Is Brooks Masjid, Alberta Ready to Break Stereotypes?

Raheel Raza, one of the first Muslim women in Canada to lead a Friday service Source: Screen shot Tag TV

The Muslim Council of Calgary recently posted an advertisement on behalf of Brooks Musallah masjid located at 820 Railway Avenue, Brooks, AB, Canada.

Brooks Musallah is looking for a new Imam. The advertisement has laid out very clear criteria for what they are looking for in this new Imam with one exception. No gender is specified. The ad can be seen here.

Brooks Musallah is an English speaking mosque and it comes out of the Sunni branch of Islam, one of the more conservative sects. They are also listed as a multi-cultural mosque. Fluency in English and Arabic, written and spoken, is a requirement for the above position.

Another of the qualification requirements for the potential new Imam in Brooks is quoted below:

“Lead by example to prevent discrimination on any basis including but not limited to school of thought, gender, race, nationality, ethnic origin, citizenship, political affiliation  or economic status.”

What stood out for us with this particular ad was the stress on preventing discrimination.

Women generally have had a minor role in the working of a mosque, even in the West. There are some women in leadership roles, but these are generally secondary roles and limited in scope.

Could Brooks Musallah be one of the mosques in Canada that breaks through mainstream stereotypes? Could they be willing to consider a female Imam? Would or does this congregation hold de-segregated  worship?

Canada has had some women lead in prayer in progressive mosques, but most definitely not the main stream Islamic community. Below is a summary of Muslim women involved in leading worship and prayer in Canada. Taken from Wikipedia.

Canadian Muslims have been active in the woman-led prayer movement since 2003 when El-Farouk Khaki organized a woman-led prayer with Ghazala Anwar leading for the Salaam/al-Fatiha International Conference. In 2004, United Muslim Association UMA demonstrated its commitment to having women deliver the sermon and lead the prayer.[16][17][18]

In that year, 20-year-old Maryam Mirza delivered the second half of the Eid al-Fitr khutbah at the Etobicoke mosque in Toronto, run by the UMA.[19] Later the same year, Yasmin Shadeer led the night isha prayer with her male and female congregants.[20] – the first recorded occasion in contemporary times where a woman led a congregation in prayer in a mosque.[citation needed]

In April 2005, Raheel Raza led Toronto’s first woman-led mixed-gender Friday service, delivering the khutbah and leading the prayers of the congregation. The event was organized by the Muslim Canadian Congress to celebrate Earth Day, and was held in the backyard of the downtown Toronto home of activist Tarek Fatah.[21] In July 2005, Pamela K. Taylor, a Muslim convert since 1986, gave the Friday khutbah and led the mixed-gender prayers at the UMA Toronto mosque at the invitation of the Muslim Canadian Congress on Canada Day.[22] In addition to leading the prayers, Taylor also gave a sermon on the importance of equality among people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, and/or disability.,[23]marking the first occasion where a Muslim woman led prayers in an official mosque. In 2006, the former Mufti of MarseilleSoheib Bencheikh, requested that either Raza[24] or Taylor lead him in prayer, which Imam Taylor did during a visit to Canada in February 2006.[25] The prayers were sponsored by the Muslim Canadian Congress and held in a private venue with a mixed gender congregation.[26] In 2007, Imam Taylor let prayers for International Woman’s Day hosted by the Canadian Muslim Union [27]

From 2008, the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto has included women on their Board of Khatibs, and women and men alternate giving the call to prayer each week. Women regularly give full length sermons prior to the second adhan, with a male khatib delivering the Arabic portion in brief after the second call until 2012. In 2012, the Noor began having women give the full sermon including the Arabic portions.

In 2009, academic Laury Silvers, activist lawyer El-Farouk Khaki and artist Troy Jackson founded the Toronto Unity Mosque, the foundation mosque of El-Tawhid Juma Circle, in downtown Toronto. The circle is gender-equal, lgbtq-affirming, and religiously non-discriminatory. All Muslims are welcome to lead the prayer and give the sermon.[16][17][18] It helps set up similar circles when asked: The first two sister circles were founded in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia, in early 2011. These two communities are now associated with Muslims for Progressive Values. (see USA section below). Since then, Montreal Quebec, London Ontario, and Vancouver B.C. have established gender-equal/lgbtq-affirming prayer communities with El-Tawhid Juma Circle. ETJC maintains a website Juma Circle where resources for establishing mosque communities, learning to lead prayer, give a sermon, engage the Qu’ran, the life of the Prophet, and his family, as well as reviews of books, movies, and websites.

Muslims for Progressive Values Canada, an affiliate of Muslims for Progressive Values USA, founded in 2010 by Shahla Khan Salter (chair) leads mixed congregational prayers in Ottawa, Canada. Prayers for MPV Canada have been led by women, including Farhat Rehman and by Zeinab A.

At least five countries, including Canada have had women that either lead Friday sermons or attempted to. Read about that here.

“Bahrain (Middle East)

In 2004, a 40-year-old woman tried to deliver the Friday sermon (Jum’ah khutbah) on the last Friday of Ramadan.

She was disguised as a male Imam, wearing a full male dress, false beard, and mustache.

The congregation was able to see through her disguise and she was handed over to the police by the mosque’s imam, Sheikh Adnan Al-Qattan.”




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