The Hamilton Downtown Mosque is on the cusp of a big milestone.

The 22-year-old congregation is moving into its new home on York Boulevard this summer, but still has a lot of renovation work to do to ready the building, a former fitness club, for regular worship.

To raise money for the expensive undertaking, the mosque’s membership organized a fun fair. The Saturday festival boasted face-painting and inflatable playgrounds for the kids, as well as a clothing sale, a henna station and of course, lots of food.

Mosque faithfuls took a break from the outdoor festivities at 2 p.m. to pray inside the mostly bare warehouse-like room that, once refurbished, will become their new sanctuary.

CBC Hamilton attended the festival and got a glimpse inside the mosque's new digs. To see pictures of the event, flip through the photo gallery at the top of the page. 

Building step-by-step

Hafsa Ali, a fundraising coordinator for the mosque, said the idea for the event came from the youth in the congregation.

“They’re very much excited to use their energy to fund raise for the project,” she said.

Future Mosque

Long-term future plans for the Hamilton Downtown Mosque include an elementary school, a day care centre, a community hall and underground parking. (Hamilton Downtown Mosque)

Muslims are prohibited by their religion from entering into financial contracts that require them to pay or collect interest. So if mosque members want to add a new amenity to the sprawling 35,000-square-foot complex — which is mostly empty at the moment — they will have to raise funds to pay for the improvements upfront.

With around 3,000 members, the mosque had been looking for years to either expand its Wilson Street location or move into a new one. At the beginning of March, the congregation’s leadership announced they'd signed a deal to buy the York Boulevard building, which continued to operate as a fitness club until earlier this spring.

The arrangement allows the mosque to pay off the $3.5-million purchase price in a series of scheduled instalments — without being charged interest. After revving up their fundraising efforts in the fall, members have collected more than $1.4 million to put towards the payments, said Wahed Al-Jabry, the mosque's board director. 

'It’s not just for the Muslims. It’s also for the community at large.'—Hafsa Ali, Hamilton Downtown Mosque

With the next cheque due in late fall, the short-term focus has shifted to drumming up money for urgent projects like installing new washrooms, he said. 

“Between now and November, we need to work hard so we can do fundraising for the renovation.”

The broader plan, said Ali, is to equip the new mosque with a school, a daycare, a library and gym space. The young people are especially excited about the latter feature, she said.

But the complex won’t just be for regular mosque-goers to use, Ali added.

“It’s not just for the Muslims. It’s also for the community at large.”