A 2-year-old girl pranced across the carpet in her bare feet, jingling as she ran with decorated bell bracelets on each ankle.
A little boy playing hide-and-seek wandered through the crowded room asking, “Now, where’d that boy go?”
A second boy, hiding under the table of food laid out for the coming feast, giggled when the first boy found him. They ran back across the partition into the mens’ area of Masjid Uthman, a new mosque operating from a small office park in Dunwoody.
A half-dozen women who had gathered in the room talked and laughed. They hadn’t eaten since sunrise, but they seemed more involved in exchanging colorful broaches as gifts of friendship than in breaking their fast with the waiting bowls of fruit.
The women, most of them mothers of little children, paid little attention to the hide-and-seek game. They try to let the kids have fun so they will start to think of the masjid as a “second home,” Ramisa Ehsan said.
About three dozen women and men gathered July 3 at Masjid Uthman to break their daily fast and pray as part of their celebration of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Masjid member Rafidah Naseem calls Ramadan a “month of happiness” because she said Allah, the Arabic word for God, forgives sin during that time.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, avoiding food, drink and engaging in sexual relations, Ehsan said. Sleeping all day and waking at night to feast would defeat the spirit of the holiday, she said.
Eid al-Fitr means “feast of fast-breaking” and celebrates the end of Ramadan. This year it falls on July 17.
“Only during Ramadan do you see women and children here,” Ehsan said. They gather together on the weekend days and celebrate most heavily during the last 10 days of the month because that’s when the Prophet Muhammad received the Qur’an, she said.
Ehsan and her husband, Kahlid Bashir, are founding members of the Masjid Uthman on Mount Vernon Road. Masjid is the Arabic word for mosque, whereas mosque is an English word “meaning place of prayer,” she said.
They chose to name the masjid after Uthman, who was a companion and son-in-law to the Prophet Muhammad. Uthman was elected by the people to represent them after Muhammad died, Ehsan said. Uthman was one of four democratically elected people, she said.
“It wasn’t because of his family status that he was chosen, but because of his piety and righteousness, and the kind of person he was,” Ehsan said.
Ehsan and her husband moved from India to Buffalo, N.Y., 20 years ago, when he started his residency in nephrology. Both she and her husband are medical doctors, who work in Atlanta. They came to Georgia seeking the best jobs, and they chose Dunwoody for its schools, she said. They have one son in eighth grade and a son who is a senior in high school.
The family has been part of the local Muslim community for 10 years, Ehsan said. Before the Masjid Uthman opened in May 2014, local Muslims gathered in a home on Tilly Mill Road, she said.
“The community wanted to get together and have a place here, especially for the Friday prayers,” Ehsan said. “It’s hard for people who are at work to go to another, bigger masjid because of the traffic and the time it takes.”
Their congregation has grown to about 60 members, many of them families with young children. The imam, the prayer leader, is a young man who attends a local college, Ehsan said.
For the Friday evening dinner on July 3, places were marked by a bowl of fresh fruit. Congregation members would follow fruit with spicy rice dishes and condensed milk soup. “We Indians like to eat with our hands,” Ehsan said. She said it makes her think about life before utensils.
Two boys ran together back across the partition. The women finished their food and stood side by side for the first group prayer, led by the imam on a television screen from the other side of the room.
Naseem, who moved from Minneapolis to Dunwoody a year ago, said her husband’s computer job brought them to Georgia. Many of the friends she’s made at the masjid also have husbands who work with computers, she said.
Naseem said she met everyone she knows in her community through her faith.
“When I came to this masjid,” she said, “I made all of my friends here.”