Eid Mubarak! Praying Outside Washington’s FedEx Field

Eid Mubarak to all! Wishing everyone a very happy and blessed day even as we feel the pangs of the Ramadan withdrawal symptoms.

I hope we were all able to utilize the blessed month to its fullest.

(Photos from Eid al-Fitr 2010)

Come Early to Avoid the Queues 

I love the feeling of praying in a joyous sea of humanity, gotta remember the blessings!

Praying outside FedEx field

Brilliant idea to alleviate perennial traffic issues by praying next to a stadium that is used to having tens of thousands every Sunday for football games.

Just a word for those of you thinking of missing this highly encouraged prayer for work or school today, don’t. Go to one of the early prayers and then do what you have to do. I guarantee that it is not from the sunnah of Allah to disappoint his servant who makes an effort to obey him.

I’ve had midterm exams, clinical days in hospital, and mandatory meetings and trainings at work all fall on Eid. But I prioritized the Eid prayer by informing my supervisors and instructors ahead of time and everything worked out beautifully.

I was able to enjoy and celebrate the day and I didn’t lose out on anything in terms of worldly or material benefit.This past week with the DC earthquake and Hurricane Irene I was reminded of what’s important in life, trust me, religion and family rank way above whatever it is you’re going to do today at work or school.

Ramadan in DC | Tarawih Prayer at the University of Maryland at College Park

The Dar us Salaam community in College Park, Md has lost the use of its musalla for large events like Friday prayerEid, and tarawih. For the last couple of years, the community has held its Ramadan tarawih prayers at a local Mariott hotel.

This year, in a welcome change, the community prayed at the Reckord Armory gym on the campus of the University of Maryland. I was pleased to see that we would praying without the need to erect a partition. For me, praying behind a partition or barrier or disconnected in a separate room, balcony, or basement degrades the experience of the congregational prayer.

Unfortunately, there was no organized program for children so there was a lot of the usual little kid “marathon” running during the prayer. And being in a gym, on a basketball court no less, is an invitation to play that is hard for many kids to resist.

One day, the imam leading the prayer ended the tarawih early after only four rakah because the noise from the children made it difficult for him to concentrate. Welcome to the club, that’s the regular experience of prayer for so many women in our communities.

Continue reading

Ramadan in DC | Islamic Society of Washington’s Newly Renovated Mosque

Silver Spring, Md

The Islamic Society of Washington (ISWA) was founded primarily by Muslim immigrants from Guyana and Trinidad. I’ve tried to visit ISWA several times since major renovations were recently completed but each time I went the doors were locked.

As a customer service issue, I’d love to see more mosques post their operating hours at their entrances. It’s disheartening to come a mosque only to find it locked and with no way of knowing when it will reopen.

Path to unpaved parking lot

The parking lot was full for evening tarawih prayers so I parked on the grass. It’s dark back there and somewhat muddy. Earlier in the month, I visited the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center and was impressed with the addition of flood lights to illuminate the darker corners of the parking lot.

The main entrance includes a wheelchair ramp

I appreciate that the central entrance is shared by both women and men and that it also wheelchair/stroller accessible.

Your cooperation is appreciated

This sign greets women as they remove their shoes to enter the musalla designated for them. I wonder if there’s a similar sign on the men’s side, if there is, I didn’t see it. Continue reading

Ramadan in DC | Hurricane Irene’s Aftermath

Annapolis, Maryland

What a week, this Ramadan came in gently like lamb and appears to be going out with a vengeance like a lion. The death toll stands at twenty-two. Thankfully, I’m okay but like many in the DC area, we’re still without power.

Cell phone service is spotty so you might not be able to reach me. Text is good, trying to conserve my battery for as long as I can. No word or estimate yet from the power company on when power might be restored.

Many iftars at mosques and tarawih and qiyam prayers across the DC metro region were cancelled last night in advance of Hurricane Irene.

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Ramadan in DC | Muslim Community Center | A Surprisingly Mixed Bag

The Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md was either the very first or second mosque I visited after my conversion and it used to be my regular mosque. I had become eager to get my driver’s license because I wanted to attend prayers there more regularly. I thought nothing of driving 25 minutes each way so I could offer the fajr prayer in congregation or to attend Friday prayer.

Yet, when Ramadan rolled around, I was always rather dismayed and disappointed that women were kicked out the mosque completely for Friday prayers. Both upper and lower levels of the mosque are given over to the men and women are directed to pray in a separate building called the “main hall.” In my day, there was only audio but I’ve heard more recently they’ve added an LCD projector screen.

There seems to be no real reason why the divided setup cannot not remain during Ramadan and overflow, both men and women, could be directed to the other building. I was pleased to hear at the iftar dinner there that the mosque is trying to raise funds to expand the prayer space and improve the wudu facilities for both women and men.

I’ve avoided masjid iftars for several years wary of the mystery food items and crowds, so I was a little nervous going to MCC but quickly saw some familiar faces and felt welcome. The layout is surprisingly nice and sophisticated. In one large room, there are three long rows of tables and chairs setup and attendees self segregate into a row for women, families in the middle row, and the men’s row on the other side.

The food for breaking your fast at sunset including dates, samosas, fruit, and sweets are already spread on the table for you along with bottles of water. This eliminates lines or a mad dash at the time of fast breaking and allows you to focus in your supplication. We pray maghrib back in the mosque building and then return to the main hall for a catered dinner.

