Friday, July 20, 2012

Yaseen Foundation (Belmont, San Mateo County, CA)

"Belmont?  What are you going to do, write about their shoe racks again?"

My editorial board can be kind of sarcastic sometimes.

The Belmont masjid is a little different every time I see it, which, admittedly, is not that much.  In my defense, whenever I'm heading out to dinner in San Francisco, I never say, "hey guys, let's go to Belmont instead, that's a real happening town."  Therefore, I only visit once a year during Ramadan, and my impression of it changes each time I do.

I am fairly disappointed that the Belmont masjid still hasn't raised enough money to move into a larger space. Last night I had to clamber over a mountain of shoes (not enough shoe racks!!) just to get into the facility.  Men who couldn't find space in the prayer hall were praying in the hallway (blocking the emergency exit, mind you).  Women who couldn't find space to pray were being told to wait in the car (I'm guessing).

Yes, prayer real estate is at a premium here in Belmont.  If you find a spot inside, you best stay there the entire night or else you will lose your spot.  This isn't a showing of The Dark Knight Rises; you can't just throw down a jacket on a theater seat to claim a space.  That would create a gap in the prayer line, and if you're not praying shoulder-to-shoulder, feet-to-feet, Satan's praying next to you.  And the last thing the Belmont board of directors wants is for Satan to pray with them.  Although, wait, Satan and his minions are chained up during Ramadan...

On a serious note, I learned something last night.  Taraweeh is prayed in sets of 2 rakats.  Last night, the imam prayed a set of 3 by mistake.  Confusion reigned.  After the set ended, men got up and started exclaiming at each other in Arabic.  A mistake was made, shabab!  Ya'ni, It had to be fixed, habibi!

I still have no idea of what really happened.

You know why I don't?  Because everyone was speaking in Arabic, and the imam proceeded to fix his mistake by praying a 1-rakat unit of taraweeh (unheard of, I thought).  Belmont, that was a teachable moment.  Someone should have taken the time to explain what happened in English, and why they fixed the mistake with a 1-rakat set.

Still have a lot of love for this masjid, though.  I just wish they'd focus their fundraising and find a bigger space.  Yeah, it's tough to raise money, but honestly, if you keep overcrowding your small space you will inevitably become a nuisance to the neighbors.  The only neighbor who would potentially be sad to see you go is the ampm convenience store down the street.  Apparently, that's the crack spot in this neighborhood where kids bored with taraweeh go to blow their parents' money on junk food.  Point being, there's no room in this masjid to provide the youth a safe and healthy space to spend their Ramadan nights.

I have faith that Belmont will get there someday.  They've already began addressing the space issue by renting out the Belmont Sports Complex for taraweeh prayers on Fridays and Saturdays.  Excellent first step, let's just hope their long-term solution isn't to rent out the Sports Complex 7 days a week.


Date Visited: July 19, 2012

Location:
621 Masonic Way
Belmont, California 94002

Tag-team taraweeh: Yes. They flew in one imam from Egypt and the other they imported from Detroit (ha).  Kind of a shame that they're not using prospects from the Fremont hafiz farm system, however.

Qirat: Good stuff.

Size of congregation: 100 men, 40 women

Capacity of center: 150 maximum

Parking: Very tight.  They have a lot, but it's clear this neighborhood can't support the parking crush Ramadan brings.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Not enough shoe shelves!

Building: Great little building located relatively close to the freeway and a major peninsula thoroughfare.  The location is great, the space is just too small.

Friendliness towards women: Women are welcome and treated with respect and dignity.

Friendliness of congregation: Very congenial and diverse group of men, I must say.  The fact that it was the first night of Ramadan had everyone in a good mood as well.  The gentleman making the announcements was in such good cheer he wished everyone Ramadan AND Eid Mubarak.

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