Day 6 – Downtown Musallah – Granville and Smithe Streets – Vancouver

Another Ramadan. Another Musalah without an official name. This time in Downtown Vancouver.

Last year, during our New Brunswick Leg of 30 Masjids Canada, during Day 10 and Night 11 of Ramadan 2016, I prayed in a new Musalah in Saint John. It was created for then newly arrived Syrian Refugees in easing the experience of their first Ramadan in Canada.

The then new Masjid was at 370 Somerset Street in Saint John was so new, it didn’t yet have an official name.

On the very last day of Ramadan 2016, I prayed Dhuhr, the mid-day prayer, in Downtown Vancouver on the ground floor in a small cozy prayer space accessed via the alley behind 888 Granville Street, a few metres north off Smithe Street.

During Ramadan however, Iftar, Maghrib, Isha and Taraweeh are found upstairs…

Walking up the carpeted steps, I’m slightly amazed at what I’m seeing. In an instant, a feeling of recognition, a sense of place overtakes me.

Last year, I wrote about the ground floor prayer room and how it felt like Steve Rockwell‘s Sheikh Deedat Centre in Downtown Toronto. Tonight, I learn this really is Vancouver’s equivalent,  all the way over on this side of the country.

I still had to pray my late afternoon prayer, Asr. I perform wudu among the blue tiles. I pray in-between the plastic sheets laid out for Iftar place settings.

Volunteers are busy making and placing plates of dates, sweets and bottle of water throughout the room.

Like me moments earlier, this just arrived brother prays Asr and does so in the same spot I did.

If these two plates were all that was before the fast breakers tonight, this alone would make for a good Iftar.

Yet volunteers remain busy preparing plates. Buttermilk is now in the mix before us as more and more and more brothers arrive.

One brother is going person to person and handing out Miswak, which are small neem and peelu Toothbrush tree branches. Miswak is how people in earlier times kept good oral hygiene.

I’ve been using Auromere toothpaste, whichis nearly the same thing, since my early twenties. I almost can’t brush with anything else now.

More and more Iftar food is being handed out by the volunteers. Soup too!

 

This bowl has me excited. During Turkish Iftars, soup is usually served. Sometimes it is yogurt based soup, more often it’s lentil soup. Whichever it is, it’s always tasty!

I’m eyeing both different soups laid out before us. It really would be bad form to drink both bowls… but… but…

More Iftar food is being passed down the line. Samosa. A kind of custard bread. Cartons of Five Alive and Buttermilk. Tradition arab style sweet fried flour things.

Over 40 people are now here. And there’s always room for one more.

At a few minutes before the real sunset time, someone’s smartphone Muslim Prayer Reminder App begins playing the Call to Prayer. We all know it went off about five minutes too earlier. Someone else jokingly says, “Adhan! Adhan!”

The room erupts in laughter. We all can’t wait to break our fasts. Our 18 Hour Fasts.

Minutes later, once more, another smartphone begins playing a loud recording of the Call to Prayer. This time it’s quickly shut off. No one says anything.

The room is mostly quiet now. It is understood that the prayer of a fasting person is accepted at the time of breaking one’s fast. Many are in reflective prayer.

More minutes pass.

Suddenly and expectedly, numerous smartphones throughout the room begin playing recordings of the Adhan virtually within seconds of one another.

The Muezzin stands up beside the east wall and begins Adhan Al-Maghrib, The Call to Sunset Prayer. It is time to break the fast. Many had already begun doing so the moment the symphony of smartphone Adhans sounded.

A wonderful, tasty, soft, date plus a cup of Five Alive juice to break the sixth day of fasting.

Everyone cordially shares the Iftar finger foods. I wonder how the logistics will play out in this small space? No one is rushing their food, and there is so much of it tonight. Will everyone stay for Isha and Taraweeh prayers?

I’m too busy eating to snap any more pictures.

Alhumdulillah, praise be to God Alone, my tiny private request to enjoy the bowl of soup during Iftar, is fulfilled. There wasn’t enough bowls of soup for everyone. Yet, as everyone was finishing up their last bites, and volunteers began collecting all the plastic sheets and disposables, no one wanted the other bowl of soup close to me. It’s better to drink it than have it go to waste. I was able to taste each of the two different soups tonight.

