Tuesday, August 17, 2010

South Bay Islamic Association Center

Date visited: August 11, 2010

Location: Downtown San Jose, CA
325 North 3rd Street
San Jose, CA 95112

Number of imams: 2

Qirat: I liked Imam Tahir's recitation because of how quick yet clear it was.  It was a real pleasure listening to him.  The other guy was a notch below in terms of quality.

Size of congregation: I'd say about 400 people were in attendance the night I was

Capacity of center: Good for the congregation. There was plenty of spillover space

Parking: A bitch. Downtown San Jose isn't the best place to find parking, especially since the city started charging for paking in their lots after 6 PM. I came early and found parking in their tiny lot.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes

Building: It was definitely converted, but I can't tell what it was before.

Friendliness towards women: Good. Women weren't put in a separate room, but there was a barrier to separate the sexes.

Friendliness of congregation: Good. Folks are happy to see you here.

Please tell me if there's any categories on which you'd like me to report.

The last time I went to this mosque was the first time the resident imam, one Tahir Anwar, had finished the Quran while taraweeh in Ramadan. As a young child, one of the things which struck me was how the imam started openly weeping during the closing dua. I remember mocking him at the time because who cried during prayer? Sheikh Jibreel had never cried like that, and he was my standard for what imams should be. My parents patiently explained to me that the young imam's heart was still soft, and that it was common for people to be so moved by the Quran. I later developed a tremendous respect for the imam the more I thought about how much love and respect he had for his faith.

Folks were surprised to see me. I'm what you can call an MCA poster child; I've grown up close to the mosque almost all my life and my father was president of the organization in the early 90s. There's always been an underlying tension between MCA and SBIA; SBIA was founded because certain individuals felt like MCA was not going in the right direction. The story of SBIA's founding only underlines the fact that due to the vastness of the Islamic world, it's hard for Muslims to see eye-to-eye.

Imam Tahir kicked off the night by leading Isha, but my heart sank when he announced they'd hired an imam from Leicester, UK to lead taraweeh. What was this crap, I thought, I was hoping to hear IT recite the Quran. SBIA was in fact that first mosque where I experienced tag-team taraweeh, where 2 or more people lead taraweeh. Growing up in MCA, where Sheikh Jibreel ruled supreme, it was unusual for me to witness this collaboration. After speaking to my father later, he said that Sheikh Jibreel is the exception, not the norm; it is so difficult to prepare for even 8 rakats of taraweeh that oftentimes masajid split the duties amongst many imams.

The biggest difference between SBIA and MCA is the speed at which they do taraweeh. Sheikh Jibreel is meticulous in his recitation, which means it can take close to two hours for him to finish 20 rakats. Imam Tahir and his cohort finished taraweeh in 55 minutes thanks to their rapid-fire Desi style of recitation. Frankly, I was impressed at how quickly the man was spitting Arabic, but I saw that he also made more mistakes than Sheikh Jibreel because of his speed. However, since at the end of the day everyone has to go to work in the morning, I'm sure nobody was complaining that IT finished taraweeh in half the time of MCA.

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