Imam leading Friday prayers at UPEI
'It's a good place for them to find a prayer mat and they can comfortably pray'
The UPEI Muslim Student Association has expanded services for Muslim students at the university's chaplaincy centre.
Prayers are now being led by an imam on Fridays at 1 p.m. They're held in a special prayer space that opened for Muslims a few years ago.
Fridays are important in the Muslim faith, just as the Sabbath for Jews is on Saturday and for Christians on Sunday. It's said to be the day the Qur'an was given to Mohammed, piece by piece over the course of 23 years.
"It makes it easier for students to find a place to pray, given that they all have classes in different places on campus," said Tartela Alkayyali, the former president of the UPEI Muslim Student Association and a masters student at the university.
About 15 students have been attending the Friday prayers since they began in earlier this month, she said. The space is used by up to 50 students a day.
'These prayers are a must'
Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and three of those times fall during the daytime, when many Muslim students are on campus.
"So it's a good place for them to find a prayer mat and they can comfortably pray," she said.
"Because these prayers are a must for the Muslims."
The room has recently been carpeted and lines have been laid out on the floor so people can pray in the direction of Qibla, toward Mecca.
Before the room was made available, Alkayyali said students would often carpool or take the bus to one of two mosques in Charlottetown.
"Having this on campus, it's easier since a lot of students don't have their own transportation, or they don't have time enough between their classes to get to either of these mosques," she said.
'A basic need'
The space and the Friday prayers could be a selling point for the university, said Alkayyali.
"If more international students outside of UPEI heard the university is offering on-campus prayer, I think it would make it more appealing to Muslim students to come to UPEI," she said.
"It's kind of a basic need, for us to have a prayer space."
Universities throughout the Middle East have similar spaces, she said.
"There is something spiritual about the UPEI chaplaincy centre," she added.
"I personally feel it and I love it."
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With files from Stephanie Kelly