Empty.

Sayeda Khadija Centre‘s outside parking lot was empty.

In all Houses of Worship in The Province of Ontario, capacity is limited to 15%.

Inside Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga,

It too was empty.

15% Capacity allowed even shoes on the shelves to be physically distanced.

This is the Airport Like Gateway worshippers walk through after our QR Codes are scanned to confirm Pre-Registration for Jumah Prayers.

Inside the twin arches, you face a screen that checks your facial temperature.

Normal temperature the computer voice says, allows you to step forward into a brief mist of disinfectant.

Like many Airport Terminals nowadays,

This all is still empty.

Entering the Main Prayer Hall,

Sayeda Khadija Centre is finally, visually, less empty.

All but the first row of the regular blue carpet which adorns the Prayer Hall floor has been rolled up since shortly after the Pandemic began.

 

” B Y O P M T J P ” : Bring Your Own Prayer Mat To Jumah Prayer.

Each worshipper is seated atop their own prayer mat which itself sits atop taped position marker squares on the Turkish Tiled Prayer Hall Floor.

We sit in a zig-zag pattern rather than a grid.

Zig-Zag is still a grid but turned 45 Degrees.

This allows for more Physically Distanced prayer lines between the Imam and the back wall of the Prayer Hall.

It also echoes something of the Islamic Geometry inherent within the Turkish Tiles adorning the floor and walls of the Prayer Hall.

Jumah Qhutbah, Friday Sermon is good, filled with Ramadan reminders and paradigm shifting thoughts about the ROI, The Rate of Return, on good deeds done during Ramadan rather than outside this Holy Month.

Still, something was missing.

This 15% Capacity felt empty, sterile.

Perhaps that’s how it is supposed to be.

In-Between each scheduled Jumah Prayer, Sayeda Khadija Centre disinfects the Prayer Hall.

Having returned home from Friday Prayers,

We learn beginning Monday April 19 2021,

Masjid Capacity in Ontario would be capped at 10 People, inside or outside.

This First Friday of Ramadan 2021 would now become our ONLY Jumah Prayer performed inside any Ontario Masjid for remainder of Ramadan 2021.

Each Thursday Evening in Ramadan 2021,

MABELLEarts is livestreaming “Edge of Sunset

Beginning at 7 p.m. Toronto Time.

30Masjids attended a previous MABELLEarts’ Iftar Nights in person on Day 23 of Ramadan 2015.

Tonight is Week 1 of 4.

The Edge of Sunset Livestream performance,

airing each Thursday night during the month of Ramadan,

is a chance to celebrate with community stories, incredible music, fun hosting, guest chats, and much more.

Join us for the hour just before Iftar for moments of laughter, reflection, and connection.

This week,

our livestream performance surrounds the theme of “Breaking the Fast”.

We’re guided by our community stories around Iftar memories and moments:

  • preparing special foods and drinks,
  • favorite dishes,
  • and feasting rituals.

This week’s show is hosted live by Sergio Guerra, who is joined by musicians Brenna MacCrimmon and Maryem Tollar of Turkwaz,

puppeteers Afsaneh Zamani & Annie Katsura Rollins and the entire MABELLEarts community.

MABELLEarts.ca

VirtualIftarNights.ca

MABELLEarts Iftar Nights Livestream Team:

  • Dramaturgy: Elizabeth Rucker
  • Live Stream Direction: Annie Katsura Rollins
  • Videographer: Henry Mak
  • Live Stream Broadcast: Eric Chan
  • Live Stream Graphic Designer: Kelvin Wu
  • Poet in Residence and Host: Sergio Guerra
  • Story Research and Translation: Abir Abouel Sadaat
  • Illustration: Banafsheh Erfanian
  • Puppeteers: Annie Katsura Rollins, Afsaneh Zamani
  • Musicians: Maryem Tollar, Brenna MacCrimmon
  • Lantern Project: Michael Burtt & The Listening Room Members
  • Artmaking Activity Facilitators: Michael Burtt & Shadowland Theatre w/The Listening Room, Annie Katsura Rollins and Faten Toubasi with the ACCT Women’s Circle
  • Composer, Iftar Nights 2020: Hussein Janmohamed
  • Communications Lead: Karen Kew
  • Website and Print Design: Billy Main

Help us bring Iftar Night meals to MABELLEpantry households!

