Riverdale Islamic Center seeks permanent home

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Each week, Episcopalian congregants file into the nearly 100-year-old Church of the Mediator on West 231st Street in Kingsbridge to attend Sunday mass.

But on Fridays, not long after noon, the church sees another set of worshippers, as area Muslims gather in the basement for the prayer of jumu’ah.

Since the Riverdale Islamic Center lost its permanent location on Godwin Terrace due to financial difficulties, the congregation, also known as the Abrar, has rented out the church’s basement as a gathering place for Friday prayers and Saturday evening family nights. But the absence of a permanent location has weighed heavily on the group’s members and leadership.

“We are spiritually homeless,” said a 34-year-old congregant who gave her name as Ummya.

Ummya, her husband, Sharif Faizullah and their seven-month-old daughter are one of the nearly 300 families who make up the Abrar. On the first Friday of every month, Mr. Faizullah, 32, gives a religious speech to the crowd gathered in the church basement. 

Attendees leave their shoes outside the basement room. During prayers, men sit toward the front of the space, while women gather behind a curtain toward the back. 

Mr. Faizullah spoke about the community’s need for a mosque after jumu’ah on Feb. 6. 

“Our goal is to find a place we can call our second home, where our children can come and learn the basics of the religion… learn how to be respectful to their parents, be a good citizen and at the same time be a good Muslim,” he said. 

“Without a place, it is not possible to give them that,” Mr. Faizullah added. 

Rent hikes

Though the Islamic Center on Godwin Terrace previously offered a weekend school for the community’s children, Mr. Faizullah said those classes ended when rent hikes forced them out of the space.

The Abrar’s president, Shahid Kaiser, is leading the search. A Kingsbridge resident of 30 years who helped found Abrar, Mr. Kaiser said the lack of a mosque is difficult and echoed Mr. Faizullah’s concern that the community needs a place to educate the next generation.

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