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.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, I view it as a positive development. In spaces where the women and children are completely segregated into separate rooms, the imam cannot hear a child crying or laughing or screaming and playing.

If the imam is disconnected and cannot hear half of the congregation there is no way for him to implement the sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who would shorten the prayer when he heard a child crying so as to not distress the mother. Announcements to round up one’s children were equal opportunity and directed at both mothers and fathers.

Dar us Salaam’s imam Safi Khan seemed to be around more often this year than in previous years. Being an imam in America is a challenging job with fundraising, educational, and counseling responsibilities added to the job of leading prayer and guding a community. But this year, Br. Safi was a regular fixture leading salah and giving a number of the nightly lectures.

I know Ramadan is a major fundraising time for Muslim organizations as Muslims are encouraged to be extra generous in this month. Although, I wish we could devise a better method of fundraising that did not require holding the tarawih prayer hostage.

Most of Dar us Salaam’s Friday prayer lectures this Ramadan revolved around a topic, which after the khutbah was used for fundraising. I don’t mind this method of fundraising because you get a good lecture, and then afterward you have the choice to stay or roll out, and you don’t feel as pressured into giving just so we can resume praying.

A little short fundraising around the prayer is all good but I sat through a few fundraisers this Ramadan that were a little painful. There was one with a more than forty minute talk about why we should give to that particular cause plus additional time for actual fundraising.

Heading home after the prayer

Many nights we did not finish until after 11:30pm and then I would stay longer to socialize with friends. One of the things I love the most in Ramadan is getting together with so many Muslims day after day. Even if I’m tired, I often leave the prayer feeling energized.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

7 thoughts on “Ramadan in DC | Tarawih Prayer at the University of Maryland at College Park”

  1. Glad to hear it went well there, Alhamdulillāh. I was able to attend a few nights and I found it to be very enjoyable, especially with the reverberating echo making it feel like the Haram.

    I asked why they had no childcare, and I was told they had because none of the classrooms were children-friendly due to all of them having desks, podiums, etc.

  2. I wish all mosques had big areas where they could pray like this – men, children, women in the same room.

    Sometimes the noise of people talking when they leave after 8 rakats is so loud – it’s hard to concentrate on the imam as they start the 9th rakat … and these are older folk chatting despite repeated reminders! I find sometimes people when they get old start acting like children too.

  3. While I’m all for childcare, I actually liked having the children with us in a single room. It helps me to really get a sense of the community.

    I don’t know if the hadith of the grandsons of the Prophet (s) playing on his back during prayer or the fact the prayer is not obligatory for young children has led to an attitude of laxity but I learned a valuable lesson from a friend. She taught her children that during salah, they have a choice to either pray with everyone or to sit quietly. So I also use this technique when I watch children.

    And it generally works. There’s no option to run wildly, hitting and screaming, and carrying on.

  4. Honestly, it is a long prayer for children to sit through. When you are aware that you child is young, and can not tolerate praying that long, or sitting that long, please keep the child at home or appoint someone to look after the child while praying. We need to respect the concentration of others and also look out for the safety of our children.

    1. Safety of kids is big and has been a recurring issue when praying off-site at the Marriott and here at the University of Maryland.

      I said a special prayer for the parents of young kids who were not able to attend tarawih this year because it was so late or because they wanted to keep their kids from disturbing others, God bless ’em!

  5. Salam Ify 🙂

    I think some pens and scrap paper, and some children’s books would help keep the kids occupied during salat. There will always be a couple of noise makers, heh, but maybe they could be bribed with some candy if they agree to behave the whole salat. 🙂

    1. Salam Zabs, I actually have a pic of just that from the tarawih with some kids and an adult in a circle looking at some papers or coloring. Candy is a lovely bribe, even works on adults!

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