Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zahra Center/Muslim Community Center of East Bay

Date visited: September 4, 2010

Location: Pleasantville, CA
Zahra Center
1249 Quarry Ln
Pleasanton, California 94566

MCC East Bay
5724 W. Las Positas Blvd. #300
Pleasanton, CA 94588

Tag-team Taraweeh: Not that I could tell. Definitely not at the first one.

Qirat: Great, not fantastic, at the second one.

Size of congregation: 200-300

Capacity of center: 500?

Parking: Both were in business parks.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: No/Yes

Building: Business park offices

Friendliness towards women: Okay at both

Friendliness of congregation: Could have been better at the first one, good at the second one.

Google Maps and my 2010 California Prayer Locations guide led me astray today.  I knew I was going to MCC East Bay tonight, so I looked up the address and even googled "MCC East Bay" and came up with the first address.

I was running a little late tonight because of a fundraising dinner I'd attended earlier in the evening, so I didn't expect to catch Isha prayer.  I pulled up to the Quarry Lane address and found parking with relative ease.  The first thing I saw was a sign saying, "Zahra Center." This didn't immediately strike me as strange because oftentimes an organization will give their mosque a different name.

However, as I entered, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling.  Nobody was in taraweeh mode.  There was an imam lecturing in the front, which wasn't too strange, since often times mosques have speeches in between Isha and taraweeh, but I started getting weirded out when a man told the women to quiet down because the "program" had begun.  I started thinking, mostly about the fact that the only Zahra I'd really known was a...

I exited the prayer space to text my buddy Icon to find out if I was at the right place.  A man approached me, who at first seemed friendly but as it turns out came up to me because he thought I was taking a picture.  I picked my words carefully.

"Do you pray taraweeh here?"

I was also mulling, "Is this a Shia mosque?" but opted against it because it could come off as a slur.  It turns out I made a good choice because he described the community as being "Jafri" (read: Shia).  He then proceeded to give me an earful about how the Prophet never prayed taraweeh in congregation and how we shouldn't either.

That's what pisses me off about Shias.  I don't go up to Shias and try to tell them why they should pray taraweeh in congregation, or why it's okay to have a ski trip in muharram, or why it's not the worst thing to name your child Muawiyah or Yazid.  Almost all the Shias I've met have been fiercely critical of taraweeh in congregation, and I think they should give it a rest.  The fact is, even if it was an innovation, as they claim, it was approved by the scholarship at the time and if it really was so offensive the practice wouldn't have survived for the nearly 1,500 years it has.  Let us Sunnis do what we do, and we'll be more than happy to let you do what you do.  I almost felt tempted to blow this guy's mind by telling him about the Shia ISSU president who lead taraweeh, but I excused myself gracefully by explaining we still had to go to the Sunni masjid because we wanted to pray Isha in a congregation.

The MCC is a smart community.  They've purchased a large office building, are leasing out half of it and are making do with the large space they have to work with.  They're cutting down on operating costs by collecting rent and the current size of the center seems to be suiting them fine for now.  I have a lot of respect for communities who have the vision to invest in a project designed to meet the needs of their congregation 10-20 years down the line.  They and the Yaseen Foundation of Belmont have put together successful fundraisers this Ramadan and I think their intelligent leadership has them on track to build functional community centers.

Tonight also reminded me it's almost easier to find strange masajid located in business parks and not residential neighborhoods.  Even though we were late and couldn't exactly follow the stream of traffic, we really had to only look for the business park with a full parking lot and a bunch of brown folk chatting outside.  It never fails.

I talked to my buddy Icon about my experience and it turns out Google and the California Guide are not completely wrong.  Apparently MCC rents the location at which the Shia masjid is now located, thus making the Shia masjid sublettors..  However, this makes my experience at the Shia masjid even more troubling, because when I asked the man how to get to the Pleasanton mosque, he claimed the only Sunni masjid in the area was in San Ramon.  Why would a tenant lie about the existence of their landlord?


  1. wow.

    and the prophet saws prayed it at the masjid for two days. so no never here.

  2. Well, to be fair to the shia masjid, did you talk to a random guy, or somebody on the masjid's board? If it was just a random person, I feel you can't really hold it to the masjid itself.

  3. He approached me. He shouldn't be approaching people if he's not in the leadership.

  4. Believe me, Kazoo, I didn't WANT to go there, it happened by accident. I was thinking about SABA, but as it turns out, the day MCA started Ramadan will allow me to hit 30 mosques without having to do so.