Library Serves as Reformist Mosque

Emerging Muslim communities, from Warsaw to Washington, D.C., hold their Friday prayer services in various locations. Some small, urban mosques in North America and Europe rent space in undesirable neighborhoods, often near or next to sex shops or liquor stores, while other Muslim communities expand their presence with opulent developments. One group of D.C. metro area residents has started its own mosque in an unusual place–a public library.

Since last Friday, in a drab brick structure in the heart of a wealthy Washington, D.C., neighborhood, a modest-sized community space on the second floor of a library is also home to Masjid Nur al Issllaah–Mosque of Light of Reformation–and hosts Muslim worshipers and anyone else who desires to attend prayers every Friday afternoon. Under local D.C. law, the mosque must also allow anyone from the public to attend in order to gain free access to the space. The group plans to use the space until they are able to raise funds and relocate later on in 2011.

For the first Masjid Nur al Issllaah Friday prayer service, 11 congregants, men and women, gay and straight, white and black, prayed side-by-side throughout the service. The idea for an inclusive mosque in the heart of Washington, D.C., has been in the works for quite some time. Founding board members Fatima Thompson, Nabeel Kirmani, and Imam Daayiee Abdullah–a prominent, openly gay imam–are attempting to foster a space where all are welcome, regardless of “sect, viewpoint, sexual orientation, or any other identity markers.”

During the khootbah, or sermon, Imam Abdullah offered part of the purpose for a new prayer space for Washington D.C. Muslims: “Some describe the [mainstream] mosque as the big giant closet where we have to suppress parts of who we are so that we can have a communal prayer.”

Thompson, an outspoken activist known throughout the D.C. community, described Masjid Nur al Issllah as something different. “I’d like to think that we’re breaking down the walls that the mainstream or Orthodox communities put on us.”

Following the completion of the Jummah service, an openly gay white man, who asked not to be named, took the shahadah, the formal oath to follow Islam necessary for conversion. Upon reciting the declaration–“there is no God but God, and Muhammad is God’s messenger”–he was warmly embraced with hugs from both men and women. While Masjid Nur al Issllah’s first official gathering was small, it’s diverse congregation of worshipers from across the east coast and as far as Pakistan, supported its mission to embrace and include all.

[Editor’s Note: This post has been modified from its original version to remove mention of the specific location of the mosque.]

Do you think a public library is an appropriate venue for a religious gathering? How do you think Imam Abdullah’s openness about his sexuality and the diverse inclusivity of his congregation will influence acceptance by local communities?

17 thoughts on “Library Serves as Reformist Mosque

  1. The qur’an is pretty clear about homosexuality. To be a Muslim, you must accept the qur’an as the word of god, so how are these people Muslims exactly?

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  3. I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of a gay imam – that’s a contradiction in terms. The Koran is extremely clear on homosexuality and how taboo and forbidden it is. To be an imam you have to understand and respect Allah’s words and have faith that they are there for your benefit and protection. So how can this person who claims to be an ‘imam’ be gay? And how can Muslim authorities allow someone who is homosexual perform the sermon and lecture people on Allah’s words if he himself doesn’t know them at all!!

  4. Greetings of Peace to you

    The Qur’an is NOT “pretty clear” about homosexuality.

    There are statements in the Qur’an that are references to stories told in the Torah about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People repeatedly view these stories through the lense of their personal (heterosexual) preference and, often, parrot indictments against people that have been espoused by peers or ministers.

    A very close examination of these stories, as well as historical details and evidences, need to be had to understand the true nature of the stories and their message.

    What many “Shiookh” hide from the general public is the fact that homosexuality existed in the time of our Beloved Prophet and, yet, he never made a pronouncement about them – positive or negative – at all. In fact, the homosexual person in day to day life of the Beloved Prophet is hinted at a couple times in the Qur’an.

    All this, and yet, we still cling to hate and condemnation of that which we do not understand.

