Understanding the Muslim Community in St. Louis, Missouri

Louis is a diverse city with different faiths, races, and ethnicities mixed together to form a community. The Muslim community, which represents about 1% of the metro's total adult population, mixes and thrives with other people in the city (Pew Research Center). The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis speaks out against racism and is committed to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Muslim faith is an integral part of St. Louis' religious history and the Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabaah mosque has contributed to the city's religious background. According to recent estimates by the Religious Data Archives Association, 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.


Exploring the Significance of Mosques in St. Louis

In the Louis area, it's important to take the time to learn something about Islam and mosques to better understand people who follow this religion. The mosque is an integral part of the life of all devout Muslims.

This is a sacred place where Muslims gather to pray and connect with each other through their 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).

Comparing Islam to Other Religions

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 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 the mosque and invited us to attend the Friday service.

Mamun helped us to better understand the importance of mosques and Masjid Bilal in general. He explained that Muslims around the world believe that it is much more rewarding to pray together, as a community. Being able to pray in a community allows the faithful to feel more connected to each other and to God.

The Role Masjid Bilal Plays for St Louis Muslims

Masjid Bilal is no exception to this; Mamun 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 isn't part of SLU itself - allowing Muslims in SLU's community to feel at home at Saint Louis University overall.

This specific mosque is also oldest in Saint Louis; this has helped people feel connected and welcome in Saint Louis overall since its founding in 1974. Faith members can be strong and support each other in times of need because they have a community that shares same values and religious faith as them; you can have this community thanks to community center, mosque, temple, church or any other religious community center - Masjid Bilal being an excellent example - which serves both as place worship as well as place community.

Raúl Mathiasen
Raúl Mathiasen

Award-winning web junkie. Hipster-friendly pop culture maven. Infuriatingly humble pop culture fan. Wannabe beer evangelist. Professional food advocate. Total pizza junkie.