Each week throughout the month of Ramadan,

our COVID-19 Food Security team will package Iftar treats and fast-breaking meal kits for hundreds of households.

Your kind donation will support our MABELLEYouth and Pantry team to ensure a Ramadan Kareem for families on Mabelle Avenue.

Donate here: http://www.mabellearts.ca/support

This was our Iftar Table being prepared and almost ready as we watched and listened to first Iftar Nights Livestream of Ramadan 2021.

“Mosques around Calgary are being allowed to broadcast the Adhan,

or call to prayer,

on outdoor speakers at sunset during Ramadan.

This is the first night doing it at Green Dome mosque in NE Calgary.”

Sometimes there are no words to type,

Sometimes there is a Livestream.

Brother Fareed Amin explains in his opening how hard it was for IIT to STOP all collective prayers inside the Islamic Institute of Toronto.

This was done to satisfy the Province of Ontario Stay at Home Order.

The Masjid falls within a Hot Zone of rising Corona Virus community spread.

IIT is closing for at least the first week of Ramadan 2021.

Yet the Islamic Institute of Toronto is also Open . . .

Their Ramadan 2021 Schedule livestreams on their Youtube Channel :

https://www.youtube.com/c/IslamicInstituteofToronto/videos

  • Morning Qur’an Recitations
  • Afternoon Daily Du’as at 5:00 p.m.
  • Resilient Hour 30 minutes before Iftar / Local Toronto Sunset Time
  • Gems of Qur’anic Wisdom at 10:00 p.m.

Tonight’s IIT Resilient Hour featured Shaikh Musleh Khan speaking as we awaited Sunset Iftar according to Toronto Local Time.

Our family’s first Iftar Dinner Table of Ramadan 2021

Since the first year of 30 Masjids in 30 Days of Ramadan in 2011,

I would share a photograph of the date and drink used to open my fast,

In whichever Masjid I was visiting and blogging about that night…

Tonight, to break the first Day of Ramadan Fasting in the Second Pandemic Year of COVID-19,

The glass of Rooh Afza and Date were taken at home.

#Ramadan is here and to be honest,

I am *really* tired.

It’s usually a month of community, hope, renewal

but it feels difficult to lean into any of that as we face a third wave,

let alone the wild ride the past year itself has been.

Last year,

there was hope this year would… be different.

This year,

I feel spiritually, emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I need this spiritual recharge and I’m so very grateful to witness another #Ramadan.

But I am also really sad and scared and dragging along what feels like so much grief into this month.

And this is coming from someone who is healthy and employed and has a stable roof over my head.

Anyway,

just want to share for anyone feeling similarly.

May this #Ramadan be filled with the opportunity to heal our hearts, spiritually grow and ease our sadness.

#RamadanMubarak

— Sarah Mushtaq, MBA, Windsor, Ontario

Reflections on Islam

Special Ramadan 2021 Daily Radio Program

Hosted by Ezzedin Gad

Everyday ~ Starting Today : Sunday April 11 2021

30 minutes before Maghrib/Sunset according to Toronto Local Time,

Today at 7:31 p.m.

Livestream : http://ReflectionsOnIslam.tv/radio/

Only listeners in Ontario can livestream online at this time.

“Jumu’ah Khutba – June 12, 2020

As we reopen our places of worship partially and start going back hopefully gradually to normal or close to that, we start appreciating everything we lost or were deprived from including coming to the masjid.”

