Islam has several denominations that follow the laws and culture of the Islam way of life. Islam is divided into the following denominations Sunni, Shi’a, Sufism, Ahmadiyya, Kharijites and Quranists. The Sunni Muslims are the majority of all the Muslims and comprise of 90% of all the worlds Muslims.
Due to their large numbers they took up the title Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah which means people of the principle and majority. Shi’a is the second largest group and comprise of about 10-20% of the worlds Muslims. Sufism is a mystic-abstinent methodology to Islam that searches for celestial love and knowledge by using uninterrupted individual incidents of God. They concentrate on the more spiritual characteristics of religion. Ahmadiyya Muslims came into being in the 19th century using the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as their foundation.
Ahmadis believe that they lead the revitalization and nonviolent spread of Islam. Kharijites believe and specify that a leader should be chosen on the merits of his experience and devoutness and is removed if he performs unjust acts. Quranists are Muslims who basically and communally decline the Hadith which are the Muslim teachings.
Muslims first came into the United States as slaves who were brought to work in the huge plantations owned by white farmers. In the early 1950’s an incursion of Muslim professionals majority of them being physicians, chose to inhabit United States after finishing their studies as their home countries were not hospitable enough. A large number of Muslim students also arrived in America to pursue their studies and due to this Muslim communities were formed and mosques put up in some cities like; Detroit, Ann Arbor, Indian, Iowa and Sacramento. Islam national groups were also formed during this period, Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada which changed to Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and their supporting organizations like the Regional and national conferences of Muslims. In present day mosques, Islamic centers and schools are found in every community, Islamic Organizations and institutions thrive and they area able to address the concerns of the Muslim community in the United States.
In the early sixties, the Centre commenced it purpose and actions on slam scale basis. It was an ordinary town house located at the corner of 72nd Street and Riverside drive. Plans were underway to build a mosque, a school, a library, a museum and a lecture hall that would serve the important Islamic role as well as being a landmark for New York City. The Islamic Cultural Centre opened in 1989 and held its first prayers in 1991, is quite often referred to as the ‘96th street mosque’. It was the very fist mosque built form the ground up in New York City. The mosque comprises of two very important essentials of an Islamic house of worship; a mosque and a minaret. This provides a traditional external yard for believers to gather before services start.
The mosques geometrical form follows Islamic laws which forbid the representation of innate forms since they are made in God’s image. The design of the Islamic Cultural Centre Mosque is aimed at formulating its architectural appearance that represents the opulent and diverse traditions of the Islamic world in the perspective the 21st century. The design takes into account both the traditions of Islamic architecture and the progression of architecture of the present time. The design is based on the use of geometric ordering principles of recurrent units of squares. Natural light from the large glazed areas crisscrossing the space plays a significant part in essential and improving the interior space. The prayer hall is finished with a huge dome with kufic inscriptions at the base, a spherical collection of lights hovering from the inside the dome provides an implicit ceiling above the worshipers giving the hall intimate scale. Demographics in the City of New York suggest that it is the most popular city in the United States.
Its crucial demographic features are its population density and cultural diversity. New York City is extensively multicultural as it has been an entry point for immigrants. The percentage of New York’s population is: African American 25.1%, Native Americans 0.
4%, Asian Americans 11.8%, Pacific Islander Americans 0.1%, Multiracial Americans 2.1% Hispanics and Latinos 27.5%, white Americans 32.5%. Harlem houses the surviving Nation of Islam Headquarters and Sunni mosques that offer service to majority of African American congregation while the Upper East Side houses foreign embassies as well the United Nations Headquarters and First Avenue factors that lead to the diverse range of nationalities in attendance at the ICC.
The Islamic cultural centre is involved in interfaith and community involvement activities that make it not only a place for Muslims but for other people to learn and get acquainted with the Islam religious way of life. Mosques as well as the Islamic cultural centre take part in non religious programs that eventually help the community as a whole. These activities include interfaith dialogues, media relations and visits to other schools and places of worship. Looking for interfaith dialogues is an action that shows and reinforces the idea of communal space and common interest in the community issues. This shows that the different religions in New York city acknowledge and respect each other for the sake of the community at large. If these religions were to begin fighting against each other then the results would surely be disastrous. The Islamic cultural centre has amalgamated with different groups in activities and coalitions that show case a huge deal of information concerning Muslim ways that requires them to actively take part in one’s religious neighbors.
The talks held between the Imam and Regional ADL members indicate a quest for common ground in fighting against prejudice and fight for equality of all. An important message passed across by the partnership between ADL and ICC is that the present matters more than differences encountered in the past. Though these two organizations do not have much common interest, their partnership was purely based on mutual present interest.
