One of the last places to visit before leaving this part of Ontario is the West Windsor Musallah.
West Windsor is roughly found on the West Side of the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.
On the east side of the Ambassador Bridge is the main campus of The University of Windsor.
Passing under the Bridge, and suddenly you find yourself wandering what looks like the proverbial Wrong Side of The Tracks.
Blocks and Blocks with Rows and Rows of boarded up houses with trespass warning signs listing a private security firm’s phone number.
Overgrown grass in random spots, besides well manicured and well loved verandas of single story homes. The tree canopy of the neighbourhood also is haphazard.
A number of elderly ladies walking do so with umbrellas, providing personal relief from the Sun. It is a scorching hot afternoon.
The neighbourhood itself, is known as Sandwich, named for the former town which was amalgamated with Windsor back in the day.
Thankfully, whoever was in charge at the time, decided on the name West Windsor Musallah because naming a prayer space The Sandwich Musallah would be lame.
Doubly so, during Ramadan, when worshipers would be fasting… can you imagine,
Let’s go pray at Sandwich!
I would learn the history of the West Windsor Musallah from Brother Mushtaq after we had prayed Dhuhr. He introduced himself to me as I was leaving, his way of showing courtesy to a strange face. I’m glad he did.
Here’s the low down on the past 11 years, courtesy of Brother Mushtaq…
In 2002-2003, there were four or five brothers who lived here and wanted to pray any of the five daily prayers together. They easily found a small room in a house on Millen Street, which they rented until 2005.
By 2005 word had gotten out there was a prayer space on Millen Street. That room then became too small for the increased number of regular worshipers.
A bigger room was found in another house, this time on Brock Street. They rented that. But four or five years ago, it also became too small.
So, why were the numbers of worshipers going up, while the neighbourhood itself was going down?
A combination of the affordability of living in this neighbourhood and the location of the Musallah, kept bringing new Muslims into the neighbourhood.
Additionally, the location is very convenient for Students attending the University of Windsor to pop in here to pray, rather than the very long round-trip to Windsor Islamic Association on distant Northwood Road. Most students don’t own vehicles. West Musallah is within walking distance of Campus.
The timing was right. In 2005, a house was for sale near the original two prayer locations. A Muslim physician was approached with a request to purchase the property and use it as a proper prayer place, and he did.
This was one of the rare instances, where fundraising didn’t take too long at all. All it took was finding the one right person to foot the entire bill. The house at 3330 Bloomfield Road was purchased outright.
When you come looking for the West Windsor Musallah, there is no sign. The house number is not easily visible from the street.
The entrance to the Musallah is through the backyard, accessed by walking up the lane way beside the house and through the wooden fence gate.
The door to the stairway leading you downstairs may be open, but outside of the listed five daily prayer times, an access code is needed to open the door into the prayer hall. All the locals have the code.
If you find yourself there with the door locked. Just bang on the door a bit. You may luck out with someone already inside to open the door for you.
Once inside, you find an oasis in this basement Musallah. Everything is bright and clean and ordered.
In the centre of the front row, what looks like it might have been the niche for a fireplace, is a now a Mihrab for whoever is leading the prayers.
Beside the Mihrab is something I’d never seen before.
A sign asking worshipers to Turn ON The Light if Adhan Has Been Called is above a light switch beside the Mihrab.
There are normally two Adhans.
The First Adhan is like a 10 to 15 minute heads-up, before the Iqama. The second Adhan is said immediately before each of the five daily prayers is performed. Iqama means the standing up of in line ready to pray in Congregation.
That’s such a simple idea, yet easy to implement anywhere.
It makes much sense for small neighbourhood Musallahs and Masjids like this one to use this idea. Especially ones which do not have a dedicated Muezzin, to prevent the Adhan being called several times unnecessarily as successive waves of people gather for prayer approaching the time to do so.
I’ve witnessed that happen. Someone calls the Adhan, then a whole whack of people arrive who then don’t know if it’s been called, and suddenly someone from that new bunch stands and says the Adhan again.
Think of the on-air light bulb just outside Radio or T.V. studios when they broadcast live.
Kind of the same idea. And a good one.
Another simple idea I had never seen before, and found inside the West Windsor Musallah, was this Sacred book holder, on wheels, which you can rotate.
Again, I’d never seen anything like this anywhere else. It allows student and teacher to sit at 90 degrees or for several people to share the reading or referencing of the Qur’an or a Book of Hadiths–Sayings and Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace)– in the small basement space without moving around too much.
A very reasonable innovation. The wheels just make it that much easier to move the book without losing the page you were on. If I hadn’t visited this Musallah, I don’t know if I’d ever see this idea.
West Musallah, which is what most every Muslim in Windsor calls the West Windsor Musallah is not a Masjid.
By definition, a Masjid is a place that has all five daily prayers AND the weekly Friday Congregational Jumah prayer.
This location does NOT have Jumah prayers.
For that, many of the neigbourhood’s Muslims make the weekly trek out to the Big Masjid, the Windsor Islamic Association on Northwood Rd. at Dominion Blvd.
Through the month of Ramadan, anywhere from fifty to seventy people attend Maghrib and break the fast together with Iftar being shared daily.
Isha and Taraweeh prayers are seeing upwards of 150 people attending. The overflow crowd ends up praying upstairs. Upstairs is where the Sisters pray, so this doesn’t sound ideal.
Currently, when that happens, they may only have a row and half empty.
I didn’t fully understand what Brother Mushtaq was telling me about where and when and why the Sisters can pray upstairs. So I just don’t know anything certain about sisters praying facilities here.
It’s only been five years since moving here, but this space too will likely be bursting at the seams in the near future. The numbers of Observant Muslims moving into the area keep increasing.
In a Ramadan or few, it’s easy to imagine that the West Windsor Musallah, will have to become the West Windsor Masjid.
Whenever that happens, InshAllah, one can wonder what simple new ideas like the Adhan Light or the Rotating Sacred Book Holder on Wheels this Congregation will come up with!