Source: The Los Angeles Times
During the last days of Ramadan, Ahmad Chaudhry Nuruddin shut himself inside a small cubicle at the Bait ul Hameed Mosque with only a mattress, a chair and a few religious books.
The slightly stooped 79-year-old strung a white sheet over the entrance to perfect his isolation.
For the next few days, Nuruddin would follow the Islamic custom of I'tikaf, in which believers become virtual hermits, secluding themselves from the world to focus on the divine.
"You spend your time remembering that God Almighty has created the world for the benefit of its people," he said. "He created the sun, the moon, the planets, the vegetables and fruits, and he sends the waters so people can enjoy those fruits."
Educated, kindly and broad-minded, Nuruddin seems the very embodiment of a religious man.
But back home in Pakistan, he says, he can't even call himself a Muslim without fear of prison, harassment or death.
"We are not allowed to say our prayers openly," said Nuruddin, who was visiting from Lahore. "We can't call our mosque a mosque."
The palatial 27,000-square-foot mosque in Chino is one of the biggest in Southern California and serves about 800 people belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect.