Eid Mubarak: Zooming in on the Muslim Community of San Gabriel Valley

As the second week of April comes to an end, phrases such as “Eid Mubarak,” “Ramadan” might have come across your Instagram feed. But beyond keywords such as “fasting,” “Muslim,” and “religion,” what do “Eid Mubarak” and “Ramadan” really mean?

Just 10 minutes away from Wilson campus, the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley (ICSGV) is home to a lesser-known yet thriving muslim community in the San Gabriel Valley. A Near Eastern studies enthusiast and a student journalist myself, I took advantage of ICSGV’s proximity and visited the mosque to see Islam, the focal point of Near East History and modern Middle Eastern affairs, in practice.

Welcomed at the door by mosque administrator Mr. Muhammad Asad, I was invited to observe the Dhuhr prayer (afternoon prayer), one of the five mandatory daily prayers carried out at dawn, afternoon, late afternoon, after sunset, and at night. Though an apparent non-Muslim distinguished by my press pass and unfamiliarity with the facilities, I was greeted warmly with the phrase “assalamualaikum (peace be upon you)” by everyone who entered the prayer hall.

After observing the prayer, Mr. Asad introduced me to the mosque İmam Hafiz Ahmad Hassan, who kindly took his time for a conversation in his office.

In light of Ramadan, Imam Hassan began by explaining this religious observance often associated with misconceptions, primarily regarding the fasting practice.

“During Ramadan, we only fast during the day, from dawn to sunset, not at night. During the fast, we do not eat or drink water,” Imam Hassan clarified. “And we do this for the entire [Islamic calendar] month of Ramadan.”

İmam Hassan went on to elaborate on the purpose of the fast.

“[As] God says in the Quran [the Islamic holy book], the first purpose of fasting is to get closer to God.” İmam Hassan explained. “And the second purpose is for us, the fasting person, to feel how hungry people feel when they do not have anything to eat. And by fasting this way, this is how we achieve what we call in Arabic Taqwa, the state of being closer to God.”

Moreover, İmam Hassan invites non-Muslims to learn about Ramadan by “coming to the mosque at least once” and joining the communal Iftar dinner “to see what Ramadan is like.”

“Here at this mosque [ICSGV], we hold Iftar in the evening, where we break the fast together. Around 250 people come to the mosque in the evenings to have Iftar together. So if [non-Muslims] come, they will see that one big thing about Ramadan is getting together as a community [like] breaking the fast together.”

In addition to open community events, youth leadership by the ICSGV Youth Group is also an essential contribution to the vitality of this close-knit Muslim community in the San Gabriel Valley. Led by high school students, the youth group organizes car washes, carnivals, and youth conferences in support of their peers. İmam Hassan expands on the aims and founding principles of the Youth Group.

“Through the youth group, we can bring everyone together, and especially the younger people who connect better with their peers,” İmam Hassan said. “through interactions with their peers, the youth in this community can connect with their religion, their culture, which helps them find their purpose and direction in life.”

Zooming out in connection with the global community and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, we are no stranger to heated-discussions of religious and ethnic discord in the last few months. As religious communities lie at the focal point of tension, I asked İmam Hassan’s for his perspective and advice on the issue.

“No one can justify the killings, the violence [in the Middle East] — not Muslim, not Jews, not Christians; this is cruelty against humanity,” İmam Hassan commented. “And it is important to keep in mind that not all people are the same, we are humans, and we have our individual faults: if one Muslim, one Christian, one Jew do something wrong, we cannot blame the entire community — this is an individual action.”

Additionally, İmam Hassan concludes with a message of peace.

“Islam teaches that if someone kills one person, he has killed the whole of humanity,” İmam Hassan emphasized. “We should show love and be nice to everyone.”

Last but not least, İmam Hassan welcomes non-Muslims to visit the mosque on the annual national Open Mosque Day.

“On Open Mosque Day, our non-Muslim brothers and sisters can come and sit with us, ask questions, so this way we can connect with our neighbors, let them know what we do here at the mosque and we get to know each other” İmam Hassan described. “And if you are planning to visit a mosque soon, dress modestly, be respectful, and the mosque is a home to all.”

Feeling enlightened from the conversation, I thanked İmam Hassan for his time and bid Mr. Asad goodbye. On my way out, the sounds of Iftar preparations in the kitchen and echoes of children’s games and laughter in the hall accompanied me to the door. With a filled notepad and an event calendar in my backpack, this marks the end of my first visit to a mosque — the beginning to many more in the future.

Belated Eid Mubarak!

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here