Day 3 – Zawiyah Foundation – 6945 Victoria Drive – Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory, British Columbia

Zawiyah Foundation at 6945 Victoria Drive in South Vancouver.

This is one of the Islamic Centres I missed breaking fast in during 30 Masjids in 30 Days in Metro Vancouver during Ramadan 2017.

Like breaking fast inside the White Rock Musallah on Day 1, in a sense, I am tying up loose ends here from Last Ramadan.

The Zawiyah Foundation functions almost as a kind of Third Space in Vancouver, something closer to SeekersHub in the Greater Toronto Area or Taleef Collective in Fremont, California.

Like Taleef, Zawiyah was founded in 2005.

Though I didn’t visit here during Ramadan 2017, I have since attended Zawiyah‘s regular weekly programs on occasion.

There are classes on Wednesday evenings and Sunday Mornings.

Thursday evenings are Dhikr circles, where the Remembrance of Allah is recited with a West African Sufi flavour.

I have found attending these simple events uplifting and memorable. The Dhikr pleasingly echoing in my mind’s ear for days, if not weeks after each visit.

I arrived early enough to find my choice of empty carpet spots to park myself until Iftar.

The entire length of this first floor is buzzing with activity. The overall space is large enough to have separate Sisters’ and Brothers’ areas, yet small enough that children constantly run to and from both areas.

The kitchen area is in back of the main prayer room which is truly a multi-purpose space. Kitchen, Prayer Hall, Classroom, all in one.

A cultural observation among some North American or European Muslims is that in Muslim Societies we separate the Genders while combining the Generations. Whereas in Western Societies we combine the Genders while separating the Generations.

Because of the smallness of the overall space, the food area in the back, the single front entrance for everyone’s use, and logistics of holding congregational prayers here, the Genders though not shoulder to shoulder, are often combined in this Third Space.

Very much like Taleef and SeekersHub.

As Iftar time approached, a number of brothers and sisters would recognize me, a few of them said Salam and how happy they were to see me again.

Having been in White Rock and then Nanaimo the first two days, the Small Town feeling is still within me.

I recognize that feeling is also here, yet it’s different.

Most people know each other at Zawiyah. The way they welcome and interact with one another reminds me of my own extended family.

The adab, the Behaviour, of this congregation feels like one big multi-lingual, multi-national, multi-generational, family of cousins and nieces and nephews and uncles and aunties.

A Small Town of Muslims inside of Vancouver. Who knew?

It took me a visit during Ramadan to recognize and appreciate this observation, which eluded me on previous visits.

If Zawiyah is an Extended Family, then its founder, Imam Fode Drame, is the grand patriarch.

I still haven’t every had an in-depth conversation with Imam Fode Drame.

Forgive me as it’s easier for me to quote this bio from his official webpage:

Imam Fode Drame was born in the Senegambia region of West Africa. He descends from the clan of Jakhanke whose unique expression of Islam dates back over 1,100 years; when Drame’s people first accepted Islam and became the primary teachers, healers and religious leaders for the entire region.

By the age of 5, Imam Drame had begun his formal studies, which included not only putting to memory the entirety of The Qur’an but also detailed study of Arabic grammar and poetry, Quranic exegesis, the traditions of the Prophet Muhummad, and most notably, the knowledge and practice of spiritual excellence, otherwise known as Sufism.

In addition, Imam Drame is gifted in languages; before leaving his native Gambia for Quebec to pursue a BA in linguistics at University of Quebec, Imam Fode had already taught himself French, German, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.

Since arriving in Canada in the 1990s, Imam Fode Drame has continued in the tradition of the Jakhanke imams, by serving as a community leader and scholar of Islam (commonly termed ‘Imam’), however he has also been an extraordinary teacher of Quranic exegesis, a guide for spiritual development or ‘tasawwuf’, and a healer to all those who seek his support.”

The Imam is softspoken. An economy of words said aloud adds to the gravity of whatever it is he conveys. Even when speaking with children, he speaks directly, gently.

Adhan Al Maghrib, The Call to Sunset Prayer has been made. I have broken my Fast.

A plastic tarp was unfurled before The Adhan was called. It turns the Prayer Hall into an Iftar Dining Room.

Tarp is re-furled and The Brothers lined up for Prayer. We tried to squeeze all the brothers into the first two lines, so as to allow at least some sisters to pray in the remaining lines behind. Nope. Ain’t Happening.

Too many people here tonight for Iftar and Maghrib. Sisters will pray altogether in the front room.

The Imam is MIC’d, the speaker positioned to carry the Allahu Akbars into the hall and the front room.

Afterwards, many brothers, myself included, due to the shortage of comfortable prayer spots opt not to pray the optional though very encouraged post-maghrib sunnah prayers comprised of 2 Rakats.

The food was good. There was enough for seconds. The conversations were muted as Children jostled and ran around, holding some of our attention.

After my second helping, there was time enough to pause and just reflect. Others were doing the same.

I still have sleep that is missing from my system, my eyelids have become garage doors. I will need coffee for Taraweeh.

Thankfully, right across the street is a 7-11. Within minutes I have popped over, created my own self-serve makeshift cup of mocha, and have returned to my sitting spot inside the prayer room.

The Imam leads the Isha Prayers.

For Taraweeh, different brothers lead the first 4 Rakats, and the next 4 Rakats.

At which point, having completed 8 Rakats of Taraweeh Prayer, I again know I need to exit. There is still much sleep inside me. No one other than myself calls it quits at 8. That was sort of unusual.

Thinking back, I guess it wasn’t.

The Taraweeh Leaders were reciting short numbers of verses from The Qur’an in each Rakat. So 20 Rakats would likely be completed very quickly. I’m already waiting at the bus stop as I think about that. Might I have been able to stay standing and also complete 20?

Aw well.

Zawiyah truly feels as if you’ve breathed fresh air when you are here. It’s a nice prayer place with an overall pleasant Muslim cultural atmosphere.

There are a number of projects that all together make up Zawiyah, one of them is Qawsain Knowledge House, a Provincially licensed Independent School, teaching Kindergarten to Grade 5.

Qawsain is located within walking distance of Zawiyah across the intersection and down a few doors.

Another of Imam Fode Drame’s projects is Masjid Tawbah. An as yet unrealized New Masjid or Islamic Centre in Vancouver. Going from how many people were here for Iftar tonight, it’s more of a necessity than an aspiration.

Perhaps I’ll break my fast and blog about it inside a newly opened Masjid Tawbah Vancouver in a future year’s 30 Masjids visit?



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