In the hopes of beginning a new life of peace and prosperity the first Muslims arrived in Canada in 1871. They arrived by boat on Canada’s east coast and by 1931 the Census of Canada registered 645 Muslim residents. In the early 1930’s in the City of Edmonton, Mayor John Fry was approached by a group of Muslim ladies for a plot of land on which a mosque could be built for the growing Muslim community. An amount of 5000 dollars was needed to buy the land that was located next to Victoria High School and later in 1946 Al Rashid was moved to Royal Alexander Hospital in order to expand Victoria High School. A Ukrainian-Canadian named Mike Drewoth was hired as the contractor for this historic undertaking that would be the first mosque built in North America.
The official opening of the Al Rashid Mosque was on December 12, 1938.
The ceremony was attended by various prominent figures. The mosque served the Muslims as a religious and community centre. As a result of the mosque’s presence, many Muslim families were attracted to Edmonton. They immigrated here to raise their families in a new land, interacting with Canadians while maintaining their religious beliefs and cultural practices.
Over the years as the community continued to flourish, their numbers grew to over 16,000 Muslims by the early 1980’s. By that time the mosque was becoming over crowded so a bigger facility was needed to meet the community’s needs. In November 1982 the new Al Rashid mosque opened its doors to serve over 20,000 Muslims in Edmonton.
The old mosque would remain empty for another 10 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 old Al Rashid Mosque was preserved as an historical building in Fort Edmonton Park. It reopened its doors to the public on May 28, 1992. Visitors to this monument of peaceful coexistence can go on a tour and learn some of the history behind its pioneering heritage.
As the community grew, more services and facilities were needed. To meet this challenge the Canadian Islamic Centre/ Al Rashid Mosque offers many services including housing, funeral services, educational programs, an accredited private school for grades K-12 and much more. Today the Edmonton Muslim community consists of over 60,000 members comprised of over 62 ethnic backgrounds. Its members have contributed to Edmonton’s dynamic character for over a century and look to the future as an opportunity to continue to live in harmony and prosperity with Canadians of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.