This shows joint apprehension, in retro respect of faith, and reinforces the dedication to taking care of the less fortunate in the society which is integrated into the Muslim faith making it alike with the practice of zakat. The school built next the ICC on the same plot integrates interfaith activities in its curriculum program which shows that Muslim learning incorporates cross-community education and association. The students took part in the ‘Cordoba bread fest’ a multi faith event that was founded around the significance and meaning of bread in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The event was named Cordoba to pay respect to the Spanish city that was once a community where all three faiths lived. Sponsors of this event included the ICC, a synagogue in New York, Catholic Archdiocese of New York and other religious organizations. This shows that these faiths looked past their differences in the past and came together in a time of need and a time to show their solidarity for each other and harmony for the betterment of the community at large.
Such programs as these describes Muslim partaking as productive looking for points of similarities and focusing on them as compared to looking for differences. Bellah in his writing ‘civil religion in America’ 1967, asserts that ‘few have realized that there actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well institutionalized civil religion in America’. This quote means that there are several different religious institutions in America which sows that the American people are deeply religious. All these religions have similarities and differences that they look past and they respect each other for the betterment of the community at large. Bellah also notes that a compilation of beliefs and values with the uttermost respect to consecrated ornaments and embedded cooperatively.
This is to say that this different institutions are purely independent of each other and the political sphere however they do not compete with each other neither do they condemn each other they rather give the masses a chance to choose for the themselves the religion that best suits and takes care for their needs wholly and spiritually, not forgetting emotionally. This diverse offer the American people a forum whereby they can carry out the Lord’s will on earth that is spreading the good news to all people the world over. If these religious institutions were to turn against each other and begin questioning or condemning each other the world as we know it would come to an end as the religious wars would spread in the whole world not only in America. Each and every person would want to defend and fight for the religious institution they believe in and follow it would be a blood bath as the respect by the religious institutions as we know it would be long gone. Bellah’s quote captures the diversity of the religious institutions in America as well as the respect that these institutions have for each other not mentioning their independence form other aspects that may influence them. In conclusion the Islamic Cultural Centre in New York plays different roles in the local community as well as the society at large.
These roles help a lot of different people in different ways, some of the roles that the Islamic Cultural Centre plays are: first, offering services to the Muslims who are based in and around Manhattan and the bigger Muslim community based in the United States of America by providing answers to their religious based questions, second, giving a platform where the faithful can conduct and carry out their prayers, third, offering lessons to the faithful and their children to expand their knowledge and understanding about their religion, informing American Public Opinion with accurate and factual information concerned with Islam, its doctrines, its ideology, its philosophy, culture and its countries; fourth, giving religious leadership to Muslim communities in the United States of America and accurate religious opinions and legal rulings of Islamic law concerning religious, cultural, and social questions; last but not least endorsing better understanding and cordial relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Islamic Cultural Centre in New York represents Muslim American civic actors through their activities and the work they do. This in turn creates a lawful entry of religious actors and activities into the political realm. The Islamic Cultural Centre ensures Muslim participation in the civic realm encompasses open-mindedness, discourse and municipal dialogue. It brings out general principles like honesty, nonviolence, cooperation, and obligation to social justice that are consistent in both the Islam faith and American civic norms. It is therefore safe to conclude that the Islamic Cultural Centre represents upright norms and values that make the community a better place to live in not only of the Muslim faithful but for everyone. This tells us that apart from representing the Muslim faith and community in New York the Islamic Cultural Centre it also represents the needs and values of other people in the community, it does not discriminate against members of the community that are not Muslims neither does it force or coerce people to join their religion. This building has brought a wider knowledge of the Muslim community to the greater New York community.
Through explaining in detail the purpose of Islam and how it has been tarnished by wrong doer’s non believers are able to understand that Islam in itself is not violent but some believers try to make it out to be by finding loop holes. The centre offers teachings and has a library where one can learn more about the Muslim faith form its inception to the present. This centre also show cases architectural expertise by Muslims as well as show cases their doctrines in the Islam faith.
This then attracts people as not only as a monumental spectacle in New York City but also as a place of worship and a place to learn. This paper has looked at the different denomination found in the Muslim faith, a brief history of how Muslims came to the United States of America, the history, Architectural design of the Islamic Cultural Centre in New York, issues and activities that the centre is involved and takes part in, and the roles of the building in the community as well the things it represents to the Muslim faithful and the community at large. The fact that the centre was build at a very central place in Upper Eat Manhattan shows that the American people have deep respect for religion and they value it immensely and that they have an interest in other religions not necessarily to joint them but be aware of their ways, cultures and values.
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