The first mosque has opened its doors in Maple Ridge.
Around 60 people attended the opening Sunday evening, including Coun. Ahmed Yousef.
Jamia Riyadhul Jannah British Columbia, which translates into Garden of Heaven Mosque, is located in the former Whonnock United Church, where limited renovations were done to the 125-year-old heritage site to fix wear-and-tear issues for use by the new congregation.
“I think it’s a history-making event,” said mosque chairperson Prof. Imam Syed Badiuddin Soharwardy, who is also a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, the umbrella group that opened this mosque along with 17 others across the country.
He is also the first Muslim Canadian to walk across Canada, leading the MultiFaith Walk Against Violence in 2008.
Soharwardy noted the mosque will not only help the Muslim community in this area, but also help “our non-Muslim friends and neighbours and colleagues to come and understand and learn about our faith, and we learn about their faith.”
The facility will be used for teaching, education, get-togethers, festivals, inter-faith dialogues, prayers and community events.
It will be run by local residents and management committees.
The three-quarters-of-an-acre property contains the main mosque building along with two additional houses, one of which Soharwardy is hoping to eventually house a resident imam.
Several services will be provided at the mosque, including five daily prayers, the Friday prayer – which is the Muslim Sabbath, Ramadan, where there will be the breaking of the fast and late night prayers – and two Eid prayers that Soharwardy compares to the Christian celebration of Christmas.
There will also be daily Qur’an classes about the teachings of the Muslim holy book, and Islamic classes.
Soharwardy said one of the most important activities that the mosque will feature will be inter-faith activities, where the mosque congregation will visit a church and share a meal and then the church congregation will visit the mosque to share a meal.
He is already buoyed by the initial reception the mosque has received from the community.
“Yesterday, we had the grand opening of the mosque and we had our Christian neighbours. They were sitting side-by-side in the church or mosque and we shared the meal, we shared our prayers with them and they listened, they watched and they were very excited,” he said, adding that they have a good relationship with the church next door.