Muslim community swings into celebratory mood

August 7, 2013 - All News

A brief history of the growth of Toronto’s masajid and community’s valuable contributions
Staff Writer
Over the years, the flow of immigrants coming from all over Muslim world has significantly changed the face of Toronto Region and improved conditions for fellow community members to peacefully practice religion and celebrate mega occasions like Ramadan and Eid.
It’s again the time of year to say “Eid Mubarak!”
After 30 days of life without food or water during the long daylight hours, sometimes in health-sapping heat, the joyous time for the Muslim community has come to eat to the limit and distribute sweets and meet and greet relatives, friends and neighbours.
Worldwide Muslims, including residents of Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, are celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr with religious fervor and enthusiasm.
It will be Eid either tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday, depending on the crescent moon sighting.
Marking the beginning of gigantic three-day festival at the end of Ramadan, Eid prayers are scheduled in all masajid (mosques) and Islamic centres across the GTA Region.
Eid-ul-Fitr — also known as ‘festival of feast’ or ‘festival of sweets’ — begins on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal and marks the end of Ramadan, which is the month of fasting, prayers, charity, soul purifying and peace-making.
Eid brings lives back to normal routine. In Ramadan, eating, drinking, physical needs and even smoking is not allowed from sunrise to sunset while Eid marks the beginning of a new healthy lifestyle with a renewed commitment of continuing such practices until next Ramadan.
Back in time
Going back in time, history shows that there was only one masjid — the Turkish community’s famous Fatih Mosque located at 182 Rhodes Avenue — for the whole Toronto Region. Years later it becomes two with the opening of Islamic Foundation in 1969.
“My first Eid in Toronto was Eid-ul Fitr in 1969. I led the prayer at Islamic Foundation (old Rhodes Ave location) soon after its birth,” said Imam Abdul Hai Patel, a long-time resident of Toronto, while speaking to SAF. “People used to come from far-off areas to pray and both masajid (Fatih Mosque and Islamic Foundation) would be packed to capacity.
“There were very few families and most people were singles. Many of them celebrated either on their own or with families they knew. It was a home away from home… it’s nothing like celebrating and enjoying Eid at home,” said Patel.
“It was the time when community members badly felt the need of building more masajid. That was a challenge, but people never lost hope and always worked hard and contributed towards building masajid,” said Patel. “This struggle is enormous.
“Within the next 13 to 15 years, the community had grown exponentially because more people arrived under the spousal and family reunification program and, by 1983, five new masajid — four Sunni and one Shi’ia — were established.”
The ongoing effort, as described by Patel, still continues to the present day.
According to the 2011 Census, Muslims have exceeded the million mark and almost doubled their population, from 579,740 in 2001. Among them, some 581,950 live in Ontario and most of them call GTA their home.
Due to their contribution, today masajid are easily accessible everywhere, from homes to workplaces in all areas across Toronto Region.
Offering prayers or Taravih during the holy month of Ramadan is easier than ever.
However, the demand for masajid is still high due to the growing Muslim population. Each masjid or Islamic centre offers at least two congregation prayers every Friday as well as on or Eid and, as a matter of fact, organizers cannot accommodate every single person that arrives at the house.
Despite having close to 100 masajid (only those that are member of Toronto Hilal Committee), today Friday and Eid prayers are also usually held at places like recreation centres, libraries and schools. Even Eid prayers are now being offered at gigantic arenas like Rogers Centre, Toronto Metro Convention Centre and CNE.
“Thousands of people of various race and nationalities attend CNE Eid prayers every year. They hardly know each other, but exchange Eid greetings… it truly revives the Quranic verse,” said Patel.
Sana Hafez of Muslim Association of Canada (MCA), the main organizer of Eid prayers at Rogers Centre, said they once again expect 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend this year’s Eid congregation and festival.
Interestingly on both Eids at these iconic arenas, organizers present a complete festival package for the community as well as for non-Muslim visitors.
The festivals begin with large congregational prayers followed by day-long family fun and entertainment.
The events offer spectacular celebrations including a carnival with many fun-filled rides, shows, sports tournaments and a variety of international cuisines. Various businesses also come together to showcase their products and services to the community.
Religious celebrations have now become like home. Scores of Eid and chand raat bazaars provide an opportunity for all age group people including men, women, children and elders to shop and prepare for Eid.
These bazaars offer a variety of jewelry, clothes, Mehdi (henna tattoos), bangles, footwear, Islamic artifacts and antiques, and a range of mouthwatering foods and entertainment.
Apart from prayers, the Eid festivals at Rogers Centre are celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. These one-day festivals begin with a large congregation, followed by full day of family fun and entertainment.
Eid-ul-Fitr is the biggest celebration for Muslims. It marks the joyous end of a month-long fast that extends daily from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. It’s the festivity of sacrifice, fasting, prayers and good deeds.
According to Islamic tradition, people try to spot the first moon of the month of Shawwal after breaking their fast on the 28th or 29th day of Ramadan. As soon as the moon is sighted, the month of fasting ends and Eid celebrations begin. The joyous night is called chand raat.
On Eid day, Muslims wear new or best clothes, apply ‘attar’ (non-alcoholic perfumes) and gather in mosques to perform congregational Eid prayers followed by khutba or sermon and then dua.
Soon after dua, they hug and congratulate each other for fasting, prayers, taravih and good deeds during Ramadan.
Shawwal fasting
Dawn to sunset fasting like Ramadan is strictly prohibited during Eid, but fasting six days after Eid is highly recommended, as its reward is huge.
In one Hadith, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) stated: “Fasting in Ramadan is like fasting 10 months, and fasting six days (of Shawwal) is like fasting two months. That is like fasting a full year.”
As per Islamic scholars, including Imam Shafi, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Abu Hanifa, Muslims must consider it a recommended sunnah to fast six days during the month of Shawwal.
The month of Shawwal also provides an opportunity to also combine missed Ramadan fasts and the sunnah of fasting the six days after Eid.
On Eid, Muslims prepare festive meals to share, wear new clothes, visit relatives and give presents or sweets to children.
Many of them also send greeting cards — in modern world, digital cards — to loved ones living far away or back home saying “Eid Mubarak to you”.
As per sunnah, eating before going for the Eid-ul-Fitr prayer is a must and the person should not be fasting like Ramadan.
‘Sadaqah al-fitr’ or ‘fitra’ — charity of fast-breaking or poor tax — is another important part of celebrations.
Depending on affordability, it is mandatory for every Muslim to extend ‘fitra’ to the needy before Eid prayers. It’s a tax in aid of poor Muslims so they can also participate in the joy and celebrate the festival happily.
The current ‘fitra’ in Toronto region is $7 per person. If a person has not given ‘fitra’ during Ramadan, he/she can extend it on Eid day.
Key reminders for Eid salah
* Wake up early in the morning.
*  Prepare for personal cleanliness — nails, nose, ears and unwanted hair etc.
*  Miswaak or brush your teeth.
*  Take a ghusl (complete bath).
*  Dress up nicely — put new or best available clothes.
*  Wear perfume — attar (non-alcoholic).
*  Must eat before Eid-ul-Fitr salah — sweets, dates or dessert such as vermicelli. On Eid-ul-Adha, eat after salah.
*  Pay ‘fitra’ before Eid salah.
*  Eid salah must be offered in congregation.
*  Reach the masjid or prayer area on time.
*  If possible, walk to the masjid.
*  Recite takbiraat.
*  Use two separate routes to and from the masjid.
*  Be disciplined, organized and consider carpooling to avoid traffic congestion.