Islamic Society of Greenville

This profile was last updated in 2006

Activities and Schedule

The mosque is open for all five daily prayers every day of the week. The Friday juma’a prayers at midday draw the largest population to the center. On Sundays, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday school is held for both children and adults. (Around 60 to 70 children usually attend the Sunday school.) During these classes, participants focus on the study of the Arabic language, the Qur’an and Islam in general. In addition, an Arabic class for adults is held on Tuesday evenings. Social activities include a soccer game every Sunday, a monthly community dinner, and on Saturdays during Ramadan, the mosque holds a potluck dinner.

History

The Muslim community in Greenville began to form in the early 1970s when many Muslim families moved to the Greenville area. A local Muslim group was formed in 1988 and met in a rented room of a run-down house, and later in a rented hall of a local hotel, for juma’a prayers. On December 10, 1989, local Muslims opened Greenville’s first mosque, the Islamic Center and Mosque. The building, which serves as a religious center for over 700 Muslims in the Greenville area, was previously a Protestant church, and it was purchased in 1989 for $125,000. A key factor in the decision to purchase the building was its location; the building faces northeast–towards Mecca. However, major renovations were necessary to convert the 50-year-old church building. The building was slowly renovated over a period of three to four years after it was purchased. The center included not only a prayer hall, but also space for classes and social affairs.

Hate Crime: Arson

In October of 1995, a fire destroyed the mosque. Initially, the fire was blamed on an electrical short circuit, but it was later discovered that an arsonist torched the mosque. The arson occured during the same time period that many African-American churches in South Carolina were intentionally set on fire. The arsonist was caught by the police, tried, found guilty, and is currently serving his jail sentence. In local papers, he is quoted as saying that the reason for burning down the mosque was “to get rid of evil in the world.” The mosque was rebuilt in the same location with the help of generous donations and some fire insurance money. Then Governor Beasley, in a speech to members of the Muslim community, denounced the fire as an “official hate crime,” issued a $50,000 reward, and started a special task force to investigate religious hate crimes.

Demographics

The community consists of many different ethnicities, including Iraqis, West Africans, Chinese, Americans, Indians, Belgians, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Egyptians. Arabic is spoken during salat (prayers), and after the Friday juma’a prayer a short khutba (sermon) is given in both Arabic and English. Before and after the service many Muslims speak Urdu, English and Arabic. The Muslim community of Greenville consists of men and women of all age groups. There are approximately 240 Muslim children in the Greenville area. Many teens and young adults come to the prayer services and the classes. Both Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims attend the mosque and with this comes varying opinions on the practice of Islam. According to the imam, the differences are settled through elections and the use of common sense.

Description

The Islamic Center is located off a busy street (Wade Hampton Boulevard) and next to a larger non-denominational Christian church. The building is rectangular in shape with beige-colored siding, a green roof, and a small gold dome on top. There are two entrances to the mosque, one for males and one for females. At each of the entrances is an area where one can remove his/her shoes and shelves are provided to store them. The main prayer hall, which is used only by the males, is a rather large open area with turquoise and beige lines of carpet designating where worshippers should stand, sit, and pray. In the back left corner of the prayer hall is a small partitioned area where the females pray. The small area has a window facing the main prayer hall (where the women can view the imam), but due to the present conservative majority, the window is covered with a sheet, blocking the women’s view of the main hall. The area was constructed due to popular vote, but the women usually pray in a different room off to the side of the main prayer hall. The partitioned area is only used when the side room is full. The mihrab is located at the front and center of the main prayer hall. To the side of the mihrab is a small platform and a chair where the imam sits/stands during the juma’a prayer. There are a couple of bookshelves in the large prayer hall, and there are a few wall hangings of Arabic calligraphy.

Relationship With Greenville Community

The mosque welcomes visitors, including non-Muslims coming to learn about the mosque and Islam. Church groups and students from nearby colleges (Furman, Presbyterian, and Greenville Tech) have established informal conections with the mosque.

Leadership

There is a five-member executive commitee consisting of a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and joint secretary. Elections for these offices are held every December.

Researcher Credits

Andrea Mills and Alison Prevost, 1998
Updated by Benjamin Coleman and Melissa Peterson, 2000
Furman University, Greenville, S.C.