I’ve been in many mosques. From one end of the country to the other, and in other countries too, I enjoy seeing the plethora of variety when it comes to places of worship. However, few have held as special a significance as a small mosque in a small town, just south of Edmonton.
This was the first mosque I ever went to, just a few minutes away from the house where I accepted Islam.
In this mosque, there’s nothing fancy. It’s the same as it’s always been. The same box has been collecting donations, the same kitchen downstairs has been providing people with communal dinners, and the same bouncy castle has been providing children with entertainment, whether deflated or inflated. The prayer hall is just that—a hall, with a high ceiling, soft green carpet and little else. The same decorative rug of the Ka’bah hangs on the wall, reminding everyone of where we pray towards and the journey we must all one day take. Sure there’s been a few cosmetic changes: a better sound system, lines on the lime-green carpet to show which direction to pray in, a few new books on the shelf. But overall, this place has remained a constant, a pillar, for the community it serves. And even though many years have passed since I’ve frequented this mosque—my visits are only once or twice annually—going back feels like coming home.
I was blessed to be welcomed into this community, and for 4 years this was my foundation. I was married in this mosque, and I remember seeing my fiancée walk down the stairs into the basement hall, dressed in white. I remember filling my heart and mind with reminders and knowledge. I remember coming here, looking for answers after my divorce, and finding it in the sermon of a Friday prayer. I remember asking the imam about halal and haram, allowed and forbidden. I remember standing for the long evening prayers of Ramadan, my feet sore and my mind irritated because no one told me when it would end, but I followed along anyway. I remember Eid, a morning of prayer and children lining up to get their presents and money, and food—so much food, so new and so foreign to me—and communal joy.
This mosque, small though it may be, is filled with concentrated love and warmth.
I’ve since grown up, started my own life in the big city, with big mosques and big programs and high-profile speakers and imams and sheikhs. But even today, when I go back to that small mosque, I’m welcomed like a family member who has been away for a while. People whose names I can’t remember, but whose faces and voices envelop my memories, greet me with smiles and a genuine greeting of Salam alaikum—peace be upon you. Children run and play in the mosque. The men chatter about nothing too serious. The ladies jovially exchange stories. Qur’an is recited. Hadith is taught. The communal life of faith in its simplest form.
Here there are no big-name speakers or dedicated youth programs or intricate and expensive artwork or lavish fundraisers. Just a small building, a small community, but with some of the biggest hearts I’ve encountered.