In the Path of Islam: An Exhibition and Experience

By Joe S. RSS Fri, February 18, 2022

In the Path of Islam is a community-driven project amplifying the diverse voices of Philadelphia’s indigenous Muslim community, born and raised in the city, while engaging all Philadelphians who feel a connection with Islam. The project is inspired by the books and paintings made in Muslim lands that are housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia.


In the Path of Islam Exhibition

The William B. Dietrich Gallery on the Third Floor of Parkway Central Library will host an exhibit curated by Philadelphians from around the city. It includes one-of-a-kind art and artifacts from one thousand years of Muslim culture alongside treasures and ephemera from the homes of Philadelphia Muslims. In the Path of Islam is a place to share the stories of Islam and to celebrate Philadelphia as a center for Black American Muslims. The exhibit will be complemented with a traveling exhibition showing off the Free Library’s largest Qur’an, a collection of indigenous Muslim dolls designed here in Philadelphia, and ancient and modern Arabic calligraphy. The exhibits are available to neighborhood libraries, schools, and masajid upon request during the project period.

In the Path of Islam Lecture Series

A monthly free lecture series beginning in February with From Africa to the Americas at Masjid Al-Wasatiyah Wal-Itidaa. Other topics include "How to Nourish the Body During Fasting", "The History of Islam in Philadelphia", and "Women In Islam". Full details can be found on our Events Calendar, and both in-person and virtual lectures will be recorded.

View past recorded lectures and programs!

The Philadelphia Muslim Oral History Project

A podcast series recording and preserving the experiences of Philadelphia Muslim community members, as they share stories that bring to light marginalized perspectives that have been overlooked and left out of history books. Recordings begin early-January 2022 and will be accessible via popular podcast platforms.

The History of Islam Through Food

A collaboration with the Culinary Literacy Center and our neighborhood libraries. Chef Jamela Bilal will share the Story of Islam through Food and the variety of halal options available in Philadelphia. Free cooking demonstrations will travel to neighborhood libraries and other locations throughout the city.

Browse programs and register today!

Children's Programming: Art on the Road

A collaborative art installation led by two professional artists and inspired by an item in our Digital Collections. The artists will travel to participating libraries, schools, and masajid, guiding participants to contribute to a shared work of art through decoration, painting, and calligraphy. When complete, the art piece will be displayed around the city.

Getting To Know Me: Ayesha and Raghad

Groups, school classes, or libraries can check out one of two circulating trunks, consisting of objects from the homes of Philadelphia Muslims. Ayesha is an indigenous Muslim born and raised in West Philadelphia, and Raghad is Palestinian and raised in Jordan. Children learn about who they are from their personal objects. The circulating trunks come with a companion guide to help educators talk about the objects with children.

Circulating Collections: Getting to Know Me – Ayesaha »

Circulating Collections: Getting to Know Me – Raghad »

Virtual Arabic Conversation and Arabic Artistic Expressions Classes

In this collaboration with Al-Bustan Seed of Culture, students can choose to practice the sounds and letters of the Arabic language, learn basic grammar, and common vocabulary and phrases. There is also the option to enroll in an Arabic Artistic Expressions Class. Taught mostly in English, students will be introduced to iconic Arab theater, songs, videos, and films. Toward the end of the series, students will produce artistic expressions that reflect what they have learned in class. This could include short theater scenes, videos, digital expressions, or any work the student chooses. All classes are taught by Professor Fadi Skeiker, Theater Professor from the University of the Arts.

Please note: All February Arabic Conversation Classes classes are now full.

Arabic Artistic Expressions classes in March are still open.
Register now!

Additional Programs

Additional programs can be found on the Event Calendar. Please check back for details as dates and locations may change.

Browse the Calendar of Events»

For information about the In the Path of Islam project, please contact

Who are indigenous Muslims? You may have noticed this term; here’s the perspective of Shahadah Abdul-Rashid, an indigenous Muslimah and member of the project team: "'Indigenous Muslim' is a descriptive term used by many American Muslims to describe their cultural roots. The adjective indigenous, spelled with a lowercase i, denotes being born and raised in the United States as distinct from having another native culture and country of birth. While not exclusive to African-American Black Muslims, "indigenous Muslim" is a term of self-identification for a community who celebrates its diversity but also recognizes itself as American as apple pie."

