By Jalon Tyson-Long, Drew Cartee, Heath Clevenger, Demarcus Ware
A store front on Gary Avenue in Fairfield, just off of I-20/59 serves as one of the places where members of the Birmingham Islamic Society (BIS) meet for prayer and worship. Known as the West Side Masjid, it opened in 2010 as the third of BIS’s centers. It joins The Church of the Reconciler (Charismatic Episcopal Church) and Urban Hope Community Church as one of several houses of worship on this formerly commercial main street.
Muslims in Birmingham
According to an article on AL.com from that time, the mosque primarily serves the West African community. Several of those involved in starting the mosque had also started businesses braiding hair, which is a great way to make money in America. One of those businesses is D & D African Hair Braiding, which is also on Gary Avenue. According to the 2010 article there were upwards of 300 West African Muslims living in Birmingham. The president of the BIS thought there were about 10,000 Muslims in greater Birmingham.
While many Americans associate Islam with Arabs, West Africa has a large population of Muslims. The religion was spread to this region by Muslim scholars and traders. Some of the countries that have a large population of Muslims in West Africa are Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Nigeria. Nigeria has the most Muslims out of any country in West Africa. It is said that their population is around 50% Muslim.
The city of Fairfield was planned by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company as a residential community to house their workers who worked at the nearby plant, the Fairfield Works. Founded in 1910 it was incorporated on January 1, 1919 is a city in Jefferson County with a population of 10,807 on 3.47 square miles west of Birmingham. Originally, the city was named Corey. Later on, the city adopted its present name after Fairfield, Connecticut. Fairfield is home to a historically black college called Miles College, founded in 1905 and affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Role of the Mosque in Islam
The mosque is a place of worship of Islam. This is where Muslims come together for prayers. Muslims are allowed to go pray any of the prayers at the mosque but the main day they go is Friday for the second prayer. Many mosques have schools inside of them for children of all ages to help increase the knowledge of the Quran and the Arabic language. During the month of Ramadan, some people may get together and host dinner for the community and for the people in need.
Muslims are obligated to pray the five prayers daily unless they are incapable or very ill to complete. Then start with. They pray five times a day and they pray in the direction of the Kaaba using a Qibla. They pray in the direction of the Kaaba because it is the most sacred place for all of Islam.
Having a mosque is important for the Muslims so that they can come practice their religion and have a place to worship through their day. Located over six miles from any other mosque and easily accessible from the Interstate, the West Side Masjid plays an important role in Birmingham’s religious life.
West Side Masjid
Location: 4506 Gary Avenue, Fairfield, AL 35064
Affiliation: Birmingham Islamic Society
“Fairfield, Alabama – City Information, Fast Facts, Schools, Colleges, and More.” Citytowninfo.com. Accessed October 29, 2021. https://www.citytowninfo.com/places/alabama/fairfield.
Kahera, Akel Ismail. 2015. “American Mosque Architecture.” Oxford Handbooks Online, January 1, 2015. http://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199862634.013.030
Garrrison, Greg. 2010. “Fairfield Mosque a Sign of Muslim Growth in Birmingham Area.” Birmingham News, February 8, 2010. https://www.al.com/birmingham-news-stories/2010/02/fairfield_mosque_a_sign_of_mus.html
Kahera, Akel Ismail. “American Mosque Architecture.” Oxford Handbooks Online, January 1, 2014.
Jalon Tyson-Long ’22, Demarcus Ware ’21, Drew Cartee ’25, and Heath Clevenger ’25 were students in Introduction to World Religions in Samford University’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in fall 2021.
Published November 29, 2021