Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yaseen Foundation (Belmont)

Change has come to Belmont’s little mosque.

The charismatic young imam, Abdurrahman, left a couple weeks before Ramadan to return to England to be with his family. I wish him all the best, but my insider told me that this has led to a frantic search for a new imam. He expressed trepidation about a couple people on the short list to replace AR. Change has come, and it may take some getting used to.

Due to the imam’s departure, Belmont has reached across the Bay and plucked three young brothers from Fremont to lead the nightly prayers. It’s a testament to their parents, their teachers and the East Bay hafiz farm system (I like baseball analogies), but they were phenomenal. The recitation was quick but easy to understand, and I don’t know if it was their idea, but they chose very short chapters of the Quran to read during the isha prayer preceding the taraweeh. Wonderful idea, because taraweeh these days has to start at 9:35-ish at the earliest and you might as well shorten the prayers you can so everyone can get home at a decent hour, especially those of us driving great distances to complete an insatiable quest to visit as many masajid in Ramadan as possible.

The aspect I liked best about Belmont’s taraweeh was following the 8th rakat, a man gave a small lecture about the ayahs the huffaz had read and were about to read. Such a practice helps the congregation connect better to the Quran they’re listening to and I commend the mosque leadership for instituting such a practice.

Unfortunately, the one change the mosque desperately needs has still not come. The congregation has swelled in size in comparison to what I remember last year and they clearly need a bigger space. It seems like it’s standard practice for men and women to use the main entrance to enter and exit the building, but last night was so busy they asked (not ordered, asked) the women to use the side entrance due to the crush of men using the hallway.

Last year, when describing the women’s section, I used some sarcasm which clearly did not translate well to the page. This mosque is very female-friendly and the women’s section has a large almost floor-to-ceiling window looking out from their section so they can see the imam. There is no cloistering or sequestering of women at this mosque, I can assure you. Yes, their section has a door, but it’s their choice whether to keep it open or closed, and it’s the men’s responsibility to have enough modesty to not look in there. Obviously I didn’t meet any female leadership, but I’m sure this mosque has one, given the respect the men were showing the women. After prayer, there was a woman in the hallway collecting her shoes while we were exiting and men were showing her deference by walking around her to avoid unnecessary physical contact, a desirable practice in Islam.

When I came in 2010, I was able to enjoy a meal with the community and revel in their openness. Circumstances dictated that I could not do that this year, but there was still coffee and Middle Eastern sweets in the hallway for everyone to enjoy. The mosque leadership implored us to enjoy them but also smilingly asked us to keep the mess to a minimum.

The mosque is looking for people to fill spots on its board of trustees. If you know anyone in the community, implore them to run. The departure of AR has left a void and it’s important to fill it with young Muslim leaders who will work towards keeping Belmont on the right track. This is one of the most diverse and welcoming communities in the Bay Area and the board of trustees of a mosque has a lot to do with fostering that environment. It’s my hope that they have a successful season of Belmont’s Next Top Religious Leader and they make the right choice for the community.

Folks hanging out after 8 rakat, while others inside pray to complete 20

Date Visited: August 5, 2011

621 Masonic Way
Belmont, CA 94002

Tag-team taraweeh: Yes

Qirat: Great

Size of congregation: ~100

Capacity of center: ~100

Parking: Street, some off-street

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes, but not more than last year

Building: A tiny building tucked into a corner of Belmont that’s a mix of residential and commercial properties

Friendliness towards women: High

Friendliness of congregation: High

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