Date visited: August 22, 2010
Location: Fremont, CA
4039 Irvington Ave.
Fremont, CA 94538
Tag-team Taraweeh: Yes. They had a starter, a reliever and a closer.
Qirat: As mentioned earlier, they had three huffaz. It went from great to good to excellent
Size of congregation: < 600
Capacity of center: Not big enough for the crowd, they had prayer mats laid out outside
Parking: What the mosque has done is uploaded a parking map on their website. It's a simple Google satellite map, but they've crossed out the lots in which patrons can't park and checked off where they can park. Because of this handy map, I found in addition to parking on the street, I could have parked in a neighboring church parking lot and the lot of a restaurant I won't mention because the owner's not paying me to advertise. This, by the way, is why mosques should have websites; makes everyone's life easier. Some mosques have such useless websites they don't even put their address up.
Minbar: U know it
Shoe shelves: Lots
Building: A good-sized single-story affair
Friendliness towards women: Such strict segregation I'm pretty sure it's a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I've talked to women about mosques designating a completely separate room for their kind. They say while they understand that some men can't bear the sight of the fairer sex, the problem is a lot of women use the relatively isolation to start chatting with their gal pals, thus raising the noise level to uncomfortable levels for those who actually want to pray.
Friendliness of congregation: Very much so. I made a new friend, whom I'll refer to as the ICF insider, who was invaluable in my understanding of the mosque's dynamics.
The motto of the mosque could be summed up as follows:
If you're brown, stick around.
If you're white, you're all right.
If you're black, please come back.
If you're Arab...get out of here, you lousy Arab, this is a Desi masjid.
Ha, well, okay, it wasn't quite that bad, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a Semite in this crowd. That's okay, though, like I've said before, a lot of these mosques are built along ethnic lines. I found out from my father today that the Jones Straat mosque I hit up last night was founded by Yemenis, which explains why the speech afterward wasn't in English and there was an Arabic US Census sticker near the entrance.
The most fascinating aspect of this mosque is its hafiz-development program. A huge part of its programming is focused on finding youth in the community who have the potential to become qaris. And they do excellent work; I went to college with one of their products and his voice made straight guys swoon.
Everyone leading taraweeh tonight was a product of the program. Their logic is it's not enough to teach the kids how to recite the Quran; to be a really effective school, their policy is to throw the kids into the fire by making them lead taraweeh. The guy who started taraweeh tonight was a mere 17 years of age. Truth be told, when he first stepped up to lead I wondered what kind of hafiz didn't have a beard. Upon learning his age from the insider, I suppose it is too much to expect a baby to have a beard.
I learned that the imam of the masjid (also the closer, by the way) was in the middle of an alim program to become certified as an imam. He'd already finished two years of the program and apparently was heading to Africa del Sur to complete the last five years. This begs the question, does a guy really have to go all the way to South Africa to become certified as an imam? How is it possible that there isn't a decent program in the US?
The length of this program also leads me to conclude that it must be impossible for anyone to pursue a university degree AND become certified as an imam. IT of SBIA is quite proud of the fact he doesn't even have a high school diploma because he started the alim program so early. The takeaway lesson here is if you see a hotshot young imam, you can bet that he sacrificed a higher education to get to where he is today and must be commended for the love he has for his religion.
I do wonder, though, if Islamic religious studies will get to the same level as Christianity. After all, it is very possible for you to earn master's and PhDs in divinity at any Christian university these days. How long before you can earn a PhD in divinity with an emphasis in Islam?