Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oakland Islamic Center

Date visited: August 31, 2010

Location: Oakland, CA
515 31st St.
Oakland, 94609

Tag-team Taraweeh: No

Size of congregation: ~ 500

Capacity of center: ~ 500

Parking: Some off-street, mostly street

Mihrab: Gorgeous marble structure inlaid with tiles and topped with calligraphy.

Minbar: Beautiful wooden structure which didn't epitomize elegance but came close.

Shoe shelves: Plenty

Building: A mosque, not a converted building. This community's been around for a LONG time and I get the feeling a lot of local Muslims businesses were developed because of this mosque. It's got a minaret and a huge open area for spillover. The prayer hall has three large chandeliers hanging near the front of the building and is ringed by pretty light fixtures. Clearly this community takes a lot of pride in its masjid.

Friendliness towards women: Lots of women came to pray here. Haven't ever hheard any complaints.

Friendliness of congregation: They hosted a huge iftar where they kept refilling the plates of those who didn't ask for it. Egyptian hospitality.

I always though this mosque was a little strange because it seemed so out of place in the neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think that because this mosque was wrongly built on sacred land. It's just that the neighborhood is predominantly black and this congregation is for the most part Egyptian. However, I saw today that things have changed. Even more Muslim businesses have opened up and the congregation is definitely not all Egyptian, although the imam still lectures only in Arabic.

I think this mosque is a good example of how Muslims can help improve blighted neighborhoods. This is one of the oldest parts of Oakland, with beautiful old Victorian houses lining the side streets. However, most of these houses are now in terrible condition and they don't seem to be getting any better. To see this beautiful masjid in the midst of all this deriliction and all the business it attracts has to be good for the neighborhood.

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