Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Night 17- The Jewel of Hyde Park

I've driven by Masjid al-Faatir two or three times before and was in awe each time. I never expected a structure like this on the south side of Chicago! It's located in Hyde Park, notably known as the home of University of Chicago, and now more popularly as the location of Barack Obama's Chicago residence. It sits on a relatively busy intersection of the city and it's architecture serves as a work of dawah in it's own right. This mosque looks like it came straight out of Egypt, Syria, or Pakistan. As you pass by, you can't help but notice two gleaming minarets towering over Hyde Park.
Masjid al-Faatir
Interesting background: This masjid was built largely in part by world champion boxer and legend Muhammad Ali and his manager Jabir Muhammad. Jabir Muhammad was the son of Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad. He was the chief business manager of the Nation and and chief adviser to his father, but in his later years became a strong supporter of his brother Deen Muhammad and followed him back to mainstream Islam.

I entered through the golden/brass Arabic inscripted doors to be welcomed by an African American brother; he was sporting a brown and green Kufi and dawning a thobe falling halfway down below his knees, chewing his heart away on a big piece of miswak.

"Asalaam Alaikum Brother." He shook my hand more firm than anyone else had before. 

I quickly slipped off my sandals and headed straight to the prayer hall. It's octagonal in shape and relatively simple from the inside with hunter green carpet. All is pretty basic- except for the mihrab. Tiny, colorful marble and granite tiles mosaic the mihrab in a Moroccan or Turkish style.

I was impressed by the diversity of the congregation. Never before had I seen such variety and mix of cultures in one masjid. Black, White, Hispanic, Saudis, Indian, Pakistani, Syrian, Eastern European, etc etc. Most of them were either students of U of C, resident doctors in scrubs from the area hospitals, or the common Hyde Park resident. 

We Finished Salat al-Isha and the Imam of the mosque addressed the congregation on some of the virtues of Ramadan, specifically the last ten nights and Itikaaf, then inviting everyone for Itikaaf at Masjid al-Faatir.  Tarawih was led by two young (maybe 16 or 17 years old) hafiz; their striking resemblance and similar clothing led me to believe they are brothers, mashaAllah. One led the first eight rakats and the other brother led the remainder. Both had exceptional qirat, but on the same token, also completely different from each other which was quite gratifying for the listener. 

I can not imagine how a passer-by can walk past this mosque and not want to know more about it. I hope the sight of this center effects and sparks an interest in Islam by others. May Allah (SWT) bless Muhammad Ali and Late Jabir Muhammad for their sadaqa jaariya contribution to Chicago

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