For two years, Sanad Collective had been using the basement of Shaykh Hamdi’s rented home to host Arabic classes, weekly worship sessions, and Zidni Ilma School for youth. This space, called “the Rawdah,” was the site of many happy moments – including celebrations of Eid and even a wedding.
Until…Spring 2015, and melting snow.
We came to the Rawdah one night to find the floor under a foot of water.
It was not the first flood, but it was the worst. This time, we were unable to quell the influx of water…and eventually, mold took hold of rugs, walls, and the undersides of bookcases.
Suddenly, we had nowhere to serve as a base from which to offer programs the community had come to love.
We had to find a new home! But where?
As the search for a new Rawdah began, we scoured locations for rent all over downtown and Ottawa-East, hoping to stay in the same general area, and continue to provide programming to the community of Ottawa-East.
None of the locations we visited was quite right. There was the one that had beautiful natural lighting, but was unfortunately up a long flight of stairs, making it inaccessible to wheelchairs and the elderly.
There was the downtown spot, used previously as an art gallery, but with no free parking around to accommodate those who’d be driving.
There was the beautiful two-story heritage building on Rideau, but we were beaten by an earlier offer.
Little mosque on the hill?
And then, there was the simple little white building, atop Beacon Hill. This location, found on Kijiji, had been a convenience store for the past twenty years or more.
Amazingly, the zoning allowed for a place of worship. This was more than we had expected – we had been looking to open an educational centre. But now, it was as if God was opening a new door, a new prospect, an invitation. Like He was beckoning us: Come closer, do more. Don’t be afraid.
Certainly, the huge lawn out back was ideal for gatherings: barbecues, youth events, even a garden perhaps….
And the location was right – after all, there wasn’t a full-time masjid at all in this part of Ottawa.
And yet, we were a bit afraid. Who wouldn’t be? Opening a masjid is a huge undertaking. It means so very much…were we ready?
The prayers of Istikhara began.
And the message kept coming: Go ahead.
So one afternoon in August, we sat out back with the sunlight falling all over us, and signed the lease. And so was born the new Rawdah – this time, spelled “Rhoda” – to make its pronunciation accessible to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
And now, the work began. We knew we’d have to lay carpets and paint walls…but….
As the metal shelves of that convenience store were removed, one by one, they revealed a floor that was totally warped. Under that floor was a rotting foundation.
And next to that convenience store fridge that had stored cokes and sprites, the wall was barely more than a shack-like edifice.
And when it rained, the ceiling leaked.
What we had estimated would be a few weeks’ work, had suddenly become months of work. It was enough to make a person question everything. But God kept us steady. In response to our renewed prayers seeking guidance, He gave us all the signs that we must stay the course.
Purify My House
As we confronted the challenge of construction, we were blessed to have help pour in from where we least would have guessed.
From the very start, a group of Brothers from Toronto joined us. They worked diligently, day and night. On the weekends, more brothers came in from Montreal and other cities in the region, assisting with rebuilding and remodelling.
Bit by bit, rotten surfaces were replaced with healthy foundations.
One special brother from Toronto, who came at the beginning of the project, never left til the end. He spent every day from morning to night, quietly working away. That man is forever our example of how to serve God.
We were also blessed to have sisters who regularly cooked to provide warm meals for the brothers working. And we even had non-muslim neighbors come by and help choose colors to paint the walls.
Until one day, in early December, we managed to lay the carpets.
That day, a Friday, the Rhoda Institute opened its doors to the community for the first time.
What can be said about such an experience with God? You sometimes worry about how it will ever end, and then He gives you more than you ever dreamed of.
The story goes on…
If you missed your chance to lift a hammer or paint a wall – to be touched by this goodness – it’s not too late. There are still chances to take your part in this story.
We need your involvement.
We need mentors in this masjid, to welcome others in.
We need volunteers to help clean the House of God.
And we need those who can give their money to help us pay for rent and utilities.
We invite you to jump right in. Come as you are. Your presence – just as you are – will be a blessing.
And, don’t worry, we’ll always be able to find something for you to do!