The Dar us Salaam community in College Park, Md has lost the use of its musalla for large events like Friday prayer, Eid, 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.
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.