Raleigh Muslims share heritage, religion at Islamic Center open house

sgilman@newsobserver.comMarch 1, 2014 

  • For more information

    To learn more about the Islamic Center of Raleigh at 808 Atwater St. or to set up a tour, contact Fiaz Fareed at outreach@islam1.org or at 919-946-8745.

In a beautiful songlike chant, 11-year-old Sabrina DeHart stood behind a microphone and recited in Arabic what Muslims consider the 99 names of God.

Crossing her arms shyly at the wrists and wearing a black, full-length abaya and black and white head scarf, she faced an audience of Muslims and visitors in the prayer room of the Islamic Center of Raleigh.

DeHart was one of about 300 students at the center’s Al-Iman school who helped present Muslim heritage, culture and religion at the annual Open House for the Triangle Community on Saturday afternoon.

The event, coordinated by the Islamic Association of Raleigh, was open to members of the community and included three floors full of educational displays.

On the top floor, Al-Iman students gave presentations every half hour on historic Muslim scientific inventions.

DeHart’s project was on coffee and the account of Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd. One day, as the story goes, one of his goats ate some strange berries.

“Kaldi noticed the berries made the goat hyper, so he decided to boil them, and it made coffee,” DeHart said.

Other presentations included the invention of the astrolabe, a navigation tool, and medical instruments created by a 10th-century surgeon named al-Zahrawi.

“To this day, some of these instruments are still in use,” said Fiaz Fareed, outreach coordinator for the center.

On the second floor was a traveling display from America’s Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. “It’s the only museum in America that tells the history of Muslims in America,” said museum curator and president Amir Muhammad. The display at the center included images of people, documents and places relating to Muslim history in the United States from the 1500s to the present.

In the gym on the first floor, about 30 tables displayed food and traditional items from predominantly Islamic countries around the world.

“Do you want sugar?” Kedija Saleh asked a visitor, who had just accepted a tiny, delicate cup of coffee balanced on a square glass saucer.

He did, and the Eritrea-born Cary resident Saleh added some with a tiny spoon.

Fahiima Mohammed, 15, was born in Raleigh, but her parents are from Somalia. She stood at a table labeled “Somalia” and showed the jars of perfume and ornate teacups to visitors.

“Somalians are known for drinking a lot of tea and knowing a lot of Quran,” she said with a smile.

Other tables represented people and traditions from Algeria, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, the Palestinian territories, the United States and more.

Around the corner from the gym was the prayer room, where visitors could watch Muslims in prayer or listen to religious presentations.

“Islam is attaining peace by submitting and being obedient to God,” said Ali Zelmat, who does community outreach with the center. “So a Muslim is one who submits, one who is working toward that in life.”

Zelmat explained the tenets of Islam to the crowd of visitors. “Allah” means “one worthy of our worship,” and the Quran is their source of legislation and “the exact words of God,” she said. “We believe that when we read the Quran, we are listening to God – literal word-for-word revelation coming to the prophet.”

Fareed said the center, built in 2000, has been a popular place for visits from seminaries and local schools.

Members hold the outreach day to meet the community, he said. “Most people don’t know that there are thousands of (Muslim) people living near them as neighbors,” Fareed said. “We want them to feel more comfortable. They are people with the same struggles, the same attributes of life as any other people.”

Gilman: 919-553-7234, ext. 104

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