Day 15 – New Mexico, Dar al Islam in Abiquiu (Pt. 2)

28
Aug
By Aman Ali | 53 Comments »

Note: We seem to have misplaced a substantial number of amazing pictures we took during this visit, so our sincerest apologies. We will try to find them as soon as possible and post them.

Bassam and I were getting ready to leave New Mexico for an eight hour drive to Arizona, but we took an incredibly worthwhile one hour detour to Abiquiu, New Mexico. The small town is home to Dar al Islam, a divinely radiant mosque made from adobe mud that sits over a mile up in the mountains. We spoke with Benyamin, a woodworker from Holland who lives nearby the mosque. He told us to meet him by his home and he’d take us there. To say Benyamin is good with his hands is putting it lightly. At the bottom of the mountains, he built a  mosque  that he and his neighbors regularly use for prayer.

Benyamin carved the designs on the door as well. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life, this man is divinely gifted. May Allah continue blessing him for his talents.

We found Benyamin inside a workshop shed where he was busy working on another door. He used to run a woodwork business for decades but has taken a break from doing it regularly because his health isn’t what it used to be. He told me it varies, but it only takes around a week and a half for him to make one of those intricately designed doors.

Benyamin and his wife regularly have company stay with them in the mountains and the two created a guest house for people to stay over. Below is a yurt, a round traditionally Central Asian tent, that the couple uses to put on concerts and even hold weddings in. They said they love having people come over, so I definitely need to make plans to come back!

Benyamin then took us up the mountain to Dar al Islam. It was built in the early 1980s at a time when there were around 30-40 families that frequented it daily. The mosque has a unique pueblo design and its foundation is made from adobe mud.

The mosque sits on a vast property in the mountains that many movie production companies use for filming such as the flicks City Slickers and Young Guns (one of my fave movies). In fact, that day we saw a production company that was filming Cowboys and Aliens, the upcoming Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig sci-fi movie. Next to the mosque is the Islamic school and inside I found some more doors that Benyamin carved. He told me this one took him a little over a week to do

.

Sadly, Dar al Islam is only used for special events like conferences and camps. I heard at least a dozen different reasons why it’s not being used regularly, but everyone I spoke to agrees they wish it was. Abdurrauf, a Belgian man who is the caretaker of the mosque, said one of the primary reasons why it’s not being used is lack of funds to run it. Plus many of the board members of the place are getting old and they could use some young new blood to energize the place.

I hope they do find people and funding soon, because this is no doubt one of the best Islamic treasures I have found in this country.

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Comments

53
  1. August 28th, 2010 | Kearns says:

    Yurts are Mongolian, not Moroccan… Beautiful pictures, I’m sure it’s wonderful there, masha Allah.

  2. August 28th, 2010 | Salim says:

    MashaAllah, great posts from New Mexico. By the way, it’s Abiquiu (with a u at the end).

  3. August 28th, 2010 | Aman Ali says:

    Oops, thanks for pointing out the typo Salim!

  4. August 28th, 2010 | Aisha says:

    Masha’Allah, the brother’s wood carvings are breathtaking. I haven’t seen anything like that since my trips to Kashmir. Abiquiu is a blessed place…so I’ve heard from some sisters I met,who attended youth camps there. Insha’Allah, I hope to take a trip up there.
    I was wondering if you were going to gpo there since you were going to NM. I’m glad you guys didn’t miss out on it.

  5. August 28th, 2010 | Aisha says:

    *go not gpo

  6. August 28th, 2010 | Marcia Morrison says:

    This reinforces my feelings that God is all around us in the wild places of nature. Of course it can be said that God is all around us wherever we are, but it seems to be so much more clear in beautiful places like this. Dar al Islam is a gem in a perfect setting. Thank you for these pictures.

  7. August 28th, 2010 | Taslim says:

    Salaams Brothers!

    Hope your travels are going well. KUDOS FROM AFAR ON FEATURING MY DAD, BENYAMEEN. Alhamdullilah I have been following your trip thus far, as well as your blog last year (which I sent to them last year to check out)and wondered if you’d make it up to Abiquiu and find him cheerfully humming away in his woodshop–so glad you did! It made my night to see other enjoying his company while I am far away from him during Ramadan.

    Thanks, and blessed travels.

  8. August 28th, 2010 | Abdul Aziz says:

    AMI BENAYAMEEEEEEEEEN
    I adore adore adore my Ami and all of my abiquiu family. Masha’Allah this is so exciting. I’m so homesick right now.

  9. August 28th, 2010 | Abdul Aziz says:

    I totally meant to tell you guys to go there while you were in New Orleans btw my bad.

  10. August 28th, 2010 | Sobia says:

    Dar-al-Islam is truly a magical place, one of the reasons we moved so close to Abiquiu is to establish a muslim community there for our kids. All we need is a few creative and resourceful minds to figure out how to get this facility going again, inshallah.

  11. August 29th, 2010 | Dan Sullivan says:

    This is a wonderful place in a phenominal setting. An old friend carried me there and it was a pleasant surprise. I hope you locate your photographs because the mosque is a treasure. When I visited two years ago, the grounds showed evidence of the youth camps, but were abandoned. Yet the door was open for passersby.

  12. August 29th, 2010 | Rashed says:

    I agree with Kearns: Yurts are Central Asian, not Moroccan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yurt).

    I, too, wish this beautiful complex could be put to more regular use.

