Understanding the Muslim Community in St. Louis, Missouri

The city of St. Louis, Missouri is a vibrant and diverse community, with a population that includes members of the Muslim faith. According to rough estimates, up to 1000 Muslims from St. Louis wear headscarves in public, outside mosques.

Nowadays, Louisianans are more tolerant than they were in their teens. The Muslim faith is an integral part of St. Louis' religious history. The Religious Data Archives Association estimates that there are more than ten Muslims for every 1000 residents in the city of St.

Louis and nearly two Muslims for every 1,000 residents of St. Louis. It's important to take the time to learn something about Islam and mosques to better understand people who follow this religion. The traditional mosque is a place of maximum collectivity and religious authority in a community; it is an academy for effective learning in all aspects of life and religious meaning. The current urban mosque includes all aspects of a traditional mosque with a greater emphasis on social and community aspects (Kahera).

Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabaah was founded in 1974 and is a perfect example of an urban mosque. It is most important, a meeting and worship center for St. Louis Muslims, but also a health center, provides social and educational services for children and adults. A devout Muslim will center his life around the mosque. The mosque provides a space to center men and women of faith and serves as a designated place to connect people in the community.

Masjid Bilal provides a community circle where members can encourage each other. Like all mosques, Masjid Bilal's prayer rooms (see below) face east, toward Mecca, symbolizing the meaning of the place of origin of their religion. Since the building now occupied by Masjid Bilal was not built with the intention of ever being a mosque, the prayer rooms for men and women have been divided into two levels. The men pray in an upstairs room with the imam, or prayer leader, at the front of the room. Women and children pray in a very similar room on the ground floor, with the imam broadcasting live on television (Muman).

This prayer is always said in Arabic, no matter what country it is called in. Below each Arabic line are the English translations. Notice the stripes on the carpet in the video. This tells the faithful where to look when they pray so that they are oriented toward Mecca (Huda).The two most practiced religions in the world today are Islam and Christianity. Although Islam is one of the two main religions, it is often misunderstood and many people cannot see its similarities with other religions.

The Muslim faith focuses on belief in only one god, Allah. Allah is the Arabic name for God and, according to Dr. Mamun, is the same God that Jews and Christians believe in. One of the biggest distinctions between these religions is the belief in who Jesus is. Muslims believe that Jesus is one of the prophets, along with Abraham, Noah, Moses and Mohammed.

Christians believe that Jesus is the savior and the son of God. Jews believe that Jesus is neither a prophet nor the son of God, according to Dr. Mamun. Mamun is a devotee of Masjid Bilal and plays an important role in running the mosque. He agreed to let us interview him and showed us around the mosque before inviting us to attend Friday service.

Mamun helped us to better understand why mosques like Masjid Bilal are so important. He explained that Muslims around the world believe that it is much more rewarding to pray together as a community; being able to pray together allows them to feel more connected to each other and to God. Masjid Bilal is no exception to this. Mamun also explained that for many immigrants and SLU students, Masjid Bilal offers them a community and a place of worship that is located at the gates of campus; although it's not part of SLU itself, its location inside campus gates allows Muslims in SLU's community to feel at home at Saint Louis University. This specific mosque is also one of oldest in Saint Louis; this has allowed it to help people feel connected and welcome in Saint Louis over time.

The Muslim community

, which represents about 1% of metro's total adult population, mixes and thrives with other people in this city (Pew Research Center). The Muslim community was not always as influential as it is today. The city struggled with population loss and urban decline in late 1980s and early 1990s; according to 1950 federal census there were 856756 people living in this city; soon after due to flight of whites suburban expansion and transfer of people to more industrialized cities population had plummeted to 396685 people. This decline left areas abandoned and disrepair; however this was an important moment for Muslim population because he was about to get much bigger (Rice). Currently Muslim community can be strong because they have community that shares same values; thanks to community center mosque temple church or any other religious center like Masjid Bilal they can feel connected.

Raúl Mathiasen
Raúl Mathiasen

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