As the call to prayers began in Arabic on a recent Friday, a handful of people already had gathered in a room at the Iowa Memorial Union.

The room was emptied of tables and chairs. Rugs and blankets had been brought for the Muslim students to kneel on. People trickled in over the next half-hour, most with backpacks in tow, some wearing sweatpants and out of breath. Shoes and other belongings were propped against the rear wall.

By the time the sermon began, about three-dozen men and one woman were in place to hear Mohammed Ismail's counsel on how to focus their minds during the Salah.

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