10,000 Muslims line up behind Imam Jamal Said to participate in the Eid prayer on Oct. 12 in Toyota Park.
Submitted on 10/29/2008
Story by Meha Ahmad
As the Islamic holy month Ramadan came to a close Oct. 12, Muslims gathered to celebrate the Eid holiday. In Bridgeview, about 10,000 Muslims attended the Mosque Foundation’s popular Eid prayer and festivities, which included face-painting and moon bounces for children and a marketplace to buy holiday gifts.
This was the first year the event was held at Toyota Park, Bridgeview’s outdoor sports arena and home stadium of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.
“Every year, I pray the Eid salah (prayer) with the mosque, and this is the best time my kids and I have had at it,” said lawyer Mosa Elmosa, a member of the Mosque Foundation for 13 years who took his five young sons to the prayer, then the marketplace afterwards to choose their Eid presents.
It was a very organized and inspirational event, Elmosa said. Usually, the prayer is split into groups in different venues at different times, to accommodate the large number of worshippers. This year was different with masses of people together.
“There was no division,” Elmosa said. “It felt especially good to be Muslim that day.”
Ihdah Salem, 19, a sophomore at St. Xavier University, had a similar experience. Salem, whose mother is part of the mosque’s Women’s Committee, was at the Toyota Park at 8 a.m. that Friday with her mother and sisters to volunteer and stayed long after the three-hour event was over to clean up. Salem said she was glad to be a part it.
“This was the best Eid prayer I ever experienced,” said Salem, who was impressed with the sight of thousands of her community gathered in one place. “It was really nice to have Muslims from surrounding areas not just the Bridgeview mosque and see everyone come together.”
Mosque officials chose Toyota Park because of the large space and parking capacity. The soccer stadium was also chosen for spiritual reasons, said Imam Jamal Said, the director of the mosque.
“It is also from the tradition of our Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) to lead Eid prayer outside in the fresh air.”
Ramadan is the most spiritual time of the year for Muslims, a month when they fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan ends and Eid begins with the sighting of the new moon.
This means Eid is not a predetermined date, which makes reserving a space, such as Toyota Park, somewhat difficult. The Eid was set for Oct. 12 or 13, but Muslims weren’t sure which day to celebrate until Oct. 11 after the moon sighting, mosque officials said.
“We reserved the park for both Friday and Saturday,” said Imam Said, who led the massive prayer. Though both dates were reserved, the mosque was not charged double, but only for the day they used. “We sincerely appreciate the cooperation of Toyota Park officials.”
The mosque is undergoing a $4.9 million expansion project that will more than double its size but currently cannot accommodate the Eid prayer, the most attended of the year. The expansion is expected to be finished in February 2008.
Meanwhile, Muslims have another Eid holiday to celebrate at the end of December.
Most likely, the second Eid prayer won’t be in Toyota Park due to probable weather conditions, said Dahoud Shalabi, the event planner and member of the mosque’s board of directors. However, he and the mosque’s other imams hope Eid can be held at Toyota Park whenever weather permits, he said.
Although many Muslims in attendance had a fun and spiritual experience, there are a few who don’t want a repeat.
“I think if we have to move [to another venue] next year, the expansion’s pointless,” said 21-year-old Jihan Zughayyar of Tinley Park. Zughayyar said she thought the point of the mosque expanding was to fit the community at large. After the expansion is complete, she believes all prayers should be conducted there.
“This year was fun and organized, but I would rather pray in the masjid (mosque) than in a soccer field.”
But it doesn’t look like Zughayyar and others like her will get their way.
The expansion will accommodate the regular prayers, the always-packed Friday prayers, and most likely the nightly Ramadan prayers, said the mosque’s religious director, Imam Kifah Moustapha. But mosque officials said they strongly believe the expansion will not accommodate all the Eid worshippers, especially after seeing the 10,000-plus that filled Toyota Park this month.
Board member Dahoud Shalabi sees both sides of the issue.
“I think both places have khair (benefits),” Shalabi said. “Toyota Park offers space, parking and easy access but Toyota Park will never be bayt Allah (‘House of God’). Still, I truly believe this was a tremendous event.”
In the Loop Public Religion & Spirituality