People kept pouring into the stadium even after prayers began. Dressed in their best clothes, the women sat a few feet behind the men, as is the tradition - except this time they laid out their prayer mats on the field, not inside a mosque.
They came to observe Eid al-Adha, one of the main Islamic holidays. It celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God. It also coincides with the final days of the Hajj - the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
A coalition of local Islamic groups has been discussing ways to put on this event since the mid 1990s.
“The geography of Southern California is so huge, and with an extremely diverse population, deeply rooted in their own respective preferences—whether it is language, whether it is culture, or their particular locale, and so on," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "So because of this, it was perceived as very difficult. But we remained engaged and we remained neutral.”
According to Syed, the Muslim community in the Southland is now growing and maturing, thanks to the participation of young American Muslims, like Summer Zanana, who's 14.
The daughter of an American convert to Islam and a Somali refugee, Zanana was in her element in the stadium.
“I thought that we’re not going to fit. I didn’t know how big this place was," said Zanana, taking a look around. "So when I came here, it was like, 'Wow!' It’s different from being at home, in a little place, just with your family, just praying.”
By late morning, the two prayers were over, and people stayed to chat. Outside, young volunteers worked the crowd to collect donations and handed out Muslim voter guides for this November’s election.