The new Rhoda Masjid and Spiritual Wellness Centre
We’re here to present a ground-breaking project to you: a model for the next generation of Muslim communities around the world. What we’re proposing is not something new, but rather, the revival of the powerful traditions of our past, the re-establishment of foundational institutions that are still celebrated today, and the harnessing of the timeless ethos of service to others that lies at the heart of the Way to God.
After three years of offering service through a rented space that housed a mosque with a community cafe next door, Sanad Collective’s Rhoda Institute for Islamic Spiritual Learning is moving to a new home, a home that will allow for much greater capacity in community development and spiritual education.
The new Rhoda Masjid and Spiritual Wellness Centre grows out of a great need in our community and around the world for a centre that nourishes the mind, soul, heart, and body. As an organization, our original focus was on teaching the Islamic Sciences and helping people to gain spiritual mentorship. Over the three years since our establishment, we have discovered that in order to even begin to educate people in the religious sciences, we need to support a healthy community and the well being of each individual. If we do not take care of the individual, everything we teach will be overridden by the challenges that person faces as soon as they leave the classroom: family issues, economic challenges, mental health concerns, and social isolation. We are blessed to have held space for people through our varied activities in the mosque, through the Lotus Community Corner third space, and through mentorship and spiritual counselling. But the need is greater than what we have been able to offer so far, and keeps increasing every year. With a new building, new opportunities to better serve people open up. Thank You, O Lord! Alhamdulilah.
As many people before us have said, one Imam (in our case, a Shaykh and an Ustadha) cannot carry all the counseling needs of a community. There must be others who step in to offer their skills and services. This is why we are incorporating a Spiritual Wellness Centre with the Rhoda Masjid & Institute. We believe that wellness is a spiritual matter, that there is nothing mundane or profane about illness, wellness and the journey of healing. Only when we see wellness and illness as an aspect of our spiritual lives, and the journey to healing as an act of devotion to God, will we be able to seek out the help we need, accept it, and embrace the fullness of our human experience.
There are two important things that must be said especially with regard to mental health: one is that we must do more to eliminate the stigma around mental health in our communities. It is unacceptable that anyone should suffer alone or in silence, be judged for being sick, or be denied their God-given right to seek appropriate professional help. A culture that denies the reality of mental illness and marginalizes those who have mental illnesses is in diametric opposition to the way of Islam which is to embrace the sick and honour them as being close to God, and to seek out healing for sickness which is a Divinely-ordained mission entrusted to the human being. In this sense, it is clear that sickness is not a burden to be borne alone, but a matter of community concern in which we all must support and work for the wellbeing of one another.
The second thing that must be said is that in keeping with the above, Muslim civilization was always very advanced in the healing arts. We must resuscitate this strength and bring it back, in order to be able to serve humanity all the better and provide healing that does not deny the existence of God or our own spiritual dimensions but rather harnesses the power and strength that comes from recognizing God’s Presence, and our own spiritual essence.
Only when we have well being are we able to engage in the spiritual journey. This is something we have witnessed through our community work over the past three years: those who walk through the mosque doors often need far more than a place to pray. They need counselling, coaching, and assistance to achieve a healthy lifestyle and discover their purpose and potential. As much as we can do as spiritual counsellors, we still need the support of other health practitioners including social workers and psychologists. We believe that providing these services onsite will improve our community’s overall wellbeing and enable us to reach greater heights in terms of effectiveness in our spiritual and social lives. The Spiritual Wellness Centre will feature service providers in mental and complementary health who will together form a supportive network for our community members to access quality care that allows them to reach their full wellbeing.
The Mosque and Institute:
Consciousness Development and Personality Development
The centre will have at its heart the sacred space, the mosque. The mosque will be set up so that men and women have equal access and sightlines to the Imam or teacher. There is one door for men, women, and children, and it is accessible to those in wheelchairs.
The Rhoda Institute will offer courses, seminars and classes both online and in-person. We already reach a vast audience of international viewers through our online programming, and we intend to expand our reach and our services to those in other parts of the world. We provide traditional knowledge offered in a manner that is in harmony with the needs of our students and listeners - our way of teaching involves discussion, the chance to ask questions without fear of judgment, opportunities for personal consultation, and ongoing mentorship. We also offer retreats that are an opportunity for learners to live the experience of a community of faith.
