2017: Toronto Unity Mosque

Troy Jackson’s story:

We started El Tawhid Juma Circle, or Toronto Unity Mosque, out of necessity and of love. ETJC went from a bright idea to reality, because we believed, and still do, that all people are equal in and before Allah/God.

Starting in May 2009, El-Farouk Khaki, Laury Silvers and I started meeting in my office every Friday afternoon. Every Friday for two years, I would push out my office furniture into El-Farouk’s office so people could gather to pray and find community there.

We created ETJC because we wanted a mosque space which affirmed the dignity of all peoples; where diversity is celebrated not merely tolerated, where women exercise equal divine agency, and where LGBTIQ people are affirmed. We all enter the world through a woman. To exclude the female voice from the chorus of our collective narrative is to silence more than half of the collective stories of the human race.

Our mosque is an affirming space where people are celebrated and not just tolerated. It is part of a growing movement for the manifestation of an inclusive, compassion-centered Islam. Our journey since 2009 has been long, sometimes difficult, frustrating, frightening, and even lonely. Our mosque/ movement is a manifestation of the adage “Build it and they will come”. I recall the many Fridays when it was only El-Farouk, Troy and I. Now, alhamdulillah, our Friday service draws between 24 to more than 50 attendees.

ETJC is a healing space for some of our community members. Those who have experienced trauma in the name of religion and in the name of Islam in particular, can come to be healed and to reclaim their Islam. Many are incredulous that such a mosque exists. We regularly witness tears, especially from new congregants, simply because we do exist. Now, ETJC has affiliated communities across Canada and the United States, and has resourced similar, inclusive mosque spaces globally.

ETJC is a transformative space and I am honoured to being a part of it.

Troy Jackson is a co-founder of ETJC and an Afro-Metis singer, writer and social commentator.

Sabat Ismail’s story:

The ETJC Toronto Unity Mosque is many things to me. It’s a place of spiritual healing where you can be yourself and come as you are, no matter who you are.

The ETJC is unconventional in comparison to other mosque spaces, while the rituals, prayers and structuring of the space continue to be rooted in traditional Islamic practices. The space is reformative in comparison to other mosque spaces and provides a space for unity for God and her creation.

The mosque has provided me a place where I can be empowered by my faith and community. Leading prayer, delivering the athaan (call to prayer), and sitting side by side with all congregants has been empowering and enriching. For me, the mosque is a place of spiritual healing and learning. Considering the spiritual trauma I experienced in other mosque spaces, I could not imagine the strengthening and deepening of my faith without my community and family at El-Tawhid.

Sabat Ismail is a Canadian of Ethiopian descent and a member of the Toronto Unity Mosque.

Farheen Fathima Ahmed’s story:

Throughout my life, I learned of countless examples of Islam being a compassionate, free religion. The Quran stated that God is the most compassionate and merciful. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) loved and married a strong, independent businesswoman. He once sought help from a Christian king who drew a line in the sand and told Muhammad (PBUH) that only such a line divided their religions. Regardless of gender and regardless of faith, we are all the same in God’s perspective.

Toronto Unity Mosque promotes the compassion that Islam encourages. Differences between Muslims and other religions are celebrated. We, the community, are shown that we all have something to contribute to Islam. It’s a safe space for all of us. It’s why I keep coming back.

Farheen Fathima Ahmed is new member of the Toronto Unity Mosque. She is of South Asian descent and a student at the University of Toronto.

Video: El Tawhid Juma Circle/Toronto Unity Mosque award acceptance.