While Canada was in the depths of the Great Depression, a Muslim Women's group, led by Hilwie Hamdon, was stirred by the great and expensive dream of building a permanent mosque on a continent which had never known one. At the time there were less than 700 Muslims recorded in the Canadian Census, although Muslims had been living in the land that would later become Canada since the 1850s. The mosque that these women built in Edmonton, Alberta, became the heart of a vibrant community which has become a vital part of Canada's 'Cultural Mosaic'.
The Al Rashid Mosque was intended to be the first mosque in North America. In the early 1930s, the Muslim women of Edmonton met with Mayor John Fry with the hope of acquiring a plot of land in the north of the city on which the mosque might be built. With the help of donations from Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians from across the Prairie Provinces, funds were raised to begin the project. The contractor for the project was Mike Dreworth, a Ukrainian-Canadian, who is likely responsible for the Eastern-Orthodox styled onion-domes on the mosque. By the time construction was completed on the Al Rashid Mosque in 1938, a much less ambitious mosque had been completed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Al Rashid Mosque was thus left with the still remarkable distinction of being the first mosque in Canada.
On the second day of November 1938, a funeral was held for Ali Tarrabain in the newly-completed mosque. This was the first religious event in the building. On the 12th of the next month, the Mosque was officially dedicated. IF Shaker, the Mayor of the town of Hanna and Mayor Fry of Edmonton each spoke at the dedication which was conducted by Allamah Abdallah Yusef Ali, a well-known translator of the Qu'ran.
Growth and Renewal
The mosque was moved a few blocks to the north-east in 1946. At that location it served the Muslim community both as a house of worship and a cultural centre until November of 1982. In that year a new and larger Al Rashid Mosque opened to serve more than 20,000 Muslims in the city.
Preservation and Education
In 1990, the original Al Rashid Mosque was saved from demolition and moved to Fort Edmonton Park to join the dozens of other historic buildings which preserve and communicate the history of the city and the country. Each year, thousands of visitors discover the Al Rashid Mosque as an integral part of Western Canada's history of fur-trading, farming, railroads, and worship.