  13. August 29th, 2010 | Aman Ali says:

    Oops, my mistake, it’s been corrected! Thanks for pointing it out :)

  14. August 29th, 2010 | Aman Ali says:

    Walaikum asalams Taslim! Thank you so much for the kind words, you are definitely blessed to have him as your father. We are definitely eager to meet him again in the future. He told us you live in New Orleans (i think?) so maybe one day we’ll run into you as well

  15. August 29th, 2010 | Samia says:

    seconding my sister above… as I watched your journey I wondered if you would experience the majesty that is Abiquiu, NM. so happy that you were able to make it there! and thank you for sharing with us. wishing you a blessed and fun remainder of your journey!

  16. August 29th, 2010 | Sherifah says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you guys took the time to make it to Abiquiu. I was told that the original intent of purchasing land their was to make it a distinctive American Muslim Community from the ground up. I don’t think people know that they brought thousands of acres organically and went around the country trying to promote the vision they had for the place.

    However, many people still think New Mexico isn’t in the United States. Convincing people to relocate proved very difficult. Even though NM has the most PHD’s in the country:-/ Free college education for anyone who graduates from public schools, free child care if you are a full time student or working and make less than 1700.00 a month. The social services are pretty awesome and their is no reason why you can’t get an education here. Most of our taxes go to the state universities and the in state tuition is ridiculously cheap.

    I know Zaytuna uses the masjid for deen intensives and sisters retreats.

    It would be great if we could rotate some of these mega ISNA/MAS/MANA/ICNA zone conference to Abiquiu instead.

  17. August 29th, 2010 | Shereen says:

    Wow! NM sounds amazing! Thanks for all the info!

  18. August 29th, 2010 | Amena Khan says:

    This place seems so deserted, but I can imagine how the location’s deafening silence may be the reason why it capivates visitors immediately; it instantly creates harmony. Awesome.

  19. August 30th, 2010 | Abdur Ra'uf says:

    Assalamu alaykum.
    it was nice meeting both Aman and Bassam at the Dar al Islam campus.
    a few remarks to set the record straight:
    1. Dar al Islam is a religious, educational organization that has a masjid on a retreat type of program campus in Abiquiu. Besides the programs run by Dar al Islam over the decades both at the campus and, in collaboration with others, at various other places in the U.S. (see projectsakinah.org), other organizations and groups have used, and are using, the campus for their programs also, and we are open for this to increase over time.
    2. The mosque, and the main building, are not ‘pueblo design’, but actually closer to a North African Nubian architectural style.
    3. The foundations are not ‘adobe mud’(sic) but reinforced block and rebar construction as permitted by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department

  20. August 30th, 2010 | Duane says:

    Just read about your journey – very interesting, I was born just north of Columbus, and in the past 10 years have semi-regularly traveled to Pakistan, India, and Java and had studied Asian and Islamic history in college. So I was quite keen to check out your journey and learn about your experiences crossing the country.

    I was speaking to someone a year or so ago about Mosque in Abiquiu, and they made mention that it was designed by the renowned Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy. I haven’t researched this further but I am familiar with Fathy’s being a huge proponent of building in traditional and afordable mediums (adobe being a natural choice for a lot of the world.) The fellow that I was talking to was related to Fathy and had always wanted to see the Mosque in Abiquiu and mentioned that the design was rooted in traditional designs of North Africa that also use adobe.

    Anyways I hope the rest of your journey is as interesting and insightful as what you have already posted. Hopefully the CNN exposure will allow at least a few more folks to be open in understanding.

  21. August 30th, 2010 | Tarik says:

    Salaams, Loving your project and loved our visit to Abiquiu. Our best to Br. Abdur Ra’uf, who was so hospitable and accommodating on our visit there a couple of years ago. Allah Ma’k!

  22. September 1st, 2010 | Donald G. Farnsworth says:

    …actually it’s Abiquiú. Fi Amanullah

  23. September 2nd, 2010 | Naima says:

    Mezquita is the word in spanish for Mosque or Masjid! I was surprised to see a sign in spanish next to the door! Awesome!

  24. September 2nd, 2010 | MAQ says:

    This is the most awesome little mosque I have ever seen. Just Incredible!

  25. September 3rd, 2010 | David says:

    Beautiful!

  26. September 10th, 2010 | Bruce Birchell says:

    New Mexico appreciates your visit.
    You gentlemen have done a great thing here.
    Reaching out, breaking barriers, and showing us ourselves. I thank you.

  27. September 11th, 2010 | Meg Wallace says:

    In 2008, my husband and I were vacationing in Abiquiu. We had the pleasure of meeting Benyamin and his wife, and were invited to their home during Ramadan, where they shared a meal, music, and prayer with us. We are Christian, and up until then, knew very little about this faith. This was, to us, a beautiful experience beyond compare. We have shared it with anyone who would listen, and will carry it in our hearts forever. Blessings!

  28. October 22nd, 2010 | Zeba Syed says:

    All praise to Allah SWT….this is the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen. I have seen exquiste ones in Turkey…Morocco..but Mashallah the simplicity and architecture of this one incredible!
    An architectural delight!….Blessings and Peace to the Benyamin and family.

  29. October 22nd, 2010 | Zeba Syed says:

    All praise to Allah SWT….this is the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen. I have seen exquiste ones in Turkey…Morocco..but Mashallah the simplicity and architecture of this one incredible!
    An architectural delight!….Blessings and Peace to the Benyamin family.

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