Day 3 – MSA UBC Weekly Iftar – Muslim Students’ Association – The Nest at UBC – 6133 University Blvd – University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Unceded Territory of the Musqueam People

Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

MSA UBC is excited to announce weekly iftaars on campus every Monday and Thursday. The iftaar for the 29th of May and 1st of June will be held in the lower level of the nest (Agora) at 9pm.

We hope to see you there!

Muslim Students’ Association at University of British Columbia hosts Weekly Iftars Mondays and Thursdays.


For this first Monday in Ramadan 2017, I made my way from the Downtown Eastside and found the Nest easily enough. 6133 University Boulevard, Vancouver.

The “Nest” at UBC is in the building immediately north where all the bus routes  stop to turn around. End of the line.

Arrived with plenty of time before Iftar.

Three brothers, one of whom I recognized, were sitting and chatting. I introduced myself and  brother Hamzah reminded me where had met previously.

The other two, Azhar and Zafri were students from Malaysia.

Hamzah joked that he too was from Malaysia, when obviously being black skinned and from Africa, he was not.

Well, I had learned from Sheikh Abdullah Hakim back in Toronto, during one of his lectures, about him walking in Malaysia and suddenly seeing a Tall African Brother with biggest Afro he had seen in South East Asia.

Sheikh Abdullah Hakim asked his local host if they had many Africans in Malaysia, and was informed that man was of The Original People.

One percent of Malaysia today are people who are descendants of the original inhabitants. In Canada we might use the term Aboriginal or First Nations. In Malay, it translates as The Original People.

Brothers Zafri and Azhar share what they know. The wider population of Chinese, Indians, and ethnic Malays either ignore Original People when they encounter them in the cities, or in some cases, just give them a hard time.

The skin colour of Original People is closer to dark skinned African, and could never be mistaken for what one immediately thinks of when picturing a South East Asian.

Racism. Something we all have to work on, no matter where we are in the world.

Like the Reserve System here in Canada, many Original People in Malaysia live in their own areas, several hours distance outside of the larger cities.

If we’re talking Vancouver, this University Campus itself sits ON First Nations Land.

Unceded Territory of the Musqueam People to be exact. UBC is doing much in areas of reconciliation.

We compare the situations of Malaysia’s Indigenous People with Canada’s Indigenous People.

Not discounting anything, and Canada still has generations of racism to undo, but it sounds like Canada might provide some positive examples for Malaysia to consider with improving the day-to-day lives of their Original People.

Unlike yesterday, tonight’s Iftar dates will be soft and not coated in sticky honey.

I don’t know what this interior architecture is all about, but it was cool to look at.

Part of tonight’s volunteer duties for Hamzah, Azhar and Zafri is setting up the prayer space for tonight’s Sunset Prayer.

They choose a quiet spot, unused at this time of the evening, away from the tables.

The direction facing Makkah is always curious to me. From Vancouver, is it North or North-East a few degrees?

I recall UBC lies not on a true east-west street grid pattern, so that’s why the direction seemed too much to the right of the North facing wall, at first.

More students arrive.

Sunset time is now fast approaching.

UBC is in Summer Semester. Many international students have flown home for the summer. The current Muslim population on campus is not representative of the rest of the school year.

Many local students at UBC live off-campus throughout Metro Vancouver.

Perhaps half of tonight’s turn out are students who made an effort to make this first MSA Weekly Iftar.

Adhan Al-Maghrib. The Call to Sunset Prayer is made by Brother Hamzah.

Time to break fast.

In my wanderings around the Hall, I didn’t sit down at the table until the last moment. So no plate of dates was before me.

I break my fast with a cup of water.


…Water with a hint of lemon. Right, there were slices of lemon in the water cooler.

Good decision.

Breaking fast without a date. Different.

A simple cup of water can be most refreshing after a long 18 hours of fasting.

Dates and grapes on plates plus tangerines just beyond my reach.


Salat Al-Maghrib.

Hamzah tonight is both Muezzin and Iman. The one who Calls the Prayer and the One who is in Front leading the Prayer.

About the same number of sisters pray with us.

The line moves fast and pretty quick we all have Iftar Dinner plates in hand…

There was enough food tonight that volunteers invited a number of non-muslims students sitting in the hall to also have an Iftar Dinner plate.

What Student ever turns down free food?

That was nice to see.

About fifty brothers and sisters in total are here for Iftar. There’s also a family with a little baby.

Lentil rice and donair, with dollop or two of spices.

A Lebanese brother sitting beside me shares his Fattoush Salad with the table.

Fattoush is a mediterranean salad with pita bread playing the part of croutons.

Thankfully there is plenty to go around.

Conversations around me are in Arabic and Bengali. I pick up a few words from each but decide to eat rather than talk.

I switch tables and sit with Azhar and Zafri. Another introduction is made, Brother Sagjon. He is from Kazakhstan. I learn about his Korean Kazakhstani friends. After the Korean War, the USSR relocated many North Koreans throughout the Soviet Union. Including in the then Soviet Kazakhstan.

Our talk turns back to students stuff.

I had once heard that the Malaysian Government had a program where they would pay for the entire tuition for undergrad students to study anywhere in the world, on condition he or she would return to the country and work locally.

If the student stayed in the host country, the government would bill any remaining family living in Malaysia for the entire tuition cost which they had invested in.

Was that true?

Azhar and Zafri corrected and clarified for me how it works.

Yes, programs do exist where large Malaysian companies might sponsor the entire international tuition for undergrad students on condition they commit to working at the same company for their first five after graduation. If they do that, no student debt. They’re free!

Zafri himself was here because of one such contract he signed. He’s happy to be studying at UBC, and looks forward to using his knowledge to better his country at the company.

There are other programs where the Malaysian Government may pay for the entire tuition, then only request repayment between 20 to 30 percent of the total education cost.

I ask both of them what happens if no one pays?

They both laugh out loud and assure me, they find you. Somehow they find students who don’t pay. Being international doesn’t matter. They find you.

I joke a little bit about that possibility and we leave it at that.

I ask about Taraweeh Prayers on Campus.

There might be 15 people who pray 8 rakats which all prayers completed around midnight or so.

Followed by a very schedule late bus ride back downtown ahead of me.

I decide to call it a night and wrap up tonight’s 30Masjids visit.

Tonight’s Iftar was intended for Muslim Students studying on campus during the summer, or regular winter and spring semester students living off-campus who wanted to connect with their MSA friends during Ramadan.

The MSA at UBC does host an annual Community Iftar.

InshAllah, I’ll be back on June 14 for that to blog bit more about the MSA at UBC.

Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

MSA UBC excited to announce its annual community iftar! Come break your fast with your friends and family, and enjoy a delicious meal in a serene atmosphere. All students, families, and community members are welcome to attend.

Child-minding will be available for children 12 and under.

If you are interested in volunteering for the event, we encourage you to fill out the link… .

If you would like to donate towards the iftar, you can kindly email

*This iftar has been approved by Vancouver coastal Health and a permit will be on display on the day of the event inshaAllah*

When: Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Doors Open at 8 PM, Event starts at 8:30 PM

The Nest at UBC: The Great Hall
6133 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1

Price: Entrance by donation

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