This profile was last updated in 2004
History In the mid 1980s, some Muslims, mostly Nigerians with a few other Africans, met each other, gathered and started a jama’ah (congregation). In the beginning, they just joined the Masjid Al-Ansaar and the Masjid Miami because they did not have their own mosque. Then these Muslims, including the Imam Latief, realized other immigrant Muslims, mainly from Nigeria, were turning away from Islam because they did not see mosques or a community where they could practice their religion. This realization led the Nigerian group to think of creating a mosque. Establishing a mosque was very important for them because they wanted to both practice their religion, observe their religious rituals, which might be different from some other Muslims, and maintain their community, Nigerian Muslim community. In a mosque, they could enroll their children in Islamic studies so that the Islamic legacy passes from one generation to the next. In the same year, one of them had a house rented by a tenant in Liberty City, near downtown Miami. When the tenant moved out, the Muslim donated his house to the group, which was renovated into a mosque. It was established in 1987, becoming the present Al-Muhmin mosque. Demographics The members are approximately 100 people, 60 % men and 40% women. The majority of the members are from Nigeria, but there are also some from Karemia, Kenya, as well as some African-American converts. In fact, a week before being interviewed by researchers of the Pluralism Project, an African-American was in the process of converting to Islam and few weeks before that, a Nigerian woman converted to Islam while preparing to marry a Muslim man. The members of the community mostly live far from the mosque. Some live in Miramar, south west Miami, Broward County and some other areas. This community is Sunni. They generally follow the Maliki legal school, probably because most Muslims in Nigeria follow the Maliki legal school. But there are some who follow the Shafi’i and Hanafi legal schools. None are Shi’i. However, every Muslim, no matter to which school s/he affiliates, is welcome to come to the mosque for prayers. Description of the Mosque The mosque is about 400 square feet and holds about 100 people. This mosque, which had been a house, was simply redesigned to function as a mosque. All the rooms inside were opened and the floor was covered by carpet. A prayer mat is put in front as the area for the Imam, the leader of prayers. It also has a place for wudhu (ablution) outside. For praying, Muslim men and women are separated by a fabric curtain. During lecturing, the curtain is removed. Close to the mosque, just three feet away, there is a building used as a Sunday school for children, which was bought about two months ago. This school is about 150 square feet. In the school, children are taught the Qur’an, Islamic studies, and Arabic. This religious school is intended to balance what their children study in regular schools (i.e., modern technology, secular knowledge, etc.) This mosque has two avenues for donations of its maintenance. The first is voluntary donations, which means that Muslims coming for prayer can contribute voluntarily to this mosque. The second is individual pledges. Some individuals pledge to donate regularly; each contributes different amounts of money. This donation in Islam is called sadaqah or infaq, and is strongly recommended. This mosque also has three kinds of boards. The Mission Board, which consists of six people, including the Imam and his assistant, functions to give speeches in congregations. Second, the Executive Board contains a president, vice president, a secretary, and some committees. This Board functions to administer the infrastructure of the mosque, including the management of money. Third is the Dien Board, which functions to organize community and to bridge the relationships between the Muslim community and other communities. Programs and Schedules First, the five daily prayers are not always observed. Only three of them are observed regularly: Fajar or shubuh (around 5.00 – 6.00 A.M), maghrib (around 8.15 P.M.), and isya (around 10.00 P.M). Second, the Friday prayer (Shalat Jum’ah) is attended by both men and women. The sermon in this prayer is conducted in English. Friday prayer is conducted every Friday between 1.30-3.00 P.M. Third, dzikr nabiy (commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad) is held every Sunday after zuhur prayer (1.30 P.M.) until maghrib prayer (8.15 P.M). After dzikr, there is a lecture by a member of the Mission Board. Women do not give sermons or lectures, but they are encouraged to ask questions about topics discussed, which they do. The lecture is conducted in the Yoruba language, a language of Nigeria, because virtually all members participating are from Nigeria. This is different from the sermon in Friday prayer where English is used, because in Friday prayer, the Muslims participating are more diverse. Fourth, there is a class for children every Sunday at the same time as the dzikr nabiy. There are 10-20 students in this class. This class is only for Islamic studies and Arabic. Fifth, there is a class for women every Saturday. Sixth, the Ramadan program (the time of fasting for a month every year) includes shalat taraaveh (prayers after the isya prayer) every night during the month of Ramadan. Seventh, Shalat tasbih (a strongly recommended prayer once in one’s life, once a year, once a month or every night) in Lailatur qadr (the night of the first revelation of the Qur’an) on the 17th day of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. Eighth, zakat al-fitri (almsgiving before the Eid Fithr) is distributed to the Muslim poor. If they do not find any Muslim poor in their area, Liberty City, Miami, they send the zakat to their original country, Nigeria. Ninth, Eid al-Fithr (the festival after Ramadan/fasting) and Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of Dzulhijjah. This is the festival follows the Eid al-Fithr by two months and ten days, at the same time when lots of Muslims are going to pilgrimage to Mecca. In the Eid al-Adha, the community also has the Qurban. They roast meat from goats or cows, which is distributed to three groups: the poor (Muslim and non-Muslim), friends, and the owners. Tenth, other Islamic Festivals, such as Maulud Nabiy (remembrance of the birth of the prophet Muhammad) and Isra’ Mi’raj, are also observed. For those festivals they usually invite three or four scholars to talk about the history of the prophet, the history of his night journey or other Islamic teachings. Interreligious Activities This mosque does not have programs regarding interreligious dialogue. However, these Muslims report having good relationships with non-Muslims in their neighborhoods and places of employment. After 9/11, churches frequently invited the Imam to talk about Islam. He tried to convince people that Islam does not acknowledge terrorists, but rather strongly forbids terrorism and killing people. In Islam, according to the Imam, killing one human being is like killing all human beings. Therefore, those who attacked on September 11th were not true Muslims, because they intended to kill people, including Muslims. Islam means surrender to the will of Almighty Allah in promoting peace in this world. The Imam also explained that the term “jihad” is misinterpreted by people. The Imam further said that “jihad actually has two meanings; jihad nafs, which means to fight against yourself, your desire, and jihad fi sabilillah, which means to fight in a defensive war if somebody attacks you or stops you practicing your religion.” When he was invited by a church community, the Imam explained some other issues. People asked him, “Why does Islam allow men to marry more than one woman? Why cannot women be in front when they pray with men? Why does Islam forbid Muslims drinking?” The Imam answered the questions with, “The reason why Islam allows a man to marry more than one woman is that during the time of the prophet, a lot of men died in wars leaving behind a growing number of widows. So, there were a lot of widows. If people did not take care of the widows, there would be a lot of prostitutes. Islam stresses that a man could marry up to four women if he could be fair, and it is very difficult to be fair to to each wife, so, it is better to marry only one. In early Islam, men and women did pray side by side, but later on, it was forbidden because both men and women could not concentrate and remember God. The prophet then asked women to move back. Later when men bowed, because they still could see women in back, so a curtain for a screen was then required. When men came out after prayers, they waited to encounter women outside the mosque. That is why women were recommended to stay at home and not to go to mosque. The idea for this was to avoid immorality and distraction. As in the other cases, Islam originally did not forbid Muslims to drink, but because people abused it, and were still drunk when they came to mosque for prayer; it was strongly forbidden.” These examples illustrate the type of religious teaching common in this mosque.