In November 1944, the idea for building a Mosque in Washington DC was born through a discussion between Mr. M. Abu Al Hawa and the former Ambassador of Egypt, Mr. Mahmood Hassan Pasha.
Soon thereafter, a handful of diplomats and American Muslims formed the Washington Mosque Foundation. The Foundation’s membership quickly grew to include representatives from every Islamic nation in the world and American citizens. They all supported the Foundation’s appeal for funds. They managed to raise enough money that enabled them to purchase the land that the Center sits on now on Washington’s “Embassy Row”. They purchased the land on April 30, 1946, and laid the cornerstone on January 11, 1949.
Prof. Mario Rossi, a noted Italian architect who built several mosques in Egypt designed the building. Egypt donated a magnificent bronze chandelier and sent the specialists who wrote the Qur’anic verses adorning the mosque’s walls and ceiling. The tiles came from Turkey along with the experts to install them. The Persian rugs came from Iran, which are still in the mosque of the Center.
Finally, with its completion, the Islamic Center’s dedication ceremony took place on June 28, 1957. Former United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke for the American representatives. In his address, he praised the Islamic world’s “traditions of learning and rich culture” which have “for centuries contributed to the building of civilization.” He affirmed America’s founding principle of religious freedom and stated that: “America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience. This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are.”
Eisenhower concluded: “As I stand beneath these graceful arches, surrounded on every side by friends from far and near, I am convinced that our common goals are both right and promising. Faithful to the demands of justice and of brotherhood, each working according to the lights of his own conscience, our world must advance along the paths of peace.”