on the green prayer rug, Suliyman said "Welcome brothers," as he began giving the khudba.

In real mosques the man giving the khudba sits on a chair atop a small wooden staircase, so he can be seen by all.

But because there were only 11 Muslims for Friday prayers, Suliyman simply stood before us.

This week's khudba was printed out on a sheet of white paper covered with Ibrahim's notes. In his khudba, Suliyman explained that only the jealousy that makes a man want to be like someone else, not the kind that wishes to taken away what someone else has, is permissible.

Suliyman continued for five minutes explaining the types of behaviors that were permissible according to the scripture he found in Surat el Bakara, a chapter of the Quran.

Once he finished his khudba he began to recite a duaa', a scripture of blessing.

Looking as though we were begging for God to fill our hands with blessings, we placed them together in front of our faces and as one said "amin" after each sentence.

When he finished we took our hands and cupped our faces, as if we were pouring the blessings onto our eyes, nose and lips.

All of the men stood and without a word formed two straight lines behind Suliyman. Of course, as the only woman, I was in the third line alone.

Once again, as though we were one, everyone followed the guide of Suliyman and we prayed together.

Bowing together.

Kneeling together.

Silently reciting together.

In Islam the purpose of the Friday prayer is to show the equality of all beings. All Muslims must perform the same movements at the same time, wherever they may be in the world, and Logan is no exception. A Friday prayer cannot be performed alone, which is why all able Muslim men (and women if they want to do so) go to the mosque and pray together.

The men filed out much the same way they came in, and the center was once again empty.

I prayed one more time, to again bless the center and its founders for the facility. Then I shook the hands of Davut, and thanked him for informing of the prayer time and asked if I can come again.

With the biggest smile I've ever seen him give, he said, "Of course, this is the House of God. Everyone is welcome."

Click the thumbnail photos below for larger versions.

The call to the faithful

Prayers, facing Mecca