Monday, August 29, 2011

Muslim Community Association of the San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Clara)

It's fitting that the first mosque I visited in 2010 was MCA, and I'm wrapping up this quest with a final blurb about my beloved hometown masjid.  Last night was the 29th night of Ramadan, the night MCA finishes the Quran in taraweeh.  They are the only large mosque in the area which wraps up on the 29th (all others finish on the 27th) so the masjid always, always gets packed with people desirous of catching a khatam with Sheikh Jibreel.  I've never really seen it this crowded, though:

Two of dozens of shoe shelves in the building.  I'm most impressed by the fact that there aren't shoes all over the place, though that may be because of the volunteers' vigilance.

Welcome to the largest prayer hall in the Bay Area.

The hall pictured above can hold 1,000 people. The women's hall directly behind me I believe can hold a little more than 500 people. There were men and women praying in the community hall to the left of me, and in the annex to the right. I think it's reasonable to say that around 3,000 people were in attendance. Folks who claim 10,000 people were here last night are Glenn-Becking their numbers. Given that the largest hall in the building can hold (only) 1,000 people, how on earth could 10,000 people have been here last night?

I came here last night because it had been too long since I'd heard Sheikh Jibreel and his famous khatam (you can only hear it in-person, he disallows recordings). It's also been a very long Ramadan for me and I needed to finish this quest in a place where I felt at home. I am grateful to the rising stars (Belmont, Pleasanton and San Ramon) for fostering environments which made me feel comfortable, but there's nothing quite like your childhood mosque.

When I look at this men's prayer hall, I don't just see the minbar and mihrab in the right corner. I see the workout room with punching bags which used to be in its place before the remodeling project, and whose industrial-grade carpet gave me rug burn. Looking to the left, I see the old loading dock, with its cold tile floor and filthy walls, which is now a banquet hall where many of my friends have shackled balls and chains to their feet. Down the hall is the women's restroom into which I was ushered as a child when I split my head open on a file cabinet. I have literally spilled blood, sweat and tears here.

If you read through my archives, you'll see I'm at times being hard on MCA, but it's because I love this place that I'm so critical of it. Every time I saw something wonderful and replicable in another mosque, I wondered why the MCA wasn't doing it. I also felt a stab of frustration every time I perceived a misstep by the mosque leadership. However, I never meant to discredit their work, because if you know what I know and what the community had to go through to even get this place built, you'd know they always have the best intentions in mind.

This place would not function without volunteers, and I don't mean just the leadership, who I can assure you are not paid for their service. Last night the volunteer corps blew me away; here was a cadre of people willingly sacrificing their ability to pray taraweeh to ensure 3,000 or so eager worshippers would all get a chance to enjoy the beautiful taraweeh. Without their support, I can assure you folks' third-world instincts would have taken over and fire code violations would have been the least of the masjid's problems. May God bless everyone who put in even one hour to help make this Ramadan possible.

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