I was surprised by just how normal everyone seemed, even though we cannot interact in the mosque building without recourse to big blue partitions and separate entrances, we’re able to interact in a perfectly normal and respectful way when eating food together. It’s a strange disconnect. Continue reading

RamadaninDC | DC Earthquake Reminds Me of What’s Important

Tuesday afternoon, I was in a training for my work on trauma-informed care when the earthquake that rocked much of the East coast struck. We had just finished a warm up ice breaker activity when I heard my supervisor shout, “Everybody outside!” Then came the gasps and shouts of surprise.

I hesitated for a moment wondering if this was yet another ice breaker activity but when I felt the ground shaking and saw our office building shaking violently, I knew we were experiencing an earthquake. The metallic roof made a sickening creaking sound and we made a somewhat orderly beeline toward the exit doors.

While outside, the shaking continued for few a little longer. People were trying to call their loved ones but with the phone lines jammed no one could get through. I was trying tweet the experience from my phone and after a few connection timeouts, I was able to post my tweets.

Some of my colleagues were quite shaken up and immediately left to go home. Others waited to return to the training but it was re-scheduled for another day. I set out for home and there was an unusual amount of traffic on the road. Seeing the traffic, so common to the DC area, was comforting.

Glad to see my exit on the parkway

I tried listening to NPR and the local news station for updates about the quake but I found the latter to be more fear-inducing than reassuring. And the nuclear power plants may have to go off-line, and the Washington Monument may be damaged, the Pentagon has been evacuated, oil prices may go up, people are in the streets…

Feeling more distressed than before I turned off the radio and turned on one of my Quran mix CDs. I recited aloud with Tawfeeq As-Sayegh even though my windows were down and traffic had on some parts of the beltway and BW parkway slowed to a crawl. At other times, I might lower the volume and recite more quietly but that day I thought about how fleeting life can be and were I pass away I’d rather be engaged in an act of worship reciting the Quran than in mindlessly listening to radio news.

Railroad Crossing Malfunction

And while the traffic was comforting, it was also very nice to arrive quickly at my exit so I could leave the traffic behind. As I neared home, I approached a railroad crossing that had the gates down and the red lights flashing. But no train appeared to be coming so the cars were cautiously dashing through a few at a time. When my turn came, I looked both ways and also made a dash for it.

Each year the month of Ramadan helps remind us of what’s important in life as we increase in acts of worship, give in charity, and train ourselves to be disciplined in doing good and abstaining from our selfish desires.

I’m humbled by witnessing natural disasters and other calamities, they give me pause and are a cause for reflection. In a world with so many possible distractions, a moment’s reflection is a precious gift, far too few of us are blessed with.

Ramadan in DC | A Shout of Profanity in the Dark

Last night in Annapolis, Md

During Ramadan it’s not unusual to be up late. Last night, as I walked down the street at 2am, I could see a man approaching from the other direction. As he got a little closer I heard him shout out, “B#*ch!”

Right about then, I began to question why I was out walking alone that late and whether I should’ve turned around or made a run for it.

Then as he neared me, he shouted out in the same loud voice, “Salaam alaikum!” Relieved, I enthusiastically returned the greeting.

I suppose his earlier comment was for the person on the other end of his bluetooth ear piece and not for me, which is still a troubling thought.

Ramadan in DC | Islamic Heritage Center Tarawih | A Room Without A View

Makeshift partition used during tarawih prayers

Thankfully, I haven’t prayed here so this photo was submitted by a dear friend who prays here regularly.

This is the view afforded to Muslim women praying tarawih organized by the Islamic Heritage Center in the cafeteria of Kilmer Middle School in Vienna, Va.

The makeshift partition is composed of the cafeteria tables folded upright covered with a green sheet.

Ramadan in DC | A Simple but Elegant Iftar

Iftar at the home a friend

Iftar at a friend’s home

This past Wednesday, a small group of sisters and I gathered at a friend’s home for iftar, the evening meal at the end of a day of fasting. We had dates and assorted fruit with water and juice.

Quiet moments of reflection, prayer, and contemplation were intertwined with lively conversation. The conversation flowed easily and we spoke about work, current events, exercise, fencing, the beauty of having an Islamic perspective, and long-kept momentos from our youth.

Afghan restaurant for dinner

We prayed and then went out to eat at a local Afghan restaurant. Our server, a young woman of Afghan descent mentioned she felt faint as she took our orders because she had yet to open her fast for the day. She said they had been very busy that night. We offered her a chair and our own water but she declined and said she would break her fast after putting in our orders.

I’m always stunned by reminders of how much effort we put into working in this life and how much we neglect to put in the same effort or more towards working for the hereafter.

Our host for the night, surreptitiously got up towards the end of our meal to use the restroom or so I thought. When it was time to go, we asked for the bill but to our surprise it had already been paid. When you’re eating out with Muslims and someone drifts away from the group, it’s probably because they’re about to pay the bill and don’t want you to find out.

I love the friendly competition to pick up the tab for meals amongst my Muslim friends. It’s been elevated to a kind of art form, the ability to steal away and pay the bill before anyone notices.

Tarawih

We ended the night praying tarawih led by Sh. Adam at the Westin Hotel in Tysons Corner. Continue reading

Ingrid Mattson | The Importance of Community in Islam

This an oldie but goodie, which I first posted in back in 2006 but with GoogleVideo now defunct, I re-uploaded the video via YouTube.

You might also be interested to read Dr. Ingrid Mattson – Words of Wisdom, which includes two short lectures and a pdf of her Heaven’s Gate: How Muslim Women Open or Close Doors for Their Sisters lecture.

I’m heading out tonight to break my fast at a local mosque iftar, my first in several years. I used to love having iftar at the mosque but gave it up to have simpler and more familiar meals at home. I’m hoping that I will find a welcoming community. I’ll report what I find for my Ramadan in DC series, God willing.