ARLINGTON -- Like a magical scene from a fairy tale,
when the clock strikes 1 p.m. on Friday all Muslims who are able separate themselves from
their work, go to a mosque and pray.
It is a tradition as old as Islam.
But in Arlington, ancient tradition has run into a very contemporary problem: overcrowding.
The mosque on Center Street was filled to overflowing each week. Finding a parking space, or even room inside to pray, has become increasingly difficult as the city's Muslim population tops 10,000 and continues to climb.
In response to the growth, Muslims have established a second mosque in the city. Yesterday afternoon, more than 150 Muslim men stood shoulder-to-shoulder in prayer at the new mosque, Dar E Lsalam, in the Kroger shopping center at Lamar Boulevard and Cooper Street in north Arlington.
The women prayed as well, in two rooms tucked behind a screen in keeping with the Muslim practice of separating men and women during services.
Proximity to a mosque is important for Muslims. They are required to pray five times a day, but most of those prayers can be said at home or work.
But the Friday service, much like a Christian Sunday service, includes a sermon and is considered the most important part of the week. Working Muslims use their lunch hours to attend.
Having a mosque in north Arlington means that people like Hossam Mahmoud, an Arlington resident who works at Irving Mall, can attend and be back at work within an hour and a half.
"Here is better," he said. "You can just take the highway and most of my friends live here so I can see them on Fridays." The new mosque moved from the planning stages to prayer services in a matter of months.
"It was the work of God," according to Said Elsamra, a board member of the new mosque. "The community was in need of this." The biggest obstacle was finding a new leader, called an imam, for the mosque.
Elsamra remembered an energetic young imam, Mohamed Elagami, from his native Egypt and invited him to come to Texas. Elagami accepted. He arrived in Arlington two months ago. "I'd heard about Texas, how the climate and the hospitality are nice," Elagami said as Elsamra interpreted. The 35-year-old continues to work on his English, but has drawn praise for his flair with the Arabic language.
"I like to hear the sermon in the Arabic language rather than the English," said Hasan Ali, an Arlington resident and civil engineer for Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
The sermons at the Center Street mosque are delivered in English. "In my opinion, you lose at least 50 percent of the meaning when you translate from one language to another," he said.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world and the second-largest with more than 1 billion members.
The Islamic Society of North America estimated that 8 million to 10 million Muslims live in the United States.
The faith is flourishing in Texas as well. Gulam
Bakali, former chairman of the Islamic Association of North Texas, estimated that the
Metroplex has 12 to 14 mosques serving
"A mosque is more than just a place of prayer," Bakali said. "It's a social gathering. It's a place for helping out the poor, the elderly, for holding weekend school for the kids."
© 1997 Fort Worth Star-Telegram