Islamic Centre opens doors to a journey into Islam

The youth of Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre in Richmond is organizing an event called “A Journey into Islam,” to showcase Islam through interactive exhibits, guided tours of the centre and ethnic dinner. Sahir Moosvi, a data scientist and the organizer of the open house, aims to demystify Islam by reaching out to other people.

There are a lot of mysteries and misconceptions about Islam,” says Moosvi. “Muslims can lead good lives and be good neighbours too. We can answer questions in a non-confrontational way in a very relaxing environment.”

Dinner and discussion

The event is divided into two parts. The first part includes a dinner to have small talks and build relationships. The second part is the exhibits section: highlighting the Quran, prayer and fasting. Finally, visitors will be given a tour of the Centre and would be encouraged to ask Islamic scholars questions at the event. Women will be separated from men during dinner and then united for the rest of the event.

“Everyone can feel comfortable with a little bit of separation,” Moosvi explains. “But if there are extenuating circumstances, we can definitely find some resolution for it. It’s not often been the case.”

Visitors are expected to wear modest attire, but there is no restriction of what type of clothes people should wear. Moosvi says passer-bys are always allowed to get into the Islamic Centre with different clothing as long as it is not too revealing. Visitors are expected to take off their shoes when they enter the Centre.

When asked if LGBT members are allowed in, Moosvi comments that they don’t check or ask.

“We are open in that sense; we don’t turn anyone away,” he adds.

Every year the organizers ask people to register to the event as the Centre gets full, since repeat visits are not uncommon.

Islam in Canada

Syed Nasir Zaidi, a doctorate research scholar and spiritual consultant at Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre, Muslim Chaplain at UBC, and Muslim spiritual care professional at Vancouver General Hospital, is the keynote speaker of the event. Zaidi’s talk will focus on the importance of multi-fate activities at Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre and other multicultural societies.

“It is important for us to rebuild our approach from our religious scriptures because we need to recognize Canadian values,” he says.

Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre. | Photo courtesey of Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre.

According to Zaidi, although some of the sayings and verses from the scriptures and the Quran are universal, others must be seen in the light of their social, cultural and political circumstances. Subsequently, there is a need to understand the universal message of the Quran.

Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre is of the “Ithna ashari” or “Twelver” denomination, which is the largest branch of Shia, one of the main branches of Islam. Zaidi explains that the “Ithna ashari” has very strong academic grounds and history. It also has a lot of common grounds such as prayers, fasting, hajj, zakat and the principle beliefs with Sunni, the other main branch in Islam.

Zaidi says Islamic centres are established only in the Western world to have lesser restrictions and carry out various religious and cultural activities while preserving the sacredness of mosques, which are used for worshipping purposes only. Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre is an “extension of a mosque.”

“A mosque is only for worshipping obligations or collective praying,” he explains. “Other cultural and social activities are not encouraged in a mosque.”

According to Moosvi the Islamic Centre helps new immigrants in Vancouver by providing many features such as gym. Every year, community members distribute sandwiches and toques to the homeless in Downtown Eastside. Community members also participate in events and tournaments like basketball with Jewish schools and other religious centres and communities.

“Western countries motivates us to improve from an ethical, moral and spiritual aspect. These values are important and we are bound to highlight these values in this city,” says Zaidi.

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