Opening the door to Islam

Rochester man shares his faith

By Matt Russell

Rashed Ferdous of Rochester is on a mission: Open the doors of the Rochester Islamic Center to encourage community dialogue about his faith.

In January, the 28-year-old IBM software engineer started organizing monthly open houses at the Islamic center.


He’s encouraged by the turnout at the open houses, which has ranged from 10 to 25 people a month. Questions from people generally touch on politics, terrorism and theology, he said.

"The ones that actually come here, they have already crossed a certain barrier, so they have opened their minds," Ferdous said. "That by itself is a big step."

The open houses, which are held at 11 a.m. the last Saturday of each month, are just a start. Ferdous said people can e-mail him at or call him at 253-6710 with questions about Islam or to arrange a tour of the Rochester Islamic Center if the Saturday open house times aren’t convenient.

"It’s not just a Saturday thing," Ferdous said. "I’ve met people at Barnes & Noble at the mall."

The Rochester Islamic Center, which is at 17 N. Broadway, is also willing to help high school or college students write papers about Islam, Ferdous said. At the same time, the center is also open to invitations to speak at churches, schools, colleges, or community organizations about Islam.

Here’s what Ferdous had to say in an interview this week at the Rochester Islamic Center’s library:

What things do people express surprise about when they’re at the open houses?

When we clear up misconceptions, like people ask, ‘Do you pray to the Prophet Mohammed?’ No — this is one God we worship, not the prophet. It surprises people that we pray in Arabic — all Muslims pray in Arabic.


It also surprises people that only a few percent of the whole Muslim population are Middle Eastern, and that in the Middle East there are many Christians, too, who speak Arabic and call their God Allah.

It’s the same way we say it in Arabic, that’s the name of God in Arabic, Allah. It’s the same. In the Arabic Bible, it says Allah.

So it’s not a religious term. It’s just the word for God.

It’s just a word. Allah means ‘‘the God’ in Arabic.

What does your belief in Islam and your practice of Islam bring to your day-to-day life?

Personally speaking, the religion gives me spiritual contentment in my inner self. I feel I’m stronger in accepting whatever happens: Either good or bad, I believe they come from God.

So if something bad happens to me, I accept it and am patient. I know that something bad is going on, I’m going through a hard time, but I’ll get through it. I think that is the goal of religion, to give people spiritual and mental strength to go through bad times.

What motivated you to take a lead with the open houses and to make yourself available for calls and e-mails ?


I think that deep down, it’s a religious belief, but I’ll give a little longer answer and maybe it will make sense.

Say we’re driving somewhere in Arizona and you’re sleeping or reading the newspaper or something and I see a very nice sunset and say, "Hey — look how nice that is!" This is human nature, right? If I see something good, something nice, the first thing I do is say, "Hey — did you see it?"

This is what I personally believe — that Islam is a very good, very nice religion. So I want to share it with people. It’s not like, "I want you to change your beliefs and convert to Islam." No. It’s like, "Just see how beautiful it is!" It’s not because, :Oh, there are so many misconceptions." It’s because people don’t know about it. I just want to share — this is my personal goal.

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