Soul journey takes students to Islamic Center

Alyssa Navarro
Staff Writer

Students, along with the University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, took part in a field trip Sunday to the Islamic Center of Inland Empire in Rancho Cucamonga to learn about the Muslim community.

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Common Ground sponsor monthly excursions, also known as Souljourns or soul journeys. Each semester students visit different temples, churches, mosques, and religious communities.

“It is a chance for a student to explore a tradition that they have a genuine interest in,” Wagoner said.

The monthly Souljourns give students a chance to explore the religious and spiritual diversity of Southern California.

“The American identity in particular is not the single sanction of people who are of a single ethnicity, religion or faith tradition,” former Common Ground president Tahil Sharma said. “Our diaspora is something much bigger and much more diverse than that and it’s something we need to learn to respect, appreciate and understand so that we can really foster the sense of community in the United States.”

The Souljourn to the Islamic Center of the Inland Empire began with a tour of the mosque.

Mark Manly, worship leader of the mosque and Muslim community, also known as the Imam, guided the tour.

Students took off their shoes and placed them on racks outside before stepping inside the mosque to show respect for the culture.

Manly first showed the classrooms where the children come and learn about their faith.Children were dispersed throughout the building singing and reciting prayers as they got ready to begin classes for Sunday school.

The room designated for prayer was spacious and quiet.

Manly went over how a typical Friday gathering would take place. It begins with a 20 to 30 minute khutuah, or sermon. Then everyone prays together in the congregation.

Manly led the group to the second story of the mosque and held a deeper discussion about the Islamic community.

“Before, it was very much like a transitory mosque where people came to pray and leave,” he said.

There was virtually no programming within the community, which is one of the things he wanted to start.

They recently celebrated their first monthly barbecue. The event brought people of different backgrounds together and created a community environment that the Center initially lacked.

“I try to really encourage a cross colonization within the mosque,” Manly said.

He explained the mosque has grown over the past years.

What started off as a small house along Baseline Road, transformed into a spacious two-story structure. The space was modified to accommodate the growing Islamic community within the Inland Empire.

Leaving the mosque, students came out with a better understanding of the Islamic religion and traditions.

“I chose this specific event that is religious-based because I want to learn about different perspectives on living and daily culture; something so different from what I’m used to so that I can have a better understanding of different faiths,” sophomore biology major Kevin Mahaffey said.

The next upcoming Souljourn will take place Nov. 30 at the Swaminarayan Temple in Chino Hills.

For more info or to RSVP, contact

Alyssa Navarro can be reached at

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