2032 W Devon Ave. Chicago, IL 60659
Ghareeb Nawaz, the name, refers to Hazrat Shaikh Khwaja Syed Muhammad Mu'īnuddīn Chishtī (1141-1230), a sufi saint of the Chisti order who was known for his charity towards the poor. Chisti’s following is large and includes Hindus and Muslims from the subcontinent. In reality, Ghareeb Nawaz caters to a wide range of customers - from students, cab drivers, locals, non-South Asians, and take out customers. Polyvalent signage is central to the success of their business. The storefront of Ghareeb Nawaz communicates low prices, choice and variety – Indo-Pak dishes, sandwiches, Mediterranean recipes, regional cuisine (Andhra thali), Greek gyros are advertised with prices noted. The mediterranean sandwiches and gyros are aimed at cab drivers from the Middle East who prefer a quick, easy pickup lunch. Much of the signage has come down due to city regulations and an awareness drive spearheaded by the local Chamber of Commerce and South Asian business leaders.
Ghareeb Nawaz is located in an old corner building that is not as deep as the lot line. At the back of the store is a parking lot and often cab drivers use the back entrance to enter the store in order to use the prayer room. The entrance to Ghareeb Nawaaz is filled with signs, newspapers, advertisements and brochures. One enters into the front room, brightly lit by fluorescent lights. This room seems open and empty during lax hours, but during busy hours, the room fills up with people ordering and picking up food. A few tables are located along the west wall. People waiting for delivery occupy tables along the south wall.
A large portal leads customers into the back zone, also known as the “family room.” A prayer nook is located at the far end of the family room next to the toilets. The back zone is visually inaccessible, so that a praying individual remains unseen from the front pick up area.
Mohammad Borzai, the American born son of the owner, Bashir Borzai, helped redesign the interiors. According to his father the new updated interiors have “modernized” the old place. This “modernization” project included a new coat of paint, a new flat screen TV and new counters. But the two most important changes include relocating of the counter and partial removal of the party wall between the two rooms. The new position of the counter gives the person at the counter visual surveillance over the entire store. The wall between the two rooms is now a half wall. The new interior creates a sense of separation while allowing clear lines of sight from the counter.
Ghareeb Nawaz’s interior prayer spaces belong to a quotidian landscape of “lived religion” that is distinctly different from sanctioned places of worship such as the local Jama Masjid located on 6340 N. Campbell Avenue, three blocks west of Western Avenue.
Landscape of "lived religion."
In their research on New York cab drivers who are Muslims, Courtney Bender and Elta Smith found a network of “free-standing prayer spaces” located across different locations in New York City. iv In Bender and Smith’s study we find that practicing Muslim cab drivers in New York City cannot drive into a mosque to conduct his daily prayers while driving passengers around. They have to find alternative spaces to perform their rituals and prayers. As a result prayer spaces have appeared across the secular domain allowing Muslim immigrants to integrate their religious and spiritual needs within the public and semi-public regions of urban life and to carry out their religious practices even while participating in the mainstream public realm. Bender and Smith argues that these spaces represent “an organizational innovation within the existing field of American mosques and complicate the analysis of immigrant religious life that focuses solely on congregational participation.” v Calling them spaces of everyday “lived religion,” Bender and Smith show the creative role that “immigrants’ activities play in reconstructing the boundaries of public and private, ethnic and religious identities” while using such spaces.vi Such an interweaving of spatial domains becomes necessary for Muslims since the public realm in the United States is not set up to support daily religious and spiritual needs of practicing members of this community.
iii Conversation with Bozai, February 5, 2011
iv Courtney Bender and Elta Smith, “Religious Innovations Among New York’s Muslim Taxi Drivers.” in Asian American Religions: The Making and Remaking of Borders and Boundaries, Ed.., Tony Carnes and Fenggang Yang (New York: New York University Press, 2004): 76-97.
v Bender and Smith, “Religious Innovations,” 76.
vi Bender and Smith, “Religious Innovations,” 77.
Text by Arijit Sen
Drawing by Travis Olson, Center for Historic Architecture and Design, 11/7/14
On how Garib Nawaz is different from other food places
On how different Mohammad Borzai's vision for Garib Nawaz is from that of his father's.