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.
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.
I appreciate that the central entrance is shared by both women and men and that it also wheelchair/stroller accessible.
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.
Before the renovations, the main building was a slightly expanded house and the musalla did not have a barrier. The current prayer space has a unique design encompassing two rooms divided by a hallway. The qibla (direction of prayer) is angled and the women’s room is off to the side of the men’s room.
Connecting the two spaces is a flat-screen television with closed-circuit link to the men’s room. The women’s section has large windows, which enable you to look through into the men’s section.
Sorry, no pictures of the women’s section because when I arrived the lights were off. I’m not exactly sure why the lights were off, possibly because there are no ceiling fans, and without ceilings fans it can get very hot in the musalla during well-attended prayers.
I’ve been to a lot of mosques where women pray in the dark even if in a separate room, behind a one-way mirror or behind a curtained partition because someone thinks it’s more modest or will prevent that stray brother from leering at the sisters.
I wanted to see where women with children pray and I was directed to the basement. I don’t think the renovations have made it to the basement. I noticed an elevator by the women’s musalla but I took the stairs down into the basement.
It was loud and noisy there with a few kids running around helter-skelter. A few mothers were praying down there but it must have been hard to concentrate with all of the noise.
At ISWA, they pray 8 rakah. The day I was there the hafidh leading the prayer recited at a measured pace, easy to understand, and good for reflection. The month wasn’t even half over and they had already reached Surah Luqman. Friends tell me that depending on which day you go, you might be praying behind a supersonic speed reciter, which would explain why they were so far along in the Quran.