30Mosques.com | Day 14: Riverdale Islamic Center

By Aman and Bassam

Today, Aman and I went to the Riverdale Islamic Center in The Bronx. It’s interesting how no other borough in New York has a definitive THE in front of it. I have yet to hear anyone say the Queens or the Brooklyn.

(Update: Turns out the Bronx comes from the landowner who acquired the borough back in 1639, Jonas Broncks. – Here’s a snippet from an article:

“A river ran through Jonas Bronck’s farm, which became known as THE Bronck’s River. Then the area around the river became known as THE Bronck’s; eventually the spelling of the name was changed to THE Bronx because of euphony and not because there is more than one Bronx. In fact, it is the only New York State borough using an article in its name.”

Props to the commenter who pointed this out)

The mosque is discreetly located in the back of an apartment complex. It’s very easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully.


Before reaching the back of the complex, we had to pass through a smelly corridor filled with garbage.


At the entrance of the mosque sat Aqib. A Pakistani kid who starts high school in a week. He directed me into the mosque.


Inside the center, I was greeted by a small group of Desi uncles who were preparing plates for iftaar. They smiled and told me to sit before we break our fast. At that moment I thought the masjid was ran by South Asians, but when I looked to my left I saw a different picture. There were a couple of Latino and African American brothers helping out in the preparations. The small congregation began cracking on a brother who ate a date before the adhaan was called. Everyone took turns coming up with a joke. The brother who ate the date was a new convert and laughed as he turned red in embarrassment. The Desi uncles jokes were a little off color, but everyone knew they meant well. It was funny to see them transitioning from Punjabi to English to Arabic all as they put pakoras and dates in plates.


Before the designated iftaar time, a vibrant man got up and reminded us that the small window before Maghrib is a very blessed time to supplicate. After he called the adhaan, I found out this man, Sheikh Sulayman, was the Imam of the mosque and instrumental in bringing this congregation together.


We were given dates, pakoras, chickpeas and crispy rice for break fast. The only thing missing was roohafza.


After Maghrib, I spoke with the Imam about the dynamics of the mosque. He said it was difficult to get the congregation to come together in the beginning, but since they were in such a small space there really was no choice. “The space is a blessing,” he said.

For dinner, the masjid provided a light biryani with salad.


As we left the masjid, Shiekh Sulayman showed us around the masjid property. Turns out the landlord of the apartment complex is Muslim and has designated the majority of the first floor for the mosque. That explains how they get away with the blaring speakers in a residential building. The imam briefly spoke about the expansion plans to accommodate the growing congregation. I wondered what would happen once the masjid expanded. Would the community drift apart if they have the convenience of sitting in their own ethnic corners? Or would they still come together and crack off-color jokes in the comfort of a larger space? Let’s pray for the latter.

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