Established in 1969, the Muslim Community Center (MCC) is known to be one of the pioneer mosques in the city of Chicago. I'm not sure if it is the first mosque here, but it most definitely feels so. Formerly an old theater hall, remnants of it's past are still visible today, even with cosmetic renovations. A few grand chandeliers and a velvet, red colored stage curtain still decorate the main hall. I remember playing tag and hide-and-seek in the halls of MCC as a young boy while attending the occasional nikkah and "roza rakhayee" with my family. Not much has changed since those days- the kids still run around everywhere and create a ruckus of all sorts. As I made my way to the prayer hall, I had bumped into a few children springing and sprinting, and on the same token, a kid or two almost tripped me up!
|After 20 years, Children still running around|
Isha and the first ten rakats were led by a Somalian brother whose voice sounded a lot like Shaikh Shuraim. The last ten were led by another brother with a softer higher-pitched voice. Tarawih was led at a medium pace, but was completed in a shorter time than I had expected.
The Holy Quran states about Laylatul Qadr- The Night of Power, "The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. (97:3)"... "Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn. (97:5)"
Being the last ten nights of Ramadan and the possibility of Laylatul Qadr being the date on any odd night of the last third of the month, MCC hosts Qiyam ul Layl starting at 12:30 AM, continuing until Fajr salat.
I had heard incredible things about qiyam at MCC last year, and decided to try it out myself this Ramadan. A few of my friends from the suburbs also came through, and there was some time between tarawih and qiyam, so we decided to have a light meal at a corner cafe beforehand in preparation for what was coming next.
The Imam covers 1/10 of the Quran each night in qiyam prayers divided into sets of two rakats each. That converted precisely to just a few minutes shy of one hour to complete only two rakats! Never before had my knees buckled standing before Allah Subhanahuwa Ta'ala in prayer. When it was time to go into ruku, I could barely bend all the way. The weakness in my legs and feet sent messages to my mind to just sit down, but then I got to thinking for a second. This is just one night, one hour, and I already want to give up. If I can't make it through this, how will I be able to face my Creator on Yaum al-Qayamah, a day which feel like fifty thousand years. This thought quickly put things in retrospect for me so I put my petty weakness behind and continued through the end of the second rakah.
After the first set, Imam Feysal got on the mic and reminded us that this very well may be the Night of Power, and for some of the worshipers in itikaaf who were resting in the back to wake up from their sleeping bags. Imam Feysal is blessed with amazing qirat, a complete unique style of his own. He leads all twenty rakats of tarawih at Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, then treks the 30 minute ride back to the city at MCC to lead qiyam all while maintaining a career. I don't know how he does it!
I poured a glass of cold water and chugged it down as I was contemplating if I should stay and continue qiyam for the remainder of the night. My excuses to leave eventually got the best of me and I decided to head back home- those rakats are really, really long! Hopefully next time time around I'll be able to continue the whole night, inshaAllah.