Saskatoon’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community is seeing a long-running dream move closer to reality.
A mosque is taking shape off Highway 16 and Boychuk Drive. The walls are up and work is progressing on the roof.
On Friday, members of the community and the media were invited to tour the site.
Local community president Shamoon Rashid said they are just getting prepared to finish putting up a 73-foot tall minaret. Although traditionally used for calls to prayer, Rashid explained that this particular minaret will be purely symbolic.
“Doing a call for prayer at 3:30 in the morning — you might annoy the neighbours,” he said with a chuckle.
Rashid went on to explain that the project has been a long-running effort by the community. The land was purchased in 1987, with the foundation stone laid in 1989.
Since then, the estimated $10 million cost of the building has been raised through community donations in Saskatoon and across Canada.
Rashid said some individuals have donated money they had set aside for down payments on their own homes.
“They said they want the house of God to be constructed before their house is built,” he said.
In other cases, Rashid said people were willing to work extra hours to help get the mosque built.
“There are members of the community who have taken part time jobs, for the purpose of earning from that job to donate to this project,” he said.
Imam Khalid Minhas said the building comes at a time when his congregation has outgrown its current home at 101 Boychuk Drive. The main prayer hall in the new mosque will accommodate 800 worshippers, with a multi-purpose gymnasium allowing for as many as 2000 for larger events.
“Thank God that we’ve been lucky to build this mosque. Obviously, God has granted us this opportunity and the will and the courage and the means,” he said.
One feature of the mosque that might stand out for non-Muslims is the construction of separate entrances and separate classrooms for men and women.
Minhas explained that this was to allow programming for men and women to run simultaneously.
“That does not mean that we somehow neglect our women. We value them equally and they have equal dues and rights and equal responsibilities. So there is no discrimination, rather it is to facilitate them, so they can run their programs,” he said.
Minhas said the structure, which will be the largest purpose-built mosque in the Prairie provinces, strikes the right balance between beauty and function.
“God says that ‘I am beautiful’ and he likes things to be beautiful. And keeping that in view, we do try to make mosques beautiful. But at the same time, the real beauty lies in the people who come and pray and prostrate in front of God. So the real beauty is in worshipping God,” he said.
Construction of the mosque is expected to be finished in December 2016. Rashid said the community would likely hold an official opening sometime after winter.