You must first walk over a bridge if you want to pray in Thorncliffe Park’s Masjid Darus Salaam.
Leaving the first day of the First Qur’an Festival in the Ontario Science Centre, I had intended to break fast at a smaller masjid/musallah that I believe would be a first time visit for me.
At the intersection, I struck up a conversation with a kufi wearing brother, asking him directions to it and sharing with him my 30Masjids project.
Because I’d be blogging it, he really encouraged me to walk the twenty minutes to Thorncliffe Park instead. He kind of hinted that there would not be much of a story at the smaller one.
This wasn’t the first time Masjid plans had changed.
It seems even when I know which Iftar I am heading towards, I don’t know if I will end up there!
It’s a pleasant enough walk and I am quickly standing beside a box of flowers in front of Masjid Darus Salaam, Islamic Society of Toronto, 4 Thorncliffe Park Road.
Many Muslims just call and refer to it as Thorncliffe.
It’s located in an industrial park north of where thousands of Muslim families live in rental units filling up high rise apartment towers.
The Chinese Community has T&T.
T&T is a chain of giant Asian Supermarkets, halfway between a Loblaw’s and the food section at Wal-Mart.
Toronto’s South Asian Muslim Community has Iqbal Halal Foods. It’s diagonally opposite to the masjid.
And it is MASSIVE.
In this era of online news and electronic communities, to a great extent the Thorncliffe Park community relies on and makes use of plain old fashioned flyers.
These flyers don the outside wall of Iqbal’s.
They seem to be current.
And now the Iftar stop for tonight’s 30Masjids.
This masjid is a puzzle.
Inside the main entrance is artwork saying Ahlan wa Sahlan in Arabic.
Yet this is not a predominantly Arab masjid congregation.
Ahlan wa Sahlan may be best translated
May you arrive as part of the family and tread an easy path as you enter.
There are similar works of art hanging on a few more walls.
There is enough Iftar food on the plate of rice in front of us to qualify as a full Iftar dinner. But we must scarf it down before Maghrib begins momentarily.
I AM very grateful for the food. No complaints at all.
The choice to do things this way is another piece in a puzzle.
Sitting inside what is normally a classroom, I’m waiting to break the fast along with mostly South Asian urdu speakers.
The Adhan is expected very soon…
But an Adhan is not played over the public speaker system.
Instead, a Ramadan break fast prayer dua echoes throughout the masjid encouraging people to repeat after it and open their fast.
Hurry up and finish Iftar dinner in time for Maghrib Salat.
Another puzzle piece.
Adhan al Maghrib is called inside the men’s prayer hall.
We pray and afterwards, I linger in the front row staring at the bookshelf.
Something is different about it.
It takes a while to understand what’s puzzling me about the books.
All the Islamic Books are shelved horizontally.
In any other masjid, people remove volumes from shelves with reverence and return them with equal reverence in their proper vertical places.
I need coffee.
It’s time for a Timmies…
Stepping outside the Masjid, there are teenage boys across the street in the back of the Tim Horton’s parking lot igniting firecrackers.
No not SMALL firecrackers.
Some of them peter out. Others don’t quite make their mark. All of them loud. All of them drawing a crowd of onlooking cab drivers and pedestrians.
The young ones near where the firecrackers are being lighted from, keep yelling and laughing with each visual success and audible bang and with each failure too.
Inside Tim Horton’s half-expectedly I bump into my cousin Faisal and his wife and daughter.
While we catch up, I introduce my travelling pocketgnomes Chico Mouse and A Girl Named Leroy to my little niece, Wania.
Faisal lives a short walk from Masjid Darus Salaam, but because of his overnight work schedule, he can’t attend any Tarawih prayers.
Many breadwinners in Thorncliffe park are also locked into shift work, hence unable to pray properly during Ramadan.
People have a tendency to create small public prayer spaces using common rooms in their apartment towers. It’s too far to walk for many of our elders in summer or winter, that make sense.
It also takes too long to walk from the residential part of Thorncliffe Park to the industrial part for others. Hence, many able bodies also just use the elevator to get to where they pray in congregation. Does that make sense?
We’ve seen this movie before.
More pieces in this puzzle.
Faisal has to head to work, Chico and Leroy and HiMY say good night to Wania.
I naturally have a high metabolism. I burn off what I eat. Quickly. Halal Hakka food is in order.
Beyond falafel and pizza joints dotting the downtown core open after last call, there isn’t too much variety if you’re looking for halal restaurant food after 2 a.m.
But that’s the rest of Toronto. This is still downtown East York to many.
Yes Hakkah Garden closes around Isha time, but a number of other Halal Eats around Thorncliffe’s strip malls remain open longer.
Cab drivers and shift workers help to ensure that remains the status quo.
Before entering the Masjid, there is overflow of sisters getting ready to pray outside of the women’s prayer room on the parking lot.
But this masjid wasn’t as sister friendly as many other masjids?
Why an overflow crowd of sisters tonight?
After 8 rakats, the exodus begins.
Before the 9th rakat starts, fundraising time.
Not fundraising for this masjid. Fundraising for that masjid. The unfinished one. In Mississasuga.
A mild fundraising reminder for the Cooper’s masjid in Mississauga.
It’s been twenty years and Cooper’s has yet to complete their transformation.
It may be the longest in-progress fundraising for any Masjid in the GTA. I recall this same pitch in the early nineties.
Another puzzling question, why?
I’m in the mood to pray until the full twenty rakats are completed.
My legs are not. My eyes pull rank. Sleep is attacking me inside my Tarawih salat.
It’s hard to keep standing tonight.
My legs want to walk home.
I have little choice but to join them.
All of the ingredients, the pieces are in Thorncliffe Park to transform this community into something inspiring and a role model for other like neighbourhoods.
The pieces are all a jumble right now.
One can’t quite see the puzzle, the big picture, completed yet.
Sitting on the front stoop of Masjid Darus Salaam tying my shoelaces.
I look back and sigh at the ocean of footwear strewn about.
To safely traverse these shoes, one could easily make use of a bridge.