Most Viewed Stories
A people of faith: Islamic center opens doors
What is a Muslim? Are they to be feared by non-Muslims, or are they a peaceful and religiously devout people dedicated to the worship of God?
“Our religion calls for peace, for patience, and above all, for tolerance,” said Dr. Noman Waked, a leader at the Islamic Center of Yuma.
“We are people of faith. We are dedicated to our faith, just like Christians and Jews. Our doors are open and we have nothing to hide. People are always welcome here.”
To better connect with their non-Muslim neighbors in the Yuma area, members of the Islamic Center of Yuma, 200 W. 24th St., recently hosted an open house at their mosque.
“This is how we feel about this, that we need to do more dialogue and have to have more open houses so we can communicate and at the same time, to clarify any misconceptions,” Waked said. “We will continue to exert efforts to be open to the community.”
The center was completed and opened for services in Oct. 2007. Before that, area Muslims rented space at Yuma Center for Spiritual Living, a facility that also shares space with Yuma's Jewish community.
“They were very good people and hosted us for four years,” Waked said.
However, he added that it is much preferable to have their own place of worship dedicated to Islam.
“It is so nice because it really was one of our goals to have something of our own and at the same time to be able to bring the children and teach them about Islam. That is something we were really missing. It is really an important goal for us to continue to work with the children and educating them about religion.”
Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, some Muslims have been vilified and portrayed as extremists. This has generally not been the case in Yuma, Waked said.
“Honestly, we don't feel this way at all. It has been really nice and we feel at home. We feel always we are an integral part of the community.”
The Muslim community in Yuma has grown over the years, Waked said.
“I have been in Yuma since 1981, and there used to be two or three of us. The Muslim community, thank God, really has grown a lot. We are very happy with the progress we have in Yuma.”
There are now about 120 Muslims living in the Yuma area, he noted.
“They are all members of the Islamic Center.”
As the Muslim population in Yuma continues to grow, Waked said it is their goal to “continue to have welcoming arms for the whole community.”
The Muslims in Yuma are very devoted to their faith and devotion to Allah (God), Waked said.
The Muslims who attend the Islamic Center of Yuma follow the Five Pillars of Islam. These pillars of religion are five basic duties Muslims observe including acceptance of the shahadah (a creed stating “there is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God”), daily prayers (salat), almsgiving (zakah), fasting during Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.
The most visible of the Five Pillars in the Yuma area is the salat, which Muslims perform five times each day. The first is completed before sunrise, the second at noon, the third in the afternoon, the fourth after sunset, and the fifth before going to sleep. Some of the prayers are spoken aloud, while some are silent.
“Everything was revealed to the Prophet through the Qur'an – the prayer was directly ordered to the Prophet Muhammad by his Lord, so we take it extremely serious that we pray five times a day,” Waked said.
“Prayer is a command from Allah. We will connect with our Lord all day long. It doesn't matter where you are. You can perform (salat) on the street, at the mosque, in your home, there is no set place for them.”
The center hosts religious services every Friday night that are open to the public. There are certain procedures visitors must observe when entering the prayer room for services including using a scarf to cover the hair of a woman and the removal of shoes.
“We always have a sermon here on Friday,” Waked said. “All Muslims are obligated to come to that prayer, so there will always be a Friday prayer where there is a lesson given.”
The sermons are delivered in both Arabic and English “so everybody will feel at home,” Waked said. “We have many Muslims that don't speak Arabic, so we deliver the sermon in English and Arabic.”
For those simply curious about Islam, the center offers classes on Wednesday evenings. For more information about when the Friday service or Wednesday classes are held, call 783-4919 or visit islamiccenteryuma.org.
One of the best ways to learn about Islam is to read the Qur'an, Waked said, noting the center has copies of the religious text in English.
“I recommend highly that you read the Qur'an.”