Friday June 12 2020

2:15 p.m. – 2:35 p.m EDT

Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ontario

Re-opened to the public for Salat al Jumah, The Friday Congregational Prayer, at 30% capacity.

They achieved this by scheduling four sequential Friday Sermons plus Prayers:

Friday 1:30 p.m – 1:50 p.m EDT

Friday 2:15 p.m. – 2:35 p.m EDT

Friday 3:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m. EDT

Friday 3:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EDT

You had to reserve an online ticket via Sayeda Khadija Centre‘s Eventbrite page.

My brother and I reserved two spot for the  2:15 p.m.  time slot.

The last public Jumah, before the Pandemic Lockdown, was three months ago on Friday March 12 2020.

 

We decided against even attempting the primary parking lot and chose to park in the overflow parking lot accessible from Hurontario Street.

Two parking lot assistants in visible vests used hand signals to guide us.

We parked where they pointed.

It was unclear at first if we were to stay inside the car or go outside towards the Masjid.

 

We did exit our car and approached the main parking lot, it was full.

We returned to our car and waited until we saw people walking back to their cars having completed their prayer.

That would confirm the first of four scheduled Jumah Prayers were done.

 

The main parking lot was rapidly emptying, and it was now our turn.

It wasn’t immediately clear how everything was operating or where we were to go at first.

As we got closer, it became obvious.

People were lined up, two metres apart, around the Masjid building’s side leading to the entrance.

 

So that’s what we did too.

 

The yellow painted parking spot markings became de facto physical distancing markers and we all used them like that without a word being said.

Common sense.

The line advanced pretty fast. Hardly a few minutes.

Once around the corner and within visual sight of the entrance, a volunteer in full personal protective equipment advised everyone in a loud voice what to expect once inside.

The volunteer brother requested everyone to have their QR Code from their Eventbrite Online Booking Registration ready on their mobile devices.

I don’t have a mobile device, beyond my Nikon Coolpix camera, but I did pre-register.

My name is listed on the double booking e-mail confirmation on my brother’s device.

Closer to the entrance, orange pylons and orange/red duct tape are spaced two metres apart informing us where to stand in line using physical distancing.

Once inside, a minor delay for my brother and I.

My brother’s email confirmation only has one QR Code though it listed both our names.

Eventbrite sends an e-mail confirmation with an attached PDF for every ticket.

For whatever reason, we had only a single QR Code in the PDF.

To keep the line from backing up, the volunteer brother who first spoke to me, asked us to stand aside until they figured it out.

The senior decision maker at the entrance area said they had already checked in 300 worshippers and this was the first time this had happened.

Well, Alhumdulillah, if this was to happen, at least it happened to me, the masjid blogger, and I could document it, for people reading this blog post afterwards.

Perhaps my writing about it here can help prevent any future check-in delays.

The first volunteer opted to manually look up my name and for some reason, it showed I had already checked-in four hours ago.

?

Well, whatever.

As I was standing in front of him now, he manually re-checked me in on his mobile device and my brother and I proceeded.

What I think happened was the complexity of the Eventbrite booking messed things up.

First, you could request one or two tickets per registration,

Having filled first name, last name, and email address for the first ticket,

The next step asks you if you wanted to copy all the previous information from the first ticket for the second ticket.

I remember doing this, but nothing obvious happened.

It immediately made no sense to me.

This  copy  option is useful on Eventbrite if two or more tickets have multiple fields which are repetitive like two people at the same home address and city and postal code.

Yet, all three fields for today’s Jumah tickets were unique, First Name, Last Name, E-Mail Address.

And then you had to choose from one of four time slots for Jumah,

One more variable in the complexity of the process.

Did that add to my ticket mix-up ?

So, my experience suggests that you request ONE ticket, NOT two tickets, at a time, when using Eventbrite.

Ensure you get one QR Code via PDF in your email for EACH ticket.

That way the line will advance smoothly without surprise nor delay.

Our delay was two minutes, at most, and it was likely one minute, but it did STOP the line.

