“Our work is centred on experiential learning,” she says. “In addition to equipping teams of youth across the country to develop their own local programming, we organize cultural exchanges, conferences and experiential workshops.”
One such event was held recently at Saskatoon’s new Ahmadiyya Baitur Rahmat Mosque which is located on Grasswood Road East. People of all ethnicities were invited to tour the Mosque, experience Muslim prayers, hear about Muslim beliefs and traditions, and enjoy a meal and a time of interaction and discussion.
The tour began with visitors sitting in on Friday afternoon prayers during which the Muslim faithful were urged to “passionately show our love for Canada on Canada Day by flying the Canadian flag at our places of work and business to honour the beautiful people who have given us the opportunity to live here.”
The visitor group was comprised of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and was welcomed by Shamoon Rashid, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. He began by pointing out that Muslims do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex, and that prayers are segregated so worshippers will not be distracted from their praying.
The group learned that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community differs from other Muslim sects in that Ahmadiyyas believe the Reformer of the Age is not someone looked forward to at some time in the future, but has already arrived and will bring unity to the differing elements of Islam.
“We believe in one God, and in all the prophets of God, including Jesus and Moses,” Rashid said. “The Prophet Muhammad was the prophet to whom our Holy Book, the Holy Koran, was revealed. What he spoke and did in his practical life is recorded in a separate set of books.”
During the tour of the mosque, Rashid pointed out the fact that the building faces approximately northeast, which happens to be the shortest direction between Saskatoon and Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the religion he founded. All mosques point to Mecca, something that promotes unity, which is strongly emphasized in Islam.
“The mosque is where we gather five times a day to pray,” he says, “but it isn’t a place of worship only for Muslims. Anyone who believes in God can come here and pray.”
There are separate carpeted prayer rooms for men and for women. In both, worshippers pray shoulder to shoulder, no matter what their background or financial status, signifying that all are equal before God.
Friday is to Muslims what Sunday is to Christians. On Fridays, the Imam delivers a sermon and also leads prayers five times daily. Muslims can come from work, pray at the mosque, and then go back to work, or they can pray at work.
The dome, a recognizable element of all mosques, has a purpose. It was originally incorporated in the design because of its echo, which serves to magnify the Imam’s voice.
Saskatoon’s Baitur Rahmat Mosque is progressive and unique thanks to the environmental initiatives that went into its construction. It has in-floor heating, LED lighting throughout, and a noise-free environment in the prayer rooms. The walls are concrete construction which helps with energy efficiency and also blocks out traffic noise from the busy Yellowhead Highway.
Another nod to the environment is the recycling of water. “Muslims prepare for prayers by washing our hands and feet,” Rashid says. “The water used in washing is collected and recycled for toilet flushes.”
Provision has also been made for solar panels which will be installed at a later date.
A large multi-purpose hall accommodates organized sports like basketball, badminton, indoor soccer, hockey and volleyball. It is equipped with a backup generator for power and can also be used as a community emergency centre.
The prayer halls accommodate about 900 worshippers, and another 900 can fit into the multi-purpose room.
Tanveer Shah, the regional president of prairie region Ahmadiyyas, says the property on which the mosque stands was purchased in 1989 when the Ahmadiyya community only had about 10 families. “It was built with no debt, no loans, no mortgages, and no government assistance,” he says. “Funds were raised from Ahmadiyya community members across Canada. Many people contributed at great personal sacrifice, something that is highly regarded in Islam.”
The Saskatoon Ahmadiyya community is actively involved in charitable work in the community including blood drives, collecting a million pounds of food for the Foodbank, fundraising for the Children’s Hospital, planting 10,000 trees in Meewasin Valley parks, and much more.
Says Rashid, “For Muslims, there is a big emphasis on giving to the community.”