Friday, August 19, 2011

Night 19- Another side of the Spectrum

This evening, I decided to switch things around a bit and visit a place that otherwise would not cross my mind to attend. I visited the Baitul Ilm Center in Streamwood, IL- a Shia led masjid. Baitul Ilm is one of the handful of Shia mosques in the greater Chicago area. This was my first time formally visiting a Shia center and I was quite ecstatic to say the least. Being a Sunni Muslim myself, a lot of questions come to mind when it comes to the Shia sect, their views, similarities, and differences which spark a great level of interest for me. I won't cover those, but rather my experience breaking fast with fellow brethren.

Pulling into the driveway, I was overtaken by the design and size of the newly constructed expanded complex. It reminded me of photographs I've seen of the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran, with imposing arches decorated with inlaid small blue tiles.  I was already a few minutes late for my iftar (since I got lost on the way), but just my luck the Shia fiqh indicates the time for maghrib a few minutes later than in sunni fiqh, so I made it just in time to not miss any action. The foyer is beautifully decorated with colored marble flooring and mahogany wood encasing the walls from floor to ceiling. I heard the maghrib adhan and quickly entered the prayer hall.
Men's iftar held in the original building

Maulana Sulayman Hasan Abidi advising
After maghrib salat, separate arrangements were made for the men's iftar in the adjacent original building of Baitul Ilm and in the lower level banquet facility for the women. The smell of Biryani which filled the air outside led me and the other hungry men to the food. After the first few spoons of the delicious fare, Maulana Sulayman Hasan Abidi pulled out a chair across from me and sat down with his food. I had made prior arrangements with him a few days earlier for a personal tour of the facility. He is a tall, soft spoken, considerably young Maulana currently pursuing his Doctorate in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago and shares his duties with the founder of Baitul Ilm, Maulana Faezi, whom I also had the opportunity to speak with over the phone prior to my visit. We launched a conversation and I got to learn more about him, as he was also asking about me. He struck me as a very approachable individual and this was just the case- he seemed to know everyone on a first name basis. Throughout my time with Maulana Sulayman, members of the mosque continually approached him with their salaam and questions- from elderly men to a four or five year old boy.
The Dome

After iftar, he acquainted me about the original facility and then guided me into the new building, which I should add had been constructed "green" using environmentally friendly materials. Currently, the interior of the eastern wing of the complex consisting of a library and classrooms is still under construction so he showed me the new prayer hall and basement which were officially inaugurated almost two months ago. As I walked with him, his long, black cloak resting on his shoulders gracefully breezed behind him through the halls. He discussed with me the different aspects of the masjid and Shia belief, as well as the future goals which Baitul Ilm is in the midst of acquiring. The prayer hall is a large space, and a magnificent dome with a calligraphic verse from Surah Baqarah around its circumference floats in the center. As we continued to converse, Dua al-Iftitah (a special dua which Shia Muslims recite every night in Ramadan) was being recited over the speakers and listened to attentively by fellow worshipers.

At this point it was getting late and Maulana Sulayman had to get back to his duties so we bid our farewells. He invited me to visit again after the full completion of the center, and I hope, inshaAllah, that will be soon!

Main Entrance Foyer


  1. So well-written! I feel like I was there with you!! -Maryam

  2. Thank you Maryam, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Salam Imaad,

    I just wanted to clarify about the ImamBarghas that you had mentioned. Not all Shi'is call community centers "Imambarghas" (this is more of a Pakistani name for it. Iranians call them Hosseiniyehs, and Arabs call them marakiz, meaning centers.) Shi'as usually reserve the term Masjid for a location that has the siqah of Masjid read to it. At that point it becomes a masjid, for which several limitations are given to that piece of land and building. The center that you went to is actually a masjid and not an Imambargha.

    Eid mubarak wa salaam.

  4. Thank you for clarifying that for me. I have edited that part as well. Hope you had a great Eid InshaAllah!