I threw caution to the wind (not really, I verified that there was indeed a Muslim community in Marin City/Sausalito), paid the Marin County entrance tax (i.e. the bridge toll) and found myself in a sprawling apartment complex. My guide told me to head to the building facing the softball field, and there I waited.
There was evidence of Muslim life in this complex. On my way to building 56 I saw two hijabis walking in the other direction. I hailed them. They ignored me (not too uncommon). I hailed them again and they confirmed that the prayer was held around the corner in one of the garages. I stood outside the corner of the building, unsure of in which garage the Muslims congregated. Were they going to open the garage door to let people in? I thought the rug store was a surreal place in which to pray organized taraweeh, but this had exceeded that threshold and was about to set the bar high in that regard.
As I was waiting, I heard a young man ambling through the softball field behind me. He was singing something to himself, and after two seconds I realized it was the adhan. More evidence of Muslim life! I hailed him, but it turned out he was just a Muslim who happened to be passing by and no, he had no plans to pray taraweeh tonight. What are the odds of meeting two Muslims in one apartment complex, neither of whom has the intention of praying taraweeh there?
I waited another 5 minutes. A man wearing a kufi pulled up in a minivan, only to drop off two women and drive off before I could even say hello. This was starting to get ridiculous. In a place like Santa Clara or Fremont, if you see a Muslim in the neighborhood of a masjid around prayer time, it’s a safe assumption to make that they’re heading there. Shoot, back at Cal whenever I’d forgotten the exact location of the MSA meeting I’d just follow the trail of hijabis (and I wonder why they walk quicker when they see me).
Still, I waited patiently, putting my trust in the words of a commenter who’d said prayer was indeed held in building 56. Eventually a man showed up in a kufi and I immediately approached him. Jackpot. He led me into the complex and we were in the prayer area.
Prayer here is literally held in a garage. Not only do they pray in a garage, but they pray five times a day in this garage. Not only do they pray five times a day in this garage, but there was evidence of an iftar party on the table. I shook my head in amazement, though I don’t know why I was so shocked since all the signs had pointed to this.
Lots of people showed up, and by lots I mean about half the garage was full by the time they started isha. And then God placed the cherry on top of this surreal evening.
The garage door on the far left opened in the middle of prayer, and a woman backed in her Camry. She collected her groceries, locked her car and walked past us as if nothing was happening. WHAT??
They pray in an active garage? When I first saw the space I assumed they were renting out all the spots! No, they only rent two of the four single-car spots and get to enjoy carbon monoxide fumes as they pray. This feeling of disbelief followed me throughout the night and I still find myself shaking my head in amazement.
The congregation engaged in worship/reflection with a car in the background. Yeah, that's not surreal at all.
Date Visited: August 15, 2011
56 Terrace Dr. Building 56
Sausalito, CA 94965
Tag-team taraweeh: No
Qirat: Good, taraweeh was led by a young man while most of the congregation was composed of elderly gentlemen
Size of congregation: 15
Capacity of center: 20
Parking: Lot and street. And of course we were praying on two parking spots.
Shoe shelves: Floor
Building: Two units in a four-unit single-car garage. There is carpeting on the floor and apparently the congregation has been using this space for ten years. That and the nonchalance of the tenant who parked her Camry indicate that management has to be aware of this community’s existence. The biggest downside to this space is of course it’s not designed to be used in this way. Most noticeable is the lack of restrooms (of course) which leads me to believe most people who attended the prayers must be from the immediate area. How do Muslims get in, do you ask? The lock on the gate leading inside the complex is busted, and Muslims prop open the door inside the complex leading to the garage. I don’t want to point fingers, but it’s awfully convenient for the Muslims that the lock on the outer gate “happens” to be busted…
Friendliness towards women: I didn’t see any women, and I didn’t ask where or if they pray. The space really isn’t big enough for men and women to pray together.
Friendliness of congregation: It’s a very tight-knit community, so they gave me the third degree. They ask me where I was from (Santa Clara, I wasn’t risking another TJ inviting himself over to my apartment). They asked me where my parents were from (Lahore and Karachi). That didn’t suffice for them. Where in Lahore, where in Karachi? I named the societies in which my grandparents’ homes are located. One follow up: what was I doing here if I live in Santa Clara? Visiting a friend from Mill Valley. Which friend? I dropped the name of an old college acquaintance, in case they knew EVERY MUSLIM who lives in Mill Valley. In retrospect, I should have just said Mohammed Khan, that would have covered my bases and then some. Oh, also, this grilling was being done in Urdu; they really wanted to test my authenticity, I tell you what.