Historical Mosque in Phoenix, Arizona Commemorates 25 Years
By Mahasin Shamsid-Deen
Masjid Jauharatul-Islam, (The Jewel of Islam), the first mosque built totally along Islam design by indigenous American Muslims commemorates its 25th year on June 19, 2006. Activities to celebrate the anniversary will take place on Sunday, June 18, 2006.
On Friday, June 19, 1981 the dedication for the new mosque was held at its location at 102 W. South Mountain Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. Delegations from all over the United States and from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Canada, Morocco, China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Fiji Islands and Iraq attended the dedication ceremonies.
Masjid Jauharatul-Islam started as the Phoenix Mosque and Islamic Institute Project. It was a project initiated by the religious head of the community at that time, Imam Abdur-Rahim Shamsid-Deen who was part of the then named World Community of Al-Islam in the West. He, along with the late Dr. Jamil Diab the then honorary council of Jordan and a soldier studying at Arizona State University Major Sulaiman ali Al-Shaye organized the project.
In 1978, Imam Shamsid-Deen new to his position as the Imam wanted to move the indigenous Muslim community of Phoenix out of store-front ghetto buildings into something that would “nurture the increasing thirst for knowledge and understanding of one of the world’s largest religions.”
This galvanized one senior citizen in the Muslim community Frank Mu’min to
search out with the help of a realtor in the community Wazir Karim and purchase about
four acres of land in South Phoenix and donate it to the Muslim community. The
Muslims then purchased an additional four acres and broke ground to begin building in November of 1980.
A contractor in the mosque at the time, Lamar Hassan hired American and Mexican workers to begin the construction. Ummil-Kheer Shamsid-Deen, the late wife of Imam Shamsid-Deen was an interior designer who designed the women’s bath, library, offices and inside of masjid. Architectural services were donated by Baseem Hakim and a structural engineer Kamal Amin and landscaping was performed by Malik Abdullah.
Although started by Muslims indigenous to the United States part of the newly Islamic orthodox organization led by Imam W.D. Mohammed, the World Community of Al-Islam in the West (later American Muslim Mission) – the project soon became a universal Muslim initiative. Many Muslims who had recently immigrated to the United States who lived in Phoenix and attended the mosque with Imam Shamsid-Deen as the leader became a part of the project. Imam Shamsid-Deen welcomed and encouraged this ethnic diversity as being representative of the universality of Islam. “It is important and significant that all Muslims who live here in the Phoenix area not only feel that they can be part of this initiative, but realize that simply because they are Muslim they “are’ part of this project.” Imam Shamsid-Deen said.
Upon the completion of Masjid Jauharatul-Islam (Jewel of Islam) the Adhan was put on loud speaker from the minaret and could be heard for up to four blocks in this south Phoenix neighborhood. The first family to respond to that call was appropriately enough – a Mexican American family that lived on the street. Here a young father came to the masjid door to inquire about the sound he had heard. Since he was new to the neighborhood he wondered if it was a “call’ like a bell that was to tell the people to gather at this place. Alhumdulilah the answer was – yes it is! He and his family became the first to embrace Islam at the newly built Masjid.
Although many mosques and Islamic centers exist in the United States, Masjid Jauharatul-Islam (the Jewel of Islam) is the first built from the ground up totally along Islamic design. All other mosques in the United States at that time were renovated buildings with Islamic styled domes and minarets added later or like the mosque in Grand Rapids, Michigan built by newly arrived immigrants to the United States.
Besides Masjid Jauharatul-Islam, the Phoenix Mosque and Institute Project used the residual monies raised for the building of the mosque in South Phoenix to build the Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe, Arizona just outside of Arizona State University. Imam Shamsid-Deen and the late Dr. Jamil Diab as close friends and associates wanted to build a mosque that was similar to the sacred mosque in Jerusalem where Dr. Diab and his family had been displaced to Jordan. Thus the Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe has a design very similar to the Dome of the Rock. This structure was almost exclusively built by the contractor Lamar Hassan and his sons.
At Masjid Jauharatul Islam the sounds of the adhan wailing “Allahu-Akbar” wafts over the loud speaker announcing Maghrib prayer from the minaret as the setting sun paints the sky with a rainbow of colors. The beautiful red, orange, rose, purple, blue and lavender glow of the sun reflects off the masjid like a clean canvas as the last yellow brightness is picked up and reflected in the silver balls of the minaret.
As awesome as this masjid is at sunset, its beauty is just as magnificent at midday. The whiteness of the stucco building rising on eight acres of desert land brings it into prominence against the beige, brown and peach desert landscape. The three silver balls on the stem of the minaret glisten like diamond jewels in the sun against the backdrop of Rocky Mountains and cerulean blue skies. The walkway leading to the inside and courtyard is flanked by lines of Orange, Grapefruit and Lemon trees that scent the air and brush the senses with the sweet smell of honey and blossoms. The wide, wooden front door is outlined in 3-D with blue and white marble tile inscribed with “Allah u Akbar” in Arabic calligraphy.
Upon entering, one steps into a cool courtyard strategically built to not only be cooler than the surrounding desert but to also capture any breeze. In the middle of the square courtyard lies velvety thick green grass surrounded by various flowering plants and an orange clay water fountain from Mexico gurgling cool water in the center.
As one walks along the blue, marble tiled walkway, there are stucco arches outlined with blue and white hand swirled tiles donated from families from Turkey and strong oak doors leading to the entrance of the masjid prayer area. On the opposite side, the walkway leads to another area of thoughtful introspection called the “jannah'(heaven). Here there is a blue clay water fountain, Orange, Lemon and Lime trees, plush, overgrown rose bushes with pink, red, white, yellow or orange petals forming the flowers and flecks of light caught by the three balls of the minaret above glistening off the stucco walls. The mixture of scents from the rose bushes and citrus plants along with tiny white blossoms from the trees often floating through the area enhance the spiritual senses. Beyond the walls of this area rises the backdrop of South Mountain to create a picture perfect scene.
Inside the masjid prayer (mussalah) are large stucco columns and green shag carpeting almost as thick as the grass in the courtyard. On top of this carpeting are woven rugs from Iran and Afghanistan in rich colors of brown, beige and maroon with geometric designs. A carved out Mihrab is along the front center wall with a window of gold and black “Allah -u-Akbar” installed along the top. Six elaborate chandeliers donated from the Tung family of China hang from the ceiling to sparkle and pick up the flecks of stone in the stucco walls and the words in the Mihrab.