Day 2 – Islamic Centre of Nanaimo – 897 Harbour View Street – Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Inside The Islamic Centre of Nanaimo.

I eventually learned that 2018 is the first Full Ramadan at this new address, 897 Harbour View Street.

In time for Ramadan 2017, they BCMA had purchased this property and, perhaps like brother Ahmet and Muhammad in White Rock the other night with their carpet installing, the Nanaimo BCMA chapter were rushing to make 897 Harbour View usable.

For a brief period of time, Both the older address in the north end of the city was owned, and that mailing address was still being listed.

But that’s since been sold. This is the only correct Masjid address in Nanaimo.

So that answers for me why I found two different addresses online that had me confused a little bit earlier in the day.

About an hour after the end of Salat al Jumah, The Congregational Friday Prayer, the prayer hall and building is as empty as most masjids are at this time of day.

It affords me time and space to look around.

This part of the Prayer Hall is makeshift and adjustable. Simply roll and unroll rows of prayer carpets as needed.

The corner of the hall does double duty and becomes the Mihrab, the prayer niche pointing towards Makkah.

The Mimbar likewise.

This is one of the few times that there are no sisters present in the Sister’s Prayer Hall, so I sneak a peek.

It’s carpeted the same as the Brother’s prayer hall.

It’s also uncarpeted the same as the Brother’s side of the Islamic Centre.

I feel both Brothers’ and Sisters’ prayer halls are about equal in floor space. So that’s a plus. The sisters also have an additional defined space.

That space is a children’s area for childminding during prayers.

Judging by the tossed and turned toys all over the floor, it’s being put to good use.

This new address used to be a small school.

The student lockers that came with the building have been transformed into donation boxes.

The Islamic Centre of Nanaimo falls under the umbrella of the Richmond based British Columbia Muslim Association which has its roots in the Al Jamia Masjid in Vancouver.

It’s still a number of hours until sunset. The tables in the multi-use area on the Brothers side of the building has both leftovers from the previous day’s Iftar and preparations for the upcoming Iftar tonight.

Looking out the window onto the back of the Islamic Centre, in-between the portable classrooms I spy a large empty spot of asphalt.

Well… I did  bring sidewalk chalk with me, for just such an opportunity.

A separate project in a different area of my life is making Labyrinths.

I first wrote about why and how Labyrinths fit into Islam over on my City of Labyrinths Blog back in 2009.

I don’t know on this trip if I will be able to watch any Muslim Children being able to play and run around this Chalk Labyrinth.

At the very least, I added a spot of colour and benign design to a grey area.

Walking back to the front of the building, I happen to be standing in the main parking area as two vehicles arrive within moments of each other.

There is a small group of Muslims from Madinah, Saudi Arabia, who like myself, are touring around British Columbia during Ramadan 2018.

They will remain in Nanaimo for a few days. Their local Masjid Sherpa, to borrow a term, is Abdul Haleem from Surrey, B.C.

As we shake hands, mine are all full of chalk. A conversation about Labyrinths in Islam takes place, and the reason for the Chalk Labyrinth they may see in the back.

The overflow Prayer Space from Jumah time, has transformed into an Iftar Dining Hall as college aged youth volunteers go about their duties.

Last year, during Ramadan 2017, Iftar Dinners were cooked and prepared at the old address then driven over here and served as the kitchen in this new place was still not quite ready.

This year, everything is usable, including the kitchen downstairs.

Iftar is provided everyday.

Vancouver Island University Students make up both the volunteer base and the Iftar Attendees.

Potluck Iftar Dinners are held all the Saturdays of Ramadan.

I decided to simply park myself in the corner and observe and wait for Iftar.

He’s smiling. I’m Smiling!

For the second Iftar in a row, Medjool Dates!

The hall is now filled with College Students. Many speaking Arabic.

It’s almost Maghrib, Sunset.

Medjool Date plus Orange Juice will make for tonight’s Fast Breaker.

Adhan Al Maghrib, The Call to Sunset Prayer, and time to break the fast.

