Ghulam Abbas (center) prays with his two sons Ammar (left), 8, and Ayaan, 8, during an evening service for the Zainab Center at the Lynnwood Convention Center on Thursday, Aug. 31. The center, which serves Shiite Muslims, is temporarily using the convention center’s facilities while they await permits to begin repairing their water-damaged building in Lynnwood. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Ghulam Abbas (center) prays with his two sons Ammar (left), 8, and Ayaan, 8, during an evening service for the Zainab Center at the Lynnwood Convention Center on Thursday, Aug. 31. The center, which serves Shiite Muslims, is temporarily using the convention center’s facilities while they await permits to begin repairing their water-damaged building in Lynnwood. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Shiite Muslims persevere at Lynnwood Convention Center

LYNNWOOD — Within days of moving to the area in 2008, Zaid Chishti visited the Zainab Center in Lynnwood.

He was looking for a place for his young family to worship. They were set to join him soon from the East Coast.

Those he met at Zainab gave him all kinds of advice. They had ideas about where he should live to be close to work and religious services.

“Because of the community, it’s like a family,” Chishti said. “This is where our kids look forward to going.”

Zainab Center serves Shiite Muslims, who make up the world’s second-largest sect within Islam. As many as 60 people attend regular services, and hundreds show up for special events and holidays.

About six months ago, a sprinkler head malfunctioned in the building. The center remains closed from severe water damage, awaiting permits for restoration.

“It’s a major displacement, on your life, your family life, your religious routine,” Chishti said.

Zainab is more than just a place of worship. It hosts weddings, funerals, classes and Sunday school. Work had been under way by attendees, including Amanda Smith, to create a library that would be open to everyone. The library plan is on hold for now.

Since the damage, services have been taking place at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Attendees say staff have gone out of their way to make it work according to Islamic customs. That meant staying open late during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and host later-than-usual religious programs.

As a nonprofit organization, Zainab is paying a discounted fee, said Sara Blayne, general manager at the convention center. The Zainab group and center staff learned about each other through the Lynnwood Police Department’s “Cops and Clergy” event in February, she said.

Making do has been a blessing in its own way, said Abbas Reza, a longtime Zainab attendee who lives in Bothell. Everyone came together to organize details, including food and daycare, and bringing sheets to line the floor, where Muslims traditionally pray.

“It’s allowed us to step back and take stock in what we are doing and improve ourselves,” he said.

Some families have gotten more involved during the displacement, Chishti said, including his. He and his wife miss the more familiar Zainab Center, but they didn’t want their kids to feel like something was missing, he said.

Shiite Muslims have a saying, “Ya Husain,” which is a recognition of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Chishti’s children, ages 2 to 12, used to say “Ya Husain” when they arrived at Zainab. In that way, they meant, “We’re here!”

Now, they say it when the family van pulls into the convention center.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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