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Sharing the Faith, Spreading the Word

November 26, 2001|FRANCINE ORR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the eve of the start of Ramadan, more than 100 Muslims and about 15 non-Muslims gathered to share in the understanding of Ramadan at the Islamic Education Center in Costa Mesa, situated in an industrial complex under the path of jets flying in and out of John Wayne Airport. The group came together to share in study of the basics of the holy month through evening prayers, a reading from the Koran and a brief lecture by center director Imam Moustafa al-Qazwini. The evening ended with a meal shared while everyone sat together on the floor. "This year we have intensified our efforts welcoming all religions," said Al-Qazwini, "mostly because of Sept. 11."

Muslims and non-Muslims alike removed their shoes before entering. Respectfully, women covered their heads. As guests observed, men lined the front of the room, shoulder to shoulder, with the women, their bodies fully covered, praying separately. Some young children wandered through the crowd, as others lay in the comfort of their mother's arms. A few of the men held prayer beads in their hands, silently repeating to themselves "God is great," "I swear that there is only one God," and then asking for God's forgiveness.

As the Shiite Muslims bowed down during prayer, they touched their foreheads to the Turbah, a symbol of Earth and nature that looks like a round, flat piece of clay small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. Bowing in prayer shows "humbleness and humility," Al-Qazwini explained later. "It is a reminder of the sacrifice of religion. We came from dust, and from dust we will be restricted."

Al-Qazwini spoke of the traditional rules of Ramadan. He spoke of not eating or drinking or having marital relations during daylight hours; it is, he said, a time of reflection, prayer and appreciation, and for focusing on family and religion.

The jets continued to land throughout the evening, vibrating the center, the sound a sad reminder of why so many were seeking answers about Islam, and why the Muslim community welcomed them.

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