Saturday, August 4, 2012

Masjid Al-Rahman (Richmond, Contra Costa County, CA)

Not too many people know too much about Richmond, and what little they do know comes from the major news outlets.  More than a few Bay Area natives don't even know where it is.  Self-centered San Franciscans assume I'm referring to the Richmond District of the city when I say I live and work in Richmond.  Others snicker at the fact that the city has one councilmember named Butt and another named Booze.

The word most commonly associated with Richmond is crime, perhaps murder, given that in 2010 it was considered the third-most dangerous city in America.  However, the crime rate is down, and things are on an upswing here.  The city will soon be home to the second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and many green tech companies are headquartered here.  Chevron's investing more money into the community than it ever has, and the much-maligned local school district is also showing signs of improvement.

That said, the city has problems, and I don't mean to sugarcoat them.  If you take a look at the crime map, you'll definitely see some activities you won't see in the wealthier cities of Contra Costa County.  This masjid isn't located in the worst neighborhood in Richmond, but it also isn't located in the best, either.

This is why it troubled me to see youth goofing off around the masjid last night.  While messing around is never desirable in any masjid, it is obviously a lot safer to do so in a suburban masjid.  You don't want your kid to be outside when there could be criminals lurking in the dark.  There's a very good reason why all the houses on the street are dark at night and nobody lets their children play in the yards after sunset.  Also, not to be too morbid, but one of the reasons why some Richmond streets have speed bumps is to prevent drive-bys.  For those reasons, the people who bring their kids to the masjid need to corral them and make sure they're either praying next to them or engaged in some activity INSIDE the mosque.  To the best of my knowledge, no Muslim has been harmed going to-and-from the masjid, but that's not a good reason to not take preventative measures and teach the kids discipline.

The community does do a lot for the kids, though.  One of the main expenses for the masjid is their Sunday school, which might be smaller than the one in say, San Francisco, but it's become an institution in the community.  That's how I know the Muslims here have their heads on straight.  If you want to establish an Islamic presence, the first thing you build is a masjid (check) and the second thing you build is a school (check).

I don't spend too much time at the masjid during Ramadan because since I moved here I've been 30Mosqueing, but I always try to grab iftar here when I can.  I haven't had the chance to have dinner here yet, but the people I meet at iftar are some of the most genuine and generous men I have ever met.  The Ramadan spirit shines through strongly here.

Congregation praying.  Absent: youth having a water fight in the restroom, which has a door exiting into the parking lot.  That's not unsafe at all.

Date Visited: August 3, 2012

1110 36th Street
Richmond, CA 94804

Tag-team taraweeh: No

Qirat: Very good.  I was mighty impressed.

Size of congregation: 75-100

Capacity of center: 100-150

Parking: A tiny lot, but mostly street.  Fair warnings, many cars have been broken into over the past six months, according to the City of Richmond's crime map.

Mihrab: No

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Ample

Building: A decent-sized center located very close to the interstate.  Good location for that reason.

Friendliness towards women: Women have their own prayer space and entrance.  It's welcoming towards women.

Friendliness of congregation: Very good people.  Everyone seems very convivial whenever I come here.

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