Muslims have renewed spirit for the Night of Power

By: Sharlee DiMenichi
   Too excited for drowsiness, local Muslims celebrated the Night of Power on Sunday by cramming into the Islamic Society of Central Jersey mosque and praying until morning to commemorate the night on which Mohammed received the Quran (also known as the Koran).
   Rows of the faithful extended from the worship room into the hall and the parking lot was clogged with twice the number of cars as there were spaces.
   Some said the enormous turnout reflected a resurgence of Islam during the year since the Sept. 11 attacks.
   Marveling at the crowd of barefoot worshippers, Marcy Wainwright, who was attending overnight prayers at the Route 1 mosque said, "I think Sept. 11 had a lot to do with it. It brought Muslims together, I think."
   The first Night of Power after the terror strikes did not draw as many worshippers because Muslims feared someone might attack the mosque, Ms. Wainwright said.
   "Last year, as I recall, it was not this crowded because they were scared. They were scared what if somebody is crazy enough to throw a bomb in here," Ms. Wainwright said, in the hall outside the furniture-free worship room where believers prayed standing, then kneeling , then with their foreheads on the thick carpet.
   Another worshipper attending the Night of Power service for the first time in years said the attacks of Sept. 11 prompted her to become more involved in her faith.
   "Probably after Sept. 11 I became more religious than before," said Nagla Owies of South Brunswick.
   Ms. Owies said the large number of believers reflected Muslims’ commitment to honor their religion in spite of negative public images of it.
   "I think they’re feeling that they’re being dehumanized in the media and they need to pull together for support," Ms. Owies said.
   In the year since the attacks, Muslims have become more interested in their religion and the number of converts has increased, Ms. Wainwright said.
   "I think Sept. 11, although it had a lot of negative aspects toward Islam, it also brought out Islam. People wanted to know ‘what is Islam?’ " Ms. Wainwright said.
   The Night of Power, the holiest night of the monthlong fasting festival of Ramadan, recognizes an event that led to defining Islam. Mohammed was illiterate, but Allah transcended his limitation and enabled him to read the Quran, said Inas Fahmy, who attends the mosque.
   "Allah said, ‘Read in the name of the Lord who created you,’ " Ms. Fahmy said.
   On the Night of Power, Muslims remember not only the revelation of the book which gave birth to their faith, but also Allah’s ability to richly reward people who are open to receiving his message. Prayer has more power on the Night of Power, when Allah is said to answer the supplications of the faithful more generously than at any other time of year.
   "If you have good faith on this night you have a reward like a lifetime of rewards," said Imran Shariff of West Windsor.
   Even on a night when prayer has special power, it is the conversation between the mortal and the divine, rather than the result of the interaction that is most important, Ms. Owies said.
   "It’s not so much that your prayers are answered, it’s that you have a connection with God," Ms. Owies said.