Finding Peace at a Mosque in Toronto
By Sidratul Muntaha, Toronto, Canada
Mosques play a vital role throughout the life of a Muslim, no matter where they live. I have spent most of my life in Pakistan. Due to the religious discrimination we faced as Ahmadi Muslims, we always had limited access to our mosques but still played an active role in our lives. For us, mosques were where we prayed together, socialized, held community events, and bonded as a community. They were our safe haven where we could be ourselves away from the discriminatory eyes of the people around us.
But in the year 2008, things started to change. This is when Pakistani society became even more obsessed with religious extremism and openly posed a threat to the members of our community. It became a security concern for the members of our community to visit our mosques. And it was decided that going forward women will offer prayers at home and will not hold any events at the mosques. Life for Ahmadi Muslim women changed forever.
My childhood friends left me after that incident, saying that I am not the “right kind of Muslim. The coming years proved to be even worse for Ahmadi Muslims and for women in particular. We watched our mosques closed for us and ached to be able to go in them again. I spent nights crying to my God to give us the opportunity to practices our religion (which is Islam) freely.
Then my life changed when I set foot in Canadian soil in 2020. I still remember the day I first arrived. The only thing I was most anxious to see more than my siblings was the beautiful Bait Ul Islam Mosque standing tall in Maple, Ontario.
This kind of anxiety can only be understood by Ahmadi Muslims who have spent their whole life in Pakistan. It was such an emotional moment for me when the voice of Adhaan (call for Muslim prayer) hit my ears being called from an Ahmadi mosque. In Pakistan, Ahmadis are forbidden to call Adhaan in their mosques or even homes. For me, it was the first time in my 28 years of life that I heard the melodious voice of Adhaan emerging from an Ahmadi Mosque. The pain and agony in which I spent so many years of my life was finally undone by offering prayers in this mosque.
While I am happy to be living in a free country, my heart aches for the people of Pakistan. May all Pakistanis regardless of faith be able to practice their religion freely and our mosques and churches and temples are once again filled with worshippers.
My name is Sidra Tul Muntah, I am an Ahmadi Muslim and this is my story. Follow me on twitter @SiddraaRana