Builders of New Mosque Put Faith in Ramadan


Builders of a grand mosque are putting their faith in the giving season of Ramadan to help them raise up to $1 million for one of the larger Islamic worship halls in the country.

Ramadan, which begins today, is one of Islam’s most holy holidays and is celebrated by sacrifice in a monthlong fast and a call to increase charitable giving.

“We’re hoping this Ramadan will be very critical in raising funds,” said Ahmed Ali, project coordinator for the Islamic Society of Orange County’s $8-million mosque under construction.


“We remind people that you give from the heart and soul. We believe [during Ramadan] you will receive back 70 times more than what you give,” he said.

A dozen mosques in Orange County are available to the county’s Muslim community, estimated at up to 150,000. The largest mosque is the Islamic Society’s center, which attracts overflow crowds of 2,000 worshipers during its Friday services.

The new mosque eventually will replace the society’s one-story facility on 13th Street near Brookhurst Street. Muslims who come to pray there often overflow the tiny worship hall and kneel toward Mecca in the hallways, cafeteria and parking lot.

The project’s first phase, which includes a $2-million, 17,000-square-foot main prayer hall and mortuary, is scheduled to be finished within six months. More parking also will be provided on the six-acre site.

The only mosque of similar size in California is in Santa Clara, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations. It is in converted office space and doesn’t reflect the traditional Middle Eastern-styled mosque, he said.

Ramadan celebrates the revelation of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to the prophet Muhammad. During the monthlong observance, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, say daily prayers and, on the last and holiest day of Ramadan, celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, or Feast of the Fast-Breaking, which falls on Dec. 27 this year.

“Ramadan symbolizes sacrifice in many ways, including giving to charity,” said Fareed Farukhi, a member of the mosque. “Therefore we feel more commitment to give--even a smile is charity. This is an opportune time to reach out to people.”

The daylong fasts, which don’t even allow drinks of water, make Muslims appreciate their blessings, Ayloush said.

“You’re going to have some hunger and thirst,” Ayloush said. “It puts you closer to those who are less fortunate. And when you put yourself in that position, you give more.”

Muslim leaders raised $1 million during Ramadan last year, bringing total donations to $1.2 million. They are paying with cash because Islam prohibits paying interest on borrowed money.

Now that donors can see the mosque’s steel beams rising above the society’s one-story building, leaders say, the fund-raising will get easier.

“Before, we appealed to the people’s imagination,” Ali said. “Now they see the real thing.”

Syed Raza, the project’s architect, said he tried to keep the construction style simple to hold down costs, although he added flourishes such as five minarets, a courtyard, and Arabic, Indian and Persian arches.

Because men and women aren’t allowed to worship together, the main prayer hall will feature separate entrances and levels. The mezzanine, which has a nursery, will be for women. Men will pray on the ground floor.

“The interior is very exciting,” said Raza, who won a competition with four other firms to design the buildings. “This is one of the largest mosques [in the United States]. They don’t build too many big ones.”

The building will be the first built-from-scratch mosque in Orange County, allowing the architect to place the worship space facing Mecca, Islam’s sacred city in Saudi Arabia. In mosques originally built for other purposes, Muslims often have to pray at odd angles inside the rooms to ensure they are kneeling toward Mecca.

“We’ve prayed facing a lot of corners,” Ayloush said.

The mosque, also designed as a community center, will include a meeting hall, two libraries, indoor basketball court, offices, lecture halls, dining area, kitchen and a new wing for the Orange Crescent School.

“As congregations grow, people want to build larger mosques,” said Timur Kuran, a USC professor who holds the King Faisal chair in Islamic Thought and Culture. “There isn’t one currently in Los Angeles, so it was only a matter of time before one like this was built.”


Facts About Ramadan

What is Ramadan?

A monthlong Muslim holiday that celebrates the revelation of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to the prophet Muhammad. The Ramadan fast is one of the five pillars, or basic duties, of Islam. The other pillars are the shahada, or profession of faith; the salat, or formal prayer; the zakat, a tithing for charity; and the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca.

What happens during Ramadan?

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, community, introspection and charity. Muslims fast during the day. They go to the mosque daily to say special taraweeh prayers, which incorporate extended readings from the Koran. They’re expected to give more to charity. And they get together each evening to break their fast.

Why do Muslims fast?

Fasting allows Muslims to better understand the world’s suffering and better appreciate their own blessings. The fast centers their thoughts on spiritual matters and teaches them self-control. In addition, it helps to bind the community.

Why is Ramadan at a different time each year?

Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so the holiday moves up 11 days each year.

What is Lailat ul-Qadr?

The “Night of Power,” observed toward the end of Ramadan, is the anniversary of the night the prophet Muhammad first heard revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. Most mosques will have an all-night program that includes a dinner, lessons and prayers.

When does Ramadan end?

Ramadan ends with Eid ul-Fitr, or “Feast of the Fast-Breaking,” one of the holiest days of the Islamic year.

Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations