The Al Rashid Mosque is a mosaic of determination, resilience, cooperation, and collaboration of Muslims and non-Muslims in Edmonton. It’s a building not only made of mortar and bricks, but a symbol of peace for all people of all faiths to assemble and to pray. Today, it stands as a majestic reminder of what can be done when a group of like-minded individuals set a goal and work hard to achieve it in the name of Allah.
The first Muslims arrived in Canada in 1871 in hopes of living in a country that promised them peace and prosperity. They were transported by boats to Canada’s East coast; the Census of Canada registered 645 Muslim residents by 1931.
In the early 1930s, a group of Muslim women requested the Edmonton Mayor, John Fry, provide them with a plot of land on which a mosque could be built to accommodate the growing Muslim community in the city. They reminded the Mayor that the other major faiths had their places of worship and therefore, the Muslims deserved their own site for communal prayers.
Mayor Fry supported the Muslim community in the purchase of land located next to Royal Alexandra Hospital at a cost of $5000.00. Mike Drewoth, a Ukrainian-Canadian, was hired as the contractor for what would become the first Mosque in Canada.
Al Rashid Mosque was officially opened on December 12, 1938. The ceremony was attended by prominent members of the community including Abdullah Yusuf Ali, whose English interpretation of the Holy Qur’an is renowned. The Mosque served as a religious and community center for the Muslim community and as a result, many Muslim families were attracted to Edmonton. The Mosque provided the new Edmonton residents with the reassurance that they could maintain their cultural practices and religious beliefs while interacting with Canadians of all cultures and faiths.
Over the years the community flourished, and by the early 1980s, more than 16,000 Muslims resided in Edmonton. The Al Rashid Mosque could no longer accommodate the growing number of Muslims and therefore, a larger purpose-built Mosque was required to meet the needs of its growing membership. In August 1982 the new Al Rashid mosque opened its doors to serve over 20,000 Muslims in Edmonton.
The original Al Rashid Mosque (the land had been sold to the City) remained empty for ten years until the expansion of the Royal Alexandra Hospital jeopardized the future of this historical landmark. The Canadian Council of Muslim Women lobbied to have the building saved from the wrecking ball and in 1992 the former Al Rashid Mosque was preserved as a historical building. It was moved to Fort Edmonton Park to be visited by all faiths and cultures. It opened doors at its new home to the public on May 28, 1992. Tours of the first Mosque of Canada can now be arranged with Fort Edmonton Park Administration
Today the Edmonton Muslim community numbers over 90,000 members and comprises 62 cultures. Its members have contributed to shaping Edmonton’s dynamic character for over a century and are poised to contribute to the growth and prosperity of Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada in the future as proud Muslim Canadians and in good faith with all other Canadians.