America’s First Purpose-Built Mosque was completed in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; photo ©2012 by Susan McKee
The Mother Mosque of America, once known as The Rose of Fraternity Lodge, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is said to be the first permanent structure to be built specifically to serve as a mosque in the United States.
Construction was completed on February 15, 1934. When a larger local mosque, the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, was built in 1971, the building was sold. Successive owners over the next twenty years allowed the building to fall in to disrepair.
In 1990 the Islamic Council of Iowa purchased the building, refurbished it, and restored its status as a Muslim cultural center.
Are you a part of the Islamic Council of Iowa? Can you tell us more about the current uses of this historic building?
Who has visited it?
Among Black Muslims, two names stand out: Wallace D. Fard and Robert Poole. Even if you’re familiar with the history of this indigenous Islamic religion, you may not recognize them — both were better known under different monikers: Wali Fard and Elijah Muhammad.
Elijah Muhammad: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection
Robert (or Elijah) Poole was a laborer in Georgia before migrating north to Detroit with his wife, the former Clara Evans, and their two sons. Four more sons and two daughters were born in Michigan, where Poole worked in the auto industry until the Depression forced the family onto public relief. Poole attended one of Wali Fard
‘s sermons in 1931, and became a convert. Fard renamed him, eventually, Elijah Muhammad and appointed his protegé Chief Minister of Islam.
In 1932, Elijah Muhammad moved to Chicago to establish the Nation of Islam’s Temple #2. Police confrontations (involving mandatory school attendance for Muslim children) forced Fard to flee Detroit for Chicago, where he was arrested again. Soon after, Fard disappeared for good and Elijah Muhammad became the movement’s leader.
Eventually, the Nation of Islam became a powerful force nationwide through both political and social programs. Elijah Muhammad’s power began to unravel when his protegé, Malcolm X, discovered that the Nation of Islam’s leader had not only committed adultery, but had fathered illegitimate children. Following Malcolm X’s defection and assassination, Elijah Muhammad clung to power over a diminishing realm. Upon his death in 1975, a power struggle splintered the Nation of Islam.
See also: Wali Fard
Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori
The shipments of human cargo in the mid-16th century (via the efforts of Sir John Hawkins) disembarked on Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico rather than on the North American mainland.
The first black slaves to arrive in what is now the United States were 20 Negroes sold from a Dutch man-of-war to the settlers of the Virginia Colony in 1619. By 1790 there were 697,624 slave and 59,557 free blacks in the U.S.; by 1860, the population had jumped to 3,953,760 slave and 488,070 free.
There were Muslims among African slaves brought to the U.S. (for example, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori), but no evidence exists that these slaves had influence beyond their own experiences or were able to propagate Islam in the New World.
Most were young males, a demographic group least likely to be associated with cultural transmission no matter the circumstances.
In addition, slave owners actively suppressed native language and behavior to create a distinct slave culture.
There is a great difference in the history of African slavery in the American colonies and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. It is estimated that of the 10 million individuals sold into slavery in Africa, only 400,000 were shipped to what became the United States.
(Drawing courtesy of Wikipedia)
The 49th annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America takes place over Labor Day weekend in Washington, D.C.
“One Nation Under God, Striving for the Common Good” is the theme for the event, set for August 31 through September 3, 2012, in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, DC 20001.
More than 200 speakers are scheduled, along with a bazaar, art exhibit and film festival.
(Image courtesy of Islamic Society of North America)