The Al-Rashid Mosque, Canada’s first mosque, is a testament to the strength of community, especially of Edmonton’s Muslim women.
In the 1930s, the women from Edmonton’s Muslim community, led by Hilwie Hamdon, negotiated with then-Mayor John Fry, a 5,000 $ purchase of land on which a Mosque could be built. According to historian Dr. Earle Waugh, Hamdon drew support from the entire community in building the Mosque and rounding up funds to support the project. As Waugh writes, “they went from shop to shop along Jasper Avenue, the city’s main street. Whether shop owners were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, the women approached them all” (Waugh 2018: 31). During the Great Depression, Hamdon’s role in drawing financial support cannot be overstated, as under her leadership, the community was able to raise enough to purchase both the land and fund the initial construction.
Opening its doors on December 12, 1938, the Al-Rashid Mosque served not only as a place of worship but as a community center for the Muslim community.
By 1982, a new Al-Rashid Mosque was created to meet the needs of a growing Muslim community in Edmonton. Over the next six years, the original Mosque sat vacant and fell into disrepair. When plans to demolish the Mosque were announced by the city of Edmonton, the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) organized for the relocation of the Mosque to Fort Edmonton Park.
This was no easy feat, and the CCMW were met with strong opposition, not only from Fort Edmonton but from public opinions distorted by Islamophobia. However, the perseverance of the CCMW’s advocacy for this historically significant building was finally rewarded in 1992, with the Mosque being designated a historic property. The same year, the Mosque re-opened its doors to the public in Fort Edmonton Park, where it still stands today.
Sources and Further Reading
Kurd, Nadia. “The Mosque As Heritage Site: The Al-Rashid at Fort Edmonton Park and the Politics of Location.” Journal of Canadian Studies/revue D’études Canadiennes 52, no. 1 (2018): 176–92.
Trono-Doerksen, Joel. “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Canada’s History. Article published May 15, 2020. https://www.canadashistory.ca/explore/travel/little-mosque-on-the-prairie
Waugh, Earle. Al Rashid Mosque : Building Canadian Muslim Communities. First edition. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Gutteridge Books, 2018.
Waugh, Earle. “Al Rashid Mosque.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published May 10, 2021; Last Edited May 10, 2021.
Waugh, Earle. “Hilwie Hamdon.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published May 13, 2021; Last Edited May 13, 2021.