30 MORE | Day 31 – “Eid Mubarak! In 1960, efforts were in place to open Toronto’s first mosque! (It wouldn’t actually happen for another 9 years). There were 400 Muslims in the city at the time” – Bob Georgiou

Church May Become City’s First Mosque

“A Toronto church may become the city’s first mosque.

Reginald Assim, president of The Muslim Society of Toronto, said yesterday the group has looked at several churches among other buildings, with a view to conversion.

In two months the society has pledged $10,000 toward the $100,000 estimated necessary to provide a mosque for the city’s 400 Moslems.

If a former church is used, the complete interior will have to be ripped out, as a mosque has no altar, pictures or statues, and Moslems worship on mats on the Floor.

Yesterday’s announcement was made as 200 Moslems met in a Dundas St. W. dance hall to celebrated the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan Canadian style — with coffee and cakes, sandwiches and tea.

Moslems from India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, United Arab Republic, Burma, Russia and Yugoslavia heard recitations from the Koran, watched a playlet performed by society members, and sang folk songs of 10 countries.

Only other concessions to Eastern tradition were a sprinkling of saris and two or three turbans.

Most of the men wore lounge suits and the women smart spring dresses.

Their numbers underlined the growth of the city’s Moslem community.

Before the war, estimated Albanian-born Mr. Assim, 72, a retired confectionery manufacturer who has lived here nearly 50 years, fewer than 40 Moslems lived in Toronto.

The society was formed mainly to foster the teaching of Islam among the community’s children.

Many members are political refugees.

The society helped 50 of them here by providing sponsorship, finding jobs and guaranteeing support.”

The Globe and Mail, April 4 1960

Toronto’s first mosque to open


“Toronto’s Moslems will open the city’s first mosque next week.

The beginning will be modest, in a former Presbyterian church being renovated as a house of Allah.

Wednesday evening, prayers will be said there for the first time, with the faithful facing southeast in the direction of Mecca.

A mosque, once established, must by Islamic law never be torn down or put to other use.

The new mosque is on Boustead Avenue in the Roncesvalles Avenue and Dundas Street area.

It is the responsibility of the Muslim Society of Toronto Inc., whose president is Mirza Qadder Baig, a Pakistani.

He is professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.

The society includes members from more than a dozen countries, including several Canadian converts.

Toronto’s Moslem population has always been small because Canada’s immigration laws, until recently, restricted the admission of non-Europeans.

Now, with the influx of immigrants from India, Pakistan, the West Indies and North Africa, the number is growing and might be close to 5,000.

Moslems, until recently, tended to keep themselves inconspicuous, sensing that Canadians knew litter about Islam and cared even less for it.

“Not one person in 10,000 knows anything about Islam,” says Rajab Assim, who migrated to Toronto from Albania in 1911.

He remembers the anti-Islam propaganda during the First World War when Turkey was fighting on the side of Germany.

Then Moslems were portrayed as “savages who would kill anybody,” he says.

The word Islam connotates vague images of harems, of eunuchs armed with scimitars and flying carpets.

In schools, histories presented the Crusades as holy wars to liverate the Holy Land from the “infidels.”

The first great Western epic, the Song of Raland, showed Charlemagne’s armies slaughtering Saracens by the thousands.

Yet Islam is one of the great world religions, with more than 479 million adherents, or more than twice the number of Protestants. Islam was the foundation of a cosmopolitan culture in North Africa and Spain a thousand years ago, at a time when Christendom was struggling through its Dark Ages.

In fact, it was Islamic scholarship that helped revive learning in the West.

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is monotheistic.

Moslems are permitted by Islamic law to marry outside their religion with Jews and Christians, both called the People of the Book.

Moslems accept the Torah and the Gospels as genuine revelations, and Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus as genuine prophets of Allah.

Mohammed, they believe, was the last prophet to speak to men, and the Koran the last prophetic book, the word of Allah brought by the Archangel Gabriel to Mohammed.

It is the Islamic rituals of worship, probably, that strike the non-Moslem as most distinctive.

The Moslem is enjoined by the Koran to pray to Allah five times a day: before the sun rises, when the sun is at the meridian, in the afternoon, just after sunset, and when going to bed.

In Moslem countries,

the call to prayer is sounded at the appointed time by a muezzin (crier) from the height of the mosque’s minaret.

Then people flock to the mosque, removing their shoes before entering, or they unroll their prayer rug where they are and prostrate themselves on it to pray.

In Toronto,

as is the case everywhere else, the Moslem is bound by the same daily obligation to pray, but most try to find a private spot to carry out their obligation so as not to provoke the stares or the jibes of Canadians not used to the sight of a Moslem at prayer.

The removal of shoes when entering a mosque and the use of a prayer rug are rooted in a concept of reverence which demands that a person addressing Allah should be clean.

Before praying,

the Moslem washes his face, his hands and arms to the elbow, and his feet.

He must pray in a clean place,

and so the mosque is kept scrupulous one of the reasons for the removal of shoes.

The prayer rug is simply a clean piece of cloth which the Moslem can have with him so that he can pray anywhere.

On Fridays, the holy day of the week, the Moslem attends noon prayers in the mosque, but first he must take a bath and put on his best clothes and some scent “to make the atmosphere of the mosque more pleasant,” Prof. Baig explained.

The Moslem’s life is interwoven with his religion.

When a child is born, parents whisper in its ear the Arabic words “Allah-U Akbar” (God is great) so the first word heard by the child will be the name of Allah.

When the child is about three and has memorized the first chapter of the Koran, the parents throw a party with relatives and friends coming to the feast and bringing presents to the child.

Every year, during the month of Ramadan, the Moslem must abstain from food, drink or intercourse between sunrise and sundown each day. at the end of the year, he must give 2½ per cent of all his savings in charity to the poor.

At least once in a lifetime,

each Moslem physically and financially able to do so must make the Hajj—the pilgrimage to Mecca which expresses the spiritual unity of all Moslems throughout the world, regardless of race, language or nationality.

“It was a very moving experience,” Dr. Baig said of his pilgrimage to Mecca last year.

“You find yourself in a different world altogether. Thousands of people all reciting the Koran, day or night, and all looking happy. There was not a single miserable face.”

After death, Moslems bury the body as soon as possible, without embalming.

The Islamic Society of Toronto has purchased a 1,000 grave lot in a the Glendale Memorial Gardens as a Moslem cemetery.

One of the functions of the new mosque will be to provide a forum for classes on Islam so that Canadians might become familiar with the religion.”

The Globe and Mail, February 22 1969

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