Yusuf and Faisal, the two Hafidz, ones who have memorized the Qur’an, that I had a conversation with earlier today, shortly after Jumah are standing here, while the rest of us devour our Iftars.

I had spoken to Yusuf and Faisal, after Jumah. Both are about 20 years of age.

During Ramadan 2017, Faisal was in Blaine Washington, just over the U.S. Border from White Rock, leading Taraweeh prayers. But this was his and Yusuf’s first extended stay in B.C.

Both Yusuf and Faisal are successful Hafidz from the Qur’an Memorization program at Jame Abu Bakr in Scarborough, Ontario. Faisal has completed the Alim Program, and Yusuf is getting there.

Both are on their way to becoming Canadian born Imams who understand Canadian Culture, nuances, jokes, and the rest.

Growing up in Toronto, there was a period where Qualified and properly schooled Imams were only to be found overseas. Local Islamic Centres would hire them based on their Religious knowledge, yet they were lacking the local context for cultural answers to our Canadian Muslim questions.

This was unsatisfactory. There was always a lament that we needed to educate our own Local imams here in Canada or the States.

Indeed, that was part of the initial reasoning for me deciding to at least begin my undergrad studies at the American Islamic College in Chicago.

Though I was focused on Islamic Finance, AIC was first Muslim Owned degree granting college or university in the Western World in 500 years. They began by offering a Bachelors in Arabic and Islamic Studies, which was enough to graduate as a trained Imam.

One need not reflect too deeply to recognize Hafiz Yusuf and Hafiz Faisal as answers to that long ago lament.

And it was good to have another Toronto conversation, like I had with Brother Aqeel in White Rock on Day 1.

Toronto. A whisper of homesickness is weaving its way into my ear these first few days.

As always, that first bite into a date, that first sip of liquid, orange juice on this night, are the sweetest that you feel you have ever tasted or drank after a day’s fast. Today’s was 18 hours plus.

I must make an observation though. The students began biting into their dates the moment the time for Sunset arrived.

They did not wait for the Adhan, The Call to Sunset Prayer, to be made.

It felt strange for myself to break my own fast without hearing the Adhan. So I waited.

I don’t suppose one needs to hear the call to prayer to break their fast, they obviously didn’t.

I am sitting beside Abdul Haleem and one of the Visitors from Madinah, as we all are drinking water and orange juice.

By now, various people’s cell phone Ramadan Apps are going off. Different Adhan recordings play out from different pockets.

One of the Visiting Madinans hears a familiar voice recording and smiles. He mentions it to a colleague. I too recognize the feeling of Makkah or Madinah in the voice recording as the Adhan plays itself out.

The remaining Visitors from Madinah opted to break their fast sitting on the carpet in the main prayer hall.

Lining up for Salat Al Maghrib, The Sunset Prayer.

The food is plenty. The wait in line, pleasant and swift.

I had my choice of soup and ask for both in the same bowl. This triggers a Finally from one of the servers. They apparently were wondering when, or if, anyone would mix both soups.

Well, that was me tonight.

Hearty Lentil and Chicken soup. Iftar Dinner plate.

At this point, with a bit of energy in my belly, I should be talking it up with my tablemates, learning about them and their Ramadan experiences.

But I am beat.

This is a very weird beginning of Ramadan for me. Somehow, I have barely slept in the past two days and change. I am awake, sort of. I am coherent, but not 100%. I feel sluggish.

I can’t recall a Ramadan ever begun this way with such little to no sleep. Not even on the Ferry Ride over to the island did I get a decent nap.

I need the caffeine tonight if I have any chance of staying awake through Isha, let alone Taraweeh.

Stepping outside and walking down the road towards a commercial stretch a few minutes away, a car stops beside me.

The driver offers me a ride to the nearest coffee shop.

In the few moments it takes us to reach McDonald’s by car, I learn from Brother Ahmed and Sister Chelsea, there are maybe one hundred students here in the city along with 40 or 60 families. Something like that.

