They are located at 16 Bethridge Road, immediately west of Kipling Avenue, in the Etobicoke North neighbourhood of Rexdale.
I easily reached it after leaving the Bosnian Islamic Centre on bike, turned right on Kipling, cycled for about an hour, then turned left at Bethridge.
People know where this masjid is even if they never have been here. One may assume they are known because it was one of the first Big Somali masjids. That wouldn’t begin to tell the story.
And no, until recently or outside of Indo-Caribbean Muslims who’ve been in the Western Hemisphere for at least three hundred years, English didn’t count as one of those languages.
Once established, every masjid is open to every Muslim regardless of their origin, first language or school of thought.
As a natural progression, every one of those early masjids have gone on to offer pretty much the same services: counselling, marriage/divorce, weekend and evening Islamic and Arabic language school for children, Qur’an memorization classes, five daily prayers and Friday Jumah Prayer.
Ditto all that for Khalid Mosque.
However their founders also had something more in mind from the get go. 15 years later, their vision still bears fruit as a second generation is now present in Masjid Khalid Bin Al-Walid.
One focus is on Somali speaking newcomers to Canada. Many uni-lingual arrivals to Toronto, if they don’t end up elsewhere in the City say in Regent Park downtown, will likely find their way to Dixon Road. This stretch of apartment buildings in the Toronto’s northwest can be accurately be identified as an Ethnoburbia.
There are at least four different masjids all within walking distance from Dixon Road plus at least one apartment tower basement masjid. But Khalid is where Somali speakers can feel comfortable enough to ask and learn all those necessary boring details to navigate everyday life in Toronto.
Of the 30 Masjids masjids visited so far, only Khalid Mosque has an entire in-house process to help newcomers. Any Muslim would easily recognize this approach as Toronto equivalent of how The Ansar helped the Muslims after they migrated from Makkah to Madinah.
This the first third of the real story.
Khalid Mosque is collectively acting as The Ansar did helping the original Muslims.
Struck up a conversation with a younger Somali brother who didn’t want me taking his picture, as is his right while on private property. He also recognized me as having run against Rob Ford last election and provides me a clue as to why Etobicoke North is no longer a Slam Dunk for the Mayor come 2014.
We end up talking city politics rather than my usual history lesson of the masjid I’m visiting that night. Mixed feelings about this as I know this is an opportunity lost in learning about his point of view on the local masjid.
Salaama Hut is where we were caffeinating ahead of 20 rakats of Taraweeh.
Salaama Hut is the area’s Somali Tim Horton’s.
The real Tim Horton’s is just across the street. Yet when I first saw it, I blurted out loud to nobody, That’s NOT a REAL Tim Horton’s. Because it is really just a stand-alone building designed with one purpose, to be drive-through. It has a counter but no sitting area.
Grateful for Salaama Hut. They have chairs and tables and booths and everything!
Their price for Large Coffee? $1.10! You can’t even get an Extra-Small Timmies for that.
The young brother has got to hop. Though he broke fast in Khalid Mosque, he’s heading to IMO a few blocks over for Taraweeh. They do twenty rakats. Khalid only does eight. Old School. Same amount of Qur’an is recited but standing for eight is a lot different that standing for twenty.
The past two night’s worth of rapid Ottoman Style twenty rakats was a good dead that won’t go unpunished. There are no short-cuts during Ramadan.
Heading back to Masjid Khalid Bin Al-Walid, the eloquence and intelligence of the twenty-something Somali brother I just met sticks with me. I meet a lot of people in what I do. And here was a confident young man who already knew his place in this city and the world.
Back inside the prayer hall and waiting for Taraweeh to begin after Isha, I am witnessing an incredible display of mischief and horseplay by young’uns around me.
It is my place as their Elder to put some sense into them, C’mon Son, there are people praying all around you and your yelling and wrestling is what’s happening.
Yet I hesitate. In this Masjid, I am the Stranger.
Or so I thought.
A grown-up, a Masjid Uncle, in South Asian Desi parlance, has identified the key trouble-maker. He embarrases him then directs him where to stand ready for prayer in another line on the other side away from his friends. He calls the kids Shaytaan. This is the first It takes a Village to Raise a Child moment of the night.
Or rather, It takes a Masjid….
Why does everyone in the wider Muslim Community know about Masjid Khalid Bin Al-Walid?
If nothing else, it’s their sensitive funeral services.
Their Funeral Service webpage is factual. However with much else which remains respectfully understated in this masjid, they go above and beyond where burying the dead according to Islamic custom and social requirements are concerned.
They even get referrals from government agencies in handling deceased John Does now and then. This says something of the professionalism and trust found in this Somali Community.
More than 15 years ago, before the physical building was acquired, community members realized Muslim Funerals were not available in this part of the city. Others, like Madinah Masjid by Donlands and Danforth had full funeral Facilities, but nothing for Muslims up here in Rexdale. Madinah handled my own Father’s funeral back in ’91.
They need to expand what they already have. Sometimes the need is for two separate funerals every day at Khalid Mosque.
Muslim tradition requires burial as soon as possible, often within 24 hours.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen an Islamic How-to-Janaza taped to a door of any masjid with funeral facilities. This suggests people in Khalid Mosque do step up and help when volunteers are in short-supply.
One of the Directors almost exclusively deals with handling every funeral. His cell phone is likely on many people’s speed dial.
They have a number of Muslim Women Volunteers who remain on call. Previously there might have been little choice but for men in mainstream funeral homes to be handling deceased Muslim Women.
Khalid Mosque removed that concern for family members in that situation.
These on-call volunteer sisters correctly wash the female body and prepare it for proper burial.
There is no charge to any family for any of these services. Beyond the transportation costs of the body and the grave itself, everyone in Khalid Mosque volunteers their time and energy to help prepare the dead for proper burial.
Masjid Khalid Bin Al-Walid receives newcomers and helps them understand and adapt to life in a new city and new country.
They act like a village to collectively instill discipline and raise their masjid going children into representatives of their community when at the very least praying elsewhere. Indeed, I learn there are more Somalis praying Isha and Taraweeh tonight at the other 3 or 4 area Masjids than there are Somalis who prayed here tonight.
When it comes time to leave this life and enter the next one, Khalid Mosque is also there for you when perhaps no one else can be.