Monday, July 30, 2012

SALAM (Sacramento, Sacramento County, CA)

Yes, the URL of this blog is  I know this Sacramento mosque is not in the Bay Area, but this nonprofiteer is still saving children Monday to Friday from 9-5 and duty calls that I be in Sacramento for the next two days.

First of all, much respect to all Muslims out here who are fasting.  Where I live and work in the Bay Area it rarely gets warmer than 75 degrees in the summer.  Out here was the first time I’ve broken a sweat while fasting this summer.  It’s much easier to do these 16 hour fasts if you’re in a cooler climate, that’s for sure.  Rumor has it a lot of Sacramentans are planning on taking month-long vacations in Australia next summer (8 hour winter fasts ftw).

What does SALAM stand for?  Salam means peace, of course, but the acronym is a little more ominous: the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims.  Just be glad they went with “League” and not “Legion,” which I do hear was floated at the acronym-drafting meeting years ago.

This league of Muslims is an admirer of the legion of Muslims who ruled Spain for centuries.  This much is apparent from the Andalusian architecture of the masjid; survey the masjid from the outside and you can’t help but think of the Islamic architecture of Cordoba, particularly their grand mosque.

Interestingly enough, the main prayer hall is very different from that of the Grand Mosque of Cordoba.  The architects opted to go green and made it the dominant color inside.  Their mihrab/minbar façade is fantastic and is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen in the entire state.  This community should be thanking the Lord for the low cost of living in the Sacramento-area; the construction cost here was undoubtedly much lower than what it would cost in the Bay Area.  Many masjids in the Bay Area struggle to meet their project goals because of high costs, but that’s a subject for another blog post altogether.

Besides the architecture, the other thing that stands out here is the diversity of the community.  No one ethnic group appeared to be dominant and that helped foster a sense of togetherness in the facility, which is very important given the number of people who were there last night.  It can be a little intimidating stepping into a masjid and being welcomed by a sea of homogeneity.

The taraweeh’s structure here does not do enough keep the community engaged(1).  They do 8 rakats here, but they break after 4 and the imam gives a lecture.  As soon as salams for the 4th rakat were said, the youth bolted for the door to socialize while the shepherd addressed his flock.  This is not an uncommon problem, but this community needs to figure out how to engage the youth so they maximize their time in the masjid.  Doing so would provide the scaffolding necessary for youth to become adults who actually want to go to the masjid.

Think of it as donor cultivation, almost.  If you’re not providing programs that are keeping youth engaged, you’re going to have a hard time getting them to support your nonprofit when they’re adults.  Sorry guys, but you can’t count on (only) the Fear of God to bring Muslims into your masjids.

That said, it’s obvious this masjid does not have a problem with community engagement.  My best friend was married right here in the community center, and it was a joy sharing with him the happiest day of his life(2).  It’s great visiting a masjid welcoming enough for people to want to get married here.

Say, those arches look very familiar. Might I have seen them in Cordoba? 

Lovely mihrab, really lovely.

Date Visited: July 29, 2012

4541 College Oak Drive
Sacramento, CA 95841

Tag-team taraweeh: No

Qirat: Slow, methodical but very nice

Size of congregation: 150-200

Capacity of center: The prayer area was almost full.  I see capacity problems 10-15 years down the line.

Parking: Parking lot surrounds the building.  Apparently some congregants also park at American River College’s student lot across the street.

Mihrab: Yes.  If you visited just to see this, you wouldn’t be wasting your time.

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes, and they come with shoe horns!  SALAM Center, you fancy, huh?

Building: Two lovely buildings which should look exceedingly familiar to anyone who’s been to Southern Spain and checked out the Islamic architecture in and outside of the city of Cordoba.

Friendliness towards women: Fair warning, conservatives, women can be seen and heard here.  The men’s section and women’s section is separated only by knee-high barriers.  Much love to SALAM Center for building a masjid to which I’d be comfortable taking my own mother.

Friendliness of congregation: Diverse congregations are friendly congregations.  When we arrived people was also wrapping up the masjid’s community iftar, a sign of a healthy community.

(1) It was, after all, a native son of the SALAM Center who coined the phrase "taraweeh-dodging," or TD.
(2) Elle oh elle. Oh, I make myself laugh sometimes.

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