Muslims open mosque to Quad-City community
Water bubbles up from a fountain next to the front entrance of the new mosque for the Muslim Community of the Quad-Cities in Bettendorf.
Its soothing sounds complement the structure that is set back from East Kimberly Road. The mosque, which was built over the past 18 months, will open its doors Saturday for a wide-ranging, informative public event.
“We are happy to have completed the new building and are eager to welcome our neighbors to celebrate with us. We look forward to working with them in the future,” said Mushtaq Khan, president of the Muslim Community of the Quad-Cities.
The new building marks an important step in the community’s history, starting when local Muslims began meeting about 40 years ago.
“We started with nothing. We used to meet under a tree at Crow Creek Park,” Khan recalled.
‘Bursting at the seams’
The new 11,400-square-foot structure is adjacent to its predecessor, a former home that was converted in 2000 to become the group’s original mosque. The new mosque has 10 times as much space.
“We were absolutely bursting at the seams in that house,” said Farah Khan of Bettendorf, who is not related to the community’s president.
The new building is set at a 45-degree angle to East Kimberly Road and faces toward the northeast. That is the global direction of the holy city of Mecca — and the orientation of all mosques in the U.S. in keeping with the Islamic faith.
Architect Salim Rangwala agreed it was a difficult building site because it includes two hills, a valley, tight lines and the group’s wish to retain the house for various activities.
“It was a very challenging site, but good solutions come out of tough challenges,” Rangwala said. The architect, who is from St. Louis, is experienced at designing new structures for various faiths: He has built U.S. Muslim, Hindu and Christian places of worship.
Rangwala tried to keep the design as simple as possible and to use mainly maintenance-free materials. The lot is long and narrow, with the hills to the north and east and the valley between them. He placed the mosque on the hill next to the existing building, which means it has entrances on two levels.
A parking lot adjoins the lower-level entrance, and a driveway provides easy access to the top level, the prayer hall.
Soothing earth tones color the exterior. It features split-faced textured masonry on the lower level, and the upper level is a stucco-type material. A highlight of the lower-level entrance is commissioned artwork on the wall. Letters spell out “For God” in Arabic against the background of a blue sky and clouds.
That entrance leads to the social hall/kitchen area as well as into a new gymnasium. There are stairs and an elevator to the second level.
All three main rooms within the mosque — the prayer hall, a social area and the gymnasium — include “mihrabs,” or bumped-out arched areas that also point toward Mecca and are the places where prayers can be led.
Audio connections from the mihrabs allow the entire building to be used for prayers on occasion, Mushtaq Khan said. He estimated that 1,000 people will fill the structure and be able to hear the prayers during events, including the Eid, the feast that marks the end of the Ramadan fast. That takes place in August this year.
The second-level prayer hall is the new building’s highlight, featuring a carpet imported from Turkey. Worshippers leave their shoes at the door and walk on the plush surface with a design that allows Muslims to easily align themselves in rows during prayer.
“It’s easier to line up with this,” Talia Alvi said. “It’s very striking.” Alvi, of Bettendorf, was one of the project coordinators who worked on the new mosque plans for years.
The room attracted lots of interest as the building was being constructed. Muslims wrote prayers and quotes on the drywall behind the finished area.
“The walls are literally filled with blessings,” Alvi said.
Keeping the original building?
The leaders decided to keep the house that served as their former mosque because the space is needed. Followers of Islam pray five times a day. The house also is where some of the Sunday school classes are held.
“Right now, that house is used a lot,” Alvi said.
In the future, it will be a building extension. One idea is to move the house and make it a residence for an imam, or prayer leader of the mosque. That is a position the community hopes to fill in the near future, Mushtaq Khan said.
‘The mosque that love built’
Muslims are celebrating the new space.
“To me, this is the mosque that love built,” said Lisa Killinger of Davenport. The community of Muslims felt like nomads for years, moving from place to place as membership grew. “Now we feel like we have enough space, and it’s ours,” she said.
Mushtaq Khan was excited by the project from the first day. It had its ups and downs as fundraisers were held periodically to raise money for the construction. But a high percentage of the people contributed, and that is a source of pride.
Alvi described the mosque as her fifth child. “It took time to build, we had to make agonizing decisions and stayed up at night worrying. We put our heart and soul into this place,” she said.
The construction process was a democratic project, Mushtaq Khan said, with a committee choosing everything from the Turkish carpet in the prayer hall to new tables and chairs in the social area.
Come and see
The Muslims hope Quad-City area residents will visit during the May 5 event and learn more about their Islamic faith.
“When many people consider Muslims, they don’t think of us as friends. They need to get to know us,” Killinger said. “Islam is a rich culture of hospitality and openness.”
Area residents ought to learn about Islam from local Muslims who practice the faith, Farah Khan said, pointing out that the mosque should be considered a spiritual benefit to the community.
“We are very excited to use this place for community services and prayer to help the Quad-Cities and humanity in general,” she said.
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