    What the Qur’an IS clear about is the dignity and human rights of humanity, as HE (Allah) created them, as well as the rights even of animals, plants and the earth itself.

    The Qur’an is also clear on Allah’s mercy.


  5. Is the story of lut, not a clear indication that allah does not accept that kind of behavior.
    Allah is full or mercy , yes, but sin is sin and we need to ask for forgivness.
    Also , if we agree that the prophets are an example for mankind , how come allah brought us only heterosexual prophets. Are we not to fallow their examples, and live our lives according to the teaching of the Quran .

  6. @ Fatimah Thompson. OK, I’m listening. Bring your evidence, convince me. Until you do, I will follow this advice “the halal is clear and the haram is clear. That which is in dispute, avoid it” do you know who said that?
    Also, are you really sure the prophet (sulallah hu alayhem wa salam) never commented on homosexuality? One thing I’m sure he commented on is speaking without knowledge.

  7. Oh my God, what am I reading here??Islam and homesexuals go hand in hand?What Muslims are you and who gave you permission to open a mosque and disgrace our religion with your dirt???I’m guessing another dirtbag who wants to ruin our reputation and add filth to our religion.

  8. As-salaamu alaykum. After reading the comments presented in response to the article, there is a strong undertone that shows an obvious rush to judgment–a trait humans are so quick to do. Additionally, people are speaking in generalities and not specifics. Do you (plural you) expect readers to guess at what you are saying? If you do, it is muddleheaded at its core. I question why.

    Yusuf, quoting you, “To be Muslim, you must accept the quran as the word of god….” It appears the members of that masjid have taken their shahaddah and in fulfilling their 5 pillars as Muslims, they have also gleaned together Muslims who seek non-judgmental prayer space. So what doesn’t make them Muslims?

    Dalia, it is sad when we witness a person who speaks before putting their mind in gear–you know, knee-jerk, emotional rants. You make statements based upon what you believe to be true, but I question whether or not you have ever done serious study of Quran–meaning degrees in Islamic theology, religious studies, or other disciplines that would allow you to elucidate on the subject? I didn’t think so. Also, since you do not know the training and background of the Imam, you are making presumptions…again, showing you speak before putting your mind in gear. Furthermore, what authority other than Allah does a community of believers need to hold prayer services????

    Muslimah, it is apparent you have accepted an understanding of the Lut story to mean the straight men who raped other men were homosexuals reveals that you know nothing about the Lut story nor human sexuality. I agree, men should not rape men or women, as well as women should not rape men or women–that seems commonsensical–rape is a crime of power and control over a victim. Prophets have been examples for many things, but stating they are all heterosexual (if you have proof of that being the case) is a major leap since the Quran does not bear you out by speaking about the sexuality of all prophets…hint, some prophets are not even discussed in Quran, so where did you get that line of thinking? We are not to follow our prophets blindly–meaning we should not “ape” them in “taqlidi fashion”.

    Allah created humankind in great diversity of colors, sizes, sexes, languages, tastes, aptitudes and attitudes, so why are you interested in humankind being a stamped, identically-molded personage of another fallible human being? Prophet Mohammad is the seal of the books and was not presented as the only way a Muslim must live their life. If you believe that way, you do a disservice to Prophet Mohammad, who was a human being that made mistakes that were noted in Quran. Furthermore, Allah also stated in Quran, if we were not different and diverse, Allah would replace us with His creation that utilizes its diversity. Allah did not demand that our prophets make us be just like them in thinking, action and disposition. Prophets bring the word and it is not their responsibility to enforce Allah’s word on another who seeks Allah’s mercy. As I understand Quran, it is up to each individual to read, comprehend and live their lives using Quran as a guide in their free-will, and to perform the rites of the Islamic faith in adherence to Allah–as our Creator and author of his message to all of humankind for all time.

