×

After long wait, Concord Islamic society settles into new mosque

  • Imam Mustafa Akaya speaks to his congregation at the Islamic Society of Greater Concord's new mosque Friday, March 2, 2018. The organization closed on the former Capital Offset building at 181 Main St. in November, but wasn't able to move in until two weeks ago. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Imam Mustafa Akaya speaks to his congregation at the Islamic Society of Greater Concord’s new mosque Friday. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Imam Mustafa Akaya speaks to his congregation at the Islamic Society of Greater Concord's new mosque Friday, March 2, 2018. The organization closed on the former Capital Offset building at 181 Main St. in November, but wasn't able to move in until two weeks ago. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Women and children listen to the imam speak at the Islamic Society of Greater Concord's new mosque on Friday, March 2, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 03, 2018

After years of cramped quarters and little parking, the congregation of the Islamic Society of Greater Concord has come home.

The organization closed on the former Capital Offset Co. building on 181 N. Main St. in Concord in November, but land transfers, lot mergers and dozens of other legal transactions – not to mention laying some new floors and applying fresh coats of paint – still stood between them and their new mosque.

The former printing company’s building sat empty for five years until two weeks ago, with grimy floors and cobwebbed doorways. Now, pictures of scriptures hang from the walls and colorful prayer rugs are lined up in the women’s prayer room. The carpet beneath your bare feet is cozy and the walls are light colored.

After 15 years of holding services at the East Concord Community Center, a space that was too small for the congregation’s 70 or so members and provided little freedom for the Society to hold events outside of prayer, the work was welcome, said Society president Hubert Mask.

“It’s just like when you’ve been renting forever and then getting your first home,” Mask said. “I don’t think anybody really regretted leaving there (the Community Center). They were good hosts, but it was just a building.”

Lots of work still work to be done. The Society must raise $200,000 to tear down an abandoned building at 9 Pearl St. to pave their own parking lot, but for now, their signed agreement with the First Congregational Church that allows them to use their lot for overflow will suffice.

After raising double that amount to purchase the building through local community donations and other mosques in less than a year, Mask seemed confident raising money for the parking lot would be no issue. He said the neighbors have been welcoming and happy to see the space being used.

Imam Mustafa Akaya said his congregation is excited to be in their new space. He’s particularly happy to be so close to his flock – in the Community Center, women had to pray on a different level than the men, which could result in a disconnect in the sound system. Now, they still pray in separate rooms, but within eye shot of the imam.

“We feel very comfortable here,” Akaya said. “We’re in good hands.”

Nur Akaya, the imam’s wife, said one of the upsides of having their own place will be that the Society won’t have to check with the city to see if space is available before hosting an event. She said they’ll be able to hold religious school sessions, simple wedding ceremonies and gatherings for funerals.

“We’re very happy,” she said. “There were memories there (the community center), but we’re happy to let it go.”

Having a building of their own is more than just about having space to host their congregation – some drive more than an hour to attend the busiest Friday services – and additional events, Akaya said.

In the Islamic faith, a mosque is not a mosque until a building is owned by the congregation, Akaya said. Anywhere else is just a place to pray. But a mosque can also serve as an educational center and a social gathering place; and when it’s more cleaned up and they have their feet underneath them, Akaya said the mosque will be holding monthly open houses where people to learn about their faith.

And like other places of worship, the imam will have a place where he can meet with his congregation. The mosque will also be open for those who need a place to pray outside of the five traditional daily services.

Akaya said the Society will also be looking forward to partnering with other Greater Concord Interfaith Council members on events.

“We’re so thankful to the community who has supported us from the beginning,” he said.

That support, he said, that helped land the Society in a place of its own.

“It’s like coming home,” Akaya said.