The Mosque and Islamic Center of San Francisco Waqf on Crescent and Andover has long been a fixture in South Bernal, but we seldom hear much about it. In fact, it’s the oldest mosque in the Bay Area, as well as the second-oldest mosque in all of Northern California. Plus, four stars on Yelp! Who knew?
David Young, Bernalwood’s newest correspondent, recently reached out to Zishan Safdar, a Bernal native and lifelong attendee of the mosque, to learn more about this unassuming neighborhood institution:
Bernalwood: How long the mosque has been around?
Zishan: The Islamic Center of San Francisco (ICSF) was founded in 1959. It was founded when many brothers of the community decided that they, as Muslims, needed a place to pray and establish a foundation for the future generations. It’s the first mosque in the City of San Francisco, the first mosque in the Bay Area, and the second mosque in the entire Northern California. (The first is in Sacramento.)
The Islamic Center is a waqf. What does that mean?
Taken from Google, Waqf is defined as, “an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause.” Waqf in the Arabic language means to stop, contain, or preserve. So when this word is attached to the mosque or any religious institution, it also means that specific building can never be donated as a gift, inherited, or sold.
What about the community of Muslims who make up the mosque? Where are they from?
The community members who attend the mosque are from various backgrounds — including myself. I was born and raised in Bernal Heights on Cortland and Nebraska!
We have other members from India, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia. A majority of the members are San Francisco residents, including a good handful from Bernal Heights; a lot of commuters also drop by throughout the day to offer their prayers. There are a lot of converts who attend the mosque as well, including a few African-American converts and a Latino convert.
Besides daily prayers, what sort of events are held at the mosque?
Other than daily prayers, the mosque also hosts weddings, classes for both adults and children, Taraweeh prayers (prayers offered only during the month of Ramadan, the month Muslims fast in), the two Eid prayers, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, and also funeral services.
The mosque is also a hangout spot, especially for commuters who choose to come in and relax while waiting for the traffic to die-down, or who simply want to hang out between the prayers to enjoy some tea. There are also many youth programs, including monthly trips, dinners, and sporting events.
How would you describe the mosque’s place in the local Islamic community?
ICSF plays a major role in the Muslim community. Not only is it a place of worship, it’s also a community center for its attendees. Along with religious classes, which are offered to adults and children, we also have people from different professions who act as guidance counselors for anyone seeking advice. The mosque is a means for people to stay in touch as well; knowing you’ll have a shoulder to lean on when you’re in need is one of the most beautiful things we have to offer.
We focus a lot on the youth, too, and do our best to guide them to get the best of educations, be the best person they can be, and help them out if they’re facing any problems, whether it be family trouble, drugs, etc. We recently added a basketball court in the back of the mosque, too. There have also been tutoring sessions for students who need help with homework and we, as the elders in the community, try our best to guide the upcoming generation, both in terms of secular studies and religious studies.
What about the mosque’s role in Bernal?
The mosque plays a major role in the Bernal community as well. One of things I love most about San Francisco is how diverse it is, and, aside from all the awesome cultural food you’ll find in the city, you have people from many religious backgrounds here.
There are many churches in the Bernal Heights community and, as part of cultural diversification, it’s crucial to have a mosque to show the rest of the world how welcoming we are, regardless of one’s background.
ICSF —or any mosque for that matter — isn’t only limited to the people who follow the Islamic faith. Mosques are open to everyone, regardless of their background or religion, and at ICSF we always welcome everyone with open hearts.
I’d like to stress: We’d love to have more people from the Bernal community drop by the mosque to learn more; we’re always open to visitors! We’d love to have a “community night” at ICSF if the Bernal Height community is interested. I think it would be an amazing event where everyone could get to know each other and just have a good time.
PHOTOS: Top, Zishan Safdar. All photos by David Young for Bernalwood