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A new mosque, just in time for Ramadan

Rancho Cucamonga grants Islamic Center a temporary occupancy permit for its nearly finished structure.

September 01, 2008|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

From speakers mounted inside and outside the modest stucco house in Rancho Cucamonga, the intoning sound of the call to Friday prayer floated in the muggy summer air.

Around 1 p.m., dozens of women in head scarves and flowing salwar kameezes streamed into the three women's prayer rooms, shucking off shoes and sandals at the door. Going into the building through a separate entrance, more than 50 men squeezed into the building's largest prayer room. Another 50 or so filed into a converted garage.

Those who were late took their places on green and white mats laid out on the patio between the house and the garage, sheltered from the sun by a bright blue tarp.

It was clear that the house was straining to fill the needs of the Islamic Center of Inland Empire, whose membership at last count included more than 200 families.

And insha'Allah -- God willing -- these would be the last Friday prayers in the old mosque. Construction workers were scrambling to polish the marble floors and lay the last roof tiles on their new masjid, or mosque, so the congregation could hold prayer services inside the new building for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins today.

"We have been waiting for this," said Salma Shah, 62, a Rancho Cucamonga resident who is a member of the center's board of trustees. "It's our dream."

The center has come a long way since a handful of families started worshiping in a rented warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga in 1992.

As the congregation grew, it purchased a three-acre parcel in 2000 on Baseline Drive, which had the modest stucco house at the front of the property.

They adapted the mint-green house for use as a mosque, but now they cannot fit everybody inside.

The new mosque at the back of the property, whose two minarets and broad dome are framed by the San Gabriel Mountains, cost an estimated $2 million and will be able to accommodate about 1,100 people. Mosque leaders had worried they could not finish the mosque in time for Ramadan, but the city granted them a temporary occupancy permit.

"This is our holy month, so anything we want to do, we want to do this month," explained Tehseen Zafar, 54, a Rancho Cucamonga resident who is a member of the center's board of directors.

Center officials said they also wanted to be able to accommodate the 400 or so people expected for the special services.

At the end of Friday's prayer services about 1:45 p.m., several dozen giddy people put their shoes back on and headed toward the new mosque to check on its progress.

A voice reciting passages of the Koran in Arabic emanated from the building as the crew inside tested the speakers. Workers unwrapped crystal chandeliers.

As Zafar looked up at the high, curving ceiling, freshly coated with paint, her face took on a look of wonder. "I am looking at future generations," she said. "They will come here and get knowledge of Islam."

Dr. Shoaib Patail, one of the center's founders, hopes the new mosque can become a gathering place for the city as well as for the Muslim community. In their design, they purposefully incorporated traditional Eastern arches and Western cathedral ceilings, said Patail, 49, of Alta Loma.

"It glorifies the importance of our relationships, our community and our city," Patail said. "It allows us to show the non-Muslim community we are a part of the community."

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jia-rui.chong@latimes.com

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