Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oakland Doubleheader

I took the right exit yesterday and ended up on the 1500 block of MacArthur Ave, my original target on August 1st. The time was 8:08; I knew I had about 10 or so minutes to burn before Maghrib began and I could break my fast. I located 1515 and saw that the storefront property was locked up, including the security gate out front. I snapped a picture, went back to my car, and waited.

And waited. Soon it was maghrib even by Karbala-rocker standards, and yet nobody came to open the masjid.

I needed a ginger ale, because that was such an epic fail. No, seriously, I need something to drink because it was a half-hour past sunset and I still hadn’t broken my fast. My fast was in makhruh territory and was steadily slipping into haram territory, as Muslims aren’t suppose to extend their fast (to put it eloquently, the sawab clock stops at sunset). Also unfortunately for me, this was the first neighborhood on MacArthur I’d seen that DIDN’T have a liquor store on the corner so I couldn’t even dash in somewhere to purchase some water.

I went to college nearby (don’t like to name-drop) so I was able to put myself on the freeway and had dinner in Berkeley and also found a masjid that was open, which apparently isn’t a given anymore during Ramadan. I weighed my taraweeh options and opted to head to Lighthouse, an old favorite from my college days (still not going to name-drop).

Lighthouse is unique in many ways when compared to the Bay Area masajid I’ve visited, and its setup I’m sure offends those with more conservative religious sensibilities. However, it more closely resembles the Grand Mosque in Mecca than the aforementioned mosques. Think about it:

1) Men and women using the same entrance to enter and exit
2) Men praying in plain sight of women, with no barriers
3) The smell of incense in the air
4) The friendliness of the diverse congregation

5) The simple setup; in Mecca any Muslim will tell you the best part about visiting the Grand Mosque is seeing the Ka’ba and praying in the open air around it

Yes, you could argue that these five points are true of many small setups, but the fact is, Lighthouse doesn’t have a congregation. At the height of taraweeh the room was comfortably full and, I’m thrilled to report, there were more women than men. It was also a fabulous experience because I could feel the sincerity in the air.

This taraweeh was unique in that after 10 rakats, the congregation took a break from praying to hear a small lecture about the Quran, hadith and sunnah. Yesterday’s topic was how Allah can elevate a Muslim but also debase him to make their faith stronger, in other words, save them. He use the parable of a mother and her baby. They’re at home, the mom’s doing mom stuff and the baby’s doing baby stuff. The mom is too busy doing mom stuff to notice that the baby is crawling towards a light socket to stick an appendage in there. At the last minute, before the baby permanently ceases doing baby stuff, the mom, and these are his words, picks up a frying pan and throws it at the baby, hitting him and thus distracting him from the light socket.

It got better. The lecturer claimed (and I say claim because I vehemently disagree) that even though the baby would be a cripple when he grew up he would thank his mother for saving his life. What?? First of all, if a mother’s in the kitchen, the fact that she thinks to throw a frying pan instead of banging on it to distract the baby is a little troublesome. The ludicrousness of the allegory made me wonder if it was actually a true story…must investigate later.

As you can see, I’m the kind of the guy who takes allegories too literally. When we read Plato in high school I annoyed my philosophy teacher by constantly asking her what the heck a man was doing hanging out in a dark cave in the first place.

For the record, I completely understand the lecturer’s point: God does things to us which hurt us, but it’s really to save us from a worse fate and it’s to elevate our faith. I just think the lecturer could have used a better example. Needless to say, from now on when I visit Lighthouse, I’ll think of babies being maimed by frying pans.

One final note: this is a community mosque. My Turkish friend (who went to same college as I did, though I won’t say which) and I were catching up outside when we realized wait, everyone had left the mosque but the lights were still on and door wide open. It’s as if the mosque has the understanding if you’re the last one there, you’ll be the person to close up. I commend the mosque for placing so much trust in their congregation, but it’s a very risky move. My friend was able to call up his friend to find out how to lock the door, but would I have been as resourceful if I’d been by myself? It’s highly unlikely.

Wish I could tell you more about this, but this is as close as I got inside.

Lighthouse from the street

Date Visited: August 2, 2011

Locations:

Jamaat-us-Salam
1515 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94602

Lighthouse Mosque
4606 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Oakland, CA 94609

Tag-team taraweeh: No

Qirat: Good

Size of congregation: ~40

Capacity of center: ~50

Parking: Street

Mihrab: No

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes

Building: Both occupied units in the first floor storefront of residential buildings

Friendliness towards women: Lighthouse leads the way in this regard

Friendliness of congregation: High

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