In early childhood landscapes, educators often talk about the benefit for a child to have a semi-secluded space they can retreat to when they crave a sense of quiet. These often look like tents, little nooks built into the walls, lofts or cozy areas. In the kids’ bedrooms, I have used their closets and tents but I thought it might be nice to have something in the playroom for Ramadan. So we made a mosque which in our house, works as décor, provides a new play space (Y loves crawling through the door) and does indeed provide a place to retreat. I think most families that make mosques at home do it to encourage their children to pray- that was not the purpose of this mosque as my children are still too young to be held accountable to pray but they are welcome (and often do) join me when I pray in our living room.
My childhood was full of visits to various mosques. Since my dad was our primary caregiver once we started school, our summers were marked by Friday trips to the masjid. The first mosque I remember going to with him was Jami Mosque. There was never enough parking and I remember we would park what felt like forever away, skipping along the street, playing with parking meters before we finally got to the beautiful doors.
This beautiful mosque which was once a Presbyterian Church, was the place where my brother and I would run freely, weaving in and out of different rooms as soon as we finished our prayers. I remember seeing Muslims from all over the world at this mosque, a stark difference from the mostly-Pakistani attended mosques I encountered when my family moved to Mississauga. As I was searching online for a picture of this mosque, I came across this short and wonderful documentary about Toronto’s early Muslim community and an article that will be fascinating to any Muslims who call Toronto home. While I researched Muslim pioneers (coincidentally from Alberta) for one of my university classes, I didn’t know much about Toronto’s early Muslim community except for the stories my father would tell me about his experience in the 1970s.
Even though my children don’t visit the mosque frequently (and have been to more mosques outside of Calgary than inside our city), they were excited at the idea of having a “mosque” in our house. On Sunday, we had plans to be outdoors but both kids were feeling out of sorts and H asked to stay home instead of go to the park (rare!) We got to work to try and make a mosque. Y, who wakes up first, and I had discussed our mosque plans and when I asked him what colour he wanted to paint it, he decided on purple and was singing “puppe moshk puupe moshk” all morning. While he played upstairs, H helped me tape together the frame using cardboard I had been hiding away from my husband, who likes to redirect my project materials to the recycling bin. As soon as the doorway was cut out, Y got to work, crawling in and out.
We sat down to paint domes, taking a vote and ultimately deciding on green. Other options discussed were blue, orange, gold, purple and rainbow (based on a planning meeting we had the week before Ramadan started,)
Y decided he didn’t want to paint the dome and instead went to work on his own creation. H spearheaded the domes.
While Y napped, we attached the domes to the mosque. Afterwards, I painted on some windows and doors and the children decided to furnish the inside – prayer rugs, books and eventually pillows to make it cozier.
They spent time at various parts of the day reading in there. And then I used it as a backdrop to take some Ramadan Mubarak photos (which I wasn’t able to send out to very many people as my phone died that night).
After taking the photos, we opened their Ramadan gifts: a new book for each, a prayer rug for Y and a pink hijab for H. The PJs from the photo above were also part of their Ramadan gift but they got to open them the previous night with their cousins (The super cute PJS that say “Ramadan with my khandaan” are from Two Craftistas). We read the books together and then I went to take a shower.
While I was in the shower, I realized that it was too quiet and then a sense of dread set in as my mommy senses told me Y must be playing with the paints. I was right! He decided to paint the paint bottles, paint on his new PJs, paint the floor and paint the mosque of course. Fortunately for him, I had just committed to being patient and tempering my reactions before I realized what he must be up to. It will be interesting to see how long it survives and how the children end up using this space as the days pass.
A little late but a very sincere Ramadan Mubarak to everyone who observes this month. May it serve as a time for reflection, an increase in good and envelop you in its mercy.
And just a PSA since with the advent of social media, this needs to be said out loud: remember the essence of this month. No amount of crafting, beautiful décor or delicious food is going to fill the void that is ultimately within us. Something to think about as we (sub)consciously pass on our attitudes and traditions to the next generation. We need to do what we’re doing so long as it works for our families, and when it no longer does, we can move on. We are all created differently, motivated by different things and in different seasons of our lives. We can celebrate the initiatives of others without getting defensive. And if we can’t, we’re better off taking a step back than sabotaging ourselves out of jealousy or feeling inadequate. If we’re going to feel guilty about anything this Ramadan, let it be for the right reasons -Ramadan can’t just be another avenue for Mommy Wars to play out. So I end by renewing my intentions and praying that this month leaves us better than it found us.