    Yusuf, why does Fatimah or anyone else have to convince you of anything? Who are you to demand such obedience? Furthermore, when did Allah make you his right-hand man to make the final determination as to who goes to hell or heaven? Now, I do believe Quran speaks very clearly on Allah being the final determiner. Since you know what Prophet Mohammad had to say about speaking without knowledge, aren’t you guilty of doing so?

    Finally, Keida. As stated above, who are you or anyone else to deny a community of believers permission to pray? In the West, any group who go through the legal process of establishing a religious establishment–just like other masaajids have done in the past–can open a masjid for their community/communities. Keida, name-calling is usually beneath adults and stays in the milieu of children and teenagers–do you really think name-calling makes a difference to that community of believers? It is my estimation you exhibit the worse of Muslim behavior–following culture–it surly is not what Quran teaches when interacting with others without hatred, oppression and injustice.

    It may be a good thing to remind us all that no human being is beyond increasing their knowledge, and we should speak on what we have studied and not what we have been culturally-fed as our Islamic faith.

  9. It is very clear from the Qur’an and hadith that acts of homosexuality are perversions and sinful. But even if we do not mention these here point-by-point (and the list is long), let’s think about it this way for now: reasoning by contradiction – let’s assume homosexual acts (not just an inclination/temptation/whatever which remains inside, but the actual act) is halal in any form, then it would be utterly unmerciful of Allah and Prophet Mohammad to have not CLEARLY indicated this as so, to have left laws that do not defend this practice from religious criticism, that have resulted in absolute vast majority (100% if rounded!) of scholars throughout the Muslim history saying this is unlawful. Now, since we believe in Allah’s justice and mercy, and the infallibility of the blessed prophet in communicating the commandments, one would reject the initial premise; if someone says the prophet feared a backlash (ignoring all the things he said against it), I’d say there were many taboos he stepped against, risking his life, that of his blessed household and the lives of his companions, to uphold the truth, in ANY shape and form. (Also my dear sister Fatima, whom I personally know and respect, the places you mention in the Qur’an, that Abdullah Daayee is fond of mentioning, refer to a man that has no inclination towards women (it is negligent of him to mention this as evidence for lawfulness of homosexuality: the two are not the same – if a man has no inclination towards women, and never marries one, there is nothing wrong with that; if a man instead commits the act of homosexuality, he is sinning; if you say the man may be homosexual, I refer you again back to the above statements: think about those and the truth may be more clear.) I pray for guidance for myself and all.

  10. It is interesting that they picked a library to hold their prayers as it is a very public place. However, if the library wants to allow it I have no problem with it. In regards to his sexuality, I think it will have an affect in the community in a negative way, although it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people in the world that have strong negative feelings for muslims, gays, transgenders and anyone else that isn’t just like them.

  11. Interesting article…

    We have 2 Islamic guys in the block, which show exactly how homosexuals and Allah believers can live together.

    I am not wondering why they are hiding all the time, as everybody knows…


  12. I offer greetings of peace to you

    I know Brother Arman personally and he won my great respect and admiration from the very first time I met him. At a mosque that serves a small and humble community where he was delivering a lesson to the young people. That is still my favorite lesson of all times to memory. Thank you Arman and Alhamdullillah!

    So, since we agree to disagree and my love and respect for you would not diminish by disagreement, I will respond to your comment (#10, above).

    For many years I, too, espoused very harsh, negative – hateful – statements about homosexuals just as soon as it was fed to me by Imams and other religious teachers. After all, they were very similar to statements I heard when I practiced as a Christian.

    This served many complex purposes which I will not discuss here. But I will say that it is a very bad practice – to repeat things that have not been accessed intellectually and without investigating their veracity or accuracy. I have grown much over the years and am growing quite a bit these past few years.

    As for the references in religious texts about “Sodom & Gommorah” and “Lot”, I have begun to carefully examine them though I don’t believe I am prepared to give an extensive academic treatment of them. There are many others doing that. I will discuss it briefly and offer some other reading sources.

