Meet the Community from the Mosque and Islamic Center on Crescent



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

33 thoughts on “Meet the Community from the Mosque and Islamic Center on Crescent

  1. I’d also love to come to a community event. We live nearby and I always want to meet more of my neighbors. 🙂

  2. Community event is a wonderful idea! I hope you will follow up with this idea and spread the word here and via other faith communities on The Hill. Thanks to Bernal Wood for doing this interview.

  3. Does the mosque have any festivals or fundraisers or such that community members can come to? Particularly with food!!!

  4. Thank you for this information. Who knew? We live on Andover a block and a half away from the mosque. I’ve always been so curious but didn’t know if I’d be welcome. Please DO an open house, or a series of them. It’s nice to have a mosque in the neighborhood. Would love to learn more.

  5. I love this story, thank you for posting it. I would be so very happy to attend a community event in which we can visit the Mosque and get to know those who worship and find comfort there. I was totally unaware of any of this history, and am so impressed to know that it goes back to the late 1950’s and was only the 2nd Mosque in northern California.

    Not long ago, I heard a story on NPR about a Mosque hosting neighbors and it was such a lovely story. So many of the attendees spoke glowingly of the event and the kindnesses extended to them. I was not able to find that story, but here’s a similar one. (BTW, I hate to put the responsibility on the Mosque to host us. I would be happy if it were a potluck or something like that. But I do like the idea of having the event at the Mosque, if that’s OK, to keep the focus there and to learn more about all they do.)

  6. What a nice piece of reporting! We’d love to attend an open house or community event – potluck sounds good too. 🙂

  7. Excellent; thank you for the piece. I’d love to attend a community night and feel a little Bismillah!

  8. Since the crescent moon is a symbol of Islam, I always wondered if the mosque was located on Crescent street intentionally or if it was a happy coincidence.

  9. A big thank you for this story. I’m a 30-year Bernal resident, and I’ve often wondered about the mosque. I strongly encourage its leaders to host a neighborhood “get acquainted” event. If you do, please announce it through this blog at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance.

    Matthew Krieger

  10. Hi-
    does anyone have contact info for Zishan Safdar? I want to maybe help organize something.

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  13. Thanks for welcoming me into your community on MLK Day. I thought you would enjoy this video bio about Edgar Allen Poe. Today is the anniversary of his birth. Please destribute (after leadership & parental approval) to the youth of your community, especially those who are registered with the Getty’s Detective Slueth Program.

    James Pagano II
    aka Baby ICEL to the White House and my adopted US Marine Platoon, Starkist =>me

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