What is ISTABA? The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area is a Muslim community organization in Temple Terrace that serves the greater Tampa Bay Community. Founded in 1973, the center began as a community masjid, a place for Muslims to worship and gather for the five prayers. As the Muslim community grew, so did ISTABA to meet its needs. ISTABA functions not only as a Muslim place of worship, or a mosque, but also as a central organization that meets the community of Muslims as well as the greater community. According to their website, their purpose is to maintain “an Islamic center in this community to serve as a place for Islamic prayers and cultural and religious activities.” ISTABA is located on east Sligh avenue, near Tampa Bay Technical High School and Ferguson Waterworks. The main mosque area is accompanied by a smaller mosque that is equipped with a kitchen, used for extra prayer space as well as seating during Ramadan. Along with the mosques, the facilities also contain a playground for children, a basketball court, and a medical center. The newest addition to ISTABA is the Multipurpose Building, which opened in 2016, and is used for prayer space, administrative offices, and marriage ceremonies. The Many Functions of ISTABA Throughout the years, the Islamic Society of the Tampa Bay Area has changed its functions to suit the needs of the community. As a consequence, the institution itself grew, yet also retained a strong feeling of locality within the community. The initial function, holding prayer services, has been a function of the mosque since its inception in 1973. The mosque holds five prayers a day, as well as other occasion specific prayers. One such example is the Janaza prayer, which is offered when a community member passes away. Another prayer offered is the Friday Jummah prayer, a community prayer during which the Imam delivers a sermon to the congregation. Additionally, in the month of Ramadan, the mosque holds the Tarawih prayer, a nightly prayer offered exclusively for the month of Ramadan. A more recent service of the mosque is marriage ceremonies, which began with the inauguration of the Multipurpose Building. However, aside from prayer, ISTABA also offers Islamic education services, as well as daycare services. The first program, the Saturday school, began as a way to educate young Muslims about their culture and religion. The school is offered to children from ages 5 to 18, and teaches them Islamic Studies, Arabic, as well as the Quran. From this, the next school, Hifz Academy, was founded in 2011. The Hifz Academy blends the Islamic learning of Saturday school and k-12 academic learning into a cohesive program, functioning as the way a catholic school might. ISTABA also participates in numerous community outreach programs. The Food Pantry, established in 2000, is community organized and funded, and accepts not only canned food but also household items that may benefit those in need. In 2017, with the onset of Hurricane Irma, the center converted into a shelter for those evacuating, opening itself to all people in the community, along with its community partner CAIR, the Council on America-Islamic Relations. The Growing Islamic Community Despite being closed during the covid-19 lockdown in 2020, ISTABA and other mosques in the bay area remained engaged with its community through social media, websites, and even through Zoom meetings. The Friday khutbah, or sermons, are now being held on YouTube, and livestreams of community discussions are also being broadcast. Despite being a relatively new institution serving a relatively new community, the Islamic Society of the Tampa Bay Area has cemented its place as a mainstay in the community.
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