Subtitle: The House that William Webb Built
Sub-Subtitle: A Night at the Roxbury (Neighborhood of Boston)
I can't lie, I was excited last night. Not only was I kicking off an Eid weekend in Boston, but I was going to see an old acquaintance.
Imam William "Waxmaster Will" Suhaib Webb (IWWWSW for short) used to be the resident imam of the Muslim Community Association of the San Francisco Bay Area (MCASFBA). When IWWWSW announced last Ramadan that he was leaving MCASFBA for Boston, there was pandemonium. Panic ran through the halls of MCA. Folks started online petitions in a futile attempt to change something that was a done deal. The community bemoaned the loss of this Azhari scholar, and still more wondered how on earth their suburban children were going to keep off the streets without a strong male presence like Imam Suhaib's.
Spoiler alert: MCA has not burned down to the ground and it's my assessment that the Boston community needs him more. But I should back up.
I arrived at the masjid as the first rakat was starting. The imam's voice sounded exceedingly familiar. Could it be? Yes! Taraweeh was being led by Imam Suhaib! I wanted to shake the kids who were taraweeh-dodging outside. You have no idea what a treat this was for me. In all his years in the Bay Area I never once experienced Imam Suhaib leading taraweeh.
Imam Suhaib broke after 4 rakats to give a short lecture. It was the topic of the lecture which truly drove home for me how different the Muslim community is here in Boston. Previously, the only Muslims with whom I'd interacted were college students at MIT and Harvard, and that's no way to get the pulse of the city ("I'm a doctor's daughter, isn't everyone?"). The lecture was a short piece on Eid geared towards new Muslims. Folks at MCA, generally being well-educated Arabs or Desis, may have been bored with such a basic topic. However, the imam was only addressing the needs of his community.
And he's doing a fine job of it. The Imam was sure to address to converts in the crowd, taking his time to explain the significance the holiday and the obligation Muslims had to take the converts in so they wouldn't have to spend Eid alone. Additionally, he made mention of special lunch at 2:00 just for the converts of the community. It's fabulous to see communities taking care if their most vulnerable congregants.
Following taraweeh, my brother and I approached Imam Suhaib to say our salams. "I'm in California!" he exclaimed after seeing my brother. "Oh my God, I am in California!" he said when he turned and saw me. And for a few fleeting minutes, while hearing him speak, so was I.
As Ramadan ends, all Muslims in Boston should be counting their blessings. And they should count Imam Suhaib as one of them.
Date Visited: August 17, 2012
100 Malcolm X Boulevard
Boston, MA 02120
Tag-team Taraweeh: Nope
Size of congregation: 150-200
Capacity of center: 500
Parking: Small underground lot, but there was lots of street parking
Shoe shelves: Plenty
Building: Built as a collaboration between the Islamic Society of Boston and the Muslim American Society. Together, they aMASsed a great deal of wealth ($15 million) and developed an enorMAS structure. I'd say the prayer hall sizes are comparable to those at MCA.
Friendliness to women: Women have their own facilities here, and are treated equitably by the masjid leadership.
Friendliness of congregation: Somalis are the single biggest ethnic group at this masjid, but they are nonexistent in the masjid leadership. I found that to be a little disconcerting. The masjid is run by MAS; you really can't escape their logo on any masjid literature. Some would say that's a good thing, others a bad thing. What makes this congregation friendly is Imam Suhaib. With a leader like him, you know this masjid is open to everyone.