It took Khawaja Azimuddin six months to complete the ornate hand-painted tilework for the prayer room at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, but he said it was the biggest and finest piece of art he has ever done.
Azimuddin, who is a colon and rectal surgeon at the hospital, was joined by colleagues and community members in the hospital’s north pavilion on June 11 to celebrate the opening of a new prayer room built in the Muslim tradition
He and another doctor, Muhammad Hanif, aided in the design and construction of the room. The prayer room contains copies of the Quran in different languages and a mihrab, or a wall facing Mecca that Muslims face to pray.
Azimuddin said the project was an honor to complete.
He joked about his motivation for the project, eliciting lighthearted laughter from guests.
“I was sneakily trying to get into heaven through the backdoor,” he said. “Because the prophet said whoever builds a house for God, God will make a house for him in paradise. Mr. Keith (Barber), when you get over there you should have a house over there.”
Keith Barber, CEO of Houston Methodist Willowbrook, said the hospital is glad to host a space to help their patients and staff practice their faith. Previously, Muslims in the hospital would use a 12-foot by 12-foot room in the southern portion of the hospital, Azimuddin said.
“As a faith-based organization, Houston Methodist Willowbrook is dedicated to serving the medical and spiritual needs of people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds,” Barber said. “Our region is home to the highest number of mosques — 18 in the northwest Houston region — in the Houston metropolitan area behind only the southwest area of Houston. Muslims are also a significant part of our diverse community here at Houston Methodist Willowbrook.”
Zafar Tahir, representative from the Houston Planning Commission, said the inclusion of an onsite prayer room is a step forward for progressive thought toward Muslims in Houston.
“Forget what you’re hearing about in Washington,” Tahir said. “As far as Houston is concerned, we are the most diverse city in the U.S. We are proud of that. Muslims are part of us. They are woven into the fabric of the city and this county. We’re here to stay and we want to be part of this country. Thank you, Methodist.”
Sohail Syed, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said the prayer room is important not only for Muslims, but for marginalized groups that are portrayed negatively in media.
“In a time of hate, of minorities and faith-based groups, of faith-based communities, this is a great message,” Syed said. “God bless you, God bless every one of you here and we appreciate all of your efforts. Thank you