Monday, July 23, 2012

Jamil Islamic Center (Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, CA)

Disclaimer: this is a sufi mosque and the extent of my knowledge of sufism is what I gathered in a one semester course in college and a wild weekend in Konya, Turkey, resting place of Rumi.

There are many features in this musalla which distinguish it from the standard masjid, most noticeably the pictures of the saints on the wall.  This is generally considered to be a no-no in Islam because if you're hanging up pictures in a place of worship, you're skirting with shirk, which essentially boils down to glorifying beings other than God.  Of course, that's not how the sufis see it, but the concept of sainthood is a controversial one in Islam.

The other thing which will catch your eye is this puppy:

I don't mean to get all up in your bid'ahness, but why is there a coffin in your prayer area?

This is actually a pretty common sight in most of the sufi masjids I've been to, which admittedly isn't a lot.  First of all, there there's nothing in the coffin; the City of Palo Alto would I'm sure frown upon the housing of bodies in converted rug stores.  That said, this coffin is meant to represent the body of a saint, and I'm sure that body is displayed in a shrine somewhere in the Middle East, and that shrine is probably located in or near a masjid.

Empty coffins and saintly pictures aside, this is a standard masjid, and no, nobody was praying towards the saint, who was housed in the back of the room.  I arrived at the masjid 1 or 2 minutes before maghrib and I broke my fast with a very friendly gentleman who was the only one there at the time.  To date, it was the best iftar I've had this Ramadan.  How could you beat this?

Is that what the moon is supposed to look like on the fourth night of Ramadan?  Or is it the moon of the third night, given its size?

This is a great place to break your fast.  You can sit out on this second-floor balcony, surveying the 1% as they enjoy their 10-dollar burgers and other such overpriced food items.  On a good day you might catch a glimpse of Mark Zuckerberg ducking into Antonio's Nuthouse, although I hear he no longer frequents that establishment.  Given that it's summertime in Palo Alto and relatively far away from Stanford Junior University, it's not very crowded in the evening time these days.

Maghrib was nice and intimate, with a total of three worshipers.  I was told most of the congregation was at either MCA or Stanford getting their grub on at the free iftars tonight.

Palo Alto is about 60 miles away from my home, and given the fact that they were going to start prayers at 10:15, I did the responsible thing took my leave after maghrib to handle prayers a bit closer to home.  I'm not blessed with the opportunity to take a Kickstarter-funded vacation in order to do this project and so have to be wise with my time.  Apologies if you were looking forward to reading my biased account of taraweeh here.

Date Visited: July 22, 2012

Location:
427 South California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Tag-team taraweeh: Honestly don't know

Qirat: N/A

Size of congregation: Maghrib time had only 3 people in attendance.  I don't imagine this place gets crowded.

Capacity of center: 20-30

Parking: Street parking, of which there is plenty.

Mihrab: No

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes.

Building: The second floor of what used to be a rug store.

Friendliness towards women: No women were in attendance at maghrib time, but sufi congregations tend to be more welcoming than the average masjid in this regard.

Friendliness of congregation: I've never met a sufi who wasn't friendly and hospitable.

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