    When considering those references to the story of Lot there are dynamics to the story that people regularly overlook. People are trained to overlook them by the way sermons and lessons are delivered to them which are designed to present a message intended to further their agenda.

    The story of Lot is related as two angels, and some tellings give us two prophets, arrived in the town and needed a place to stay and all the associated hospitality. However, these individuals were met with a town of people – men – who were intent on setting upon them: they were going to mob these two individuals. The story also mentions that Allah had reproached them saying that He had given them wives and yet they desired to gratify themselves on these men: so, they also were, essentially, adulterous. The story tells of Lot offering his daughters and him saying in frustration that he could not control the people in their designs against the two individuals – be they angels or prophets: they were going to rape these men.

    So, through this very cursory view of the story there are several things that are reproachable, and are reproached many times in other places of religious texts: refusing hospitality, mobbing the vulnerable, adultery and rape.

    Nowhere do we find statements equivalent to “homosexuality is wrong”, “homosexuality is punishable” or “don’t engage sexually with those of the same gender”. The current, and historical, narrative is designed to favor the heterosexual expression of sexuality and has been dressed in legitimacy by the interpretation of texts to suit that agenda.

    There are so many dynamics to the homosexual that require a careful, intelligent, honest and compassionate examination – both by the heterosexual reader and the homosexual reader.

    For any who would like to read more on the subject I refer you to a book by Scott Kugle:
    Homosexuality in Islam: Islamic Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims: Scott Kugle

    I have discussed “Same Sex Marriage” in a note on my Facebook page. It presents some of my thoughts about homosexuals and Islam. I invite you to read it here:

  13. I have thought about this and I am not a qualified person but we have Imams who incite murder and we have kept quiet about it as Muslims. But if a gay imam who is chosen by the group of Muslims who attend the mosque is seen as if the the whole of our deen has been debased, not that i agree with Imams been homosexual as we all Muslims know this is zinah and that’s the haram that has been committed if the person is a practicing homosexuality,then Let ALLAH be the Judge .and if the person in question is restraining him self from the act then surely this is JEHAD ,salaam alaykum

  14. Im a open-lesbian, I am also a Muslim. You all have made valid points but the point is, In the end Allah will judge us, and He is the only one qualified to do so.

  15. Full support for what Fatima Thompson and tangdayi said!

    Any antigay and homohateful interpretations i.e. misinterpretations that are perpetuated by “mainstream” islamic clerics derive from the very same sources i.e. misinterpretations that perpetuate jewish and christian fundamentalist hypocrites who attack gays but even more gladly attack and generalize all muslims with terrorists.

    It’s beyond comprehension how any muslim can agree with the same ones like the antigay judeochristianists who spew hatred and intolerance towards all muslims just for being muslims. Finding a “common” ground with muslim-haters in only gay-bashing and homophobia will NOT help you live as muslims among nonmuslims, Yusuf Legere, Keida, muslimah, Dalia.

    Full support and commendations for good Muslim Imam Daaiyee Abdullah, Fatima Thompson and the long needed and overdue Blessed Masjid Nur ul-Issllaah!!!

  16. This guy is not a Muslim or an Imam he is a zandiq- a zandiq is a person who does not believe in a faith and actually hates what that faith stands for but is planted from the outside within that faith- in order to work within that faith and destroy it from within. In this case, Daaiyee in one of those secularists who entered the faith in order to destroy it from within. This is how in the west the great faiths like Christianity and Judism where destroyed they were infiltrated by those who had no respect for them and one by one their belief system was destroyed. No it is Islam’s turn!!! Good luck Brother Daaiyee try to destroy Al Islam will move back and just watch you. Allah protects this faith from zandiqs who say we believe and yet dont believe. It is between you and Allah and we will see who wins in the end. And Muslims you guys must study what had happened to the Great faiths that made home in this great land of the west and learn from their destruction