Sunday, July 22, 2012

San Francisco Muslim Community Center (San Francisco County, CA)

The coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.  Rest assured, though, if you make the trek to this mosque in the City by the Bay, the warmness of the people will negate the chilling effects of the cursed fog.

I've been on a lot of road trips this summer, visiting states like Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Alta California Sur.  All of them are purty in their own way, but none of them are home to something quite like San Francisco.  Just driving into the city is a treat for the eyes.  If you're coming from the north, you'll drive across the Golden Gate Bridge in all its splendor.  East?  From the Bay Bridge you can enjoy sweeping view of the financial district, which literally glitters at night.  There are many roads leading to San Francisco from the South, but my favorite is I-280, recognized as one of the prettiest interstate freeways in the entire nation.  US 101 North craftily springs downtown on visitors; you turn a corner around one of the 47 hills here and bam, skyscrapers.

This mosque is located in the southern part of this jewel of a city.  It's in a neighborhood called the Excelsior, which to this date has not yet been spoiled by the hipster menace.  Due to that, it is one of the few remaining affordable neighborhoods in the city.  Unfortunately, affordability and grittiness are directly proportional here in San Francisco.  Behold one of the windows of the masjid:

San Francisco taggers can't read.  That's fine, because I can't read what he wrote either.

I don't believe there have been any break-ins at this mosque, but every business I saw on this part of Mission Street either had bars on the windows or roll down gates.  Affordability, it seems, comes at a price.

When it comes to taraweeh here, throw out most of your pre-conceived notions about what you think it should be.  They definitely do things a little different here at this Black mosque (I saw W.D. Muhammad literature everywhere, so I'm guessing they're affiliated with that group).

I got to the mosque at 10 PM and they were already halfway done with taraweeh.  To put things into perspective, Isha had barely gotten started at 10:05 yesterday at Petaluma, and taraweeh at Belmont didn't get started till 10:30.  Isha time in San Francisco started at 9:55 today.  I'm not saying it's not possible to pray the four rakats of Isha and 4 rakats of taraweeh in in 5 minutes, but damn, that's fast.

It was apparent to me that for some of the congregants were new to prayer.  The imam was careful to explain everything he was doing to prevent confusion and educate the congregation.  This is something missing from the larger mosques, especially the ethnic mosques run by fobs.  It's no wonder there isn't more integration between the Black mosques and ethnic mosques; Arabs and Desis unfortunately operate under the assumption that their congregation was raised Muslim or, if they're new Muslims, have conquered the steep learning curve that comes after conversion.

The only issue I had was the imam misinformed the congregation about the proper way to lead witr.  Those who pray witr know that there's a dua before or after the final ruku.  The imam here lead witr 3 rakats of prayer with no dua.  My feeling is that since in no madhab is witr lead like that, he did them a disservice by misinforming them.  It's a strong argument for more integration and communication between masjids; all congregations could learn something from each other.

Date Visited: July 21, 2012

4760 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94112

Tag-team taraweeh: Nope

Qirat: Not great if you've been raised on classically-trained huffaz, as I have, but his accent was probably better than mine.

Size of congregation: 10 men, 10 women.  This is a commuter mosque, in that most of the people who pray here don't live here.  Therefore, it's really only crowded during jummah.  I was told they have a total of 100 families participating in programs throughout the year.

Capacity of center: 50-60

Parking: Street.  Worse yet, all of Mission Street is metered.  Welcome to the big city.

Mihrab: No

Minbar: They had a lectern, does that count?

Shoe shelves: Yes.

Building: Used to be a 99 cent store, and a Google search reveals it was once also Mayor Ed Lee's campaign headquarters.

Friendliness towards women: Women were praying behind men, obviously, but there were no barriers between the men's and women's section.

Friendliness of congregation: As the only congregant who wasn't black, I stuck out like a sore thumb.  However, everyone was very friendly and welcoming.  A few of the people took the time to educate me about the background of the masjid, and I'm sure if I'd shown up there at sunset they would have fed me.

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