Monday, August 22, 2011

Taha Education Center (Sunnyvale)

Santa Clara Valley used to be famous for its orchards before it was known as the Silicon Valley. Now most of the orchards are gone, replaced by tons of steel, glass and concrete. In Sunnyvale, however, it’s apparent that the local Muslims have planted the seeds of a nascent community which has already started to bear fruit.

I found out about this masjid through Twitter, similar to how I found about the Marin City garage musallah through a comment on my blog. I’m no fool, so before I visited I Binged the address and verified that this was an established mosque.

For such a small center, they seem to be doing a lot. Despite the mosque being a few rooms in a small commercial building, they run a school where they teach their young about Islam on the weekends. I was glad to see that this community values education; some mosques concentrate on developing their prayer area without thinking to provide services to better the community. Truth be told, the fact that they had a school should not have surprised me. This is, after all, Sunnyvale, home to Yahoo! and other tech giants. The Desi community did not make it here without obtaining an education and it only makes sense that they’d pass on the same values to their children.

Prayers tonight started at 9:45, and since I’m (now) used to eating quickly, I was there a little early. I used my spare time to explore the tiny mosque. One thing which caught my eye was a list with 11 points about how one could get involved in the masjid. Numero uno was pray at least one prayer at the mosque. I approved because they easily could have said pray all five prayers at the mosque; there are some imams in MCA’s stable which make it seem as if you’ll have a terrible day if you don’t pray the dawn prayer at the masjid. Number two was invite others to come to the masjid, which to me implied the mosque leadership implores its congregation to focus inward before reaching out to others.

“Donate” was down the list at #5, which was great. I like how this mosque wants you to focus on getting yourself to the mosque first and learning more about your faith before thinking about supporting the community financially.

The other thing I noticed on the bulletin board was a taraweeh schedule. From it I learned in the beginning of this month the masjid had enjoyed the recitation of three hafizes* every night, and were now down to two. In addition to posting the starting rotation, the schedule also had which chapters of the Quran the hafizes were going to recite that night. Wonderful idea; I know at MCA you can ask any other hafiz what chapters Sheikh Jibreel is going to be reciting on any given night, but it may not be a bad idea of Web-2.0 the concept and make it available via Twitter/Facebook. I’m sure the congregation would appreciate it, as I’ve seen many people holding Qurans following along as the imam recites the verses.

The one issue I have with this place is the restroom. As I mentioned earlier, it’s in a commercial office space, and all the tenants share the restrooms. Because of this, there’s a long list of rules written on the door instructing the congregation on how to use the restroom. Simply put, they recommend avoiding doing wudu in these restrooms, which seems kind of silly because if you’re heading to the restroom you’re going to have to do wudu anyways. In any case, if one absolutely must perform wudu here, one must ensure no water is spilled out of the sink and to wash one’s feet one must do it over the toilet and then use toilet paper to wipe their feet to prevent any dripping whatsoever. The detail to which they went in to how to do wudu in this restroom tells me the congregation has a hard time understanding something simple like, “If you do wudu, don’t spill any water anywhere.”

Otherwise, the mosque reminded me of MCA’s old days, right after they’d moved into the big center but hadn’t done any remodeling. There was tape on the commercial-grade carpet to delineate the prayer lines and the center’s size far exceeded that of the congregation’s. I’m sure this place gets full-up during jummah, as it’s located right off of a major tech corridor, but tonight was relatively intimate.

The congregation is exceedingly Hanafi (read: Desi) and that was apparent during taraweeh prayers. I almost felt bad for cutting out after 8 because all Hanafi taraweehs are a relatively quick 20 rakats, but shoot, you gotta do what you gotta do on a weeknight. Because of the Hanafi influence, however, the hafizes they had were extremely skilled at reciting the Quran at a fast pace. Tonight’s starter was sublime and I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear such a talented pair of young men.

The inside of the mosque.  The women's section is behind me.  The pink sign on the door is one of the many written instructions the mosque leadership has lovingly written for the congregation's benefit.

Date Visited: August 21, 2011

1260 Persian Drive, Suite A1
Sunnyvale, CA 94088

Tag-team taraweeh: Yes

Qirat: Great! Both of the hafizes were either young men or old boys, and they were both very talented.

Size of congregation: 20

Capacity of center: 50, if even that much

Parking: Lot, though there are instructions (this mosque is big on written instructions) to not park in front of the mosque during business hours. Instead, for jummah prayer the congregation is asked to park as far away from the actual mosque to ensure the other businesses’ customers are not impacted. There is a La Quinta hotel or something next door and I’m willing to bet tons of Muslims park illegally there.

Mihrab: Yes. It wasn’t anything gorgeous, but it was functional and is definitely better than nothing.

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: A few shelves by the entrance

Building: A couple of suites in a commercial office space which they share with businesses like a dental practice. The parking lot is very small considering how many Muslims can fit into the center and the restroom situation is clearly not ideal for any Muslim community. I’m sure this is not going to be the permanent location for this mosque, but I do have to note I saw a flyer on the wall which implored the community to donate as only a couple families support this place, apparently. The masjid, however, clearly belongs to the community as yet another note implores the last one to leave to lock up behind themselves.

Friendliness towards women: They have a section which was open when I arrived but as more people showed up was closed off by a door. The section was more than enough to hold the female congregation tonight, and women use the same entrance as the men.

Friendliness of congregation: Everyone seems to know each other here, so I did stick out, but everyone said salams to me and asked about my well-being. Had I stuck around I’m sure I could have made a few new friends.

* My editors have told me I can no longer use words like masajid (plural of masjid) and huffaz (plural of hafiz) if I insist on using words like hijabis (not the proper plural form of hijabi).

1 comment:

  1. Women go to the side entrance only. Yep, typical Muslims.