Sunday, August 28, 2011

Islamic Center of Livermore

The City of Livermore has always made me a little uncomfortable. It’s not because it’s home to a national lab where they’re concocting weapons which will undoubtedly kill innocent children. It’s because growing up, a couple friends of mine from Livermore used to tell stories of the white supremacist groups who call this city home. Of course, they’re a small minority of the population, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a homogenous city and, if the Bay Area is blue, this region is purple.

After all, this is one of the few places in the Bay Area where you can still catch a summer rodeo. It’s also rapidly turning into a bedroom community, and it’s likely the old cowboys shed a tear or two as they see old homesteads being converted into suburban sprawl. Probably not, though, as the same cowboys probably made a killing selling their 40 acres to developers. Before greedy ranchers sell off all their land, though, be sure to catch the rodeo in the near future; there’s nothing quite like seeing a white guy (with a sunburned red neck) wrassle with a steer.

It is against this backdrop that the community has developed this masjid in Olde Towne Livermore-e. Size-wise, the place is dwarfed by both Saint Raymond and Pleasanton, both of which are within a 10-15 minute driving distance. However, compared to a lot of other masjids with the same-sized congregation, they’re doing pretty well for themselves. The mosque has taken over the entire second floor of a commercial building, which is a far cry from some of the tiny storefronts you see close to or in the overpriced parcel of land known as the Santa Clara Valley. Also unlike those tiny storefront masjids, it’s not just a prayer area; they have space for a library and a common area used for special events.

I arrived well before isha prayer, which allowed me to explore the mosque and solidify my impressions of the mosque. There were no men when I first arrived, only women, who were having what I can only safely assume was a halaqa. Given the small size of the mosque, I was glad to see that women had that much control over the facilities. Over the years and the past month I’ve discovered that small mosques tend not to cater to women in the best manner, to put it delicately. The fact that there were women there without the presence of men meant they had access to the keys, which means they have some say in how this mosque is run.

The congregation, like the City of Livermore, is also homogenous, in that they’re mostly Arab, with a sprinkling of “other” (in the men’s section, at least, I increased the Pakistani population by infinity percent). However, unlike the other predominantly Arab mosques I’ve visited, they prayed 20 rakats of taraweeh instead of the Shaf’i 8. One might theorize that they were Malikis, but that wasn’t the case. You see, you can spot a Maliki praying from a mile away because they pray with their hands down instead of folded around the abdominal area. I assumed most of the congregation was Shaf’i when we first started taraweeh, but was surprised at the somewhat dirty looks people were giving me as I headed for the exit after 8. Desis, take note: there are Arabs who can be as judgmental as you when it comes to taraweeh, when all we eighters are trying to do is make our religion easier for ourselves (Quran 22:78).

The community is very young, and by that I mean I didn’t see anyone between the ages of 12 and 21 in the congregation. They were either family men or young children, which means this community either hasn’t been around for too long or families tend to go to the bigger mosques in the area. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that for now the facilities seem to be suiting the community fine; an announcement was made following isha that Eid prayers would be held at the mosque.

I was unsurprised to learn, given the Arab dominance of the ranks, that they’ll be following Saudi Arabia, whose citizens sometimes sees the new moon when it’s physically impossible to see it. See, the King of Saudi Arabia gives a reward to anyone who reports that they’ve seen the moon so a lot of overeager dessert-dwellers claim to see the moon and, if it was impossible, call it a miracle (alhamdulillah). This moonsighting debate (clever imams like IT of SBIA call it moonfighting) can get a little ridiculous; there was a year when Eid was celebrated on 3 different days, an impossibility considering the fact that lunar months are either 29 or 30 days.

But I digress. On with the pictures and profile!

You know how I know this building is old?  Wood paneling on the walls, yuck.

Yeah, the stairwell leading to the masjid is that dark at night.  I'm sure there are lights, but nobody turned them on.  Good thing we were in Livermore, right?  This practice is not advisable in cities with more tarnished reputations.

Date Visited: August 27, 2011

379C South Livermore Ave.
Livermore, CA 94550

Tag-team taraweeh: No, but the person who lead Isha was different from the person who lead taraweeh.

Qirat: Average

Size of congregation: 20 men, tops, 10 women.

Capacity of center: ~75

Parking: There are a few spots in the parking lot, which I’m sure during business hours congregants aren’t supposed to use because the first floor is occupied by a podiatrist’s office and a hair salon. Street parking isn’t too much of a hassle, but considering it’s suburbia, it’s surprisingly difficult. The nearest spot I could find was 2 blocks away because you can’t park on Livermore Ave.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Plenty. Men and women share them (scandalous!)

Building: Second floor of a commercial building. Good-sized space, though it’s obvious the kids don’t have anywhere to go during taraweeh. As I was leaving I found a bunch of them kicking it in their parents’ Prius. Eventually as this community grows they’ll have to figure out a space that’s safe for the kids, because even though Livermore isn’t exactly known for its high crime rate, a commercial building’s parking lot is no place for a child to be left unsupervised.

Friendliness towards women: I would say high, especially after considering how small the community is. Unfortunately, small mosques tend to have a men-first approach, but this masjid seemed pretty progressive. The men’s and women’s section were separated by a series of curtains, all of which were drawn back when I first arrived, which tells me they’re not as strict about the gender segregation as TJ Bhai might be. The one thing which may be a little icky for the women is there’s only one toilet which they have to share with us gross men.

Friendliness of congregation: Very high. There was a gentleman there who’d just moved to Livermore and the mosque leadership wished him and his family a warm welcome.

1 comment:

  1. More traditional minded Shaafi'ees will pray 20. More Salafi-minded 'shaafi'ees (i.e. Hanbalis), will pray 8.

    Hadrat Umar, when he reinstated taraaweeh, made it 20 rak'aat (and it's possible that the Prophet SAWS, did pray 20--there are even verifications of this).

    I like to give this advice to all 8ers. If you only like to pray 8, and believe praying 20 is wrong (which would put you near disbelief in thinking the sahaaba were wrong), then go to a masjid that prays 8, not 20. You're getting 8/20th of the Qur'an instead 0f 8/8 of the Qur'an per night, and it takes you about 20 minutes whereas it takes your other eighter-brothers an hour and a half. Don't be lazy.