Al-Iman mosque is located on 24-30 Steinway Street, Astoria, NY 11103.
Denomination: Sunni (Traditional)
Demographics: Predominantly Arab
Prayers: All prayers including formal jum’a
Language of services: Arabic
Imam: Shiekh Ahmed
Phone: (718) 626-6633
Al-Iman translates into ‘The Faith” in Arabic. This mosque is Astoria’s largest Muslim House of worship. On Fridays on Steinway Street, several hundred men from North Africa and Middle-Eastern countries leave their work and make way to the jammed mosque to pray with their Muslim brothers. Berger gives a very apt description of a Friday in Steinway, “Some wore ordinary clothes, some white robes and knit white skullcaps. There were so many worshippers that thirteen had to pray on the sidewalk, kneeling shoeless on prayer mats and touching their foreheads and palms to the ground.” Xenophobia can be heightened under a terrorist threat and this effected some Arabs living in Astoria. After September 11, the mosque became an asylum for Muslims on Steinway.
Ornate sets of double-doors carved with beautiful islamic geometric patterns welcome the male congregants. Left of this entrance is a small door that leads to the sister’s prayer room. There is also a vudu room inside the mosques for the men and women to perform ablutions prior to praying.
The serene atmosphere and the opportunity to connect with God are regarded very highly here. The shelves are filled with copies of the Qur’an in English and Arabic and people are always welcome to ask questions to the Imam (the man who leads the prayer) after the prayers are finished.
According to a 2000 survey of religious participation in America by the Glenmary Research Center, there are 331,045 Muslims in in the New York metro area. Africans, Pakistanis, Bagladeshis, Indians, Bosnians, and Indonesians worship alongside people from the Middle East, native New Yorkers, and Hispanic converts to Islam. The mosque looks to celebrate this diversity during Ramadan by providing a place where people form a common bond. During Ramadan, the mosque provides delicious breakfast and dinner for the people fasting. There is no waiting in line, instead a group of volunteers served prepared plates of food wherever the congregants sat.
One very unique aspect of this mosque are the number of children who attend the prayers regularly. It was surprising to see so many kids, because it seems like not many kids come to masjids anymore. On Fridays, father especially brought their sons to the mosque to keep them connected to their religion and their cultural heritage. Berger also writes, “When the prayers were over, El Allel Dahli, a Moroccan immigrant, emerged with his teenage son, Omar, telling of the plate of couscous and lamb he had brought as a gift for the poor to honor the birth of his daughter, Jenine.” It is small pieces of knowledge like this which teach the youth about zakat (the importance of giving to the poor) and hadiths (the actions of Prophet Mohammad (s.a.a.w).