Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Musallah Darul Arqam (American Canyon, Napa County, CA)

I know what everyone's thinking, even the Bay Area natives.  Where the hell is American Canyon?

American Canyon is located on the border between suburban and rural Bay Area, just north of Vallejo and on the way to Napa.  It's an incredibly small city and, it not being located near a major interstate, is largely ignored by the vast majority of people here.

In the midst of this tiny community is an even tinier Muslim population.  I understand that there is a maximum of 20 Muslim families in the area.  If you're wondering why this small community would have their own little masjid, and not just merge with the Vallejo community, you have to ask yourself, wouldn't it be nice to have a neighborhood masjid instead of having to drive 10, 20 or even 30 miles to just pray one salat?

It is that philosophy which drove a gentleman to donate half his property to build a place for local Muslims to pray.  The gentleman lives in the house with his family, and has converted his stand-alone two-car garage into a mosque.  For a converted garage, it's remarkably well-developed and sophisticated.  The men's section and women's section were separated, and each had their own restroom.  They're currently working on expanding the back to add more space and wudu station.  You have to appreciate how much more space there is out here in rural America.  If you live in any of the urban or suburban cities you're a) lucky to have a garage and b) even luckier to have room to expand that garage.

The community does have very ambitious plans to build a proper masjid where the musallah is currently located.  Understandably, the project is moving along very slowly.  Makes sense, when you only have 15-20 families to rely on for donations, how quickly can you raise funds, anyways?

The small community, however, means that everyone knows each other, which gives it an edge over the big city congregations.  The expansion project may be moving along very slowly, but it's apparent to me that everyone recognizes the importance of having a proper masjid.  Also, given how expensive the Bay Area proper has gotten, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an influx of more Muslims who work in San Francisco but can't afford housing there.  It's good that they're planning a mosque that can handle that new population if it ever arrives.

Taraweeh was nice because there were so few people there.  This is an Arab-8 mosque, as opposed to a Desi-20, but the nice touch here is they rotate the imam schedule.  If you want to lead taraweeh here one night, you can sign up to take on that responsibility.  Nobody expects you to be a hafiz; tonight, the imam was using a Quran to guide himself through the prayer.  I have to admire this community's commitment to finishing the Quran by the end of Ramadan.  Smaller communities, I have seen, tend to take the easy route and complete 8 rakats as soon as possible.

I don't know if you'll ever have a chance to visit this musallah.  It really is out of the way; it's not located near any major interstates so you have to take a detour in order to swing by.  Also, once you're in American Canyon, you have to figure out which house it is off the highway.  I was a little intimidated by the lack of signage; out here, with rednecks around ever corner, you don't want to take a chance and knock on the wrong door.  Once you find the right place, however, they will make you feel welcome.

That tiny sign let me know that I was in the right place.  Keep in mind this building is about 30 yards from the border of the property and down a long driveway.  Before I saw the sign I approached with caution in case some redneck came out with his shotgun yelling at me to git off his property.


Date Visited: July 23, 2012

Location:
3853 1/2 Broadway Street (Highway 29)
American Canyon, CA 94503

Tag-team taraweeh: Not tonight, but I'm sure there's the option to

Qirat: Good

Size of congregation: 5-6 people

Capacity of center: 30

Parking: Plenty of parking on the property, but it is off-road, so make sure your car can handle it.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes, but outdoors.  Left my flippy-floppies out there for maybe 2 hours and they were a little chilly when I slipped them back on.

Building: Converted two-car garage

Friendliness towards women: Women have an equitable space here.  The only downside is they close the doors to the women's section if there are any in attendance.  If you're not a fan of barriers, this isn't the mosque for you.

Friendliness of congregation: Very nice people.  Then again, the farther you get away from the cities, the more that holds true.

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