Date visited: August 25, 2010
Location: South City, Cali
373 Alta Vista Drive
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Tag-team Taraweeh: Yes
Qirat: The first guy was great
Size of congregation: < 200 (men's section)
Capacity of center: ~ 400 (men's section)
Parking: Plenty of space in the lot and the street
Shoe shelves: Yes
Building: The first mosque built from the ground up I've seen in my quest. The insider informed me that the city of South San Francisco had set aside land on the entire block for religious institutions. Looking downhil, I did see a church next door and I'm sure there were more out of sight.
The building is absolutely gorgeous. Its entrance is flanked by two minarets and there's a dome over the courtyard. Inside the prayer area the wall is painted with Islamic art and covered with religious paraphernalia. The overwhelming color is green, but it works because it helps everything match.
Friendliness towards women: The women were in a completely separate part of the building, but I'm to understand that they have an equal access to resources. My female insider has never complained about the mosque so I'm going to assume it's a great place for a woman to pray.
Friendliness of congregation: Incredible. The first thing we did was gather for iftar and even then the mosque leadership was inviting us to the community iftar on Saturday. After dinner a guy came up to us and seemed like he genuinely wanted to get to know us. We had a great conversation and I learned a crapload about this mosque from him.
Do you think it's possible to have a crush on a mosque? I do, because I do. I was floored when I first pulled into the parking lot and saw the beautiful facade of this place. It was definitely not what I'd been expecting.
Let me back up slightly. One of my best friends lives in the area and so I've heard a lot about this mosque. However, it could not have prepared me for the gorgeous exterior of this place. After seeing a string of converted R&D labs, veterans' centers, houses and stores, it was a refreshing change of pace to see a mosque that had been built from the ground up.
The beauty of the mosque was matched by the reception my buddies and I got when we got inside. We were ushered into a side room where we were treated to an iftar, and then gently escorted into the prayer hall for maghrib. After maghrib, the imam treated us to a short talk, which was a brilliant distraction.
You see, this mosque straight up (straight up!) provides a full dinner to its congregation every single night. Not only that, they actually serve YOU the food, instead of you having to stand in a buffet line. Of course, this takes time to set up, so while the mosque volunteers are setting up, the imam delivers a short reminder to the congregation. All in all, it amounts to marvelous hospitality.
It was during the lecture that it became obvious that the "Fiji Masjid" nickname my buddy uses to refer to the mosque is almost a misnomer. The Afghan imam pointed to a black guy, a Pakistani guy, an Iraqi guy, an Indian guy and, of course, a Fijian guy, all in the first row, to highlight the diversity of the congregation (he did it to reiterate the importance of brotherhood). If they'd had a white guy they could have shot a United Colors of Benetton ad on the spot.
I didn't solve the mystery of the lack of Fijians till I spoke to the insider. He informed me that the mosque was indeed founded by Fijians, but about 30 years ago. However, soon after they'd built the mosque, South City became too expensive for them so they moved to Hayward. In fact, the story of the Fijians' migration is a good lesson in the rise of the Bay Area property values. First, they established themselves in SF. When that became too expensive, they moved to the then-industrial city of South City. When that became expensive, they moved to Hayward. How long till Hayward becomes as expensive as the peninsula?
I liked the taraweeh because two young bucks were tag-teaming it. It makes me happy when mosques go with younger imams because it shows their focus on the future. Bigger mosques which have been using the same imam for 20+ years could take a lesson from the Fiji Masjid.
Do visit this masjid, and support them because they are providing valuable services to their community. I was slightly bummed when my buddy informed me I came on a night when they weren't serving Fijian food, but maybe you'll get lucky.