Most of the families live farther away in the north end of town, while the University being closer to the masjid allows students to frequent it.

Many students graduate and leave. Ahmed however is one who stayed. He’s moved away a few times, yet always found a way and a desire to move back to Nanaimo.

Small town Canada does have an appeal for Muslim Canadians.

Perhaps that six season CBC TV Show, Little Mosque on the Prairie, was more on the mark than most of us realize?

Ahmed dropped me at McDonald’s but I decided to cross the street and for the same money get a larger cup of self-serve coffee from 7-11.

Coffee makes many things better. Including the walk back to the masjid. I think I’m good for now.

While sipping my coffee in the cafeteria area, sitting on a rolled up carpet, I strike up a conversation.

The brother has been here in Nanaimo for about four years. Before that, he was living in New Brunswick.

He misses New Brunswick. He likes it here in Nanaimo, yet he misses the people and their maritime friendliness.

Because of 30Masjids Canada in 2016, I know almost all the Muslim references the brother brings up.

We had prayed in the same places and met the same people.

He even solves a minor mystery for me about what happened to that Saint John musallah I found closed. The brother who organized that masjid had eventually made his way to Montreal.

It is conversations like these that help me understand the nomadic tendencies of Canada’s small town Muslims.

Adhan Al Isha, The Call to Night Prayer is made.

Carpets are re-unrolled.

We had prayed Isha and were waiting for Taraweeh to begin when brother Yusuf, one of the two Taraweeh Prayer Leaders provided an overview of the Qur’an verses to be recited tonight.

Well, I don’t remember much after that. I do know I prayed Four Rakats, units, of Taraweeh Prayer. But during those four Rakats, I was dozing off a few times whilst standing in Iqamah.

That was it. If I didn’t just exit the prayer row during the break in-between Rakats 4 and 5, I might fall down and sleep right there during Rakat 5 or 6.

I found a spot at the back of the prayer hall, used my knapsack as pillow and crashed.

The first proper sleep I had in more than two days.

I awoke around 2 a.m.

The brothers visiting from Madinah were up and making Suhoor Preparations in the downstairs kitchen.

Though I had brought my own food for the pre-dawn meal, stored in my knapsack, it wasn’t used.

There was plenty of Sahoor to go around.

But I was still sleepy. A good strong coffee was missing from my pre-dawn morning meal.

Adhan Al Fajr, The Call to Dawn Prayer.

By now, an additional number of worshipers have arrived for the congregational prayer, making for a larger group prayer.

After Fajr Prayer, I again crash at the back of the prayer hall. Brother Abdul Haleem shares an extra cloth sheet with me. It’s enough added warmth to make a difference in my morning sleep.

Awaking later, I have plenty of time to catch the morning’s second ferry back to Horseshoe Bay and the Lower Mainland.

OR plenty of time to figure out how to go south on Vancouver Island to Duncan, where there is a musallah.

Either way, Greyhound Bus Ticketing is at the Ferry Terminal, so that’s the destination.

Numerous houses and homes along Harbour View Street have interesting spots of colour and identity.

This one immediately next door to the Islamic Centre of Nanaimo is unmistakable.

I think this looks like two peacocks.

Chinese Canadians helped build Nanaimo despite much racism and segregation.

The city itself is their legacy, yet few Chinese Canadians remain in the Nanaimo of today.

Will Muslim Canadians likewise disappear from here ?

I don’t know.

Approaching Departure Bay and the Ferries, I spy this advertisement.

Vancouver in 15 minutes by Seaplane?

I’m tempted for all of 15 seconds. I’m not in a rush.

I’ve made the 11 a.m. Ferry back to Horseshoe Bay.

An hour and forty minutes later, here’s Horseshoe Bay as we approach.

Deembarking , I still had the Duncan Musallah on my mind.

Visiting and performing Taraweeh there would help complete my tour of Masjids on Vancouver Island.

And there is still time in this Holy Month of Ramadan 2018 to do so.

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