More than 600 people crowded into the current mosque of the Islamic Society of Augusta for Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of Islam’s holy month.
Rain caused construction delays, and a few final touches still need to be put on the new $3.8 million, 33,000-square-foot mosque and community center on Old Evans Road in Martinez.
“It’s almost complete,” said Mohamed Fard, the resident engineer on the project. “We’re just waiting on our certificate of occupancy.”
Eid al-Fitr is one of Islam’s two major festivals. It’s the Festival of Fast-Breaking after 30 days of fasting from sunup to sundown during Ramadan.
If there was ever a day that illustrated the Islamic Society’s need for more space, Eid would be it, said Sara Khan, 26, of Evans.
The mosque off Pleasant Home Road was so full Sunday that dozens waited outside in the rain for their chance to socialize and eat.
“I’ve been coming here for 25 years. Today is probably the most packed I’ve ever seen,” said Khan, who arrived an hour early so she would have space in the prayer hall. Others prayed in hallways and classrooms.
Soon, the Islamic Society won’t have to worry about crowding, said Hameed Malik, a member of the construction committee.
The new mosque has prayer space for 500 but can accommodate overflow of up to 1,000. It also has a gym, kitchen, basketball court, classrooms, and banquet space for 500 people.
“We were expecting a big crowd, and that’s what we got,” Malik said. “We need a larger space; that much is obvious.”
The Islamic Society plans to open the new mosque in time for the other major festival on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Adha, on the last day of the pilgrimage to Mecca in October of this year..
“Hopefully, this will be the last Eid here,” said Dr. Ahmad Gill, the president of the Islamic Society.
After crowds cleared from the mosque, most went on to carry out other Eid traditions, he said. Families exchange presents and visit friends at open houses.
“Everybody leaves for their homes. A lot of people host open houses and invite everyone in,” Gill said. “It’s not uncommon to go to 10 houses in one day. You eat a little at each. It’s a festive atmosphere.”
Eid, at its heart, is about community, said Huda Kazi, a former Augusta resident who lives in New York. She was home visiting family this weekend.
“Eid is very much about family and community,” Kazi said. “You can see that because everyone’s here. Everyone comes.”