ON THE FIRST day of spring, believers celebrated a renewal - both spiritual and physical - in their West Philadelphia mosque and Islamic school, once run by a corrupt imam now in federal prison.
For 18 months, the Philadelphia Masjid and Sister Clara Muhammad School were closed for lack of heaters and other problems.
Meantime, members conducted a fundraising drive, which netted $55,000, and they obtained a $30,000 loan. The total was half the amount needed to repair decades of neglect.
Now, the three-story building, at 47th Street and Wyalusing Avenue, has a new roof, a new heater, new plumbing, a gleaming kitchen, newly painted and plastered walls in the prayer area, sealed holes in an exterior wall, sparkling bathrooms and clean carpets.
And at the behest of the growing congregation, interim Imam Malik Mubashshir and Rafiq Kalam Id-din, chairman of the board of trustees, re-established ties with Imam W. Deen Mohammed, who spells his name differently than his late father, Elijah Muhammad, who headed the Nation of Islam.
W.D. Mohammed, the spiritual leader of 60,000 to 100,000 American Muslims, who follow orthodox Islam, will rededicate the Philadelphia Masjid and Sister Clara Muhammad School - named after his mother - on April 11 in a citywide Muslim celebration.
"I'm so enthused. I can't wait to see the believers, to see this place open," said Bertha Ali, 76, who won a seat on the new board of trustees in a court-certified election in 2006.
Ali - one of the original "pioneers" who scrimped to buy the former St. Thomas More High School for the mosque and school in 1975 - was not disappointed.
Last Friday, about 300 believers, including many young people, attended the first Jumah prayer service since October 2006. (MORE)