This is a continuation of Part 1, where we saw the old Sears tower and the Our Lady of Sorrows basilica. In this part, I will talk about the Downtown Islamic Center, the Tribune Tower, and the United Methodist Temple.
After a late lunch at Panera, we were already close to the Downtown Islamic Center, which is a really handy location for Muslims to stop by and pray. We took the elevator up to the 5th floor, which indeed has a nice skylight. They welcomed us and the other Open House Chicago visitors warmly and offered donuts and free religious tracts and Qu'rans, and invited us to sit down and listen to a presentation on Muslims and Islam.
I'm really glad they're working hard to correct many misconceptions people have about Muslims and Islam, because goodness knows that so many people are deeply prejudiced against them just for being different. Just look at the "don't build a mosque at Ground Zero" debacle for an example. Titty bars were acceptable near Ground Zero, but mosques weren't. The presenter talked about the difficulty they're having with expanding the building, even though they're often in desperate need for additional space, how they pray during their prayers, citing examples from the Torah, the Bible, and the Qu'ran. He explained why they wear beards, and how contrary to popular belief, most Arabs are Christians, not Muslims. It's the Southeast Asia areas that have the most Muslims.
But this particular presentation had an awkward moment when it strayed from the informational session into proselytizing territory when the presenter began talking about how Islam is the one true religion to believe in. One example he cited was about how the Qu'ran first told the world that the earth was round, since God dictated this fact to Muhammad, who then shared what God had told him with others. I didn't have the facts readily on hand so I didn't speak up (plus I didn't want to be rude) but this was certainly not the first time humans found out that the earth was round. The spherical earth idea dates back to the 6th century BC, and it was mathematically proven in the 3rd century BC, so I'm pretty sure that scholars in Muhammad's era probably knew that. This is just quibbling over details though--the presenter, bless his heart, truly did believe what he believed in. It just gets awkward when anything takes on a "one true religion" tone.
Other than that, it was fascinating visiting the mosque. And this librarian can't turn down a copy of a free book, so now I have a Qu'ran to add to my collection of several Bibles and a Torah. Oh, and in the picture above, you'll notice the bare walls. This is because they don't want any distractions from praising and praying to God. Sometimes they'll have Qu'ranic scriptures on the walls. The lines are what we consider to be pews, to help people line up for praying.
After we were done at the mosque, we headed up to the Tribune Tower, where we waited in a long line to get into the building. While we waited, we got to witness the Coptic Christians protesting how the post-Mubarak Egypt is treating them poorly.
When we got in the building, they gave us a tour of the upper floor, with the softest carpet that feels like you're walking on marshmallows, beautiful wood paneling, and a great view of the Wrigley Building.
Then we made one last stop on our way to Saturday night Mass, stopping by the United Methodist Temple to see their Sky Chapel. On our way up to the tiny but beautiful chapel, they displayed a plaque next to the elevator that proclaimed in Latin, "Called or not called, God is present." (Unlike the elevator, our guide said, which always needs to be called).
Unfortunately, I used too dim of a exposure on my camera to get good pictures of the rest of the chapel besides the altar, but let me tell you, it is pretty. I'm sure if you ask inside the Methodist temple, you might be able to stop by and pray up there sometime.