For the past year, passers-by have been curious about the impressive construction project in the 6300 block of Barclay Avenue — a gilt-domed, turreted, two-story edifice.
It is the new place of worship and education for local Muslims, the Islamic Center of Hernando County. And on Saturday, about 500 visitors toured the 10,000-square-foot mosque and learned about Islam and those who practice the faith in Hernando.
The event marked one of the aims of the building project, to "open up more to the community, a bigger place to allow guests," said spokesman Dr. Ghiath Mahmaljy.
The membership had congregated in a modest cinder-block building on the same site since 1985.
"It was too small," Mahmaljy said of the previous mosque, built when only about a half-dozen Muslim families lived in the county. The number now includes about 80 families with 300 to 400 individuals.
While the new mosque's exterior is grand, Mahmaljy said the interior is modest, except for a double-tiered crystal chandelier in the prayer hall donated by member Dr. Husam Shuayb.
"Generally, we don't like to show off," Mahmaljy said, pointing out: "The roots in our teaching is of humbleness. We weren't (previously) trying to hide, but it's now time we needed a bigger place."
Inside, no paintings, images or statuary adorn the mosque.
"Anything that could lead to glorifying others than God is forbidden," Mahmaljy explained.
He referred to the 10 Commandments from the Christian Bible and the Koran: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." (More)