They did bring me back, for a moment, to my Turkish Iftars in Toronto.

The dining hall is again, a prayer hall.

Duct taped lines on the carpet perpendicular facing Makkah. Again makes me feel this is Vancouver’s equivalent of Steve Rockwell‘s Sheikh Deedat Centre steps away from Yonge-Dundas square.

Salat Al-Maghrib. The Sunset Prayer. It’s a tight fit, but forty or so brothers stand side by side. This about double the number of people who could squeeze into the prayer space downstairs.

Because of space and the numbers of worshippers present, I decide to forego my optional, though strongly recommended two Rakats (units) of Sunnah prayers. I observe almost everyone else also doing the same. Almost all of performed the congregational prayer, Maghrib, and that’s it for now.

The Prayer Hall transform into a Dining Hall once more. Plastic is unrolled.

Awaiting Iftar Dinner to be served, smartphones are out and about.

Chicken.  Yogurt with cucumbers. Rice. Potatoes. …As a one-time former fiancé would say to me from time to time, “Would like starch with your starch Mr. Syed?”

Tasty starch.

Half a cup of hot sugary milky tea to wash down Iftar Dinner.

Much of the Iftar conversations around me are in Arabic or African dialects and languages. The brothers immediately around me are busy eating and not chatting too much. I still want to learn the story here, but I can wait for the right time.

It’s pushing 10 p.m. and most Iftarees [is this even a word…? Now it is!] have left. Still an hour until Isha, the Night Prayer, followed by Taraweeh. I learn they pray 8 Rakats (units) of prayer for Taraweeh. They intend to finish all prayers by Midnight.

Apparently, a new vacuum cleaner is being unboxed for the first time.

While the volunteers figure out the Vacuum, I already know where the coffee is. Down the stairs and around the block.

The steps are steep. The carpeting, confusing.

Do I keep my shoes off the carpet and put them on at the downstairs landing, or can I walk on it with my shoes?

Historically, Vancouver was the North American with the most neon signage, second only to Las Vegas, and once comparable to Shanghai China’s neonscape.

If you can find the famous Orpheum Theater on Granville Street, you can find the alley way entrance to this Downtown Vancouver prayer space that doesn’t exactly have an official name.

These and other maps like this, are on City of Vancouver wayfinding information pillars all over the city. The top of the map is the direction in which you are facing the map, sometimes south, sometimes north, like the two examples above.

This map shows how central in Vancouver this Musallah is. It’s right in the middle of Downtown.

Granville Street is also Granville Entertainment District. It’s again akin to Toronto’s Sheikh Deedat Centre literally being around the corner from Yonge-Dundas Square.

Having found my coffee, mixed with hot chocolate, am now caffeined up and return for Taraweeh.

Adhan Al Isha.

Call to The Night Prayer.

We prayed Isha, 8 Rakats of Taraweeh and Witr. We were done by 12:05 a.m.

Not as many people prayed as had been here for Maghrib and Iftar, but the room was nearly full.

Afterwards speaking with Brother Muhammad, one of the volunteers, I learn the story about this Prayer Space.

A Muslim owns the north-west corner of Granville and Smithe. He makes this second floor available only during Ramadan for Maghrib, Iftar, and Isha and Taraweeh.

Fajr, Dhuhr, and Asr prayers are still available downstairs in their year-round space.

The owner does not charge anything in rent nor accepts donations. It’s his way of doing something for the Community.

The volunteers self-organize and bring the Iftar Food and keep everything tidy.

This floor, but in another room, was the original location of Ajyal Islamic Centre before they outgrew it and moved to their current Chinatown Address. That was about four years ago.

This Ramadan-Only Iftar and Taraweeh prayer space, Officially has no name. Everyone just knows where it is, and that’s good enough for everyone.

It’s also Good Enough for 30 Masjids in 30 Days in Metro Vancouver Day 6 too.

 


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