The project team for In the Path of Islam is Shahadah Abdul-Rashid, Hudhaifah Abdulhayy, Yaroub Al Obaidi, Caitlin Goodman, and Joseph Shemtov, but the project would not have been possible without the work of many Free Library divisions, including Collection Care, Communications, the Culinary Literacy Center, Development and Institutional Giving, Digital Development, Graphics, the Neighborhood Libraries, and Special Collections. We'd also like to thank Victor Jackson for his exhibit design.

In the Path of Islam is made possible in part by the Council on Libraries and Information Resources, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Independence Foundation, and John McFadden and Lisa Kabnick through support to the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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I am curious if this exhibit is titled "The Path of Islam", or "In the Path of Islam". I see both instances in the blog language, and each denotes something very different to me. "In the Path of Islam" creates a militaristic and aggressive for me, such that anything or anyone in the path will be crushed. That seems a curious title for an exhibit that presumably intends to help people understand the history of Islam.
Andrew Buss - Philadelphia
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Thank you for your interest, Andrew Buss! And apologies for the typos. The project, titled "In the Path of Islam," is a series of programs designed for and by Philadelphians, but it is not a historical introduction to Islam. The word path can refer to a journey or an experience, and we hope patrons (both Muslim and non-Muslim) will enjoy exploring the stories the project tells.
In the Path of Islam Project Team
Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Quite extraordinary i am impressed
Michael Wilson - Philadelphia Pa 19121
Thursday, March 24, 2022

I am new to Islam and would like to learn what I can.
NinaMaria Police - Philadelphia
Thursday, June 23, 2022

Why is the Free Library, a public institution supported by public funds, supporting and proselytizing for one particular religious sect? I've seen announcements for religious lectures, Koran readings, etc. I've never seen programs supporting Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Atheism, or any other pursuasion. This seems a clear violation of the Constitution.
David - Philadelphia
Friday, July 1, 2022

Thank you for your interest, David. Allow me to address your concerns. 1. The In the Path of Islam is funded primarily by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and other private foundations. 2. The Free Library of Philadelphia engages all Philadelphians, including Muslims. 3. The aim of In the Path of Islam is to amplify the diverse voices of Philadelphia's indigenous Muslim community, born and raised in the city, while engaging all Philadelphians who feel a connection with Islam. The project is inspired by the books and paintings made in Muslim lands that are housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Thank you so much for you concern and I hope to see you in a future program. -Joseph Shemtov, In the Path of Islam Project Manager
Joseph Shemtov - Parkway Central
Tuesday, July 5, 2022

David, the library does all kinds of programs about all kinds of things. Here's an exhibit just about Mormons: here's a program just about Judaism:
Kathy - Philadelphia
Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Unlike some critics leaving nasty posts here, I explored this exhibit out of curiosity. It was enlightening. I liked seeing the personal items included in the exhibit. These allows visitors to "relate" to those Muslims who value certain mementos associated with a special event or a rite of passage like the Hajj for instance. Any notion that the Free Library is proselytizing or espousing Islamic values/views is RIDICULOUS! I applaud the efforts of the curators and staff for educating all Philadelphians about this community which is very much a part of this city. ...Bravo.
derek young - philly
Saturday, July 9, 2022

i would love to know more
Dayshawn'Tre Minor - Germantown
Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Every Muslim has a responsibility to learn the Quran. It is also important for Muslim parents to teach their children Quran reading from an early age. Visit: online quran teacher
online quran teacher - Newyork
Thursday, July 28, 2022

If this exhibit is called "The Path of Islam" or "In the Path of Islam," which is it? Both occurrences occur to me in blog language, and they each mean quite different things to me. For me, the phrase "In the Route of Islam" conjures up military and combative image in which everything or anybody blocking the path will be destroyed. That sounds like a strange title for a display that, supposedly, seeks to educate visitors about Islam's past.
Usman Shahzad - Sadiqabad
Monday, August 15, 2022