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Reply To: BONUS: Reach out to a local mosque and respectfully request a tour and/or an informational interview with the mosque’s Imam

AvatarMonica Kellogg

I reached out to a local mosque, the American Muslim Institute, and took a tour! Sadly, the Imam, who was only recently hired and moved here from Egypt, was not available. The Executive Administrator, Sarah Kasaby, was more than willing to share about the institute, the religion and its members. I was informed that there are nine mosques here in Omaha. This particular one has a dome, in honor of the Dome of the Rock but different, in that this one has clear glass for introducing light into the atrium. Muslim geometric art pattern is incorporated into the glass of the front doors, as well as a wall with the same pattern carved into solid dark oak in the atrium. Outside the building, there is a pillar with five points, representing the five pillars of Islam (I remembered this point, from Alberto Fernandez’s lesson!). This pillar is actually a functional “bell” to call members to prayer time and called a “minaret.” Modernization has provided some leniency, as far as going to the mosque five times to pray, since speakers can be used to broadcast the prayer for Muslims or they can pray wherever they are, she explained.
Sarah then explained about the ablution 12-step process, for which they have illustrated posters posted on the walls for the children to learn. The name of Allah is not to be mentioned in areas considered unclean, such as the fountains for ablution. We went into the prayer hall barefoot where she showed me there are two sections for the men and one for the women. Prostrated prayer is done separated by a partition wall “so as to not distract anyone during prayer.” There are five prayers that their tradition follows daily, performed bending toward the floor. She kindly explained Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Mohammad and that when the nose is touching the ground, one is closest to and can pray directly to Allah. Sarah clarified that the true prayer must be said in Arabic, whether the person speaks in Arabic or not. Translations of the prayers are provided for converts to understand the prayer, but encouraged, it not required to pray in Arabic, “in order for it to count.” The lower-level houses classrooms where they teach classes to the members as well. I even got to meet her toddler son, who showed me the children’s wing, where they go for “Sunday school.” Sarah was informative and personable, making it a pleasant tour.
This a unique mosque in that it is actually part of a “tri-faith” campus, that houses a Jewish temple and Christian Church as well. Occasionally, they host community events. I will make a point to visit their next event, as well as the other two institutions sometime soon!