It is a Saturday evening and your racing endorphins put you on the edge as you prepare to attend your first ever Qiyam-Al-Layl, a Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions to stand up in worship all night long. You napped during the day just to get the energy to stay awake during this night. You are excited and pumped up for what was promised to you in those emails. But what they didn’t advertise is the disorganization that most of these Qiyams end up in. You may walk in hoping to hear from a specific Shaykh, as scheduled in the program, and instead find a different person speaking. You may even get caught in a stampede of hungry Muslims as they try to get their meals because the food had arrived 30 minutes late and dawn, the time to start the fast, is only 10 minutes away. In past Qiyams, these issues were expected and looked over as “just another Muslim problem”. And yet, while punctuality is key for a Muslim event, very rarely do we see it play out. By embracing technology and communication and harnessing the help of the youth in the mosques can help, insha’Allah (God-Willing), make these events punctual.
On a Saturday evening, over 900 people gathered for Qiyam at the Islamic Socity of Corona-Norco. This year, the mosque hoped to set an example for others. Imam Mustafa Umar said that one of their goals “was to make it the most organized and planned Qiyam ever, because these events are usually very unorganized. So we wanted to change that and set a new standard.” The Imam had told me that the “schedule was thought out and revised at least 20 times in order to ensure we were as close to punctuality as possible”. The Qur’an recitation began exactly as scheduled at 11:30 PM and throughout the evening every event began and ended within minutes of its allotted time. “When you say that a program will start at this time, your word should be your bond,” emphasized the Imam. “However, most Muslims seem to not care at all about time, even though Allah has sworn by it in the Qur’an. I make sure that this rule is followed strictly, even if there is only one person there.”
In helping fulfill the promise of punctuality, the mosque utilized a vast array of technology. The schedule was displayed on both a projector and a High-Definition television and was edited live behind the scenes in case a speaker did not show up. Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail were utilized to advertise the event and feedback was requested at the mosque’s online suggestion box. The technologically acquainted Imam says that he “hopes and prays that other Muslim institutions embrace this technology as we have. By utilizing this technology, we can all advance the efficiency of our mosques. Keep in mind, there is still much opposition from influential members of our own community in using this technology, but we must fight for that which pleases Allah”.
To broaden the accessibility of the Qiyam, the mosque invited One Legacy Radio (OLR) to broadcast the Qiyam live. The Programming Director of OLR, Marya Bangee, told me that they “have begun to do this with other mosques and broadcasted live from Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Long Beach last May.”
One particularly important aspect about this Qiyam was that the youth were in control of everything from planning to logistics. By empowering the youth to take leadership, the Imam increases efficiency at the mosque. Youth, who are generally more embracive of technology and thus can adapt to quick changes in plans, can resolve any situation that arises quickly. College student Nora Diab, one of the Logistics Coordinators, believes that “if people see this work effectively, they may want to bring this back to their own mosque. So many leaders from different communities are observing and what they should or should not do for their own mosque, so we are all learning”. And this is what this mosque hopes to achieve. By setting a new standard in technology, punctuality, and innovation, they hope to inspire other mosques to follow in that path. Are you up for the challenge?