AMA celebrates opening of new mosqueWritten by Sakina bint Erik
A full house stood for ”˜Asr (mid-afternoon prayer) Saturday, Mar. 31, after 17 long years of waiting, in the finished lower level of the Assunah Muslim Association (AMA) Mosque. At first glance the mosque hides in the corner behind the trees which line Sawmill Creek, but when you enter the parking lot driveway, the design and height of the mosque dominates the view. A shining sun graced the afternoon as worshippers from all areas of the city arrived, filling the large tiled hall with Muslim men, women and children anxious to be the first to pray in the long-awaited building.
The expansive lower level is lined with bookshelves and boasts a beautiful multicolored arabesque star set in tile in the middle of the floor. Several rooms including spacious bathrooms for men and for women are also complete and accessible off the main hall. Also completed and functioning are a 14-chair boardroom and the Imam's office.
Those unfamiliar with the location and dimensions of the AMA musallah (prayer space) used by Ottawa South's worshippers prior to this opening cannot fully appreciate the relief of moving into this new space. Gone are the tiny bathrooms and dark corners of the tiny musallah at the back of the mall. Ample room now surrounds each worshipper and sunlight fills the room. While Jummah (Friday worship service) at the AMA musallah used to be standing-room only, and only for men, now there is ample room for all members of the community.
Some confusion arose as worshippers entered the building and it became obvious that only one level, the basement hall, allocated as the community center facet of the project, was completed and ready for use. The front doors are not open to the public as they lead to the main floor which is unfinished. However, even that one hall is several times larger and better for the community than the whole musallah had been.
Sheikh Ismael al Battnuni, the Imam of the new mosque, spoke to those gathered after the Asr prayer had been completed. He told of how many years had passed since the first efforts to establish this mosque. He mentioned that unfortunately those who began the project all those years ago are no longer with us, either through them passing away or moving on elsewhere in the world. However, he continued, this mosque is for the community, it is our mosque. Those who participated in the initial stages of the mosque project around the world wished to be at the event. Also, Sheikh AbdurRahmaan al Hejazy, who was active in the AMA musallah while he lived in Ottawa and who now lives in Seattle, Washington, wrote an open email to express his joy for the city and his wish to be present at its opening.
Sheikh Ismael went on to remind everyone that the floor they were using currently is just one of three; the others will be inshaAllah (God willing) completed once the funds are raised. He urged the community to enjoy the space, and attend the mosque, but to not forget that the AMA still needs their help to realize the dream of utilizing the entire building.
Sheikh Abdallah Idris, a respected Muslim leader in North America who has travelled across the continent, witnessed that the women's section which occupies the entire third floor will be the largest women's area of any mosque in North America once completed. It has a beautiful view of the surrounding area and a lounge is planned for sisters to sit and gather. The main floor is the prayer hall and will hold so many more worshippers for Jummah prayer and also will be large enough to host Eid prayer, where presently other halls in different locations must be rented out.
Sunday Qur'an classes for over 150 children and all the other programs the AMA initiated at their musallah will now take place in the new mosque.
What's next for the mosque, now that the community can use it? Sheikh Ismael hopes that more women can utilize the mosque, and that programs can be initiated to make Ottawa's new Muslims feel welcome.
The event closed with snacks and drinks offered to the mosque's visitors, and smiles lined every corner of the room as people congratulated each other on this momentous occasion. Although the AMA still has some way to go in order to complete the mosque, it is clear that this day passed a major goal in that process and a step forward for the Muslims of Ottawa South.
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