Reflecting our wellness element, we will continue to offer workshops that are centred around the idea of building the healthy personality that can shoulder the responsibility of leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Thus, we will offer courses on parenting, marriage, and other important life activities in which the support of community is vital.
Forging Authentic Culture: Community Development
One of our aims is to forge authentic culture, because we believe it is impossible to sustain, share, and pass down spiritual values without culture. We often say: culture is the cup that holds the spiritual drink within it. After all, culture carries our values and morals forward. It dictates how we mark the important rites of passage in our lives…and if we don’t provide a healthy culture, this and the next generation will seek out desacralized ways of marking these occasions, that have nothing to do with spirituality or God, and are simply expressions of capitalist consumerism and individualism. We must strive to create ways to house and host our own celebrations because these occasions are opportunities to thank the Divine, to pass on moral and value-based tradition and share it with others, and they are times that draw community together. Weddings, births, and the like are individual joy made communal, and community becomes the witnesses to the promises undertaken in such moments, becoming responsible to assist and support the individuals making these promises. With this intention, our new building will feature two halls for the celebration of occasions like weddings; boys’ and girls’ coming of age (the age at which they start to pray the Salah); births; graduations; and so on.
One of the essential aspects of culture and community is breaking bread. Thus, we will have a professional kitchen that will serve the celebrations, while employing youth and newcomers in continuation and expansion of the program started through the Lotus Community Corner: Baraka Syrian Homecooking. This kitchen will also serve the expanded version of the Lotus Community Corner as it moves from being a cafe to a more restaurant-style operation.
Additionally, the project will feature a co-working space that serves again to create community and reduce social isolation. It is a wonderful freedom to be able to work from home and freelance, but it also can be challenging and reinforce social isolation. The co-working concept brings together students and professionals to spend their working day in a clean office space where they don’t have to pay the full rent that they would have to pay if renting an office to themselves.
Leaving a Legacy: Zidney Ilma
Finally, our children will be the beneficiaries of a program that parents have been asking our teachers for since they started teaching ten years ago: a holistic homeschooling cooperative that nurtures and respects the spiritual dimension of our children. There is no doubt that parents are concerned for the wellbeing of their children given the societal trends that are clearly antagonistic to the natural Divinely-given goodness found in children. We are grateful that after years of parenting seminars, talks, and the Zidney Ilma Sunday School program, we have a group of parents who are ready to implement a positive teaching model full-time, as a pilot project for the 2018-19 school year. We are hopeful that this project will grow and flourish, for our children are our future, and we owe them the very best of what we can offer.
Not only will many of these projects within the Rhoda Masjid and Wellness Centre enhance community well being and enrich our ability to serve others around us, they will also be important revenue-generating elements that will help us at a certain point to become independent of loans and donations.
Honouring our Elders
Too many families and elders reach a crossroads where the elder can no longer remain at home; yet there are no facilities that truly reflect the spirit of a Muslim home. We need this kind of facility, as soon as possible. As part of our commitment to community and especially to our elders, our plan of program and property development within the next five years includes the construction of seniors’ housing. This housing will allow for our elders to remain in their community, within walking distance of the centre, fully a part of all that is happening at the Rhoda. Not only does this alleviate the suffering of families and elders who feel estranged in other facilities, it also is a huge asset to the Rhoda because it allows the rest of community to benefit from the presence and wisdom of our elders.
This housing will also be for youth and students, in order to break down the age-siloing we see in our world today and to give students the wonderful opportunity of serving elders. There are already many students from around the world who visit the Rhoda in order to learn from our teachers and spend time in our community; the housing will be ideal for them as it will offer them a chance to learn from our elders as part of their study of the Path to God. This model has been tried in several European countries to positive effect, and it is time we tried it here in Canada.
Be part of something great
Join us to build a viable model for a sustainable community that truly serves the needs of its constituents and beyond, acting as a beacon and blessing to the larger society. This is the time to create a legacy that will last well beyond our lifetimes. It is a must, if we hope to see our children find the strength they need to face the challenges of their time, and it is our obligation because we know that strength is found only in God.
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