Photo by Brianna Benton
I thought a lot about what I would write for this magazine. As I was researching different places on the Danforth, I noticed that there was a mosque that no one had really mentioned before. After some digging, I came to find that the Madinah Masjid Mosque has been around since 1974! Since it’s so embedded in Toronto’s history, I decided to share its story. As someone who was born and raised in Toronto and Mississauga her entire life, I’ve always loved the emphasis Toronto places on multiculturalism and diversity. The Danforth is a mainly Greek neighbourhood, but here is a mosque that has been around for decades, which is a perfect representation of that diversity.
A small group of people from Gujarat, India came to Toronto for a better life and found that they had prosperous opportunities. The mosque’s original space before the expansions and renovations is actually not the current location at all. It was previously in a rented basement on Gerrard Street, which runs parallel to the Danforth, but in 1983 the Jamiatul Muslemin of Toronto bought The Second Church of Christ, Scientist at 1015 Danforth Avenue. Through sheer determination and the outstanding support of the Muslim community they raised $700,000, which enabled them to buy this permanent property for the mosque. Throughout the ‘90s, the mosque went through a number of expansions and renovations as the Muslim community that gathered there continued to grow. Eventually, in October 2007, the mosque underwent a major renovation, expanding to 30,000 square feet to accommodate more than 3,500 congregators on Friday and Eid prayers.
This is a small success story, but I think it represents Toronto perfectly. The history of Muslims in Canada is a hidden one, but it’s definitely there and always has been, just like the history of this mosque. It tells a story about people looking for a connection and finding that within a multiculturalist society that accepted them and helped them feel at home. Madinah Mosque and the fact that it has been around for several decades is a prime example of how deeply embedded and intertwined the history of Muslims and the history of Toronto actually are. Canada is a relatively young country and the mosque is a building block that has helped develop a diverse community in the most diverse city in Canada.
My father remembers praying in this mosque back in the ’80s, and being able to pray there myself was a special experience. To step into a place where so many people have been before, that my father has stepped into, made me feel like I was connected to so many people all at once. There is a sense of community that the mosque houses that really makes the Madinah Masjid stand out. It has been around for several decades and has managed to make a very special place in everyone’s hearts.