Generations of Muslims celebrate Islamic Center's 30-year anniversary

Sunday, September 15, 2013 | 7:46 p.m. CDT; updated 12:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 16, 2013
To commemorate its 30th anniversary, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri held an open house for the public on Sunday. Mosque members taught visitors about Islamic culture with food, henna tattoos and a film screening.

COLUMBIA — Khadijah Misbahu sucks her thumb.

The 2-year-old sits against the wood-paneled wall of the prayer hall and mumbles softly, tugging at her white headscarf as the row of men beside her kneel in prayer.

"Shh," her father, Misbahu Ali, whispers, as the child mimics his actions.

He stands up. She stands up. He bows his head and she quickly follows suit.

But when Khadijah suddenly gets distracted, she kneels too quickly, forcing her father to pick her up and move her before he can complete his prayer.

When he's finished, Khadijah waddles merrily toward the door. Ali adjusts her headscarf as father and daughter descend the stairs of the mosque to join the 30th anniversary celebration.

The Islamic Center of Central Missouri, a community that includes little Khadijah, Ali and the men and women who started the community in the 1980s, celebrated its anniversary on Sunday by opening its doors to community members for information sessions and lessons in Islamic culture.

During that time, the center's youth congregation staffed an assortment of tables riddled with baklava and falafel spreads, henna artistry and Arabic postcards while visitors explored the mosque. The youth also facilitated "Islam 101" and "Women in Islam" sessions, and older congregation members answered questions from visitors in the community center.

Founded in 1983, the Islamic center is the only mosque in Columbia. It caters to a diverse congregation, from those born and raised in Columbia to MU students, with varying ethnic backgrounds.

"Having a lot of different perspectives involved in the mosque helps it grow," said Tahura Lodhi, a 19-year-old member and MU junior.

Lodhi, who was raised in Columbia, grew up going to the Islamic center. She wasn't alive when it first opened, but she is excited about the future that this 30-year mile marker signifies.

"I think 30 years from now, the people running the mosque will be very different," Lodhi said.

With the combination of young members who have grown up in the mosque and the influx of college students during the previous 30 years, Lodhi said she believes that the people who are running the center at the 60-year mark will continue to rejuvenate and bring a fresh prospective to the center.

But that's not to say a youthful perspective is missing today. The young women giving tours were dressed in floral trousers, sheer tops and fashionable headscarves. During down time, they used Instagram to share their fashion choices and explored for unique jewelry.

Other members shared amusing stories with their friends from the congregation on Twitter.

Mohammad Eldeib uses the compass app on his iPhone to point him toward Mecca when he prays.

Eldeib considers himself the "jiddu," or grandfather, to much of the younger congregation members. He has watched the Islamic center grow from a small group to a much larger one that barely fits in the prayer room during Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.

He often reminds his grandchildren that Islam is growing with their mosque, but the message is still the same.

"This was a dream of just a few families in the late '70s and '80s. Now we're just growing," said Eldeib.

No one can project what the center will see in its next 30 years, or whether it will reach that benchmark. But one thing is certain  — Khadijah will have stopped sucking her thumb by then.

Anniversary events will continue at the Islamic Center through Sept. 21.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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