Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital opened a Muslim prayer room June 11, designed by two of its own physicians, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“As a faith-based organization, Houston Methodist Willowbrook is dedicated to serving the medical and spiritual needs of people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds,” Keith Barber, CEO of Houston Methodist Willowbrook, said.
“Our region is home to the highest number of mosques — 18 in the northwest Houston region — in the Houston metropolitan area behind only the southwest area of Houston. Muslims are also a significant part of our diverse community here at Houston Methodist Willowbrook.”
Muhammad Hanif, MD, and Khawaja Azimuddin, MD, helped design and construct the room. Dr. Azimuddin, who is a colon and rectal surgeon at the hospital, even hand-painted the tile work that adorns walls inside and outside the prayer room.
He joked about his motivation for the project, eliciting lighthearted laughter from guests.
“I was sneakily trying to get into heaven through the backdoor,” he said.
“Because the prophet said whoever builds a house for God, God will make a house for him in paradise. Mr. Keith (Barber), when you get over there you should have a house over there.”
The new prayer room, which contains copies of the Qur’an in different languages and a mihrab, or a wall facing Makkah, was widely welcomed by the Houston Muslim community.
“Forget what you’re hearing about in Washington,” Zafar Tahir, a representative from the Houston Planning Commission, said.
“As far as Houston is concerned, we are the most diverse city in the US We are proud of that. Muslims are part of us. They are woven into the fabric of the city and this county. We’re here to stay and we want to be part of this country. Thank you, Methodist.”
Sohail Syed, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said the prayer room is important not only for Muslims but for marginalized groups that are portrayed negatively in media.
“In a time of hate, of minorities and faith-based groups, of faith-based communities, this is a great message,” Syed said.
“God bless you, God bless every one of you here and we appreciate all of your efforts. Thank you.”
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.
The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with Fajr prayer at dawn.
Houston is home to a significant number of American Muslims.
As of 2012, it has the largest Muslim population in Texas and the largest Muslim population in the Southern United States. That year, Kate Shellnut of the Houston Chronicle wrote that “Some estimate that Muslims make up 1.2 percent of the city’s population.”