Preferred Citation: Metcalf, Barbara Daly, editor. Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.

Transcending Space


1. This paper is drawn essentially from the life involvement of one who is both an outsider and insider among Muslims in Canada, a socially entrenched participant and translator across the margins. Its focus is on Muslims who have become, over the years, more like family members than friends, and what I write must reflect their sense of self-representation. My collaborators’ wish to stay outside this text accounts for the absence of the personal voices so attractive to read (see also Qureshi 1991). Special thanks go to Saleem Qureshi, Siddiqua Qureshi, Amera Raza, Atiya Siddiqi, Yasmeen Nizam, Zehra Hameed, Aqil Athar, Anisa and Nazir Khatib, and Najma Hossain. I am particularly grateful to Atiya Siddiqi, Anisa Khatib, Ansa Athar, and Yasmeen Nizam for sharing photographs of their homes. This chapter is dedicated to all of you!

2. Built in 1938 by a small group of Arab immigrants, Edmonton’s al-Rashid Mosque is the oldest in Canada. The newly built al-Rashid Mosque was opened in 1982. Today, the original small building has been moved to the historical site of Fort Edmonton. The Markaz ul Islam was opened in 1986.

3. For a discussion of basic concepts in South Asian Canadian community formation, see Qureshi 1983.

4. “The whole world is a masjid [mosque] for you, so wherever the hour of prayer overtakes thee, thou shalt perform the salat and that is masjid” (SahihMuslim 1977, vol. 1, ch. 194, no. 1057, p. 264; see also Samb 1991: 645).

5. The classical formulation is by Ghazali (Macdonald 1901–2; see also During 1988).

6. Qur’an, suras 109, 112, 113, 114.

7. Ibid., sura 112.

8. Ibid., sura 2:255.

9. In Shi‘a homes, names include members of the Prophet’s family (‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan, Husain), and pictures of their tombs at Karbala (Husain) and Najaf (‘Ali).

10. If disabled, a Muslim can recite a namaz without the gestures, just as dry cleaning can be substituted in ablutions (wuzu) if water is unavailable. Flexibility vis-à-vis ritual observance is characteristic of Islam and clearly serves to facilitate individual observance.

11. Despite the highly musical presentation, the term singing is inappropriate, since Islamic tradition does not approve of music in association with religious expression.

12. An informal alias for milad is auraton ki qawwali (women’s qawwali)—that is, a women’s equivalent of the (male) Sufi devotional assembly convened for listening to the performance of mystical hymns (Qureshi 1995).

13. Also chosen sometimes for repeated recitation are the words of the first qul, for which the appropriate number is 11,000 times. The practice of undertaking a fixed number of repeated repetitions is collectively termed wazifa.

14. The term khatam-e-qur’an (completion of the Qur’an) is also used for qur’ankwhani (see, e.g., Werbner 1990).

15. For example, during menstruation.

16. All qur’anic translations are taken from Yusuf Ali 1986.

17. In my experience, the term sacred does not resonate positively with Muslims.

18. My long association with both the Shi‘a and Isma‘ili communities leads me to think that their prior experience as endogamous minority groups (especially in East Africa) may have endowed them with an institutional religious life that furthered their adaptation and self-definition in Canada. The swift establishment of thriving imambaras and jama‘tkhanas after the two groups emigrated from East Africa contrasts strikingly with the very gradual establishment of South Asian mosque activities. Also striking is the fact that before the substantial immigration of Khoja Shi‘as from East Africa, South Asian Shi‘a religious life in Canada was not more publicly organized than that of South Asian Sunnis, possibly because of low numbers. See Schubel, this volume.

19. In Alberta this is exemplified by the now-dormant Urdu Muslim Cultural Association. The more recently established Bazm-e-Sukhan is explicitly secular and includes anyone interested in Urdu culture.

Transcending Space

Preferred Citation: Metcalf, Barbara Daly, editor. Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.