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Edmonton Muslims Celebrate Prophet's Birthday

April 24, 2008

To mark the occasion of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which was on 12th day of Rabi’-al-Awwal 1429 AH, the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities and His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Edmonton have organized a special commemoration on Sunday April 27th at the Belle Rive Jamatkhana and Centre located at 9504 153 Avenue. The event will include a talk by Professor Hasan-Uddin Khan, a Distinguished professor of Architecture and Historic Preservation, Roger Williams University, Rhode Island and a Visiting Professor of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He will speak on “Pluralism & Identity, the Architecture of Mosques in the Modern World.”

In the early days of Islam (i.e. in early 7th century Mecca) the original Muslim community had no specific or special place of prayer and the arrangements for communal worship were informal. According to a famous saying of the Prophet, the “whole world is a masjid” (place of prostration). It is only after the Prophet’s migration to Medina, in the year 622 AD, (this year also marks the beginning of the Muslim Calendar) that a specific architectural space emerged and evolved, where Muslims could collectively perform ritual prayers as well as manage the affairs of the state. Surrounded as it was by the shops and stalls of all kinds of merchants, the new mosque soon became the political and economic as well as the spiritual nucleus of the city, and played both a practical and a symbolic role in unifying the citizens. Ever since, as the nascent Muslim community became
permanently established in large numbers, the mosque became a focal point for their religious and social life. In these ‘new’ Muslim lands, there were attempts initially to reproduce, in both form and function, the first masjid of Medina.

Beginning with the revelation of the Holy Qur’an and the historical experiences of Muslims over 1400 years, the devotional life of Muslims has consisted of a rich variety of expressions, forms, interpretations and spaces. As a result, a pluriform rather than uniform culture has been characteristic of the reality of Muslim societies throughout history. Moreover, this cultural pluralism, rather than being a weakness, remains a source of strength and inspiration for millions of Muslims around the world.

In the case of Muslims, in whose history architecture has been such a powerful symbol to manifest their presence, the ‘making space’ has taken the form of building mosques or congregational centres in which religious, social, and cultural identity can be expressed. In addition to the masjid, such centres include the ribat, khanaqah, zawiyah, tekke, husayniyah and the jamatkhana. Together, these institutions have played and continue to play varied and significant religious and social roles in the lives of those associated with them and comprise an important element in the history and evolution of expressions of piety in Muslim societies. Mosques and other places of gathering also become extensions of ethnic and family identity, meeting places where relationships can be grounded, maintained, and nurtured. They are markers of identity and permeability, and help define relationships to those with whom the larger local or national space is shared.

Therefore, as we celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it is fitting that we should reflect on the relationship between the built environment and the very ethos of the faith that was revealed through him. In commemorating the notions of pluralism and diversity that the Prophet’s mosque originally signified 1400 years ago, we also recognize our own diversity, both within the Edmonton Muslim community and within society at large.

Media Enquiries may be directed to:
Larry Shaben (780) 423-3364
Mohib Samnani (780) 964-2944
Shayda Nanji (780) 718 2658

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