Northern Nevada Muslim Community
Sparks, NV 89431
I’d never been to a Muslim service before, so I was quite happy when Nadia Beekan invited me to the 1 p.m. Friday service (jummah) at the mosque (masjid) on Oddie Boulevard. We were to meet in time for a tour, but I showed up early. Eileen, who helps out at the mosque, showed me around, then passed me off to several other people, each of whom gave me some new information and a bit more tour. Nadia soon took over the tour and told me about the five daily prayers: before sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, just after sunset, and before bed.
There’s a big dining room/classroom/community area by the building’s entrance (on the opposite side of Oddie Boulevard). Canned Cokes and steaming, delicious-smelling food trays filled some tables. I found out later that a member’s mother had passed away, and the food was in her honor. Just off this main meeting room was a coat and shoe room. Also in this room is a little area for ritual cleansing, called wudu. The brothers and sisters wash before going into the sanctuary, and shoes are not worn into the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is an austere, square room oriented toward the pulpit (Mimber), which means the congregants face Mecca. The floor’s carpet is green and soft with an ivory-colored border. There are parallel lines in the carpet, approximately three feet apart, which are also oriented toward Mecca. The walls are eggshell, and there are translucent shades over the windows. The drop ceiling has fluorescent lighting. One corner has cabinets and books. On the walls, there are tapestries with Arabian cities and a red-toned one at the rear with an intricate pattern. To the right of the entrance and at the rear of the room, there’s a smaller room for the women. As Nadia explained, women are at the rear out of decorum, since women tend to be less distracted by men’s backsides than visa versa.
Imam Amm Hossain gave the call to prayer (athan). It’s in Arabic, and for non-Muslims, probably most recognizable from TV as the voice calls over Middle Eastern cities. It’s a beautiful chant. Other parts of the service were also recognizable, for example, when the men stood shoulder to shoulder, along the lines inscribed toward Mecca. At different times, they’d touch their ears, respond aloud, bend at the hips and kneel and bow deeply, touching their foreheads to the floor. The whole service was vaguely familiar but different than anything I’d experienced before. By the end of the service, there were probably 140 men and boys in the room, dressed from blue jeans to traditional Muslim garb.
The sermon (khutba), by Abdul Moulah, centered on Allah’s provisioning the people. He essentially said that Allah would provide to each according to his needs: “He did not create his creation to starve them. … Eat and drink from the provision of Allah. It is not because we are smart or strong that we get [more or less in life]. It is because of Allah.”
I’ll admit it: I was weirdly apprehensive before going to this service—just goes to show you how the media have broadly maligned this faith and its adherents in recent years. From beginning to end, people—even those who didn’t know why I was there—were polite and very concerned that I was comfortable and welcome in their place of worship. I was invited several times to stay and eat with the group, although, unfortunately I’d made other plans. I’m looking forward to my next opportunity.