By UNVER SAAD
Name: Al Ansar Islamic Center
Address: 43 Railside Road , Toronto, ON M3A 3L9 (Railside Road &Lawrence Ave.)
Tel: 416.850.4998 Fax: 647.436.6646
President & Imam: Asadullah
“WE lost the concept of Ummah, and after that we lost everything. Now, we have to revive the model of one Ummah. Welcoming and respecting every Muslim irrespective of ethnicity, color, language is the culture of this center,” said passionate Asadullah, the President and Imam of al-Ansar Islam Center, located at 43 Railside Road (cross Lawrence Ave.), Toronto.
After the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet Union in 1978 and after the reoccupation of Afghanistan by US and NATO forces, killings, bombings, captivity, tortures, and threat of life became the norm of days of puppet rulers of Kabul. Afghan Muslims were facing extreme hardships. A large number of educated Afghans, looking to live in a free country where they can practice their faith without threat and pressure, started migrating to several countries. Thousands of Afghans chose Canada as their new homeland and migrated here permanently, and Br. Asadullah was one of them.
Born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, holding a Bachelor degree in Plant Science from Kabul
University, and having sanad (certification) of traditional Islamic studies, Br. Asadullah was well equipped to present himself and the message of Islam to Canada.
Br. Asadullah’s grandfather Sheikh Gulam Hyderi was one of the well known Mashaikh of Islam in Afghanistan. Asadullah completed all the traditional studies, like Tajweed, Fiqh, Hadith, Seerah, etc from the Madrassah of his ancestors.
Asadullah migrated to Calgary in 1990 and was trying to settle there. He was attending several Islamic Halqas (study circles) regularly during his stay in Calgary. However, his destiny was not Calgary, and he finally moved to Toronto. Opening an office in a nearby Masjid, he faced several difficulties. He asked permission from the Masjid to set a weekly halqah in Farsi language for Afghan immigrants, but permission was denied. Then he went to the Masjid to ask consent to use a night of Masjid space for Qiyamul Lail (standing in full night pray), but again authorization was denied. He had no option but to start an Islamic Center/Masjid to train and educate the brothers and sisters in a way that they can become practicing Muslims. Within a year of his moving to Toronto, he established an Islamic Center at 132 Railside Road, which had space of 3200 square ft. The present location of the Center at 43 Railroad has a space of approx 20,000 square ft. They are planning and moving towards a full Islamic Center with all facilities.
Br. Asadullah said that he has established a Shura that comprises 13 members from different ethnicities of Islamic faith. He said that he tried his best not to give an image or label this Masjid as an “Afghani Masjid.” “It is harmful; as a Muslim we are one nation, one ummah,” said vigilant Br. Asadullah. He stood firm on the issue of unity of Muslims.
“Nationalism” is the biggest enemy of Islam. It is a proven arm of our enemies to cut the Ummah into pieces. British colonial power used it successfully to divide the Muslims. The end of Islamic Khilafah of Turkey is the result of Arabic and Turkish nationalism incited, developed, and propagated by our enemies.” Brother Asadullah is articulate in explaining the difference of nationalism and unity of Ummah.
He recited the verse of Surah Al-Imran of the Quran that means:
“And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does Allah make clear to you His revelations that you may follow the right way.”- Al-Quran 3: 103
Al-Ansar Islamic Center has attracted a large crowd as noted professional Qurras (experts in recitation of Quran) from Egypt have been coming every year since 1994 in the month of Ramadhan, and people started coming to listen to those Qurras in the night Taraweeh prayer. Another attraction was sumptuous iftar dinner with diverse food varieties and flavors. Br. Asadullah invites you in the month of Ramadhan if you would like to see “a wonderful arrangement of Iftar.”
Assadullah shared a story of the days of relocation and moving from the old center to the new center. There were few days in Jumuah (Friday) and this place was built as a factory. Afghan laborers worked in the nights and fixed a big praying area for Jumuah Salah. At this time, if you visit the Center, you will see that every place is in the process of being developed and built, except for a few completed places like brothers’ prayer area, sisters’ prayer area, a small prayer room, a kitchen, and some space for indoor games. The recreation center, gym, library, classrooms, and whatever else you can think of that an Islamic Center should have, has been thought of by Br. Asadullah, and he is already working on it. “I would like to see it as a full fledged Islamic Community Center that should fulfill the needs of the Muslim community.”
Currently, Al-Ansar manages a study circle for tafseer every Monday from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Dr. Bayan, Al-Azhar University graduate and ex-Professor of Tafseer in Riyadh University, leads this study circle. All the attendees of this study circle understand Farsi language;
therefore, the language of the circle is Farsi. The other important program is professional classes for Qirah and Tajweed for all age groups, every Saturday from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. These times are divided among different levels of instructions and groups. For example, adult and elderly people who don’t know even the alphabet of Arabic language have a separate class. Students of this program range from 6 years to 50 years. Indoor games, such as table tennis and basketball facilities, are available in the center.
Sundays are dedicated to sisters. Different classes for different age groups are maintained from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Younger girls start reading Quran, and youth and adults study Arabic, Tafseer, Seerah, and Fiqh classes.
The center organizes an after-school program two hours, five days in a week for young boys and girls. This program is dedicated to learning and memorizing the Qura'n. The center also has a Dawah committee comprised of all new Muslims involved in the distribution of English translation of Qura'n and other Islamic literatures and street Dawah through outreaching the people.
We also discussed Canadian politics. Br. Asadullah strongly believes that the secular, non-practicing Muslim politicians are more dangerous people than non-Muslim Canadian politicians. “Only when practicing and Allah-conscious people will come into politics then situation might improve. We shouldn’t invest our time and money for secular Muslim politicians who have no faith or who are working against the faith,” Br. Asadullah confirms.
I found Al-Ansar Islamic Center, a hospitable, cooperative and friendly Center.