Monday, August 6, 2012

Lighthouse Mosque (Oakland, Alameda County, CA)

I’m a huge fan of this masjid.  It’s small, intimate, the people are ever-so-friendly--it truly is a community mosque.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but step inside and you’ll feel the warmth.

This mosque is located in a neighborhood which has seen better days.  It’s practically buttressed against a freeway and the buildings which surround it are shabby.  The sidewalks are cracked, the streets are lined with tar because the city won’t repave them and most of the vegetation growing in the neighborhood is wild and unkempt.

Despite this, Imam Zaid has built a masjid which is extremely popular with the locals and non-locals alike.  Folks drive here from miles around, eschewing the convenience of a local mosque to share in the collective experience that is praying at Lighthouse Mosque.

Isha prayer last night started at 9:45, a little less than 90 minutes after sunset.  These days, one of the eternal debates in Ramadan is whether mosques should give their congregants enough time to eat after a long day of fasting or allow their congregants to get home to sleep a little earlier after a long night of taraweeh.  Start earlier, get home earlier.  Start later, and you don’t have to scarf down dinner to get to the masjid on time.  It’s a debate that is unlikely to be concluded anytime soon, and both sides have merit.

Isha and taraweeh were led last night by a young man who did a fine job.  He appeared to be a budding hafiz whose knowledge of the Quran isn’t as concrete as that of a grizzled veteran.  I tip my hat to his backup, a non-hafiz in the congregation who was following along in his own copy of the Quran.  The backup, despite not being a hafiz, still needed the laser-sharp focus of a hafiz to catch mistakes and help out the imam when he was stuck.

One of the nicest aspects of taraweeh here is that after 8 rakats, Imam Zaid Shakir gives a short lecture on an aspect of Islam.  Last night, he used a book on hadith as a guide to educate (or remind) the congregation about the importance of generosity, especially in Ramadan.  It was fabulous, and I was awed by the fact that I was literally sitting at the feet of a man who can pack a convention center when speaking at a conference.  If you want some personal time with Imam Zaid, come to Lighthouse.

But don’t you all come at once!  The masjid is admittedly very small and it was probably at fire-code capacity last night.  I’m unsure of whether or not they plan on purchasing or renting a larger facility, though I doubt it.  I’ve been coming here on-and-off for the past 5 years and over time they’ve made major improvements to the mosque.  Given how much money they’ve invested on interior design, I doubt this masjid is going anywhere.

Date Visited: August 5, 2012

4606 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Oakland, CA 94609

Tag-team taraweeh: No

Qirat: Very nice

Size of congregation: 25-30

Capacity of center: 30-40

Parking: Only street.  Fair warning, this is Club territory.

Mihrab: No

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Yes

Building: A former retail location located on a relatively quiet section of one of Oakland's major thoroughfares.

Friendliness towards women: Women are welcome here and encouraged to participate in the programs.

Friendliness of congregation: There's very few mosques in the Yay with a nicer congregation.

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