TALENT — After two-and-a-half years of volunteer work and a pay-as-you-go approach, an Islamic prayer center — Masjid al-Tawheed — began Friday prayer services at a new building in late April.
"It was a lot of do-it-yourself. It was a good learning experience, but it was frustrating at points," said Magdy Zacky, president of the group's board. "We had a contractor, of course, but we just tried to do whatever we could ourselves."
"Masjid al-Tawheed" means "a place to bow down and prostrate to God," according to congregants of the mosque.
Up to 30 worshippers come to Friday prayer services at 1:30 p.m. Weekly study circles also meet, and congregants may gather for prayer at other times.
The 2,100-square-foot building is located at 730 S. Pacific Highway, but street access is via Everett Street off Talent Avenue. Before Masjid al-Tawheed opened, the closest prayer centers to the Rogue Valley were in Eugene, Redding and Bend.
Members of the congregation take turns leading services, as the center doesn't have a full-time imam.
"There's a person who will stand up and do a sermon and lead the prayer," said committee treasurer Ahsan Jaffar. A first sermon is done in English, but prayers and a second part of the sermon are in Arabic.
Center leaders pursued the project as funds became available. They started with $30,000. Total cost for land, the building, furnishings, landscaping, paved parking and permits came to about $180,000, not counting volunteer labor.
"We were going back to the congregation. We were saying, 'Please, we need your support again,' " said Jaffar.
But money also came from other sources.
"Some churches and rabbis locally donated money," said Zacky. "People of all categories and all walks of life donated. It was very touching."
Construction permits were issued in September 2011. Work was stalled initially by rain-softened ground. Contractor Jerry North LLC gave instruction on tasks to the volunteers.
Weekend work parties of six to eight were not uncommon, the men said. On a recent Sunday, a group gathered to pull weeds, and volunteers will continue to do building and grounds maintenance.
A rug manufactured in Turkey specifically for prayer centers covers the floor of the worship area. Designs in the carpet give each worshipper an area of about 2 by 4 feet for prayers.
Women pray during the service in an adjacent room that is open to the main worship area, with a window and a large, arched entrance. At other times, women and children gather in the main area.
Restrooms are equipped with foot-washing stations for cleansing before services. There's also a full kitchen for use at monthly last-Saturday potlucks and holiday celebrations, as well as an office.
A rounded front to the building has no religious significance but was incorporated to make the inside more attractive, as was a domed interior ceiling. The worship area faces Mecca.
Worshippers previously gathered at the Phoenix Grange, and before that they met at a building in Phoenix that was sold for redevelopment. Arabic students at Southern Oregon University are among those who attend the nondenominational services, said Zacky.
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Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.