Darul Khair Islamic Center, Suite 133 – 135 St. Denis Drive in Flemingdon Park.
There is so much to say about this little Musallah.
There is so much going on, it will always be a tight fit.
I biked from downtown and had plenty of time to pray Asr, not in Jamat, I had missed the congregational Asr time for prayer.
Instantly, I am recognized as an outsider. An elder brother directs me to the small two station wudu facility.
I pray alone.
Once completed, I ain’t off the hook. The Elder gently asks all about me. He tells me not to take any more photographs. I point to the mounted photo of the Holy Kaabah in Makkah which adorns the front wall of the Musallah.
He emphasises Oh but that’s the Kaabah.
Eventually, he makes his case that the Kaabah photo is of the building and architecture around it, not the faces of the people. His objection is that no photographs of people’s faces should be taken.
Okay. I’ll agree to that. He seems okay with an assurance. He continues reading his Qur’an.
Plenty of time until Iftar. Youth are helping set up the Iftar break fast finger foods underneath the awning.
Stepping outside, I introduce myself to a number of young brothers hanging around.
One of the young brothers, Irfan, gives me the 411.
The masjid’s presence has lowered the crime rate. A police officer once confirmed to him that it’s a near zero crime rate . With Muslims coming and going early in the morning and late in the night, there are always eyes on the street.
Until recently, the area underneath the awning was enclosed.
The owners of this private apartment building decided the enclosure had to be removed.
The enclosure previously allowed worshippers to pray with peace of mind during rain or snow or temperature extremes.
Now, when it rains, despited the awning, it rains upon the faithful who grin and bear it.
But there’s also another problem.
The property managers have fenced their shared green spaces so it is no longer shared. Rationale was to keep criminals out. But duh, anyone who wants to come into the shared green space just hops the fence. Which is what youth now have to resort to they come to pray from various directions. In urban planning these are called desired paths.
The elderly Muslims, they now have an unnecessary burden of walking a longer distance around the fencing to come to pray several times a day.
The fencing is definitely undesired.
Unlike the basement prayer spaces in Regent Park provided without charge by Toronto Community Housing, Darul Khair in Flemindon Park occupies and pays for two rented apartments on the ground level which have been converted into their small masjid.
Being on Ground Level is incredibly important.
One of the reasons this masjid was founded and exists where it does, is that it allows elderly Muslims who have trouble negotiating floors to easily walk into this prayer space.
Unlike Regent Park, a basement or second storey or higher prayer space would not work well for its congregants.
Recently, some new tenants have moved into an apartment opposite and a few flights above the musallah. Sometimes during prayer time, these tenants turn their speakers facing outward in their windows and blast loud music.
The Muslims grin and bear this also.
One could almost pretend this is a tiny drawbridge one must walk over to enter Darul Khair.
It’s so much easier walking this bridge for many who live within a few minutes of this Masjid, than it is to walk over the real bridge needed to reach Masjid Darus Salaam in Thorncliffe Park four kilometres away.
Because there is no available land to be bought and developed, and there being only apartment buildings in this central location in Flemingdon Park, the congregation is somewhat stuck.
Beyond renting another apartment on either side of the existing masjid, there remains little opportunity to meet the needs of a growing Muslim population here.
This Masjid just happens to be central to the largest number of Muslims living around it.
If something were to come up a few blocks north or south, there would be an added burden for those unlucky enough to live in the opposite direction. Seniors especially.
That former enclosed space currently underneath the awning was the reasonable solution. Yet, the property management arbitrarily nixed it. It may be their right. But it is still wrong.
After Iftar and Maghrib, the prayer hall empties out. Everyone has gone the few steps home for family time or resting up before Isha and Taraweeh prayers.
I am alone with only one or two brothers sitting.
This Musallah was opened in 2001. It was about half the size it is now.
For all its practical simplicity, the Mihrab stands out and is Darul Khair’s most outstanding example of Islamic Calligraphic Artwork.
Contrast it with the simple three step mimbar to the right, and its detail becomes even more pronounced. Within are painted a number of the 99 Names of God-Alone found in The Qur’an.
I biked the few blocks for a coffee at Mickey Dees and hustle back as Isha time is close. I witness numerous brothers also rushing back. Darul Khair is indeed convenient to them all.
Tonight I only pray eight rakats.
All through Ramadan, the Masjids I have visited are taking this opportunity to fundraise for expansion.
Here in Flemingdon Park, they can’t expand up nor can they go down, and when they expanded outward, they were told they couldn’t do that either. There are no commercial properties to buy let alone rent and convert into a prayer space.
This is a fully functioning masjid. They have counselling, Qur’an classes, and provide a safe place of youth to hang out.
They have space for a few hundred worshippers if everyone squeezes in. I witnessed as much during Taraweeh Prayers.
As I leave, I look back and feel for this congregation.
For the foreseeable future, Darul Khair Islamic Centre in Flemingdon Park will remain a tight fit.