A temperature check on the forehead with this device, took a second to confirm.

Another brother then placed a round green sticker on my shirt to signal I had passed this point.

You can see one of those green stickers on the volunteer’s photo above.

 

All the volunteers at this point and beyond were donning full Personal Protective Equipment, the PPE we hear mentioned all the time.

We were instructed, or requested, to use hand sanitizer at the tables.

We were given small plastic bags, to carry our pair of shoes into the main prayer hall.

This has an Eid like feeling, carrying the shoes with us.

Another volunteer sat at the entrance to the front half of the building.

I think he was there to confirm our shoes were in our plastic bags and to visually spot the green dots we should be wearing to gain entry at this point.

Inside the main prayer hall, a zig zag placing of mixed markers on the carpet, and green masking tape on the benches identified the prayer spots on a first come first served basis.

Some of the markers on the carpet were numbered, other markers were small orange pylons, yet other markers were unfolded Qur’an wooden book rests.

Somehow, the volunteer brother in the main prayer hall directed my brother and I to pick two prayer spots in about the same area where we both normally pray.

SubhanAllah.

My view looking down at my feet, with my shoes inside the plastic bag.

For this first Friday Prayer in Congregation in three months, I chose to bring a personally important prayer mat.

This simple thin red prayer mat has been with me for about twenty years.

I took it with me to Madinah and Makkah in 2011 and prayed on it there.

It came with me as I did my 30 Masjids in 30 Days of Ramadan Canada  in 2016.

The zig zag placing of physical distanced pre-marked prayer spots reminded me of Islamic Geometry.

Spots ahead and behind and left and right beside me remained empty.

Yet spots diagonally distant from me found worshippers sitting in place.

Normally the Imam instructs worshippers to stand shoulder to shoulder during prayer, and often times he requests worshippers to make space for late comers to the Sermon mid-way through delivering it.

Not today.

 

Before the Pandemic, we might be sitting thirty or even fifty worshippers per line.

Today’s physical distancing meant only eight  worshippers per line with two metres between each of them.

I counted about 100 worshippers in total were present inside the main prayer hall.

Pre-Pandemic, the Friday Lecture would be 30 to 40 minutes in length.

The Qhutbah, The Sermon, Dr. Imam Slimi delivered today was under ten minutes.

After three months, it was good to be able to donate cash in person towards upkeep of the masjid.

Volunteers walked through the aisle with the collection bag for contactless donations.

Imam Dr. Slimi delivered the Qhutbah, The Friday Sermon, as well as Adhan al Jumah, Call to The Friday Prayer.

One of the younger members of the Sayeda Khadija Centre community was the Imam today and he lead us in the Jumah Prayer.

That was it.

The Optional Sunnah Prayers were not to be done here, but at home instead.

Time to exit.

There were still two more Jumah Prayers scheduled after us.

The exit line was backing up into the main prayer hall, so my brother and I did not rush to leave.

 

Everyone observed Physical Distancing as best they could.

Sayeda Khadija Centre has announced they would now remain open to the public for ALL Five Daily Prayers, keeping all these safety protocols in place.

A look at the empty  prayer hall with prayer spots identified and ready for the next scheduled Jumah Prayer.

After all the Sisters had left,

The volunteer sister who was minding the secondary exit from the main prayer, invited my brother and I and the other brothers remaining to leave through that doorway instead.

That saved us a lot of time, as other brothers had to wait due to physical distancing in the main exit line.

The large multi-use hall on the west side of the building might normally be bustling with voices and sounds of socializing amid smells of samosa and tea.

This afternoon found a rushed silence to exit the mostly empty building.

We exit Sayeda Khadija Centre and walk through the parking lot to the overflow area.

 

A look back to see people lining up to attend the Third of today’s Four  Friday Prayers and Sermon.

Turn around time for all that was about 40 minutes.

Half the total time a pre-Pandemic  Jumah might take.