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Islam in the Ozarks: Tour of a Mosque

This week, we’re continuing our look at the religious landscape of the Ozarks by highlighting the Islamic community in southwest Missouri. Today, KSMU’s Jennifer Moore takes a tour of the mosque in Joplin, which is the place of worship for about 40 families.

Our tour is led by the imam of the mosque, Lahmuddin, who is originally from Indonesia. He says the one story brick building used to be a church. We start out in the large kitchen and dining area.

“We use this only when we have gatherings. We have a monthly gathering at the end of the month. Also, during the month of Ramadan we use this for breaking fast weekly,” he said.

Down the hall, there are two rooms: one with toys, and another with tables and chairs.

"These are for classrooms, for kids who come here on weekends to learn about Qur’an, [to] learn about Islam," he said.

We then approach the large prayer hall, which used to be a church sanctuary.

No shoes are allowed, since the Islamic prayers involve prostration, in which worshippers actually touch their foreheads to the floor.

Muslims stand side by side in rows, with their feet touching, to perform the prayers.

There are no chairs or pews; worshippers sit on the floor to listen to the Friday sermon, and rise to their feet when they hear the call to prayer, or adthan.

Lahmuddin points out that women and men pray in separate rows, with the men in the front rows and the women in the back. He says this is because the sources of Islam--the Qur'an and the sayings of Mohammed, whom Muslims believe was the last prophet--instruct the mosque to be set up this way.

The walls of the building are built along an East-West grid, but the prayer carpets are arranged in a diagonal form. Lahmuddin says this is becuase one of the requirments of the Islamic prayer time is that Muslims must face Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

Lahmuddin says when the community bought the church building, they had to remove a few Christian icons which were inconsistent with Islam. Now, verses of the Qur'an adorn the walls for decoration.

While we’re talking, a couple of men come in to pray. At the front of the prayer hall is a podium from which Lahmuddin will speak when he gives the Friday sermon.

Join us tomorrow morning for our final part in this week’s series, as we go inside the Friday prayer service in Joplin’s mosque.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.

Colorful prayer carpets line the prayer hall in the mosque. (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore) The building used to be a church; although it was built along an East-West grid, the carpets are aligned diagonally so that people may face Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, when they pray. (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore) This frame includes Arabic inscriptions of what Muslims believe to be the 99 names of God.  (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore) Gold thread sewn onto black velvet displays verses from the Qur'an, the sacred book in Islam. (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore) The building was formerly a church; it has a stage which is not used today.  (Photo credit:  Jennifer Moore)