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